Welcome to Osaka! On arrival at Kansai International Airport (KIX), you will be met by a local representative and transferred to the city, where glittering lights and soaring signs reflect on the shimmering Dotonbori River and the sizzle of cooking takoyaki fills the air.
On check-in, you will receive a welcome bottle of sake and a set of cups. You will have the remainder of the day (depending on arrival time) to explore at your leisure.
This morning, after breakfast, you will be transferred from Osaka by private vehicle to the ancient city of Hiroshima. En route to Hiroshima, enjoy a visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Himeji Castle, a vision of soaring white cascading down the hilltop in a series of magnificent pagodas. Considered one of Japan’s most beautiful surviving medieval castles, this magical attraction will leave you feeling like true royalty as you stroll through the sprawling gardens that surround this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site.
Following the coastal road along the Seto Inland Sea, you will also visit the historic city of Kurashiki, a water city renowned for its well-preserved canal area dating back to the Edo Period.
Finally, arrive at Hiroshima. Largely destroyed when the first atomic bomb — ‘Little Boy’ — devastated the city on 6 August 1945, Hiroshima preserves the memory of the world’s first nuclear attack through memorials, eyewitness testimony and annual anniversary ceremonies.
Familiar landmarks can be found lining the glistening Motoyasu River, where the haunting skeleton of the A-Bomb Dome can be seen reflected in its shimmering depths. Immediately across the river are the Peace Bell and Atomic Bomb Memorial Burial Mound, with the Flame of Peace and Peace Memorial Park located just a little further downstream. If opportunity allows, be sure to talk to local volunteers at these iconic landmarks, as they have a wealth of history and information to divulge about these touching sites.
Following a full day’s exploration, it’s time to relax before a delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) dinner, served on top of yakisoba or udon noodles.
This morning, start the day with a visit to Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome. Then, head to the edge of the sea to admire the soaring beauty of the Itsukushima Shrine. A UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to the three daughters of the Shinto deity of seas and storms, this famous landmark and its torii gate appears to float above the water at high tide. As the water recedes, you may get the unique opportunity to walk around this sacred site.
During the day, you'll also indulge in an oyster overload as you try Hiroshima oysters, cooked in five separate-yet-delicious ways.
Bid farewell to Hiroshima this morning as you begin your journey to Kobe, considered one of Japan's most attractive cities. En route, stop in Takamatsu — a Kagawa city famous for its Sanuki udon noodles — for an udon noodle-making lesson provided by a local chef. After receiving your graduation certificate, enjoy your fine Sanuki udon for lunch with your fellow travellers. After stopping by Ritsurin Garden (or similar), it's onward to Kobe. Perched near the sea, this maritime gateway was one of the earliest trade ports with China and is known today for its signature marbled beef.
On arrival, the remainder of the day is yours to explore as you please, before a special seafood buffet dinner on Kobe Harbourland.
Following breakfast this morning, visit the Kitano-cho Ijinkan, Kobe's old foreign settlement quarter, to see the signs and presence of the foreign merchants and diplomats who once called this area home.
For lunch, enjoy a bite of the world-renowned Kobe beef at Steakland Kobe-kan, followed by a sake tasting at Hakutsuru Sake brewery — one of the oldest sake producers in Japan.
This evening, you'll return to Osaka, where the Shinsaibashi district and its countless shops are waiting to be explored.
Continue your Osaka exploration today. Up first, learn how to brew and savour delicious Uji tea while learning about its history, production process and benefits during a tea tasting experience at Takumi-no Yakata. Then, head to a local restaurant for a delicious teishoku (bento box) lunch.
Later, head to the Hō-ō-dō or Phoenix Hall, the main temple of the Byodoin monastery, before a whiskey tasting at the two-storey Yamazaki Whisky Museum.
Following breakfast this morning, head to Kyoto, a time capsule of laneways filled with tea houses, izakayas and geisha.
On arrival, admire the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), a Zen temple and UNESCO World Heritage site with two floors covered entirely in thin layers of gold leaf and detailed architecture incorporating the three distinct styles of Shinden, Bukke and Zen. Then, wander across the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, a landmark of Western Kyoto’s Arashiyama District for over four hundred years, before getting lost in the surreal and otherworldly beauty of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Gliding across wooden paths that weave through dense thickets of tall bamboo stalks, find a quiet corner to listen to the rustling, creaking, and swaying of trunks that knock together, creating a peaceful sound like almost nothing else.
Lunch is a traditional Kyoto tofu dish, followed by a stop at the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates.
Today, head for Nagoya, a hybrid city of old and new, extensively rebuilt after heavy bombing in World War II.
Here, savour a multi-course Kaiseki meal while being entertained by a geisha performance. Then, spend time at the Noritake Museum and Craft Centre, which showcases the classic works of this well-established Japanese bone china manufacturer, before dining on Nagoya Tebasaki (Japanese chicken wings) at a local Sekai no Yamachan.
This morning, make your way to Mount Fuji, where you'll enjoy views of Lake Kawaguchi and the mountain during a walk through Oishi Park, well-known for its colourful, blooming flowers.
Lunch may be enjoyed in the scenic spot of Oshino Hakkai (own expense). After, travel onwards to the cloud-cloaked Mount Fuji, a sight which makes time stand still for a serene, spectacular moment, via the fifth station hidden above the clouds (2,400 metres above sea level).
Today, sip the crisp, hoppy notes of one of the most popular Japanese beers with a beer factory visit and tasting at the Kirin Brewery Yokohama Factory en route to Tokyo. Following check-in, and time exploring Asakusa, including the Sensoji temple and Nakamise shopping street, the remainder of the day is yours to explore Tokyo at your leisure.
From gourmet exploration to cultural odysseys, there’s something for everyone in this neon-lit, futuristic landscape. You could venture to the world-famous Ghibli Museum, a magical place that lets you play in and explore the world of Studio Ghibli, join an optional Tokyo day tour or see the Gotokuji Temple, the legendary birthplace of the Japanese maneki-neko, filled with hundreds of lucky, beckoning cats. Home to one of the most accessible train lines in the world, discovering Tokyo is effortless — simply remember your line colour and station number. From Ikebukuro, you could catch a train to Shinjuku, filled with neon lights and vibrant pachinko game parlours, stroll Harajuku’s vibrant shopping district or get lost in the anime haven of Akihabara, home to maid and cat cafes.
This evening, toast to great memories and new friends at a farewell dinner at the wrestling-themed Hana no Mai Edo Tokyo Museum, where you'll dine on chanko nabe, a popular stew for sumo wrestlers.
Your incredible Japan adventure comes to an end this morning. After checkout, you will be transferred to the airport for your onward journey.