Zen Japan | 12 days
Following an action-packed start in Tokyo, this 12 day itinerary takes you up into the Japanese Alps for a stay in Yudanaka, home of Japan’s famous snow monkeys. After a spiritual stay in Kyoto, where we arrange a zen meditation lesson, your next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage village of Koya-san, including an unforgettable stay in a shukubo (temple lodging) and a chance to watch the monks chant. The itinerary ends in Osaka, the food capital of Japan, and its most lively city.
Day 1: Fly Tokyo
Day 2: Arrive in Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo sightseeing, enjoying the old and new of the city
Day 4: Train to Nagano, then on to Yudanaka. Overnight in a hot springs ryokan
Day 5: Day trip to Jigokudani to see the snow monkeys and Obuse town
Day 6: Train to Kyoto. In the afternoon, have a lesson in one of Japan’s traditional arts at a skilled instructor’s house
Day 7: Visit Kyoto, witness a tea ceremony and take part in a session of zen meditation
Day 8: Take a walk on Kyoto’s prettiest, most culturally interesting road - the Philosopher’s Path
Day 9: Train to Mt. Koya, visit the area with its many temples and sleep in one of them, sharing 'shojin ryori' (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine)
Day 10: Train to Osaka. Explore this fun town
Day 11: Transfer to airport for onward flight
Day 12: Return to London
guide price £3,775 per person
Fiona’s travel tipsGETTING THERE: Flying time from the UK to Japan is around 12.5 hours for direct services.
TIME DIFFERENCE: Japan is GMT+9 and does not operate a daylight-saving system.
GETTING AROUND: Japan’s travel infrastructure is among the most advanced in the world, symbolised by its futuristic bullet train. The network these trains serve is highly efficient and covers most of the country. It’s probably best to fly when travelling from the country’s main hubs to some of its more far-flung destinations such as Okinawa and Hokkaido. Ferries are surprisingly uncommon as all the major islands are linked by bridges and tunnels. Tokyo has an extensive metro and overground rail system. Taxis can be useful over short distances but they are very expensive during peak travel hours.
WEATHER: Japan has a mostly mild climate, but as it is an archipelago stretching over 3,000 km from north to south, there are local weather variations, as well as in flora and scenery. Pleasant temperatures arrive with spring which, together with autumn, is one of the best times to visit. Sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom in Kyushu in March, reaching Tokyo by early April. Early summer is rainy, but July and August are hot and humid - except in Hokkaido. The autumn is cool and typhoons may occur. Winter is chilly, but heavy snowfalls are limited to the mountainous regions.
A COUPLE OF DON’TS: Do not enter a Japanese home with your shoes on. It is customary to remove shoes at the door. There will almost certainly be a pair of slippers set aside for guests. Never leave your chopsticks sticking up out of a bowl of rice, or other dish. This gesture is associated with Buddhist funerals in Japan, as this is how rice is offered to the dead.
TOP TIP: Do bow when greeting someone. Bowing is the customary greeting in Japan, but handshaking is becoming more common during business meetings with Westerners. Bowing is a very important custom as it can express many meanings, including respect, gratitude, apology, etc.
“We have just returned from a fantastic holiday! All aspects were brilliant. Japan is an amazing country, and we've seen so many amazing parts of it, thanks mostly to your organisation. All three of us are very glad we decided to go through Far Frontiers Travel. We found it rather difficult to think of anything that could be improved on! We have many happy memories of our time in Japan,thank you so much”.
Emily Thomson, Japan