2020 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan – Classic Route
A classic introduction to Japan's must-see sights in spring-time - temples, castles and gardens set against a stunning backdrop of pink blossoms - for those who prefer some comfort in their travel style.
The 2020 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan – Classic Route is specifically designed to combine Japan’s must-see sights with the delicate cherry blossom as spring hits its peak. You start your experience in the bustling national capital of Tokyo and visiting the one-time seaside capital of Kamakura. Next is the hot springs town of Hakone with its views of Mt Fuji. Also there is short stop at fascinating Nagoya where you see Noritake and Toyota museums before arriving at Kyoto to surround yourself in the imperial heritage of this UNESCO-listed city. Heading south west we come to historic Hiroshima and then to the sacred island of Miyajima. Finally the tour concludes in with another cultural contrast in Osaka.
This compact 14-day tour blends cherry blossom colour in with Japan’s most classic destinations. Along the way it offers a deep insights into Japan’s history and cultural traditions, including a private-group encounter with a modern-day geisha. This tour offers an authentic introduction to the country in spring-time for those who prefer a more relaxed pace and some luxury in their accommodation choice. It’s a perfect choice if you like more structured holiday which is almost fully escorted by specialist guides, includes all your transport in Japan and most meals.
Places visited: Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka
Group size: Min 6, Max 8
Transport: Train, public bus, taxi, private minivan
Accommodation: 4 star hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, Japanese style inns in Hakone and Miyajima (with western bed)
Fitness level: Moderate (please refer to FAQ)
Catch your first cherry blossoms in Japan’s bustling capital
Contemplate the Big Buddha in peaceful Kamakura
Soak in a traditional onsen spa in Hakone
Be stunned by the beauty of Osaka Castle in spring
Reflect in Hiroshima's peace park
Marvel in the majesty of Mt Fuji
Experience the exquisite cherry blossoms of Kyoto
Visit the sacred island of Miyajima
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to your 2020 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan – Classic Route. On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you’ll be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by private transport. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll be ready to start the first full day of your tour!
Day 2: Tokyo
Today we travel to the old neighbourhood of Asakusa by a private minivan, where you can still get a sense of days gone by. Asakusa is also home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, venerable Sensoji with its iconic Kaminari-mon gate and bustling market stalls.
Your guide will take you on a walking tour through this fascinating district, lunching at a local restaurant on the way. In the afternoon we take a cruise of the Sumida River for uninterrupted views of cherry blossoms along the riverbank – a great start to our cherry blossom tour of Japan!
We then head to the 'upmarket' area of Ginza, the glitzy central boulevard and traditional backstreets. We will visit the basement food hall of one of its grand department stores – you’ll be amazed by the range of beautifully presented food and confectionery!
Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner at a restaurant serving modern Japanese degustation cuisine.
Day 3: Kamakura
A break from bustling Tokyo is ahead of us today as we immerse ourselves in the peace and serenity of Kamakura, Japan’s former capital (1184 to 1333).
Nestled among rolling hills and the coast of Tokyo Bay, Kamakura is home to some of the country’s best Zen Buddhist temples and a 11.4m high bronze Buddha constructed in 1252. The trip starts aboard the delightful “Enoden” local train which takes us through sleepy backstreets to the beach at Enoshima. We explore some of Kamakura’s best temple gardens with their cherry blossom trees.
In the late afternoon we make a stop at Komachi Street, where you can pick up some beautifully crafted gifts or wander through tiny street side galleries. Then it’s back on the train to Tokyo and a group dinner together.
Day 4: Tokyo
In the morning we explore the area of Harajuku, where you’ll find the expansive shrine complex of Meiji-jingu surrounded by a peaceful forest park with over 120, 000 trees and more than 350 species.
As a contrast, we wander through the teen pop-culture neighbourhood of Takeshita-dori and then on to the elegant Omotesando boulevard, home to some of Japan’s most fashionable designer brands.
In the afternoon, Tokyo is yours to explore by yourself. Let us know if you’d like us to arrange something specific, otherwise you could spend the afternoon visiting the city’s many museums, checking out the latest technology in Akihabara, enjoying the urban buzz of Shibuya, or exploring one of Japan’s mega-department stores and their impressive basement food halls. Talk to us in advance to arm yourself with some information and tailored recommendations.
Day 5: Hakone (Mt Fuji)
We leave the greater Tokyo today and head south by train to Hakone, a scenic hot springs resort area located in the mountains near Mt Fuji.
We pass by the checkpoint of the Old Hakone Highway, the main route between Tokyo and Kyoto in the feudal period and used by retinues of foot-soldiers and traders for centuries. At Lake Ashi we hop on board the ‘Viking’ ship that plies the lake, aiming to catching a view of Mt Fuji in the distance.
Tonight you experience your first stay at a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn. Here you enjoy a multi-course kaiseki dinner and your first soak in an authentic onsen, a mineral hot springs spa. After a full-day sightseeing, you’ll understand why a soak in the therapeutic waters remains the favourite recreational past-time of the Japanese.
Day 6: Hakone (Mt Fuji)
This morning, we continue exploring beautiful Hakone.
Firstly, stop at the Hakone Open-Air Museum with its amazing outside sculptures. We then board a delightful “switchback” train through quaint spa towns and lush woods. From Hakone we take a shinkansen (Japan’s super-express bullet train) headed for the delightful old capital of Kyoto.
Tonight we gather in the evening to enjoy a modern Japanese cuisine inspired by Kyoto produce.
Day 7: Kyoto
Originally made capital in 794, Kyoto remains the cultural heart of Japan and is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a wealth of craft shops, museums and delightful cafes. As every year is different, we will plan today’s itinerary according to the best places to catch cherry trees in full bloom.
We head either to Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavilion) to enjoy the delicate blossoms in the temple’s gorgeous garden setting before taking a stroll along the Path of Philosophy, lined by a breathtaking avenue of cherry trees.
Alternatively, we may head for Kiyomizu Temple perched on a forested hill of cherry trees and maples. The quaint laneways at the foot of the temple complex are also a great place to explore, with a variety of craft shops displaying beautiful Kyoto ceramics and silk goods.
In the evening over dinner, you’ll have the chance to meet a maiko (a geisha-in-training) and learn more about the fascinating life of a modern-day geisha.
Day 8: Kyoto (Arashiyama)
A short day-trip takes us to the lush region of Arashiyama and Sagano today in the mountains to Kyoto’s west. The area is known for its natural beauty – sublime gardens, traditional villas, rivers and ravines set against a stunning mountain backdrop.
It is also the place of many romantic legends and our guide will recount tales of melancholic lovers from days gone by. Adding to the atmosphere, you’ll take a rickshaw ride (a two-passenger wagon pulled by young men in traditional dress) and travel through groves of thick bamboo.
Day 9: Kyoto - free day
Kyoto offers an endless range of traditional craft shops, ancient temples and some of Japan’s most beautiful gardens – today is yours to experience Kyoto in your own way.
You may like to attend silk-weaving, pottery-making workshop or visit a Zen Buddhist retreat. But then again you may like to check out Kyoto’s vibrant food scene, do a cooking class or what about sake-tasting class.
We provide recommended plans for our guests (depending on your area of interest), and don’t hesitate to speak to us if you have something specific you’d like to do.
Day 10: Hiroshima
Leaving Japan’s cultural capital, we hop back on the shinkansen and head further west to the city of Hiroshima. We visit the Memorial Peace Park and its informative museum, and contemplate the devastating impact of the world’s first atomic bomb.
It is a great opportunity to experience life in a modern regional city of Japan. You can wonder through shopping arcades, old and new.
Tonight’s dinner also highlights great regional cuisine, “soul” food of Hiroshima including Okonomiyaki.
Day 11: Miyajima
Today, we head to the sacred island of Miyajima by train and ferry. Miyajima is one of the top scenic spots in Japan. It’s best known for the vermillion-red floating torii gate, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tonight we stay on the island and enjoy Miyajima’s serene atmosphere and Buddhist heritage after the day-trippers have gone. Early evening is also a good time to snap a picture of the famous torii gate at sunset. Dinner is a kaiseki banquet at our ryokan.
Day 12: Osaka
After enjoying some free time in the morning visiting some of Miyajimas temples strolling its waterfront shopping streets or even taking the rope-way to see the fabulous sight out over the Seto Sea , we head back to Hiroshima. From here we catch a shinkansen to Osaka.
Osaka is our final destination and Japan’s third largest city. It is a vibrant commercial hub, that originally became an important political base in the 16th century when the shogun built a new castle here after unifying Japan.
In the evening we explore the lively entertainment district of Dotombori, famous for its night-time neon and historic canal. We wander the street stalls, stopping to sample freshly grilled takoyaki and okonomiyaki pancakes.
Day 13: Osaka
On the last day of the tour, our guide will take you to Osaka’s iconic castle. It was rebuilt in 1931 on the original castle site. A visit to the castle museum will introduce us to the city’s feudal past. The museum's exhibits also include a grand display of armour and weapons from yesteryear.
We will tour through some of the older parts of the city, sampling more of Osaka’s famous street-food. Osaka is very much a food-focused town and even has a local expression “kuidaore”, which carries the meaning of ruining yourself financially by indulging in too much good food!
In the evening, we come together one last time for a farewell dinner in a teppanyaki-style restaurant serving delicious wagyu-beef.
Day 14: Goodbye
This morning you check-out of the hotel after breakfast and your 2020 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan – Classic Route concludes. You can travel to Kansai International Airport (about 1 hour from central Osaka) or return to Tokyo on the shinkansen (about 3.5 Hours).
(For those who have opted for post-trip extensions, we will liaise with you separately to plan your itinerary.)
Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.
- 13 nights accommodation (including nights in traditional inns)
- Lunches & dinners as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by private vehicle on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi) for group itinerary
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (one suitcase per person)
Does not include:
- International airfare
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)