2021 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 2021 Cherry Blossom Tour of Japan – Classic Route is limited to only 8 guests and 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. Continuing your Journey through Japan you move on to 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 with another cultural contrast in Osaka.
This 14-day tour blends cherry blossom colour in with Japan’s most classic destinations. Along the way it offers deeps insight 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 option if you like a holiday which is almost fully escorted by specialist guides, includes all your transport in Japan and most meals. You will enjoy very personalised and boutique travel experiences.
Places visited: Tokyo, Kamakura, Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka
Group size: Min 4, Max 8
Transport: Train, public bus, taxi, private minivan
Accommodation: 4 -5 star hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka, Japanese style inns in Hakone and Miyajima (with western bed)
Fitness level: Basic (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 2021 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 begin the guided tour of Tokyo in the Marunouchi area including Hibiya Park, Imperial Palace plaza and the recently restored historic Tokyo Station. Your guide will take you on a walking tour through this fascinating district. You will stop for lunch at a local restaurant on the way. In the afternoon your private minivan will drive you to areas where cherry blossoms are at their peak in Tokyo, such as Ueno, Roppongi or Shinjuku. You will also see the vast view of Tokyo from an observation deck of a highrise building.
Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner at a restaurant serving modern Japanese cuisine.
Day 3: Kamakura
A break from bustling Tokyo is ahead of us today as we immerse ourselves in the coastal former capital, Kamakura.
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 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, with western style bedding. 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 pastime of the Japanese.
Day 6: Hakone (Mt Fuji) and Kyoto
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.
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 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 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.
Lunch today is a shojin-ryori, the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, speciality of Kyoto. You will enjoy the exquisitely prepared meal in a temple complex looking over beautiful Japanese gardens. In the afternoon, you will visit Nijo Castle to learn Kyoto's historical backgrounds.
Day 8: Kyoto (Arashiyama)
A short day-trip takes us to the lush region of Arashiyama 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.
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.
After lunch, you will visit Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) on the way back to your hotel.
Day 9: Kyoto
Morning guided tour of the Uji area of Kyoto is on the cards today. Uji is most well known for production of Uji matcha tea, and has a relaxed rural feel in contrast to busy central Kyoto.
This afternoon is yours to experience Kyoto in your own way. Kyoto offers an endless range of traditional craft shops, ancient temples and some of Japan’s most beautiful gardens. 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 wander 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 with western style beds.
Day 12: Osaka
After enjoying some free time in the morning visiting some of Miyajima's temples strolling its 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 after breakfast and your 2021 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). Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan.
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
(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 and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)