- Grand Tour of Japan
Journey from incense-scented temples and elegant feudal castles to ultramodern electronics districts and dramatic volcanic landscapes as you travel the length of Japan on six spectacular train rides.
Depart London on your scheduled, overnight flight to Sapporo, via Hong Kong.
On arrival in Sapporo, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Settle in before tonight's welcome dinner in a local restaurant introduces you to Japan's famed cuisine.
Travel to the port city of Otaru and stroll along the Otaru Canal, the city's central waterway. Once the lifeblood of the city, it fell into disuse when modern dock facilities were opened but now boasts a gleaming restoration, with old gas lamps lining its path. Take in the delicately blown glassware of the Kitaichi Glass Shop then marvel at the 25,000 music boxes lining the shelves of the Music Box Museum, accompanied by the tinkle of their music. Continue on to the Nikka Whisky Distillery for a tour through the whisky barrels and casks and a tasting of this peaty whisky before returning to Sapporo.
Pack an overnight bag for your trip to Hakodate then, after breakfast, board an express train, travelling through the countryside to Hakodate. On arrival, cross the moats that surround the star-shaped former fort of Goryokaku and explore the tranquil green grounds. Next, travel to Mount Hakodate for a cable car ride to its summit, with each season offering a different bird's eye view of the city, from delicate cherry blossoms to ice-capped rooftops. Continue on to your hotel in Hakodate.
Catch a local train and join Hakodate's locals this morning as you browse the lively Morning Market, exploring over 280 stores hawking everything from salted squid and hairy crab - culinary specialities of the area, to souvenirs and locally crafted sake. Browse through the wares on offer then board your high-speed train to Tokyo. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Japan's dazzling capital.
Tokyo's enchanting fusion of futuristic districts, centuries-old palaces, family-run ramen booths and spotlessly clean streets, dotted with cutesy anime depictions, provides endless chances for exploration. Today's full-day city tour begins with a visit to the Meiji Shrine. Enter the sprawling complex through a towering wooden gate or 'torii' and explore the museum and inner garden. Continue on to Asakusa Kannon Buddhist Temple, Tokyo's oldest temple, and wander down the age-old Nakamise Shopping Street to reach the main hall and pagoda, where fragrant incense and Buddhist prayer chants fill the air. Browse the stalls that line Ameya Yokocho Street then visit the magnificent Imperial Palace, taking in its moats, gardens and the picturesque Niju Bridge.
Following breakfast, board the 'Romance Car' to Hakone, a train that passes through fantastic landscapes, allowing glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and rolling countryside. On arrival, make your way to the Hakone Open Air Museum which houses art collections, including a Picasso exhibit, and an expansive sculptural park. Take a Hakone Ropeway ride to a mountaintop station with spectacular vistas of the sparkling, blue waters of Lake Ashi and towering Mount Fuji. A short walking trail leads to Owakudani Valley, an active volcanic crater, where hot springs, bubbling pools and steam vents serve as reminders of the area's volcanic might. Continue on to the shores of Lake Ashi and enjoy a short cruise on this idyllic lake, surrounded by mountains and greenery.
Witness the grandeur of Mount Fuji as a coach ride takes you to the Fifth Station at the mountain's base. Enjoy unobstructed views from the observation deck before learning more about the mountain's cultural significance at the Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre. Your coach ride continues on to the ancient hillside city of Matsumoto. Discover Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's most beautiful and oldest castles. Ringed by a moat and soaring up over five stories, a climb up the steps to the top will reward you with mesmerizing views. Check into your hotel in Matsumoto for your overnight stay.
Journey into the Japanese highlands of Yudanaka for an unforgettable encounter with the fluffy snow monkeys of the region, which can survive temperatures of below -15 degrees Centigrade. Witness these fascinating creatures lounging and paddling in the steaming onsen, or hot springs, as they beat the icy conditions. Accustomed to their daily encounters with humans, these fearless primates allow an up-close, memorable experience. Drive onward to Nagano's impressive Zenkoji Temple, which houses what is believed to be the first Buddhist statue brought to Japan. Later, board your train and travel through picturesque rural landscapes, arriving in Kyoto for tonight's stay. Catch the subway to your hotel for tonight's stay.
Experience traditional Japan at its finest as you explore Kyoto, a city of shrines, temples and geisha teahouses. Discover the ancient hallways and sacred waterfall of Kiyomizudera Temple then walk along the streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, past charming traditional wooden houses and shops. Enjoy double visions of gold as you witness the gold-leafed pavilion of Kinkaku-ji and its shimmering reflection mirrored in the surrounding moat. Visit Fushimi Inari and stroll through an amazing arcade of vivid red 'torii', or shrine gates, inscribed with dedications to Inari, the god of rice. Wander the Zen gardens of Kodaiji Temple before sampling the region's fragrant teas at a traditional tea ceremony in the temple hall. Explore the UNESCO-recognised fortifications and chambers of Nijo Castle then look out for geishas draped in lavish kimonos as you walk through the geisha district of Gion at the end of a thrilling day of exploration.
Depart Kyoto for Hiroshima, first travelling to Japan's former capital city, Nara, where you'll visit the Todaiji Temple and the world's largest bronze Buddha statue nestled in its interior. Watch over 1,200 deer roaming nearby Nara Park, where deer crackers can be purchased and fed to these friendly park inhabitants. Drive onward to Osaka and catch your bullet train to Hiroshima for your overnight stay.
Start your day with a visit to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park & Museum where photos and belonging of victims of the Hiroshima bombing are on display, serving as a reminder of the horror of the devastating event. Visit the A-Bomb Dome, one of the buildings which survived the blasts and remains as a symbol of peace in the city, before continuing onward to Miyajima. Take a boat ride to Miyajima Island, known as the 'Island of the Gods' and visit the awe-inspiring Itsukushima Shrine and its towering, free-standing wooden gate which stands in the middle of the sea. Return to your hotel in Hiroshima.
Breakfast & Dinner
Depart Hiroshima on a bullet train ride to Fukuoka. On arrival, visit the tranquil Dazaifu Temmangu Shrine and learn more about Japan's long and rich history at the Kyushu National Museum. Wander the verdant pebbled gardens of Komyozenji Temple before continuing onward to your hotel for check-in. This evening, visit the Nakasu Area and follow your nose around the fragrant street food stalls. Leave space for tonight's farewell dinner, which marks the end of your Japanese adventure.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK via Hong Kong, or continue on to your chosen extension.
Michael Johns13 May 19
Hotels were varied but generally good
Linda And Paul Sanders12 Apr 19
Most hotels good, , others excellent eg hakone. Locations all good and varied.
UK passport holders are not currently required to obtain a visa prior to departure. A tourist visa will be issued on arrival for a duration of 90 days when you show your passport (must be valid for at least six months from the date you are due to leave Japan). Visa, arrival and departure requirements are subject to change and obtaining a visa is the responsibility of the traveller and not Mercury Holidays. We recommend you check with your destinations' Tourist Board or Embassy prior to departure for the most up to date guidelines regarding these.
We strongly recommend that you and all members of your party are suitably insured as soon as you book your holiday. It is a condition of booking that you must have suitable travel insurance. It is important that you purchase travel insurance that suitably covers your participation in whatever activities you may undertake at the time that you make your booking. To assist you with this, we have arranged travel insurance in partnership with Holiday Extras. To arrange your travel insurance with Holiday Extras, please call 0800 781 4237 and quote 'WK830' for preferential rates. Please ensure you provide us with the name of your insurer, policy number and their 24-hour emergency contact number as soon as possible. Mercury Holidays will not be liable for any costs incurred by you due to your failure to take out suitable travel insurance from the date of booking.
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £250pp will need to be paid at the time of booking with the full amount payable at 10 weeks prior to departure. The deposit applies to adults and children. If you are within 10 weeks of travel then the full balance of the holiday will be payable.
Scheduled flight from London Heathrow to Sapporo, New Chitose Airport (via Hong Kong) from Terminal 3, and returning from Fukuoka (via Hong Kong) with Cathay Pacific. Each passenger will receive 1 Bag at 20kgs. Should you wish to take additional luggage you will need to pay extra at check-in. Please refer to the Airline's website for further details and the most up-to-date information.
It is your responsibility to check any health and vaccination requirements applicable to your booked arrangements. We can only provide general information about this. Health and hygiene facilities and disease risks vary from country to country. You should take health advice about your own needs as early as possible and in good time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic.
This tour is accessible to most people with a good level of fitness and normal mobility. It involves climbing of steep stairs and getting on and off coaches and boats. This tour is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 9, and the maximum will be 40. If in the unlikely event there are less than 9 people booked on your tour date, we will endeavour to reduce any disruption to your holiday and try to operate your tour with lower passenger numbers. If we are not able to operate your departure date then you may be asked to change to a different date and a full refund will be made available to you should this alternative not be suitable.
We would like to inform you that local guides will not be used during your tour. This is a fully escorted tour, meaning that you will be met on arrival by your Tour Guide who will remain with you for the duration of your trip. Your guide will be on hand for the duration of your tour and will be able to provide you with some general information on each of the destinations/ attractions that you visit
The currency in Japan is the Japanese Yen (JPY). You can purchase the currency before you travel but you will probably get a better exchange rate if money is exchanged when in Japan. You can buy Yen at foreign exchange banks and at the airport. Credit, debit and prepaid cards from international brands are accepted at a wide variety of places in the major cities within Japan. Outside of these, cards may not be widely accepted, although you will be able to withdraw cash in the local currency across the country at ATMs.
You will need to take money with you to cover any personal purchases such as souvenirs, laundry, any meals not included in the itinerary as well as drinks and any additional snacks. We recommend you bring along a minimum of GBP £700 per person to change to local currency. It is a good idea to try and maintain a supply of small notes and change in the local currency for tipping or small purchases.