Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and to celebrate the beginning of the festive season, we’re bringing you the “Mercury Holidays’ 12 Destinations Advent Calendar” – every day we’ll be taking a look at a top destination and what makes it the perfect place to visit with family, friends or enjoy a little you time.
So, let’s take a look behind door number 10…
Japan and Mercury Holidays’ Escorted Tours
Japan is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet; combining the ultra-modern with an intriguing past, this destination is one that has drawn tourists for countless years. Whether you want to explore the bustling capital city of Tokyo with its endless selection of culture, food, shopping and art or head to Nara , where you’ll find the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue and the stunning Nara Park which is home to over 1,200 deer – each town, city and village in this country offers its visitors something different.
Advent Calendar Fact: Japan is an island nation, however, the total number of islands that make up Japan is over 6,800! The four biggest being Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.
When visiting Japan, a trip to the capital city is a must! From the moment tourists arrive in Tokyo, they are enchanted; always changing, this hub is awash with futuristic architecture, imposing concrete blocks housing incredible art, vibrant cocktail bars and the endless throngs of people from all walks of life.
Built in the 7th Century, Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo. This incredible complex consists of two main gates, the approach, the five-story pagoda and the main hall of the temple. When reaching the temple, you’ll be faced with Kaminarimon Gate (Thunder Gate), the main entrance of Sensoji Temple. The vibrant red of the gate is adorned with a mammoth lantern with Kanji letter in the centre and a guardian on both sides. Once you’re through the gate, venture up Nakamise Street which is the main approach to the temple.
This 250m long street is home to a wealth of souvenir shops and food stalls – making it the perfect place to experience some of the culture and local food before entering the complex. When you finally reach the end of the street, you’ll encounter another large gate called Hozomon Gate. Once again, adorned with a huge lantern and enormous Waraji sandals – this is a great place to take a holiday snap! Past the gate is the main hall of the temple, this five-tiered pagoda is an awesome site to see and attracts millions of visitors each year.
Advent Calendar Fact: Hozomon Gate contains the temple’s treasures – hence the name ‘Treasure House Gate’.
Next on the list of fantastic places to visit is the Tokyo National Museum; housing a range of beautiful artefacts including Buddhist sculptures, samurai swords, kimonos and much more – this is definitely one of the highlights when visiting the city. Due to the size of this museum, if you’re short on time then we recommend primarily focussing on the Honkan (Japanese Gallery) which has a range of specially curated artistic highlights on the 2nd floor. If you have more time to explore then head to the Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasure which displays masks, scrolls and Buddhas dating back to 607 A.D., the Toyokan containing Asian art, including beautifully delicate Chinese ceramics, and the Heiseikan section where you’ll find the Japanese Archaeological Gallery including pottery, talismans and various other items from Japan’s prehistoric periods.
Advent Calendar Fact: To date, Tokyo Nation Museum houses around 110,000 different objects, 87 of these are considered as Japan’s National Treasures.
After discovering the wide range of things to see and do in Tokyo, why not travel to Japan’s cultural capital – Kyoto. In contrast to Tokyo, this city exudes a calming and tranquil atmosphere; visitors can expect to experience a range of exceptional sights including bamboo forests, wonderfully adorned shrines and temples, impeccably dressed geishas, cherry trees and much more. From the breath-taking Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine and Kiyomizu-dero Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), to the stunning views from Kyoto Tower and serene Maruyama Park; Kyoto is a treat for the senses!
Situated on a gorgeous hill, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple is surrounded by cherry trees. The temple is famed for many magical features; for example, if you can walk between two stones with your eyes shut in front of the Jishu Shrine (the God of love), you will find true love.
This shrine is also linked to the Otowa Waterfall which divides into three streams symbolising success, love and a long life. Legend has it that drinking from the stream linked to your heart’s most desire will bring you good luck in that area of life.
After bringing love and success to your life, head to Maruyama Park for a mesmerising walk along the pond where you can breathe in the sweet scent of the blooming cherry blossoms. This park is one of the most spectacular places to view the pastel pinks of the cherry blossoms and the evening is the perfect time to see the central weeping cherry tree lit up.
With so many varieties of these stunning trees, this is an ideal place to sit back and relax with a picnic or cup of warm tea and enjoy the pure tranquillity of this glorious location.
Advent Calendar Fact: Founded in 1897, Kyoto University is considered the 2nd best university in Japan after Tokyo University.
Japan Fact File:
Geographical size – 142,000 square miles
Population – 126.8 million
Oldest temple in Japan – Horyuji Temple
Average temperature – December to March 6 degrees, April to November 20 degrees
Escorted Tour of The Day:
This outstanding 14-day tour journeys across one of the world’s most beautiful countries; teeming with shrines, temples, cherry blossoms trees and more, this is a journey that you’ll never forget!
Experience a variety of attractions including Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, the Imperial Palace, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum, Kyoto’s Nara Park and more – this tour is what dreams of Japan are made of.
- Explore Tokyo on a full-day tour
- Enjoy spectacular views at the base of Mt. Fuji
- Explore magnificent Matsumoto Castle
- See deer roaming in Nara Park
- Watch snow monkeys lounge in hot springs
- Visit Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial
- Experience a traditional tea ceremony
- Marvel at the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto
- Tour and tasting at Nikka Whiskey Distillery
Make your Escorted Tour to China an even more unforgettable experience with a 3-night Hong Kong extension!
Hong Kong City Stay:
Towering skyscrapers form the backdrop to Hong Kong’s busy harbour, whilst the street markets that fill the meandering alleys remain untouched by western influences.
Explore Hong Kong and Kowloon at your own pace and immerse yourself in the varied culture during this extension which includes a half-day city tour.