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Empire of the Sun Trip Length

15 days

Trip Code

AAES

Pre Departure Information

Activities Culture (Easy) Maximum Group Size 12 Countries Visited Japan Start City

End City

Tokyo

Tokyo

Highlights Climb the sacred old man of Japan, Fuji-san., Cook Okinomiyaki Hiroshima-style, Cosplay maid cafĂŠ and the otaku of Akihabara Electric Town, Tokyo, Elvis and Travolta live with The Fonz: the rockabilly dancers of Yoyogi Park, How to visit a Japanese Shrine, Make a wish at Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, Only kids and bean-poles get to Nirvana, Nara, Rooftop baseball, suburban sprawl Japan, from Tokyo to Kyoto., Spend a night on the magical island of Miyajima, The hidden tsuboniwa courtyard gardens of Kyoto, The impenetrable Himeji castle, The Japan youve always loved and longed for, Kyoto., The tiny bars of Golden Gai, Tokyo, Cosplay in Yoyogi park, Tokyo.

Japan is an exciting destination, with a wonderful blend of ancient history and modern technology, but can be expensive for visitors. This tour includes all the essentials for your visit to Japan without adding expensive frills. We look after the travel and accommodation and you need only think about how best to enjoy your time.

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Day to Day Itinerary Day 1: Tokyo Arrival day. PLEASE NOTE: it is important you arrive on Day 1 in order to enable the Tour Leader to get the rail passes validated and collect the train tickets on Day 2. Tokyo The capital of Japan, Tokyo has to be one of the most modern cities in the world. It seems that every person on the streets has the latest version of everything. Ginza is full of department stores selling the latest fashions, Akihabara is the place to try the latest new gadgets before they become available in the West, and Shinjuku is the fast paced night club area. However, if you look under the surface, Tokyo is still very traditional. You will still see the ladies wearing kimonos around town. People go to temples like Senso-ji to say a few prayers on their way to work. Couples get married in their traditional wedding gowns in the beautiful grounds around the Meiji Shrine. In spring, couples, families and friends sit beneath trees sipping sake admiring the cherry blossoms. Here you can catch a performance of the traditional Kabuki plays or if you are fortunate enough, you may be able to see the Sumo wrestlers throw each other out of the ring during one of the few Bashos held each year.

Day 2: Tokyo Morning orientation tour. Free afternoon to explore this multi-faceted city. Perhaps visit Yoyogi Park to view the amazingly vibrant street scenes, temples, pagodas, and shrines of Tokyo. In the evening there is the opportunity to visit a Kabuki theatre. Rail Pass Validation This morning your tour leader will assist you in validating your rail pass which you will use on your tour. Please ensure you carry your passport with you. A photocopy is not acceptable. Orientation Tour Your Tour Leader will take you to the area near the Imperial Palace, which is generally considered to be the city centre, and brief you on the various areas of interest in town. The Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor, is unfortunately not open to the public but can be glimpsed through the trees from one vantage point. Nearby, the Ginza is the main shopping street and the equivalent of Oxford Street in London. A metro ride then takes you across town to Tokyo's major religious site, the Meiji Shrine. This is located in a large park area. Although a reconstruction of the original, it exhibits all the original features of a Shinto Shrine. Other sights to visit are Ueno Park and Asakusa Temple. A visit to Yoyogi Park is a real experience on a Sunday afternoon, when the rebellious youth display avant garde art, music, and various other forms of untraditional culture to keep you entertained. In the evening there is the chance to see a Kabuki play. Traditional Kabuki theatre is a great way to spend an evening. This is a larger than life play, of dramatic colour and sound and is taken very seriously by both the actors and audience alike. It can be seen as a whole show or simply act by act. If you have extra time in Tokyo, you may want to make a day trip to nearby Kamakura to see the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) which is cast in bronze and stands over eleven metres tall.

Day 3: Takayama Board the famous Bullet train for the first time and maybe catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji before we disembark in Nagoya and journey into the Japan Alps, far from the modern life of Tokyo. Optional, (but unmissable), early morning visit to the Tsukiji fish market. The highlight for some is the theatrical bidding at the tuna auction!

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Afterwards take the bullet train for the first time. Perhaps take a Bento' box for lunch on the train. Transfer at Nagoya and journey into the Japan Alps. In the afternoon we arrive in Takayama, far from the modern life of Tokyo. Approx. 2 hr bullet train journey to Nagoya, approx 2 hr train journey to Takayama.

Day 4: Takayama A full day to explore this beautiful landscape. Discover traces of a feudal past of thatched houses and rice fields. Optional bike ride. Takayama Nestled in the Japan Alps, Takayama earned the nickname of Little Tokyo because of its skilled craftspeople who built houses and temples for the Emperors in Kyoto. Takayama is home to many old wooden houses which are unique in their design as they were built to withstand the harshness of the climate and terrain here. Takayama has something for everyone; you can visit the Praying hand houses at the Hida Folk Village or the Festival Floats at Yatai Kaikan, or you can simply walk around the houses and stop for a cup of sake at one of the local breweries. Plus, for those who want a bit more exercise, there is the lovely forest walk past numerous small shrines.

Day 5: Kyoto Depart early for Kyoto, former Imperial Capital of Japan and home of the countrys most treasured remnants of Japanese imperial life. Approx. 2 hr express train journey, approx 1 hr bullet train journey. Kyoto As the Imperial capital, Kyoto is an essential part of any visit to Japan. Kyoto has some of the most magnificent temples in Japan which date back centuries. There are said to be 2,000 temples, shrines, palaces, museums and traditional gardens in Kyoto. You can wander past huge wooden structures and multi-storied pagodas, all linked with famous walkways and marvel at the huge temples of the Hongan-ji sect or the beautiful Golden Pavilion. Take time out to enjoy the Zen gardens like Ryoan-ji and the Silver Pavilion, take a leisurely stroll down the lovely Philosophers path to Nanzen-ji or just walk around Gion and perhaps catch a glimpse of a Geisha going from tea house to tea house.

Day 6: Kyoto You have a full free day to discover the Zen gardens, huge wooden temples, pagodas and shrines.

Day 7: Himeji - Nagasaki In the morning we visit the impressive Himeji Castle. Continue to Nagasaki for the night. Approx. 6 hours train journey Himeji Himeji Castle is also known as the White Egret and it is regarded as the most spectacular castle in Japan as its white walls make it so distinctive. The castle was constructed in several stages. It was first built as a fort in 1333 by the ruler of the Harima district, but over the years local rulers continued to add to the structure until it was finally completed in 1618. From the castle, rulers controlled much of central Japan and had an exceptional base from which to begin campaigns to wrestle control from Western and Eastern Japan. Today, the Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Day 8: Nagasaki A full day to explore this exciting city. Opportunity to visit the Glover Gardens, Dutch Museum, Chinatown or take a harbour cruise. Nagasaki To the vast majority of non-Japanese, Nagasaki is known only as the target of the second atomic bomb that brought WWII to a close. However there is much more to this city. For many centuries, during the years of self imposed Japanese isolation from the rest of the world, Nagasaki acted as the only port trading with the outside. The legacy of this can still be seen, both in the exciting China town (Japans largest) and the Dutch port, clearly reflecting the most successful traders of the period. Nagasaki is also a natural harbour and a cruise around it is recommended. On the hills surrounding the city you will find the pleasant Glover Gardens and Mt Inasa offers great views of the city.

Day 9: Kyushu Hot Springs We travel across Kyushu to the hot spring resorts of the east coast. There are plenty of interesting walks, including an ascent of Mt. Yufu for the more energetic. Approx. 4 hour train journey. Yufuin Yufuin is a small town at the foot of Mt Yufu. The town is famous for its natural hot springs and many Japanese visitors come here just to soak in the soothing waters. The town has many small art museums, craft shops and small rivers which you can stroll alongside, however one of the best things to do is have a soak in the onsen after your climb up Mt Yufu. Mt Yufu Yufu-dake is an extinct volcano that last erupted over 300 years ago. The volcano has two separate peaks due to a very violent eruption that blew some of the crater away. From the top there are excellent views over the village of Yufuin and also to the sea. Climbing Yufuin Yufu San is 1,584m high and it is an easy hike to the top.Normally it takes about 2 hours to reach the summit. For most of the walk, you will be shielded from the elements by tree cover. Footing can be treacherous so you will need to bring light hiking boots with ankle support. You will need to bring a small daypack to carry water, snacks and your camera.

Day 10: Yufuin Optional mountain walks in the stunning scenery around Mt. Yufuin.

Day 11: Hiroshima - Miyajima Travel by train to Hiroshima for a morning visit. Continue by ferry to Miyajima, a lovely small island which is ideal for walking or cycling. See the famous floating Tori Gate. Approx. 5 hours train journey. Hiroshima Perhaps more than any city in the world, Hiroshima is famous for one moment in history. On 6 August 1945, it became the first target of an atomic bomb. Unlike most Japanese cities Hiroshima is full of wide boulevards and is fundamentally an industrial city. The large Peace Park in the centre of the city is an extremely moving place dotted with memorials of those known to have been killed in the explosion and those that died as a result. At the heart of the park are the remnants of Gembaku Dome. It was directly above this building that the bomb exploded, decimating all but the Dome immediately below. A burning flame waits in the park to be extinguished when all nuclear weapons in the world have been destroyed. Miyajima In the Inland Sea, not far from the coast near Hiroshima, you will find perhaps the most photographed shrine in Japan - The Tori Gate.

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The shrine itself dates back to the 6th century and is designed in a pier like structure, as mere 'commoners' were not allowed to set foot on this holy place. Miyajima is busy place with many Japanese tourists visiting during the day, however the island is much more relaxing in the evening.

Day 12: Miyajima - Mt Fuji Travel to the Mount Fuji region. Head off in the morning to Shin-Fuji at the base of the mountain. Approx. 4 hours on trains.

Day 13: Mt Fuji Today we commence our climb of Mt. Fuji. We break the trek by spending the night on the mountain at the 7th station. (The climb is dependent upon weather conditions.) Approx. 2½ hour bus journey. Mt Fuji It is said that a wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once; only a fool climbs it twice. At 3,776m, Fuji-San is by far the highest mountain in Japan. But what makes it unique, and so beautiful, is its perfect volcanic cone shape. Climbing Mt Fuji The trek included in this trip is graded B moderate. It is not that the climb to the top of Fuji is difficult - every year pilgrims, families and school groups all make the ascent. This grading is because the of rapid ascent to altitude can affect some people, and the pre-dawn start means that we encounter some rough patches with only torchlight to guide us. It is also inexorably upwards. There are several routes to the summit, each a welldesignated path. The mountain is divided into 10 stations and like most people we begin our ascent at one of the 5th stations. Fujinomiya, at an altitude of 2,380m, is our preferred 5th station start point, and the 1,396m to the summit takes 5-6 hours in total. We choose to break the climb by stopping overnight at the 8th station. Accommodation on the mountain is a basic dormitory style hut with few facilities. In the early hours of the morning we continue our hike to the summit where we will hopefully view a beautiful goraiko (sunrise). After exploring the crater rim we then descend and make our trip back to busy Tokyo. Footing can be treacherous and we recommend that you bring light hiking boots with ankle support. Your main luggage pack will be left in storage while you climb the mountain so you will need a daypack to carry water bottles, other personal items and a torch (or better still, a headtorch) for the early morning climb to the top. We recommend that you plan to take only essential items - after all you will have to carry these yourself! And don't forget to allow space for snack items. Note: Our ascent of the mountain is subject to weather conditions.

Day 14: Mt. Fuji (3,776m) Tokyo Continue to the summit of Mt. Fuji and then return to Tokyo. Approx 2 hour bus journey, approx 1½ train journey.

Day 15: Tokyo Tour ends. Homeward flights should not be booked for departure before 10.00 to allow time to reach the airport once the morning trains commence their daily timetable.

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Included Tour leader, accommodation, meals, transportation, and sightseeing excursions as per itinerary.

Accommodation • 13 nights Budget/tourist class hotels • 1 nights Mountain hut

Meals

Not Included * Visa costs * Border Taxes * Entrance fees * Drinks, tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature. * International flights * Departure and arrival transfers * Meals other than those listed

Fitness None of the activities featured in this trip require special training or skills, just a reasonable level of fitness and a willingness to participate. If you are in any doubt contact your doctor for advice.

Entrance Not included. Allow US$60-90 for the duration of the trip for all the sites you are likely to visit (including optional excursions).

Visas and Permits Japan

Temporary visitor visa (tanki-taizai) issued on arrival. 6 months for citizens of Austra, Germany, Ireland , Mexico, Switzerland and the UK. 90 day visa for all other countries.

Other Information Mt.Fuji is open only from 01 July - 31 August. Outside of these dates the group will stay in Nara and Tokyo for the nights of Day 12 and day 13 respectively. The tour leader can arrange additional excursions as appropriate. Mt.Fuji departures and ascent are dependant upon safety and therefroe weather conditions.

Preparing to travel

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Vaccinations Vaccinations may be required for this trip. Please consult your doctor or a travel health specialist. The choice of vaccinations can depend on a range of issues including the specific destination, the duration of the trip, your personal health and of course what vaccines you have had before. Routine Background Vaccines: We strongly endorse current public health recommendations that all travellers should be up-to-date with their routine vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, measles/mumps/rubella, polio and influenza, and paediatric vaccinations for children. Travel Vaccinations: While the food and water-borne diseases such as hepatitis A and typhoid will apply to most of our travellers, other travel vaccines such as hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis and cholera may apply to select travellers, especially long-term travel. Travel health experts can advise on what is required and also what is not required! It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting – or any which may be required by your home country upon your return. To find out which, if any, vaccinations are mandatory or recommended for your destination contact your local doctor, immunisation centre or medical centre for up-to-date information. If you need to arrange vaccinations or a supply of preventative medicine (e.g. malaria tablets), you should contact your doctor at least two months before you depart. Some inoculations require more than one visit and can take several weeks to administer the full course. For travellers from Australia and New Zealand, we strongly recommend Travel Doctor-TMVC clinics to obtain the most up-to-date advice on health risks and vaccinations (see <a href="http://www.traveldoctor.com.au" target="_blank">www.traveldoctor.com.au</ a> for locations and detailed vaccine information or phone 1300 658 844 for an appointment in Australia). Some vaccines require more than one dose, so arrange for your visit at least 4-6 weeks before you travel. Travellers living outside Australia and New Zealand will need to consult a similar organisation in their own country (please ask your travel agent for recommendations), but can still access the following link for information: <a href="http://www.traveldoctor.com.au/ travelreport.asp?UnqID=0.4630191&PageID=10&nav=personal-traveller" target="_blank">www.traveldoctor.com.au/ travelreport.asp?UnqID=0.4630191&PageID=10&nav=personal-traveller</a> <strong>Carry Your Certificate</strong> You should be issued with an International Certificate of Vaccination booklet that records each vaccination. Always carry this with you on your travels; it could provide essential information for doctors in the event that you fall ill whilst travelling.

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What to take General Packing List Remember - the lighter you travel the better! A soft-sided duffel or sausage bag is the ideal form of luggage. It is recommended that you keep your luggage weight around 15kg and certainly no more than 20kg. A small or medium-sized backpack (45-50 litres) is another good option, but preferably one without a frame. When packing, consider cultural differences which may mean that some attire that we wear at home is not appropriate when travelling and may be offensive to the local people. When visiting sites of religious significance, modest clothing should be worn. Sandals, thongs, flip-flops or jandals are appropriate footwear in the tropics. Please refer to the specific country section for climate details. When you pack your clothing, consider the climate at the time of year you are travelling and any specific requirements for your trip as at certain times of the year some of the items suggested in the list that follow may not be necessary. Laundry facilities are available in some destinations.   Below is a list of equipment and documentation that we suggest you take with you. Please use this checklist as a guide when packing for your holiday. Travel documents: passport, visa (if required), travel insurance, air tickets or e-ticket receipts, Trip Notes Photocopy of main passport pages, visa (if required), travel insurance and air tickets Spare passport photos Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card Money belt and small padlocks Small first-aid kit Daypack for use on day or overnight excursions Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries) Electrical adapter plug Toiletries/roll of toilet paper/travel wipes Insect repellent Sunscreen, lip balm, sunhat and sunglasses Earplugs and eye mask (for light sleepers) Extra pair of prescription glasses (if required) 2 strong plastic garbage bags (for laundry and in case of rain) Refillable water bottle Phrase book Warm clothes - when travelling in cooler climates (check climate chart) Wind and waterproof jacket Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes with good walking socks

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Camera and spare film (or recharge for digital cameras) Binoculars

While you are travelling On arrival Our tour meeting point is the Hotel Asakusa Sunroute (unless you have been notified otherwise), in the Asakusa District. The hotel address should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers. Please note: check-in time at the hotel is from 14:00 hrs. It is easy to make your way to the meeting point using the excellent public transport network. Tokyo's international airport, Narita, is 60 kilometres from the city. For convenience and reasons of economy we recommend against using a taxi or bus for this journey - the train is the way to go! There are several train lines and train companies operating to the airport. The most convenient and direct method is to take the Keisei Line Skyliner service which terminates at Ueno and then change to the city's subway network. From there, take the Ginza Line (yellow line) two stops to the Tawaramachi station. The accommodation is then a one minute walk. The Skyliner operates every 30-40 minutes between both airport terminals and stops only at Nippori on its way to Keisei Ueno Station. The journey takes approx. 1 hour and costs US$16 (Yen 1,920). Tickets can be bought from the Keisei ticket counters in terminals 1 or 2 after clearing customs and immigration. Trains depart from the basement level. On arrival at Keisei Ueno Station, clear the ticket barrier and follow the signs left to 'Connecting passageway to subway', not the yellow exit signs. At the Ginza Line buy a ticket (Approx. US$1.5, Yen 160) and take the train to Tawaramachi. The journey only takes a few minutes. Once there, leave the station by Exit 3. The Sunroute Hotel is just down on the opposite side of Asakusa Kokusai-dori Street. Look for the big Jonathon's Restaurant sign as it's on the second floor of the hotel. The walk along Asakusa Kokusai-dori Street to the hotel should only take a minute.

Hotel Check In / Check Out Generally, your room will be available from around midday. Sometimes it may be available mid-morning but this is in no way guaranteed. If your flight is scheduled to arrive in the early morning you may have to wait until a room becomes available. Alternatively you can book one night's 'pre-tour accommodation' which will ensure that your room is ready whenever you arrive. Rooms must generally be vacated by 12 noon unless you have made prior arrangements with the hotel reception. If you want to keep your room for longer you may have to pay an additional charge.

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Additional Expenses Central Asia & North Asia

You will need to take money with you to cover any additional meals/drinks not included in your tour cost. Other costs to consider are drinking water, tips, laundry, souvenirs, additional sightseeing and possible delays. It is much better to come with more than you would expect to spend and to end the trip with a surplus, rather than being caught short! It is always useful to carry an additional amount for emergencies that could happen en route. If there is a medical emergency you are sometimes required to pay at the source and be reimbursed later by your insurance company. This is the situation where having a credit card can be useful. How Much Money? You should carry sufficient funds for meals, drinks, optional activities, additional sightseeing, shopping and tips. As a guideline we suggest that you allow US$15-US$20 per day in China would allow you to eat and drink reasonably well. If you are travelling to Japan we recommend you allow US$40-US$65 per day to allow to eat and drink reasonably well. Optional Tours & Activities We include many sightseeing activities on our trips; however, there are additional optional tours and activities that you may wish to undertake during your free time. These may incur additional expenses. These activities are not a mandatory part of our tours because, from past experience, we have found that our travellers have appreciated some free time whilst on tour.

Tipping The tipping kitty is not applicable on this tour. This does not include a tip for the tour leader. This is entirely at your own discretion but if you are happy with their services we would recommend an amount of US$3 per person per day.

Contact Details Phone: 0845 077 8802 E-mail: sales@imaginative-traveller.com Web: www.imaginative-traveller.com

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