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J a pa n

Ta i lor - m a d e J o u r n e y s

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D i s c e r n i n g T r av e l l e r


Dear Traveller My experience of Japan is that of exquisite cuisine, modern technological marvels, exceptional hospitality and staggering mountain scenery, yet I know that I have barely scratched the surface. Travelling from ultra-modern Tokyo with its towering skyscrapers and frenetic energy to the peaceful gardens and temples of Kyoto gives just a glimpse of the diversity Japan has to offer. Beyond the cities you find astonishingly beautiful scenery, both gentle and dramatic, where charming traditional ryokan inns provide a timeless welcome and a serene atmosphere. Japan’s complex and, at times, turbulent history has left its mark on the landscape in the form of ancient castles, temples and villages, samurai strongholds and museums, and of course, the monuments that commemorate the terrible legacy of the atomic bombs in World War II. Our team of Japan specialists have a passion for everything Japanese and can advise you on the best local festivals to attend, which of the rather unusual delicacies to try, or where to find an unforgettable hot spring onsen bathing experience. This brochure is a collection of their favourite places to visit across the country. I hope that their enthusiasm inspires you to travel here.

Craig Burkinshaw, Founder

Introducing Audley I

t was a trip around Asia in the early 1990s that ignited Craig Burkinshaw’s passion for travel. On his return he was so keen to share his experiences that he founded Audley, or Asian Journeys as we were then called. We offered a new type of travel – individual journeys, designed to match the traveller’s interests, tastes and budget, created with an absolute commitment to quality and authenticity. Today this desire to share authentic travel experiences is undiminished and Audley is one of the UK’s most highly regarded specialist tour operators, providing tailor-made trips throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Australasia, North America, Antarctica and the Arctic.

Tailor-made journeys The beauty of tailor-made travel is that every trip is unique. Whether you want to stay in simple or luxurious accommodation, have great guides on hand or explore under your own steam, travel for one week or five, we can create a trip to match your tastes and budget. We can also design trips for a special occasion, whether this is a spectacular honeymoon or milestone anniversary. Throughout the brochure you will find suggested itineraries and some of our favourite places to stay, but these are all just for inspiration as each trip is created uniquely for you and there are many more options available.

Specialist knowledge Our Japan specialists have all travelled extensively throughout the country and in many cases lived there, so you can rely on their in-depth, first-hand knowledge. They regularly return to discover new hidden gems, stay in the accommodation and meet our guides – many of whom are firm friends – as well as experience all the excursions and activities. We believe this is the only way that we can genuinely offer you a tailor-made service and enable you to experience a side of Japan that others might miss.

Planning your trip Speaking to one of our specialists is the best way to start planning your trip, whether you already know where you want to go or just have the seed of an idea. They can discuss your plans, offer advice and give you ideas and inspiration for your trip, before creating a detailed itinerary, which will be forwarded to you together with maps, accommodation descriptions and a price. The same specialist will then refine the plans until you are completely satisfied and will be on hand to answer questions from your very first telephone call until you return from your trip.

Financial security All travel arrangements in this brochure that include a flight from the UK are ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 4817. Those package arrangements which are not protected by ATOL are covered by ABTOT, the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust. Please see our booking conditions for more information or visit www.audleytravel.com/protect

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Nara

Contents Introduction 2-5 Central Japan 6-21 Families in Japan

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Ryokans 15 Walking in Japan

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Food 22-23 Southern Japan 24-35 Japanese Seasons

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Northern Japan 36-42 Useful information 43

Introduction

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Experience

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ravelling into Tokyo can feel like an assault on the senses with vast buildings, bright lights, crowded streets and the smells of delicious but bizarre foods wafting from street stalls. Explore beyond this overwhelming first impression however, and you’re faced with a delightfully serene and welcoming country, brimming with astounding landscapes, countless cultural icons and a fascinating history, all ready to be discovered. Matched by a superb cuisine and marvellously polite people, travellers simply cannot fail to be awed by the sheer wealth of experiences on offer in Japan.

Audley in Japan

Sumo wrestling, Kokugikan Sumo Hall, Tokyo

Jodogahama Beach, Miyako Island

To many first-time visitors Japan can, at times, seem intimidatingly ‘foreign’. Whilst this difference is one of the country’s most appealing aspects, it can also cause potential practical difficulties, compounded by the higher than usual cost of private transport and guides. It is therefore essential to have your trip planned by someone who knows the country intimately as they can use their knowledge to help make Japan an easier place to discover, and can talk you through the precise details of your daily itinerary. We recommend making use of Japan’s fantastically efficient rail network to travel around the country, combining this with carefully selected private and small group excursions to help you to get your bearings and make the most of your time here. Your accommodation will be hand-picked according to your taste and budget, with your Japan specialist choosing from our personally researched selection of hotels and traditional ryokan inns. Wherever possible, we recommend having a guide for at least a short space of time. In Tokyo and Kyoto there are numerous guides and here we suggest exploring certain parts of the cities with the benefit of their local knowledge. Kyoto also has its own Women’s Association, which provides cultural experiences on either a private or shared basis. Elsewhere in the country, guides are harder to come by and are consequently even more expensive than in the cities. However, we can arrange guides in a number of different locations and in other places there is a network of excellent volunteer guides that we can put you in touch with.

Food stall, Tokyo

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Thanks to our thorough knowledge of the country, we are able to provide you with advice on anything from where to go, to handy tips on what to expect and how to make the most of your time in Japan. Our approach ensures that from your first phone call you will talk to an expert whose first-hand knowledge and detailed planning will provide you with all the support required to experience the real Japan.

Local customs & etiquette Japanese manners and customs are vastly different from those of the Western world and a strict code of behaviour is recognised and followed by most people in Japan. However, the Japanese are aware of these cultural differences and therefore do not expect visitors to be familiar with all customs, although formal and polite behaviour is expected. When entering a Japanese home or restaurant it is customary to remove shoes. Usually the point at which this should occur is very clearly marked by a raised step and a rack where shoes are exchanged for indoor slippers. Use the slippers provided, but remember to swap into special bathroom slippers when necessary. Forgetting to swap back can be embarrassing, but will almost certainly happen at least once during your stay! You can largely apply the principle of ‘when in Rome…’ to eating etiquette. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by the slurping of your neighbours, while elsewhere, dining habits appear more formal. The principal thing to avoid, in common with most of northern Asia, is leaving your chopsticks sticking up vertically from your rice bowl. This is reminiscent of the incense burnt for the dead and is considered bad form.


Shiretoko National Park HOKKAIDO

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Asahidake Sounkyo Biei Furano Daisetsuzan National Park Shikotsu-Toya National Park

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For the purpose of this brochure we have broadly split Japan into three sections. Central Japan covers central and western Honshu; Southern Japan encompasses the smaller southerly islands of Kyushu and Shikoku as well as the sub-tropical island chain of Okinawa; while Northern Japan covers the northerly island of Hokkaido as well as the northern part of Honshu, known as Tohoku.

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Getting around

Miyako Island Iriomote Island

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Mount Aso, Kyushu

Since you will travel around independently, we aim to provide all-inclusive information to aid you on your travels. Prior to your departure we will send you a full information pack to enable you to get the most out of your time in the country. This will include a detailed train schedule for your journeys, hotel addresses and place names (written in both English and Japanese) to help you get around, comprehensive suggestions and directions for your free time, as well as maps and pamphlets about the areas you are visiting, and more general information about the country. We also recommend our favourite restaurants, plus those recommended to us by past clients. 01993 838 210 • Introduction

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Central Japan M

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any of Japan’s highlights can be found in the central and western areas of Honshu, a region that amply demonstrates the country’s wonderful fusion of ancient and modern. Tokyo’s boundless energy is a magnificent contrast to the rich heritage and culture of Kyoto, which has held fast through the centuries. Central Japan also offers a great variety of landscapes, from some of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world to glorious mountain scenery, where rural village life prevails. Peaceful temples and manicured gardens are set amid bustling streets and jutting skyscrapers, and provide a retreat from the hectic cities. Only a bullet train ride away from the key cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima lie the Japanese Alps with their boundless hiking and skiing opportunities. In Honshu you can also find wildlife, with Japanese macaques bathing in the hot springs of Yudanaka and tame deer wandering the parkland of Nara. Some of Japan’s most admired gardens and temples can also be found in this region, and in every city, town or village the cuisine is exquisite.

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The majority of our trips are based in Central Japan as all the major sights can be easily accessed, and travelling around is relatively straightforward. To help you get the most out of your time in each area we plan your trip to match your interests and can combine the well-known highlights of the region with more unusual experiences, such as taking part in a tea ceremony with the ladies of the Women’s Association of Kyoto, or embarking on a food-orientated walking tour. In most instances you will travel independently using the highly efficient rail system, but we provide detailed notes to smooth the way.

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Where private guiding is an option we choose from a small group of professional local guides who can provide greater insight into Japan’s fascinating history and culture.

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Accommodation In this part of Japan accommodation varies from Western-style international and business hotels through to charming ryokan inns, and we pride ourselves on being able to recommend a variety of hand-picked throughout your stay.

1 Tokyo

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Experience the frenetic energy of Japan’s contrasting capital, from crowded, brightly lit streets to sleepy hidden temples. See pages 8-9 2 Tsumago

For a slice of bygone Japan visit this quiet village in the unspoilt Kiso Valley. See page 17 3 Crow Castle, Matsumoto A striking black and white, multi-tiered historic stronghold. See page 16 4 Yudanaka Watch the macaques bathing in the hot spring waters, and try an onsen (hot spring) experience of your own. See page 19 Jizo statue, Mount Koya

Experience Buddhist hospitality in this mountainside monastic complex. See page 14

Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa 5 Japanese Alps Soak up the fresh mountain air, spectacular scenery and picturesque towns. See pages 16-17

9 The ‘floating’ torii gate, Miyajima Island An iconic sacred structure, especially picturesque as the sun goes down. See page 14

6 Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa One of the finest examples of landscaped gardens in Japan. See page 19 7 Cultural Kyoto Search out ancient temples, peaceful gardens and the elusive geisha. See pages 10-11

Japanese macaque, Yudanaka

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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Street in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa

Tokyo A thronging, thriving city whose various districts each have their own distinct character, Tokyo will bewilder your senses and confound your preconceptions. At first glance it is the very essence of stylish innovation, teeming with modern technology and almost palpable energy. However, if you care to delve deeper, you’ll find carefully maintained pockets of heritage and tradition, a source of much pride for locals. This delicate balance of ancient culture and cutting-edge modernity makes Tokyo a gloriously diverse city, where towering skyscrapers loom over expertly tended parks and ramshackle eateries nestled in narrow alleyways beneath train tracks. Easily navigated by the ultra-efficient metro system, Tokyo can be explored either on your own with our detailed notes, or with a private guide. Some of our favourite areas of the city include Shinjuku, Asakusa, Akihabara, Harajuku, Ginza and Tokyo Bay. 8

Shinjuku

Asakusa

Take an evening stroll through the Shinjuku district and every preconceived image of modern Japan will be there to greet you: overwhelming crowds decked out in the wildest fashions, lofty skyscrapers, flashing neon, and all the noise and excitement that typifies Tokyo, perhaps the world’s ultimate metropolis. Urbane, cosmopolitan and globally aware, Shinjuku is best known for its bustling streets, bright lights and its phenomenally busy train station. However, beyond this brilliant chaos is the peaceful haven of Shinjuku Gyoen Park, one of Tokyo’s largest gardens, and two excellent observatories 202 metres above the ground in the Metropolitan Government Buildings.

Asakusa offers a glimpse into Tokyo’s historical heart, and is home to the much visited and photographed Buddhist Senso-ji Temple, which is marked by an enormous red lantern hanging at its entrance gate. The district is at the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (low town), which was the heart of ancient Edo, and an atmosphere of past decades still prevails here. Discover Asakusa’s relaxed and relatively quiet streets by rickshaw or walk across the Sumida River to Tokyo’s newest skyline addition the 634 metre tall Tokyo Skytree.

Shinjuku Gyoen Park, Shinjuku

Akihabara & Harajuku Tokyo’s ‘youth culture’ districts, Akihabara and Harajuku embrace the modern, the whacky and the innovative. Otherwise known as Electric City, Akihabara is the place to go for anything electronic and is famed among Japanese and foreigners alike for its wealth of noisy and animated gadget shops. Harajuku, also home to the historic Meiji Jingu Shrine which provides an oasis of calm in this energetic city, plays host to groups of creatively attired teens, out to rebel against conventional Japanese conformity.


Ceremonial drums, Tokyo

Hamarikyu Gardens, Asakusa

Monk collecting alms, Ginza

Priests entering the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Harajuku

Snack stall, Tokyo

Tokyo Bay

Odaiba Island, Tokyo Bay

Ginza Home to the emperor and his family, the grand and expansive Imperial Palace sits regally in the midst of Tokyo’s most up-market district. Michelin starred eateries and designer boutiques vie for space on Ginza’s streets, a district where deluxe consumerism reigns supreme. This part of the city first flourished as an area of ‘civilisation and enlightenment’, then later became home to trend-setting newspapers and magazines, and with every major luxury brand gracing its streets its influence on fashion and style continues today. Nearby Tsukiji has the largest fish market in Japan where huge tuna are carved and sushi counters abound. This sits next to the beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens with unique tidal seawater ponds.

With wide, open boulevards, a theme park and numerous fascinating museums, Tokyo Bay is the city’s playground. Daring architectural creations line the streets and play host to, or are surrounded by, enough entertainment opportunities to fill weeks of exploration. On the man-made Odaiba Island, built in the Edo period to protect Japan from invasion, sits the Sega Joypolis, Japan’s largest game centre with action rides and virtual reality games. Tokyo Mega Web exhibits all Toyota’s finest creations, many in theme park attraction style, while Asimo, the Honda robot, is one of the star attractions of the Miraikan Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. At sunset, the giant Ferris wheel is a fantastic place from which to view Tokyo’s skyline.

Conrad Tokyo, Toyko Bay

Conrad Tokyo, Tokyo Bay Close to the Hamarikyu Gardens and Tsukiji Fish Market is the Conrad Tokyo, a luxurious and contemporary retreat. Its 290 guest rooms and suites are all decorated in modern, minimalist Japanese style, while its five restaurants and bars offer excellent and varied cuisine. There are also fantastic panoramic views from the top floors.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Ginza One of Tokyo’s most deluxe hotels, the Mandarin Oriental offers the finest luxury with several award-winning restaurants, an excellent spa complex, and fantastic views across the cityscape of downtown Tokyo. The hotel’s 178 spacious, well-equipped rooms and suites blend Japanese tradition with contemporary design. Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Ginza

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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An apprentice geisha’s ‘okobo’ shoes, Kyoto

Kyoto For many centuries Kyoto was Japan’s capital and to this day it retains the nation’s greatest cultural treasures and a glorious concentration of historic buildings. It is a city of grand palaces, ornate shrines and exquisite gardens, mercifully spared from the World War II bombing that razed other Japanese cities. However, Kyoto has not stood still, and this is undeniably a modern city, where pockets of ancient Japan linger and kimono-clad geisha still shuffle along narrow, lamp-lit streets. We have sought out some of Japan’s finest ryokans to allow you to experience their magical atmosphere and to ensure that your visit to Kyoto is one of the highlights of your time in Japan. Such is the wealth of attractions in Kyoto that we recommend at least a few days here to soak it all in.

Torii gates, Fushimi Inari Shrine, near Kyoto

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Geisha The image of a geisha dressed in a fine silk kimono and teetering on wooden geta sandals is one of the most iconic, yet perhaps most misunderstood, symbols of Japan. Scores of books have been written about the elusive world of the geisha and many hundreds of photographers have tried to capture the beauty and grace of the women. Numerous films have also been made depicting the stories of refined teahouse entertainment, strict okiya training houses and, of course, the love, lust and romance that have long been associated with the geisha community. In their 1920s heyday, there were more than 80,000 geisha in Japan. Today, based mostly in Kyoto’s hanamachi districts (literally ‘flower towns’), there are fewer than 2,000. Geisha attend private functions, entertaining both male and female guests and can be seen scuttling between appointments in the Gion district every evening. They can also be seen performing traditional dances at exclusive restaurants around the city or at luxury ryokans, although these private engagements come

with a high price tag. A far more accessible way to see geisha is to take an evening walk around Gion with our guide, who has been working with Audley since 2005, to help shed some light on the elusive and mysterious world of the geisha as well as other aspects of Japanese culture.


Kyoto’s gardens Kyoto developed as the political, religious and cultural capital of Japan and the emperors, samurai and aristocrats who built lavish residences here surrounded them with equally impressive gardens. The sheer volume of highly attractive landscaped spaces, and the variety of historical designs and styles, means that of all places in Japan, Kyoto is the crowning glory for those interested in the country’s gardens. The earliest gardens were heavily influenced by those in the imperial courts of China and featured a strong emphasis on water, islands and bridges. Zen gardens, which were designed to provide a contemplative setting in which to meditate, emerged in the early Kamakura period (1185-1333) although it was not until some time later that the well-recognised karesansui (dry gravel) gardens consisting of stones and raked gravel were created. Often built around Zen temples, these gardens were usually intended to be admired from a fixed point outside their walls such as a seat at the chief monk’s residence. By the 17th century, stroll gardens had become popular. These were carefully constructed to lead visitors down a

Kinkaku-ji Temple garden complex

prescribed route to first hide and then reveal specific vantage points, all in a particular order. Later in the 19 th century a creeping Western influence and softening of the rigid garden design rules became more apparent, while towards the middle of the 20 th century (the Showa period) elements of modern art started to be introduced into gardens. Kyoto is one of the places where you can see examples of all these styles of garden and for this reason, attracts visitors from around the world.

South garden, Kodai-ji Temple

Yoshikawa Ryokan, Kyoto With rooms furnished in traditional style and overlooking an exquisite garden, Yoshikawa Ryokan in Kyoto is one of a small group of much sought-after Japanese inns. The atmosphere is intimate and the experience highly authentic. Your plump futon bed will be laid out in the evening and then removed in the morning by your maid. The attached tempura restaurant is well-known for its delicious fare which should certainly not be missed.

Bronze Buddha, Todai-ji Temple, Nara

Nara A short train ride from Kyoto is historic Nara, an earlier capital. While Kyoto’s continuing eminence over the centuries has led to its development into a large, bustling city, the significance of Nara soon waned once the capital was relocated, and today it is a relaxed town with some beautiful sights. Nara residents are justifiably proud of the Todai-ji Temple, which houses Japan’s largest bronze Buddha, as well as Yoshikawa Ryokan, Kyoto

the tranquil park that surrounds it where the sacred deer are so unafraid of people that they will eat food out of your hand. Nara can easily be visited as a day trip from Kyoto or as an overnight stay for those with more time. Between Kyoto and Nara sits Fushimi, wellknown for its spectacular Fushimi-inari Shrine. The shrine is the most important of the 40,000 Inari-jinja shrines and worshippers have donated the red torii (shrine gates) that line the path to the entrance.

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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Sumo wrestling, Kokugikan Sumo Hall, Tokyo

Ghibli Museum, Tokyo

Families in Japan

Manga magazines

One of the many draws of Japan is that it has so much to appeal to visitors of all ages, not least children. Tokyo itself has entire districts which seem designed for the entertainment of younger visitors: the electric Akihabara selling all the latest technology, the trendy shopping mecca of Shibuya, and the youth culture dominated Harajuku to name but a few. With the plethora of entertainment opportunities available in the large cities, the brilliant legacy of anime artists and directors, and any number of interactive experiences as you travel around the country, there is something to delight children and teenagers of any age. Here we suggest some of our favourite activities for families.

Ninja Restaurant, Tokyo A visit here will certainly be a very different and interesting meal out as you’ll be served by waiters dressed as ninjas who sneak silently through the maze of corridors of the Japanese castle styled interior. The menu is ninja themed, with dishes such as ‘Ninja style grilled lobster’ and ‘Japanese beef tenderloin steak, feudal lord style’. Samurai experience, Kyoto Japan has long been known for its traditional arts, an intrinsic part of Japanese life, building on morals, education and resilience. Kembu or the way of the sword, incorporates the way a sword is held and used in combat, and equally the thought process to mentally achieve this ability to fight, as the samurai once did. Ghibli Museum, Tokyo Studio Ghibli is Japan’s premier animation studio, boasting internationally renowned movies such as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away, created by

Hakone National Park, near Tokyo One of Japan’s finest national parks, you can do a full circuit of its sights by first taking a small train and then a funicular railway to the top of Mount Kami. Here, you alight at Owakudani, the Great Boiling Valley, and take a walk through the bubbling sulphur vents where you can try one of the famous black eggs, cooked in the heat of the natural thermal activity. The route continues by cable car, providing some lovely views across Lake Ashi, before disembarking to board one of the pirate-style sightseeing ships across the lake. Sightseeing ship on Lake Ashi, Hakone National Park

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Hayao Miyazaki, who is often referred to as the Walt Disney of Japan. Full of magical exhibitions, artwork and explorable sets, the Ghibli Museum is a fantasy land of delight and wonder. Tokyo Mega Web Museum, Tokyo This giant Toyota museum featuring all of the company’s latest models and technologies includes showrooms with many interactive exhibits for all the family; from driving simulation cars to participating in a virtual reality drive. Sumo wrestling tournament, Tokyo Watching this highly ritualised, ancient sport of wrestling matches between enormous, near naked men is a fascinating experience. These titanic clashes can be watched at one of six tournaments held each year, three of which are based in Tokyo’s Kokugikan Sumo Hall. We can arrange visits to various sumo ‘stables’ where the wrestlers live and train, or tickets to one of the exciting tournaments.


Daibutsu Buddha, Kamakura

View of Mount Fuji

Hakone Ginyu, Hakone

Nikko & Kamakura

Hakone Ginyu, Hakone

Only a couple of hours north of the capital, the small mountain town of Nikko feels like another world. Here, beneath the cool cedars, stands the magnificent Toshogu Shrine, mausoleum to the first and greatest Tokugawa Shogun on whom James Clavell based his famous novel ‘Shogun’. The superb carvings of the shrine, including the original ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ monkey carvings, are complemented by the beautiful mountain setting. After a thorough exploration of the shrine precinct we recommend heading up the hairpin bends to enjoy the fine scenery of Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Waterfall. For Tokyo-ites the tranquil seaside town of Kamakura, which lies just an hour south of the city, is a favourite getaway far from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Dotted with secluded shrines and temples – remnants of the town’s brief halcyon days as capital of the nation – Kamakura is also home to the 13 metre high Daibutsu Buddha, which was cast in situ in the 13th century in bronze and stands within the grounds of Kotoku-in Temple.

Sculpture in Hakone open-air museum

Mount Fuji & Hakone National Park

This property is one of the finest examples of a traditional ryokan anywhere in Japan, with hints of Balinese design and an emphasis on subtle and discreet elegance. The inn offers a luxurious setting in which to relax and you will leave feeling pampered in every way. The ryokan is also a noted spa resort and one of our favourite hot spring inns in Japan with all the baths fed by the mineral-rich thermal water from the Mount Fuji region.

Head west from Tokyo and the land immediately becomes more mountainous, offering beautiful alpine views and some fantastic locations for hot spring bathing. Hakone National Park, home to volcanic scenery, picturesque Lake Ashi and an excellent open-air museum, is perhaps the finest of these. Towering above the whole park is the majestic Mount Fuji, whose iconic snow-capped peak has been portrayed in countless works of Japanese art and literature. In Japan, it is said that ‘a wise man climbs Fuji-san once in his life, but only a fool climbs it twice’. Sadly, Fuji is often cloud-bound, leading us to believe that the wisest of all men simply relax at a ryokan in the park instead. With luck you will be able to catch a glimpse of Fuji’s snow-capped summit from the comfort of a hot spring. It is possible to climb Mount Fuji for a short window during July and August. Shinkyo Bridge, Nikko

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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‘Floating’ torii gate, Miyajima Island

Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Miyajima Island

Mount Koya

A short ferry ride from Hiroshima is the peaceful island of Miyajima, renowned for the great red ‘floating’ torii gate set in the picturesque Itsukushima Bay. Considered by the Japanese to be one of their three great sights, Miyajima is a must for any visitor to this part of the country. The small town has a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere, particularly in the evenings and early mornings once the day trippers have returned to the mainland. There are several other smaller temples and shrines dotted around the island that are well worth a visit and the 530 metre high Mount Misen offers great views from its summit.

High in the forested mountains of the Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka, lies the monastic complex of Mount Koya, the home of the esoteric Shingon Buddhist sect. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town contains more than a hundred different temples, many of which offer lodging for pilgrims and visitors, where you share the monks’ delicious vegetarian cuisine, and experience a very different aspect of Japanese society. Take a stroll at dusk along the winding, lantern-lit paths through the Okuno-in Cemetery for a uniquely atmospheric experience. Other temples across Japan offer similar opportunities to stay and join in with the monastic life; please speak to our specialists for more information.

Hiroshima Beneath an arched cenotaph in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park a flame burns, waiting to be extinguished once the world is finally rid of nuclear weapons. Close by, thousands of paper cranes, a symbol of health and longevity, are spread in silent protest around the poignant Children’s Peace Memorial. The modern city is, however, fully revitalised after the tragedies of World War II, and it is easy to discover its lively and energetic core. The wide, tree lined avenues and reconstructed castle make Hiroshima an attractive city, while the historic Shukkei-en Garden and the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum are interesting to explore. 14

Tentoku-in Shukubo, Mount Koya The accommodation here was originally designed for the Buddhist monks and pilgrims who visited the temple for training or worship, but is now open to members of the public. The food served is shojin, which is vegetarian in accordance with Buddhist practices. Rooms are quite small and basic, but quaintly Japanese in style with tatami flooring and sliding rice paper doors. Some of the 48 guest rooms have views over the superb Japanese garden at the centre of the temple which is now accredited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tentoku-in Shukubo, Mount Koya


Tawaraya Ryokan, Kyoto

Ryokans Japan offers international-style hotels of all standards, from excellent value business hotels to the finest five star accommodation. However, we recommend that at least one night be spent sampling the unique hospitality offered at a traditional ryokan (pronounced ree-oh-kan) inn. These can vary from homely guesthouses to the sublime sophistication of Kyoto’s finest establishments, but all share the same devotion to excellent service and warm hospitality. A ryokan is far more than just a place to lay your head for the night – we guarantee that your stay will become one of the defining experiences of your time in Japan.

Ryokan cuisine Dinner will most likely be included as part of your accommodation. Meals in ryokan inns can be a little daunting, but offer the opportunity to sample authentic traditional Japanese cuisine as it was intended. Both breakfast and dinner will be at set times and, depending on the type of inn, may be served to you in your room. Onsen, Gora Kadan, Hakone

The experience When you arrive at the ryokan, you’ll enter through the main door where you’ll be greeted with a bow by the attentive staff. It is customary to remove your shoes at the entrance and wear a pair of slippers, which are provided, inside. Let your host show you what to do – they won’t be expecting you to be experts in traditional etiquette. Fundamental to the ryokan is the elegant tatami-mat style of room. Every inch of space is used wisely and your maid will lay your futon out each night and clear it away in the morning to give you maximum space. You’ll notice a cotton yukata robe next to the low table in your room or in the futon cupboard. This is to take to the shared bathing facility known as the ofuro. It is highly recommended to take a soak in the ofuro before bedtime, as the hot, thermal waters will soak away any aches and pains and help you sleep.

Iwaso Ryokan, Miyajima Island

Japanese breakfast consists of several small plates of food including miso soup, rice, grilled fish, pickles and dried seaweed. Dinner is a grander affair, typically consisting of up to seven or eight small courses. Beginning with an assortment of appetisers, the meal progresses with sashimi (sliced raw fish), a cooked fish and/or meat dish, tofu, pickles, rice and fruit. All ingredients will be seasonal and you will receive a different variation on the meal each day of your stay. You may well not recognise all the ingredients or dishes but everything on offer will be local and fresh, and of course you are under no obligation to eat anything that you don’t like.

Breakfast at Tentoku-in Shukubo Ryokan, Mount Koya

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Ryokans

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View over Azusagawa River, Kamikochi

Nearby, hidden in deep mountain valleys, is the UNESCO World Heritage Village of Shirakawago, home to the few remaining traditional mountain farmhouses in the gassho-zukuri style, typified by thatched, steeply slanting roofs.

Japanese Alps The Japanese Alps are a series of mountain ranges, the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi, which run along the spine of central Honshu. Forested mountains, snow-capped peaks and wonderful vistas are what you can expect here, with several small, picturesque villages dotted about the mountains. You’ll find larger towns in the valleys which in the winter become lively ski bases. There are several hiking trails throughout the Japanese Alps, the most famous of which is the Nakasendo Highway.

Matsumoto A small but cosmopolitan city on the edge of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto’s history dates back to the 8th century. It is, however, most famous for its fine castle, built in 1595 and known as Crow Castle because of its striking black and white design. Although much of the city is modern, you can still find traditional lattice-patterned buildings in the old merchant district. Most of these are now craft shops, teahouses or restaurants, and there are also some excellent museums to explore. Considered to be the gateway to the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto is situated within striking distance of some of the region’s best winter and summer outdoor activities.

Kamikochi

Crow Castle, Matsumoto

Takayama & Shirakawago Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the northern Japanese Alps, the historic Sanmachi district of Takayama possesses a charming old-world atmosphere and some fine Edo period architecture. East of the Miwagawa River these streets have a hidden charm and give way to a warren of traditional shops, museums, galleries and sake breweries. The area has a wonderful character made more special by its rarity in a country that has otherwise embraced the modern age. Takayama is very popular however, and receives a high number of visitors each year, which has led to the loss of some of its charm. Highlights of the region are the spring and autumn festivals, when impressive floats are paraded through the streets to the sound of taiko drumming and singing.

A haven of unspoiled nature, framed by the snowcapped Japanese Alps and the blue glacial waters of the Azusagawa River which carves through the valley. Kamikochi is the perfect place to stretch your legs with both easy walks along the river and some of the country’s most exhilarating mountain treks. Particularly striking during autumn when the foliage is at its most vivid, Kamikochi is often considered one of the most beautiful places in the Japanese Alps, and as such receives a very high number of visitors. The town, however, is protected within the Chubu Sangaku National Park and retains its original style with development very limited and cars prohibited.

Traditional thatched homes, Shirakawago

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Local postman, Magome

View over the Kiso Valley

Wooden houses, Tsumago

Kiso Valley

Nakasendo Highway

This scenic region of central Honshu is one of the most beautiful and accessible areas in which to experience the ‘real’ Japan. A highly significant travel and trade region in the past, its protected towns offer a glimpse of times and lifestyles long lost in other parts of the country. The Kisoji was an ancient trade route spanning 70 kilometres along the Kiso Valley and was an important means of commerce to the area. Later, it became part of the Nakasendo Highway, which brought wealth and importance to the region. One of the few remaining sections of the historic route lies in the Kiso Valley and the post towns have been preserved in their original glory with strict construction regulations protecting their unique style.

The Nakasendo Highway was established in the 8th century, one of several roads which linked the areas around the then capital, Nara. The roads were built with the notion of helping to unite the growing state and the Nakasendo alone covered over 500 kilometres between mountain ranges. It was used as an official communication route to allow rulers to quickly send messages, goods, personnel and spies across the empire. Today, walking along sections of the Nakasendo Highway is an excellent way to explore the beautiful countryside and visit ancient post towns such as Tsumago and Magome.

Tsumago Tsumago, a small village in the Kiso Valley, is one of our favourite spots in Japan. A visit here is made even better by the warm welcome at one of the simple, but atmospheric, traditional Japanese inns which remain much the same as those used by travelling samurai over 200 years ago. Tsumago lies midway along the Nakasendo Highway. As the route passed into disuse the post towns lining the road became backwaters, cut off from the progress that was changing the rest of Japan, and leaving a tangible reminder of a different time. In the 1960s, to counter the inevitable collapse of the town’s Edo period houses, the locals of Tsumago banded together

Tsumago, Nakasendo Highway

to preserve its unique character and restore the town’s buildings. This led to Tsumago gaining protected status, and was one of the first instances of cultural preservation in modern Japan. This preservation provides a similar view to that which would have greeted travellers on the Nakasendo Highway in its prime, hundreds of years ago.

Daikichi Ryokan, Tsumago Located just on the edge of the town’s centre, the Daikichi is an excellent example of traditional accommodation. The inn’s five rooms are small and basic with shared bathrooms, but ooze authentic Japanese character and command excellent views of the nearby wooded valley. The food is all locally grown or sourced and what you eat is very much dependent on the season. Some of the specialities you can expect to taste vary from mountain vegetables to handmade buckwheat noodles.

Autumn colours in Kamikochi

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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Sakurajima, Kirishima National Park, Kyushu

Kappabashi suspension bridge, Kamikochi

Walking in Japan Japan’s spectacular mountain scenery and abundance of striking national parks make it an excellent location for walking. From volcanic peaks to enormous tracts of serene forest, rivers that cut through imposing gorges, and vast mountains peppered with tiny villages and sacred temples and shrines, the variety of landscapes is astounding and the scope of beauty immense. There are a number of walking trails such as the high altitude Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route through Murodo in the northern Japanese Alps, the Nakasendo Highway through the Japanese Alps, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrims’ Trail in central Japan as well as the national parks scattered across the islands that also offer excellent day hikes. Hiking trails in Japan tend to be better maintained than in other countries, so any walk you do is likely to use village paths and well-kept paved and unpaved trails, all well signposted.

Signpost on the Nakasendo Highway

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Nakasendo Highway, Japanese Alps The Nakasendo Highway, which runs through the mountains, can easily be tackled in small sections, despite the full route being 530 kilometres long. Perhaps the most accessible of these is the two hour walk between the ancient post towns of Tsumago and Magome. Here, you’ll follow a well-defined and mostly gravel path which leads you through paddy fields and small sections of forest, past rural houses and eye-catching waterfalls – an excellent way of exploring the extremely picturesque landscape in this area. The path is steep in places, and through the forest you’ll see bells along the way, which are to ward off bears, although they are very rarely seen. Kamikochi, Japanese Alps As one of the most scenic spots in Japan, the area around Kamikochi is littered with walking trails through its virgin forests and soaring mountains. Most hiking trails begin from the picturesque Kappabashi suspension bridge in the centre of Kamikochi and are usually well marked with signposts, although these tend to be in Japanese. Less strenuous walks explore the valley floor on mostly level paths. One of our favourite routes meanders through the forest towards Taisho Pond, a striking lake formed in 1915 by a volcanic eruption which dammed the river. For those looking to exert more energy, there are several paths which head into the mountains themselves.

Kirishima National Park, Kyushu One of the first areas in Japan to be designated a national park, Kirishima is also one of the most diverse in the country. Dense forests of oak and pine, smoking volcanoes, cobalt crater lakes, highland plateaux and hot springs make up the untouched wilderness that is the Kirishima National Park, and walking opportunities here vary from short day walks, to longer overnight treks. Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido The volcanic mountains, unusual rock formations, rushing waterfalls and vivid colours of the alpine tundra in Daisetsuzan National Park are within easy access of the major onsen towns. Cable cars and chairlifts dotted around the park allow visitors to ride up the steep ascents and then walk along the hiking trails in the alpine meadows and high moors. The park also has easy-to-follow ridge walks which lead up to different summits and calderas.

Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido


Shirasagi-jo Castle, Himeji

Lady mending nets, western Honshu

Kenrokuen, Kanazawa

Japanese macaques, Jigokudani Onsen

Asadaya Ryokan, Kanazawa

Asadaya Ryokan, Kanazawa

Kanazawa & the Noto Peninsula A convivial modern city within easy reach of Tokyo or Kyoto, Kanazawa is best known for the magnificent garden of Kenrokuen. Built in the classic stroll style, this is a wonderful place in which to observe and enjoy the six elements (spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view) that combine to form the perfect Japanese garden. While in Kanazawa it is also well worth exploring the samurai district with its craft museums, and perhaps visit Ninja-dera, a temple known for its association with this shadowy clan of assassins. Within striking distance of Kanazawa is the rugged, windswept Noto Peninsula, a world away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or Kyoto, with its relaxed villages and scenic beach drives.

The Asadaya is an exclusive ryokan with just five traditionally minimalist yet extremely elegant rooms. Founded in 1867, it is furnished with beautiful antiques and decorated with elaborate scrolls and paintings. Its intimate nature means that service is impeccable and each guest receives plenty of attention. The Asadaya is just as well-known for its food and serves only the best Kaga (Kanazawa) cuisine. These local dishes highlight the changing seasons with fresh ingredients and menus tailored to individual guests. The ryokan also houses an impressive hoard of antique samurai swords, in keeping with Kanazawa’s history as a feudal base.

Yudanaka The small town of Yudanaka is a hot spring resort popular with both humans and the native Japanese macaque. At Jigokudani Onsen, which is known as Hell Valley due to the bubbling hot sulphur vents dotted around it, more than 100 monkeys congregate in one of the hot spring baths. They can be seen throughout the year, but are especially photogenic during the cold winter months when the valley is covered by a thick layer of snow. The small town of Obuse is a short train ride away and is home to the Hokkusai Museum which contains replicas and originals of this famous Edo period artist’s woodblock prints, such as the acclaimed ‘The Wave’.

Western Honshu Between Kyoto and Hiroshima, in the very west of Honshu, lie a wealth of traditional towns and picturesque fishing villages which can make fascinating stops along your journey between the two larger cities. Himeji boasts the elegant Shirasagi-jo ‘White Egret’ Castle, considered Japan’s finest; Okayama is home to the top-rated Korakuen Garden; and at Kurashiki the historic canal-side Bikan district is ideal for an hour or two’s relaxation while admiring the golden koi and watching the world go by. Head for the northern coast of western Honshu and you find yourself in a more traditional and less-visited Japan. The old samurai quarters and ruined castle of Tsuwano and Hagi, the superb Museum of Art at Matsue, and the fishing villages of the Tango Peninsula all fully justify a visit. With public transport more infrequent, we recommend that you pick up a hire car to discover this little-visited corner of Honshu.

Rice terraces, Noto Peninsula

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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Kasumiga-ike pond, Kenrokuen, Kanazawa

Tailoring your trip

Getting around

The itineraries shown are designed to give you a flavour of what is possible, and are routes that work particularly well. We can use these as a basis to plan your trip or can design a completely different itinerary to suit your tastes and interests. Please call one of our Japan specialists to start planning your itinerary.

Direct flights from the UK to Japan will arrive into Tokyo’s two main airports, Narita and Haneda, where you are met and assisted with your onward transfer. Most itineraries will include travel on the extensive Japanese public transportation system and any trains, buses or ferries that feature on your trip will be covered either by the cost-effective Japan Rail Pass or by separate tickets purchased for you in advance of travel. Using public transport in Japan is straightforward with most stations having signs and announcements in both Japanese and English.

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More detail on specific journeys and how to use trains, buses and taxis can be found in your pre-departure final itinerary pack. Taxis are commonplace in cities and are useful for short journeys or to find your bearings. Away from the classic routes, a hire car may be the most practical option and English language maps, along with a satellite navigation system will be provided in your car.

Geisha, Gion district, Kyoto

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When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun

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33 The best time to travel. 3 A good time to travel, but there may be some factors to be aware of.

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Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.

Q Snow or ski season.

Japan has four distinct seasons and being in the northern hemisphere these are roughly the same as UK and North American seasons. In Central Japan, winters are mostly cool and sunny, with heavy snowfall from December to April in the Japanese Alps. Summer, between June and September, is hot and humid with showers. Spring and autumn are by far the best times to visit Central Japan, although these are also the busiest periods so booking further in advance becomes necessary. Time difference: GMT+9 hours

Prices We offer trips to cater for a wide range of budgets. You can find up-to-date guideline prices for your trip to Japan on our website, alternatively please call our specialists to discuss your plans.


Suggested itineraries Yudanaka

Nikko Kanazawa

Matsumoto

Matsumoto

Takayama Tsumago

Tokyo

Tsumago

Kyoto Kamakura Kyoto Nara

Central Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto & Japanese Alps This classic itinerary highlights the very best of Japan. From the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo to the peaceful temples and gardens of Kyoto, you’ll experience many of the contrasts of Japan. Spend time in traditional accommodation, delve into Japanese history and see geisha in Kyoto. Day 1

Arrive in Tokyo and begin your exploration of the city.

Day 2

Explore Tokyo, either with a guide or at your own pace, including the Senso-ji Temple and Meiji Shrine.

Day 3

Visit Kamakura to see the Daibutsu Buddha.

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Take the train to the small city of Matsumoto in the morning. Explore the famous Crow Castle and other sights. Take the train to the quiet and picturesque village of Tsumago, where you can walk part of the historic Nakasendo Highway. Travel by local train and bullet train to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural heart. Use this afternoon to see the sights, including the Golden Pavilion and Ryoanji temple, famed for its Zen gardens. A day to explore more of Kyoto’s highlights. In the evening your guide will collect you for a tour of Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district. Take a day trip to nearby Nara, Japan’s ancient capital. Return to Kyoto via Fushimi-inari Shrine for its stunning procession at the red torii gates. Start the day with a chance to try your hand at a traditional cultural activity such as a tea ceremony. Later, return to Tokyo by bullet train.

Nara Hiroshima Miyajima Island

Matsumoto Tokyo

Hakone National Park

Kyoto

Mount Koya

Nara

Grand tour of Japan

Japanese Alps Explorer

This comprehensive itinerary allows an in-depth exploration of the best that mainland Japan has to offer.

The central Japanese Alps region is one of the most beautiful in the country. From May to October walking, hiking and outdoor activities can be enjoyed, whilst the winter brings ample opportunity for skiing and snowboarding.

Day 1

Arrive in Tokyo and begin exploring the city.

Day 2

Enjoy a guided tour of Tokyo.

Day 3

Visit Nikko, home to some spectacular shrines.

Day 4

Start early at the Tsukiji Fish Market, then enjoy a guided tour around the shitamachi district of Tokyo.

Day 5

Travel to Tsumago.

Day 6

Visit the castle town of Matsumoto and later, travel through the Japanese Alps to Takayama.

Day 7

Explore Takayama’s traditional buildings.

Day 8

Travel to Kanazawa.

Day 9

Explore Kanazawa, including the Kenrokuen Garden.

Day 10

Travel by train to Hiroshima.

Day 11

Visit the evocative Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

Day 12

Cross the Inland Sea to Miyajima Island.

Day 13

Travel to Kyoto and take part in a tea ceremony or cookery class.

Day 14

Explore Kyoto at your own pace.

Day 15

Take in the quiet gardens of Kyoto. In the evening take a stroll around the Gion district with your local guide.

Day 16

Visit the nearby Fushimi-inari Shrine. Continue to Nara to see the Todai-ji Buddha. Travel to Mount Koya. Spend the night in temple lodgings.

Day 18

Explore Mount Koya. Take the train to Hakone National Park.

Stay longer

Day 19

Explore the national park.

Travel to Hakone National Park on your way back from Kyoto, to spend some time relaxing in the hot springs.

Day 20

Return to Tokyo for a final night.

Day 21

Onward flight from Tokyo.

Onward flight from Tokyo.

Kamikochi Murodo

Tokyo

Day 17

Day 10

Kanazawa

Day 1

Arrive in Tokyo.

Day 2

Explore the varied sights of Tokyo at your own pace.

Day 3

Travel to the small hot spring town of Yudanaka by train to see the playful snow monkeys.

Day 4

Visit nearby Obuse, a quiet artisan town.

Day 5

Take the train to Matsumoto and then travel by local bus to Kamikochi.

Day 6

Do some light walking or more serious hiking in and around Kamikochi.

Day 7

Return to Matsumoto to explore the city, including Crow Castle.

Day 8

Traverse the mountains on the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. You spend the evening in Murodo, about halfway along the route.

Day 9

Enjoy a walk in the area and then continue on the route to Kanazawa.

Day 10

Explore the Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa’s samurai districts.

Day 11

Take the express train to Kyoto. Try a traditional activity of your choice, such as calligraphy or flower arranging.

Day 12

Explore Kyoto at your own pace and in the evening take a walk around the geisha quarter with your guide.

Day 13

Visit nearby Nara to see the great Todai-ji Buddha.

Day 14

Return to Tokyo by bullet train.

Day 15

Head to the airport for your flight.

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Central Japan

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Kaiseki Ryori

Food Some highlights of Japanese cuisine

Festival food, Takayama

Many people are apprehensive of travelling to Japan, fearing they will find nothing to eat but raw fish. Of course Japan is renowned for its fantastically fresh and delicate sushi and sashimi, but the country offers a wealth of other dishes to satisfy any palate. Part of the fun, and indeed the challenge, of travelling to Japan is to try out some of the unusual tastes of nihon ryori (Japanese cuisine) and the many regional and seasonal variations of which the locals are rightly proud. One thing to bear in mind when dining out in traditional restaurants is that they generally specialise in one type of food only, such as sushi or tempura for example. So when eating out, first decide what you want to eat and then find a restaurant that serves it. There are certain types of Japanese cuisine which you will find all across the country, but there are also delicious regional specialities.

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Rice & noodles Rice is the staple of every Japanese meal and is served as a side dish to traditional breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Noodles can be either an accompaniment to a main meal, particularly meat and fish dishes, or the main component of the meal, usually served in a broth with tempura or vegetables. Udon and soba are two of the main types of Japanese noodle: udon are thick wheat noodles, while soba are thinner and made of buckwheat. As well as served hot, you may also find both udon and soba presented zaru style: chilled, on a wicker basket with a topping of soy sauce, grated ginger, wasabi paste, shredded nori seaweed and spring onions, particularly refreshing during the summer months.

Mixed sashimi

Soba noodles, zaru style

Sushi & sashimi Sushi comes in several forms, of which nigirizushi (a slice of raw fish placed on top of a ball of vinegared rice), maki-zushi (a sushi roll wrapped in seaweed) and inari-zushi (rice in a pocket of sweet, fried tofu) are the most common. The cheapest and most popular way of eating sushi is by finding a kaiten-zushi bar. Here you sit at the counter and choose your dishes from the revolving conveyor belt. Sashimi is simply raw fish served without rice and is often used as an appetiser for main meals. Both sushi and sashimi are served with shouyu (soy sauce) for dipping, wasabi paste and slices of pickled gari (ginger). Tempura Tempura is the general name for any vegetable, prawn or portion of fish fried in a light, crispy batter. Tempura is usually served in a lacquerware box with dipping sauce and grated daikon (white radish) or tempura salt, and comes with rice and crunchy pickles.


Ramen Now a common feature on the Japanese menu, ramen is Chinese in origin. There are countless variations, but the basic concept of ramen is a bowl of noodles in a wholesome broth, usually flavoured with miso (soybean) paste or soy sauce and topped with vegetables and meat. Yakiniku Yakiniku or grilled meat is a sociable dining experience. Various cuts of beef including rump, tongue, stomach and fillets are laid out so you can cook them on a small grill on your table before dipping them in a rich dark sauce. Originating in Korea, the meat dishes can be accompanied by kimchi – spicy Korean pickles – and bibinba, which is a tasty and healthy Korean rice dish cooked quickly to lock in freshness. Sukiyaki Sukiyaki is a hotpot style dish in which various ingredients such as thin slices of meat (typically beef), tofu, mushrooms (usually shiitake), leafy vegetables and jelly noodles are cooked in a broth of soy sauce, sugar and mirin (a type of sweet rice wine which is low in alcohol). The broth is held in a large shared pot for the table and the ingredients are added in front of you. When it is cooked, you extract what you want with chopsticks, and dip it into a dish of raw egg before eating.

Sukiyaki

Kaiseki Ryori Perhaps the most elegant and esteemed meal in Japan, kaiseki ryori is the original accompaniment to a tea ceremony. It consists of tapas-style dishes showcasing a range of delicacies chosen for their seasonality and freshness. Kaiseki is the pinnacle of Japanese dining and the food is always meticulously prepared and beautifully presented. Casual dining Japan’s sophisticated street food should not be missed. Some of the highlights include yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, usually cooked over a barbecue and Kushiage, meat, fish or vegetable skewers, deep fried in breadcrumbs, served with dipping sauces. Izakayas are the Japanese version of a pub, they are great fun, good value and easy to spot – outside they will have red lanterns bearing the name of the restaurant, and picture menus.

Yakiniku (Korean barbecue)

Regional specialities Okonomiyaki A speciality in both Hiroshima and Osaka, okonomiyaki literally means ‘cook what you like’. It is a type of Japanese pancake cooked on a hot plate in front of you, made from cabbage, pork, egg and noodles, then topped with okonomiyaki sauce (which is thick, sweet and tangy), aonori (seaweed flakes), bonito flakes (dried, smoked bonito fish), Japanese mayonnaise and pickled ginger. Crab nabe This dish is often associated with the northern island of Hokkaido, which has an abundance of large and succulent crabs. These are placed in a traditional Japanese-style hotpot dish known as a nabe and cooked in a flavoured broth with vegetables.

Eating at a street stall, Honshu

Matcha Kyoto is famed for its matcha, green tea powder, which is used in traditional tea ceremonies. Nowadays it is also used to flavour cakes, ice creams and other desserts. Kyoto’s matcha parfaits are a favourite of ours – desserts packed with layered vanilla and green tea ice cream, green tea sponge and different varieties of wagashi, traditional Japanese confectionery, usually served with matcha green tea to balance the slightly bitter taste. Takoyaki Originally popular in Osaka but now found on street food stalls around the country, takoyaki is a ball of octopus encased in a light ginger and onion batter, cooked on a cast iron griddle and then topped with a rich sweet sauce and sprinkled with aonori and bonito flakes. Hida beef Located in the Hida region of Japan, Takayama is famous for its incredibly flavoursome wagyu beef. Wagyu refers to Japanese bred cows, of which Hida is one. The fat which is marbled through the cuts of meat makes Hida beef particularly succulent, especially in a steak.

Izakaya, Tokyo

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Food

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Southern Japan T

I

he southern islands of Japan have a predominantly relaxed atmosphere and rural landscape. Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, well-known for its dramatic scenery, excellent hiking and beautiful hot spring resorts. The island’s seething volcanic terrain is matched by its turbulent history and during Japan’s long years of self-imposed isolation, the island was the only place in which contact with the outside world was permitted. Resting in the waters of the Inland Sea, Shikoku is home to classic gardens, countless temples and farming villages. Cross to the island by train from Okayama, board a boat through the archipelago from Hiroshima or take a bus across the world’s longest suspension bridge, to discover remote farmhouses, ancient pilgrimage sites and classical culture. The Okinawa Archipelago, form a huge arc stretching from southern Kyushu almost as far as Taiwan, offering white-sand beaches and an island lifestyle. The climate here is subtropical, making it the perfect place to relax at the end of your mainland Japanese adventures.

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Kirishima National Park

Ibusuki 1 Yakushima Island

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Miyako Island

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Awa Odori Festival 1 Iya Valley A forested, remote haven of glorious scenery and traditional culture. See page 31 2 Matsuyama

Home to one of only twelve original castles in Japan, and one of the country’s best hot spring resorts. See page 30 3 Pilgrimage Trail temples Experience the serenity of one or two of Shikoku’s 88 pilgrimage temples. See pages 30-31

4 Mount Aso An enormous volcanic caldera amid lush mountain scenery. See page 28 5 Nagasaki Visit Nagasaki with its World War II memorial and remnants of Dutch trading. See page 26 6 Takachiho Gorge Take a boat down the river to enjoy the sight of cherry trees lining the remarkable gorge above. See page 28

7 Kirishima National Park Hike through the striking volcanic landscape of Japan’s first national park. See page 27 8 Okinawa beaches

Relax on the subtropical beaches of Ishigaki Island or Miyako Island. See pages 32-33 Festivals Enjoy the spectacle of Japan’s largest dance festival, Awa Odori, in Tokushima. See page 31

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Ishite-ji temple, Matsuyama

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Okawachiyama

Accommodation As we do elsewhere in Japan, we try to pick accommodation options that will really enhance your experience of the country. Although only a few of our favourites have been mentioned on the following pages, we can suggest a wide range of accommodation depending on your preferences. There are several ryokans in Kyushu and Shikoku that offer local cuisine and hot spring bathing, and the welcome here is always warm. There are pockets on each island where good accommodation options are scarce; here, we will pick the best option for you, but it may be lacking in character. In Okinawa there are plenty of Western-style resort hotels with wide-ranging facilities on offer, but on some of the islands which are further afield the options are limited.

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As a trip to Japan’s southern islands is all about escaping the urbanisation of the mainland, we always recommend taking the time to explore a bit more off the beaten track here. We can create a trip that includes hiking around volcanic calderas, forays into the Shikoku heartland to visit one of the lesser-known temples on the Pilgrimage Route, or time on a white-sand beach. We have first-hand knowledge of these islands and can advise you on which areas to visit depending on your interests and the best way to get around. Many visitors pick just one of the southern islands and combine time in Central Japan with exploration on Kyushu, Shikoku or Okinawa to get a flavour of Japan away from the majority of other visitors.

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Taiko drummers performing a sunrise concert, Kyushu

Kyushu

Nagasaki

An island of staggering natural beauty, with numerous hiking trails, active volcanoes, relaxing onsens and plentiful gardens, museums, galleries and memorials, Kyushu offers great variety for anyone venturing away from the mainland. The island’s magnificent scenery, especially in the national parks of Aso-Kuju and Kirishima and on some of the smaller outlying islands, is reason to visit in itself. Kyushu also has some fascinating culture and lively cities to match.

A vibrant and cosmopolitan place with noticeable Portuguese and Dutch influences, Nagasaki’s topography mercifully prevented it from being totally destroyed when it was hit by an atomic bomb at the end of World War II.

Fukuoka Situated in the very north of Kyushu, Fukuoka has a young population, which gives it a very vibrant and international outlook. With some wonderful arts and crafts museums and some great food on offer, it is well worth using as a base to explore the area. Ramen noodles are a local speciality and are served almost everywhere and in every combination imaginable. The area’s other speciality is the infamous fugu (blowfish), which is so poisonous it can be fatal if prepared the wrong way. Fukuoka is the main port of access from Korea into Japan by sea, and is also the entry point to Kyushu from Honshu and surrounding Asian cities.

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The city was Japan’s only point of contact with the Western world through many years of self-imposed isolation from mid-17th to mid-19 th century, and this fascinating early contact with missionaries and traders is revealed in the architectural styles and number of Christian churches. Glover Garden showcases several mansions of former Western residents in its open-air museum, from where you can get some great views of the city as you look out across the bay. It is, of course, Nagasaki’s sensitive and highly informative Atomic Bomb Museum and the moving Peace Park which are the city’s most visited attractions, but if you spend any longer in the city, Gunkanjima (also known as Battleship Island) is an intriguing place to visit. Located just offshore, the island used to be a coalmine until it had to be abandoned in 1974. Since then, typhoons have ravaged the island, leaving its buildings derelict and destroyed, giving the island a distinctly eerie feel. It is probably most familiar as a location for the James Bond film Skyfall.

Peace Park, Nagasaki

Okawachiyama Surrounded by steep, densely forested mountains, the tiny, picturesque town of Okawachiyama in the north grew around its porcelain industry. Production began hundreds of years ago and porcelain from Okawachiyama was so highly prized that emperors and shoguns ordered their wares from here. Production methods were never revealed to outsiders and so the town earned the name of ‘the home of the secret kilns’. In the Edo period a great deal of porcelain was exported to Europe and production still continues today using traditional methods. The Okawachiyama kilns are open to the public and great bargains can be found here as you wander the narrow streets lined with traditional buildings and observe the craftsmen at work.


Street food stalls, Fukuoka

Street in Okawachiyama

Kirishima National Park

Sand-bathing, Ibusuki

Kirishima National Park

Ibusuki & Chiran

The first of Japan’s designated national parks is home to an array of stunning sights including smoking volcanoes, vast plateaux, sparkling lakes, rugged coastlines and thick forests. The park stretches over a large area of southern Kyushu with the main walking and hiking opportunities to be found to the north of the park. Also included within the park boundaries is the still-active island volcano Sakurajima and the subtropical, other-worldly island of Yakushima, covered in lush moss and ancient cedar trees, many of which may be over 7,000 years old. Although rainy during the summer months, the park is strewn with spring flowers, including brightly coloured azaleas in April and May, and has spectacular foliage in autumn.

Ibusuki is best known for its unique geothermal ‘sand-bathing’ experience, in which people are submerged up to their necks in volcanic sand. The mineral-rich sand is naturally heated by subterranean geysers and its weight and heat around you provides an experience that is purportedly excellent for the skin. Close to Ibusuki is Lake Ikeda, the largest crater lake on Kyushu, which was created during the eruption of Mount Kaimon. The lake is particularly attractive in spring, when you’ll notice a vivid contrast between the azure water and the brilliant yellow canola fields which surround it.

Lake Ikeda, near Ibusuki

Samurai residence, Chiran

Futari Shizuka, Kirishima National Park A lovely and secluded ryokan set deep within Kirishima National Park, Futari Shizuka provides guests with a relaxing and inviting stay. The five rooms are full of character with comfortable beds, and are linked by winding pathways and lush gardens leading to the outdoor baths, solely for guests’ use. The ryokan places a strong emphasis on excellent service and this extends to the food which is meticulously prepared and presented with local seasonal ingredients. This property is one of our long-standing favourites in the area.

Further north on the Satsuma Peninsula, on which Ibusuki and local transport hub Kagoshima are located, lies the small town of Chiran. A fascinating place to explore, Chiran’s main attraction is its beautiful gardens, which are known as Little Kyoto. Dotted about these gardens are ancient samurai residences which are occasionally open for visitors to explore. Chiran is also home to a Peace Museum for Japan’s notorious kamikaze pilots, who completed their training here before flying off to war. Hundreds of young men rallied to this call, eager to martyr themselves for the emperor. Their opportunity came during the battle of Okinawa when over 1,000 pilots died; their photos line the walls of the museum. Futari Shizuka, Kirishima National Park

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Takachiho Gorge

Road to Mount Aso, Aso-Kuju National Park

Aso-Kuju National Park Aso-Kuju National Park is one of the best places to see the island’s dramatic natural scenery. Active Mount Aso lies at the centre of this national park, which is the only place in Japan where visitors can explore a ‘live’ caldera. The area is awash with impressive mountains, the slopes of which vary from starkly volcanic to a blanket of forest that transforms into a magnificently vivid display of colour each autumn. Although there are trains and local buses through the park, it is best explored by hire car as public transport timetables can be restrictive. Due to the nature of the active volcanic landscape, a number of hot spring towns have emerged in the national park and its surroundings. These include Beppu, Japan’s ‘capital city of hot springs’, the small but trendy Yufuin, and our favourite, the attractive Kurokawa.

Takachiho Gorge

Kurokawa

Just south of Aso-Kuju National Park lies Takachiho Gorge, a dramatic ravine of sheer limestone cliffs and tumbling waterfalls. A 600 metre walking trail leads through the gorge, lined by mountain cherry blossoms and Japanese azaleas. One of the best ways to enjoy the scenery, however, is to hire a boat and gently drift along the river below. Just west of the town centre is the Takachiho Shrine, nestled in a grove of cedar trees. The shrine is host to nightly performances of Yokagura dancing. This is an ancient ceremonial art with its origins in the worship of traditional deities, but over the years the dance has evolved and is now more connected to the agricultural cycle, with dances to give thanks for a good harvest and pray for the warmth of the spring to return. Dancers wear costumes and masks, and the performances are vibrant folk dances that have remained popular throughout the centuries.

Kurokawa is one of Japan’s finest hot spring towns, and a preservation order has been issued by the local government to keep the traditional character of the town in place, banning gaudy signs and large hotels. As such, the town remains highly attractive, set as it is within a forested valley, and characterised by wooden buildings alongside a flowing river. The town is dominated by numerous excellent public onsens and rotemburo (outdoor baths). They can be found dotted about the town and concentrated along the riverside, which makes the outdoor bathing here wonderfully scenic.

Okunoyu Ryokan, Kurokawa

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Okunoyu Ryokan, Kurokawa One of the most attractive ryokans in the Kurokawa Valley, Okunoyu Ryokan is set in lush riverside grounds on the side of Mount Kuju, an active volcano. Its 14 rooms are traditionally minimalist and the food is sumptuous ryokan cuisine. Copious supplies of geothermal waters feed its many onsen pools, all of which are different, and it is worth trying as many as you can as they provide the perfect place to relax at the end of the day.


Samurai armour, Kumamoto Castle

Suizen-ji Koen, Kumamoto

Kumamoto Castle

Onsen bathing A highlight of any trip to Japan is experiencing the long-standing tradition of communal hot spring bathing. Onsen bathing is highly recommended both for its cultural importance and for the simple pleasure of soaking in a steaming hot bath. There are around 3,000 hot springs in the country, many in spectacular locations.

Women in winter kimonos, Kumamoto

The baths Japanese baths are usually large enough for a number of people to bathe at once and deep enough for the water to reach your neck. The baths are very hot and contain either normal tap water, or, if you are at an

Kumamoto Situated on the coast southwest of Mount Aso, Kumamoto is home to one of the finest castles in Japan. Established at the same time as this impressive fortress, the city became a stronghold of some of the last remaining samurai during the Satsuma rebellion, an uprising of samurai against the newly formed imperial government. Sadly earthquakes have put a stop to entering the castle indefinitely due to weakened fortifications although the nearby Suizenji koen, an attractive landscaped garden depicting in miniature the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Highway, are open.

Bather at an onsen

Water buckets at an onsen

onsen resort, cloudy mineral-rich geothermal water or rust-coloured iron-fed water, which claim to have healing properties. Men and women normally bathe separately, except in some resorts where private mixed onsen can be hired. Bathing etiquette A small towel will be provided in your room to preserve your modesty but bathers enter the water naked. You will be required to wash and rinse thoroughly before entering the bath; go slowly as it takes time to get used to the heat. Then relax and enjoy the bath. Rotemburo, open-air baths, are particularly atmospheric as you gaze at the stars or watch snowflakes fall around you.

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Pilgrims, Shikoku

Shikoku

Matsuyama

Despite being the smallest and least populous of Japan’s four main islands, Shikoku is home to some of the country’s finest gardens and most picturesque coastal scenery as well as ancient Buddhist temples, castles and distinctive arts and crafts. Shikoku is the closest and most accessible island to Central Japan, located southwest of Kyoto and south of Hiroshima, and connected to the mainland by several bridges, including the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. In addition to its traditional sights, Shikoku is also known for some of the nation’s most atmospheric festivals, notably in the cultural hub of Tokushima.

The largest and most interesting city on Shikoku, Matsuyama sits on the northwestern corner of the island and boasts an impressive castle, one of the country’s oldest hot springs and easy access to the island’s highest mountain, Ishizuchi-san. The town grew gradually around the castle, which was constructed in 1602, but the centre was largely destroyed during World War II and then rebuilt. Although the city is now expanding rapidly, it retains the relaxed atmosphere of a much smaller town. Matsuyama Castle is one of only 12 original castles in Japan to have survived intact since the feudal era. Located on a hill which overlooks the city and the Inland Sea, the castle is surrounded by cherry trees which, in spring, make the castle even more attractive. East of the city centre is the hot spring resort Dogo Onsen, which contains one of the oldest and most magnificent bathhouses in the country. It was featured in the award-winning animated film Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki.

Equally appealing is Shikoku’s rural pace of life and untouched countryside, particularly in the centre and west of the island. On the craggy western coastline you’ll find quaint fishing villages full of friendly locals and delicious regional cuisine. Further south, Uwajima boasts a fertility shrine, unique in Japan. Kochi in the very south of the island was once the most rugged and cut-off part of Japan and it is here that many of the most hard to reach temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage are located.

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Matsuyama Castle

Takamatsu This modern city in the north is best known for its Ritsurin Garden, often considered to be one of the top three in the country. The garden dates back to the early 17th century and was constructed by several feudal lords over a period of 100 years with the idea of presenting the beauty of all four of the seasons in one space. Also worth a visit is Shikoku Mura, an open-air museum exhibiting traditional buildings from all over Shikoku. This is located at the base of Mount Yashima, which overlooks Takamatsu and the Inland Sea and has an unusually flat top, ideal for surveying the beautiful surroundings. The ruins of one of Japan’s few seaside castles can also be found in Takamatsu, along with the Isamu Noguchi Memorial Garden, which displays Noguchi’s art and sculptures. A short ferry ride away from Takamatsu lies Naoshima Island, again notable for its many highly regarded collections of modern art.

Modern art on Naoshima Island, near Takamatsu


Festivals Japan’s lively local festivals, known as Matsuri are connected with shrines and temples throughout the country and celebrate or commemorate everything from ancient legends and deities to historic events and the changing of the seasons. The festivals usually involve a brightly coloured procession of large, decorated floats, musicians, dancers and mikoshi – decorated shrines containing the spirit of the local Shinto kami (gods). Attending a festival is a unique and highly enjoyable experience and it is well worth planning your trip to coincide with some of the celebrations. Sanja Matsuri

Sanja Matsuri (mid to late May) The Sanja Matsuri of Asakusa Shrine is one of the three biggest festivals in Tokyo and involves parading more than a hundred mikoshi around the streets. Side events include performances by Japan’s top taiko drum academy and Tokyo’s elusive geisha. Awa Odori (mid-August) Held in Tokushima in Shikoku as part of the Buddhist Obon Festival to honour one’s ancestors, Awa Odori is the largest dance festival

in Japan. Groups of dancers in colourful costumes parade through the streets accompanied by music played on traditional instruments. Kanto Matsuri (August 3rd-6th) The Kanto Matsuri is held every August in Akita in northern Honshu and involves hundreds of candlelit lanterns. Participants parade through the streets balancing enormous 12 metre poles decorated with 46 paper lanterns, each lit by a small candle.

Dance performance, Awa Odori

Iya Valley This remote and strikingly verdant area is considered to be one of Japan’s ‘three hidden regions’. Its tall peaks and deep gorges, traditionally crossed by vine bridges, were a safe haven for clans during the civil wars of the 12th century due to their remoteness and the inaccessibility of the landscape. Three of these vine bridges have been maintained throughout the centuries and a visit to one is a great way to see the arresting scenery and feel as if you have travelled back in time. Although you are likely to see more modern houses than ancient ones nowadays, there is a strong focus on preserving the traditions of the area. You can learn about the local culture in a number of museums, and see the picturesque buildings as they once were by exploring a restored example. For instance, Chiiori is an ancient farmhouse which has been restored and serves as a project to introduce people to traditional Japanese life. It is also worth travelling to the remote Oku Iya, the inner valley, to visit the Higashi Iya History and Folk Museum and a restored samurai residence, but the valley is difficult to access without a rental car.

Ichinomiya-ji Temple, Shikoku Pilgrimage

Shikoku Pilgrimage

Kazura Bridge, Iya Valley

Chiiori, Iya Valley

Covering 1,200 kilometres and traditionally completed on foot, the Shikoku Pilgrimage takes in 88 elaborately decorated temples on the island. The temples are all associated with the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism, a descendent of tantric Tibetan Buddhism. Each of the temples represents one of the 88 evils which Shingon Buddhists believe bedevil human life. Modernday pilgrims, known as henro, are recognisable by their white clothing, conical sedge hats, and kongo-zue (wooden staffs). There are a number of lodges, ryokans and shukubo (temple accommodation) situated in the vicinity of each temple to facilitate the journey. Rather than attempting the full pilgrimage, most visitors tend to pick one or two temples, to get a glimpse into Buddhist beliefs and perhaps spot some dedicated pilgrims in their distinctive white costumes.

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View of Zamami Island, Okinawa

Naha Naha is the vibrant capital city of the Okinawa Archipelago and its main street, Kokusai Dori, is especially fascinating. Known as the kitchen of Naha, it is lined with restaurants and food stalls and a profusion of bright and lively shops, which really come to life at night.

Shurijo Castle, Naha

Okinawa Characterised by pristine beaches, superb coral reefs and lush, subtropical vegetation, Okinawa offers all the delights of a more typical beach destination such as Fiji. The 160 Ryuku Islands that make up Okinawa stretch over 700 kilometres to the south of Kyushu and are far closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan. Indeed, Okinawans regard themselves as slightly separate from the rest of Japan and have their own language and dialects. As with most tropical islands, Okinawa is prone to typhoons during the monsoon period and whilst the Japanese are extremely well versed in dealing with them, it can mean that excursions and flights are cancelled at short notice. 32

You’ll also find an interesting assortment of arts and crafts in the city, from the Tsuboya Pottery Museum and the still-working kilns which line the back streets, to the Naha Municipal Arts and Crafts Museum. Just outside the city is the impressive Shurijo Castle and some attractive gardens. Naha is on Okinawa Honto, the largest island in the archipelago, which remained under US military control until 1972. To this day, there are US military bases in Naha which contribute heavily to the islands’ economy. Although Naha and Okinawa Honto lack the idyllic and unspoiled beaches of the smaller islands, it is pleasant to spend a couple of days here. Naha is the most common place to start your time in the islands as it is a transport base for the archipelago and has its only large airport.

Garlic seller, Naha

Iriomote Island This is the second largest of Okinawa’s islands, yet is almost entirely made up of gloriously dense jungle or mangrove swamps, one of the last remaining true wildernesses of Japan. Due to its rich biodiversity, Iriomote has been designated a national park, which protects the flora and fauna, most endangered of which is the rare Iriomote wildcat, found only on this island. A highly enjoyable way to explore is to take a cruise or a canoe trip up the Urauchi River or by hiking to one of the many magnificent waterfalls found within the jungle.


Maehama Beach, Miyako Island

Farmer, Taketomi Island

Jodogahama Beach, Miyako Island

Taketomi Island

Miyako Island

Ishigaki Island

Taketomi Island

Located around 200 kilometres south of Okinawa Honto and a short 30 minute flight from Ishigaki Island, Miyako is home to some of the best beaches in Japan. This, along with a subtropical climate which provides pleasingly warm weather throughout the year, makes the island a popular beach destination with domestic tourists.

Fringed by coral reefs, Ishigaki Island is one of Japan’s southernmost Yaeyama Islands and is only 75 kilometres from Taiwan. The island itself is mountainous and rugged in parts and flat and forested in others, making hiring a car the easiest way to travel. Mangroves, palm forests and jungle-covered mountains make up Ishigaki’s interior, which can be explored on hiking or kayaking trips.

Taketomi is a small island lying just southwest of Ishigaki, from where it can easily be visited as a day trip. The appeal of the island is its traditional character: old-fashioned Ryukyu architecture endures with red, clay-tiled roofs topping volcanic stone walls; and buffalo carts are the main mode of transport along the island’s picturesque, narrow lanes. Taketomi’s three main beaches are among the best in all Okinawa: Kondoi is a remarkable expanse of white sand and turquoise water, while Kaijihama and Aiyaruhama are both ‘star sand’ beaches, made not of sand at all but the shells of thousands of tiny crustaceans.

Miyako Island itself is mostly flat and lacks the dramatic scenery of neighbouring Ishigaki and Iriomote islands, but its incredible beaches more than make up for this. On the east coast of the island is Maehama, consistently voted Japan’s best beach. The epitome of tropical perfection, Maehama’s seven kilometres of pure white sand shelve gently into calm turquoise waters, ideal for swimming and water sports. Slightly further north is Sunayama, another white-sand beach with clear blue waters and rocky formations. There are many other sections of beach which are largely deserted and the discovery of these secret bays is part of the enjoyment of a stay on Miyako. The island also has some excellent snorkelling spots. Of particular note is Yoshino Kaigan, where swarms of colourful fish surround you as soon as you enter the water. Nearby is a spectacular coral reef with an abundance of marine life.

The snorkelling opportunities from Ishigaki are excellent, particularly around the sapphire blue Kabira Bay, famed for the high numbers of manta rays which congregate here. Of the various superb beaches on the island, the sandy Sukuji and Sunset beaches are our favourites, as many of the others are coral beaches which are less comfortable to relax on. Foreign visitors in the Yaeyama Islands are few and far between, making travel here a little more challenging for non-Japanese speakers but you will be rewarded with a true Japanese experience in return. It is also worth noting that whilst the beaches easily rival those in other parts of the world, the accommodation is basic.

Manta ray, Kabira Bay, Ishigaki Island

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Picnics under the cherry blossom

Autumn colours, Kyoto

Japanese seasons Resplendent throughout the year, Japan’s landscape takes on a different character as the months progress. Each of the distinct seasons offers something new and remarkable to the beauty of the area, but although each season has its draws, it is spring with its ephemeral cherry blossom that brings visitors flooding to Japan every year. Spring There is a phrase in Japanese, sakura zensen, meaning cherry blossom front, which describes the blossom’s movement from the tip of Okinawa in early February all the way to the most northerly cape of Hokkaido by the end of May. The peak viewing time in Kyoto and Tokyo is from the end of March to the middle of April. To spend a lazy afternoon wandering through Tokyo’s Ueno Park or Kyoto’s Maruyama Park is to truly understand just how much, and why, the Japanese love this delicate and transient flower. Spring temperatures range from the decidedly chilly to warm and pleasant, with showers common throughout March and into April.

Dancing at a summer festival, Tohoku

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Summer In the summer months of June, July and August the air becomes stickier and heavy and the temperatures move steadily higher. Japan’s rainy season typically occurs in late June and July on the mainland and with it comes humidity of more than 80% , with temperatures nudging 40C (104F) on some days. It is, however, possible to escape the heat and humidity by heading for Japan’s mountains or coast, so you need not melt in the cities. Summer also brings with it a host of colourful local festivals, particularly in the cooler Tohoku region. A whirl of dancing, music and beautiful traditional costumes, these are superb celebrations to experience. Autumn By September temperatures start to cool but the sun continues to shine, making this a good time of year to visit. The subtle red and gold hues of the autumn colours start to appear in Hokkaido in late September and then travel south to Kyoto and Tokyo by mid-November. Autumn is a glorious time to be in Japan as the countryside blazes with the fiery reds and dazzling oranges of the turning leaves of the indigenous momiji maple tree. The climate is temperate and dry and since the colours cover great swathes of the mainland, there are plenty of opportunities to take in this beauty, either while hiking through the Japanese Alps, admiring scenic Miyajima Island or strolling through the quiet back streets of Kyoto.

Himeji Castle, near Kyoto

Winter Winter in Hokkaido stretches from late October through to March and Siberian weather fronts bring icy cold winds and heavy snowfall. On the mainland the winter months are December, January and February, with snowfall in Tohoku and the Japanese Alps region, but a relatively mild climate in Kyoto, Hiroshima, Shikoku and Kyushu. Crisp air, clear blue skies and dry weather mean that winter shouldn’t be a barrier to travel in Japan. Even in Hokkaido there is plenty to do during the coldest months, from birdwatching in Kushiro and Sapporo’s Snow Festival in February to world-class skiing until April or May. From snowy castle landscapes and glittering lamp-lit shrines to warm sake and piping hot bowls of ramen in bustling restaurants, Japan takes on a different, more excitable air in winter. When it snows there really is nothing better than sitting in a rotemburo hot spring bath as the snowflakes land softly on your head and steam rises all around you.


Suggested itineraries Tailoring your trip The itineraries shown are designed to give you a flavour of what is possible, and are routes that work particularly well. We can use these as a basis to plan your trip or can design a completely different itinerary to suit your tastes and interests. Please call one of our Japan specialists to start planning your itinerary.

Fukuoka

To Tokyo

To Tokyo Honshu

Kyushu

Okawachiyama

Kurokawa

Okayama

Naoshima Island

Nagasaki

Kirishima National Park

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Takamatsu

Takachiho Gorge

Kumamoto

Osaka

Matsuyama

Iya Valley

Tokushima

Shikoku

Kagoshima

Getting around

Chiran Ibusuki

Because of the nature of this part of Japan, you are likely to use several different modes of transport. You can access Kyushu and Shikoku by either train or plane but once there, it makes sense on both islands to pick up a hire car to explore the national parks, hot springs and remote regions. There is also the option of public transport on Kyushu and Shikoku if you don’t plan on straying too far from the main areas; the bullet train runs as far south as Kagoshima on Kyushu and there is an excellent public bus network on Shikoku. To get to the Okinawa Archipelago you will need to fly to Naha on Okinawa Honto, then connect to Miyako or Ishigaki Island if you are travelling onwards. Once on your desigated Okinawan island, again you may find a hire car useful if you plan on exploring beyond the beaches.

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Explore the main highlights of the beautiful island of Kyushu, experiencing its most scenic landscapes as well as visiting the historically rich towns of Kumamoto, Nagasaki and the tiny Chiran, home to ancient samurai residences. Day 1

Arrive in Fukuoka. Spend the rest of the day relaxing.

Day 2

Pick up your hire car and drive to the onsen town of Kurokawa.

Day 3

At leisure to enjoy the hot spring spas of Kurokawa.

Day 4

Travel south to the sheer limestone cliffs of Takachiho Gorge.

Day 5

Explore the river at your leisure.

Day 6

Drive south to Ibusuki and spend the evening unwinding in a sand bath.

Day 7

Continue your drive to Kirishima National Park, stopping off en route at Chiran.

Day 8

Enjoy some hiking in the national park.

Day 9

Day 2

Take a bus to Tokushima, across the world’s longest suspension bridge.

Day 3

Explore Tokushima, including the Awa Odori dance festival museum.

Day 4

Take the train from Tokushima to Takamatsu and explore the town, including the beautiful Ritsurin Garden.

Day 5

Take the ferry across to Naoshima Island to explore the modern art museums and collections.

Drive to Kagoshima and drop off your hire car then board the train to Kumamoto.

Day 6

Pick up your hire car and drive to the secluded Iya Valley in the heart of Shikoku.

Day 10

Explore the magnificent castle and gardens.

Day 7

Day 11

Pick up a hire car and drive to Nagasaki via the hot spring town of Unzen.

Explore the area and perhaps try some white water rafting in the afternoon.

Day 8

Take the train to Matsuyama on the west of the island.

Day 9

Explore Matsuyama, including the castle and Dogo Onsen hot spring.

Day 10

Take the train to Okayama, back on Honshu, and explore the excellent Kourakuen Garden. Continue on to Tokyo in the afternoon.

Day 11

Travel to the airport for your onward flight.

Day 12

Spend the day exploring the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum of Nagasaki.

Day 13

Visit Gunkanjima, otherwise known as Battleship Island.

Day 14

Return to Fukuoka via Okawachiyama, famed for its pottery.

Time difference: GMT+9 hours

Prices We offer trips to cater for a wide range of budgets. You can find up-to-date guideline prices for your trip to Japan on our website, alternatively please call our specialists to discuss your plans.

Shikoku may be a small island but it offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities from vibrant city life to off-the-beaten-track wilderness and adventure. Shikoku is accessed by road over the spectacular Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge and, starting in the east, you visit the towns of Takamatsu and Tokushima before travelling on to the quiet Iya Valley, finishing in the hot spring town of Matsuyama. Arrive in Osaka.

Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.

The weather in Southern Japan tends to be warmer than that of Central and Northern Japan, particularly in Okinawa. Temperatures here vary from 18-35C (64-95F) with showers and typhoons common throughout August, September and October. In Kyushu and Shikoku spring and autumn are typically the best times of year to visit, while Okinawa is at its best in spring and summer.

Temples & festivals in Shikoku

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Day 15

Fly to Tokyo for a night in the capital.

Day 16

Head to the airport for your onward flight.

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Southern Japan

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Northern Japan N

orthern Japan is known for its natural beauty, abundant hot springs, countless festivals and, in the winter months, excellent winter sports opportunities. The climate here is cooler than in the rest of Japan, offering an escape from the sweltering summer days on the mainland and the chance to explore the region’s numerous national parks. The far northern region of Honshu is known as Tohoku, an area that the Japanese equate with a slower, more traditional way of life. Tohoku’s highlights include beautiful hot spring resorts, vibrant summer festivals, remote Buddhist temples and numerous scenic lakes that are best seen against the spectacular backdrop of the changing autumn leaves. Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, has the country’s highest concentration of national parks and wide roads ideal for self-drive itineraries. Summer in Hokkaido brings with it ample opportunity for walking and the chance to view some of the spectacular flora of the island. In winter, some of the world’s best powder snow can be experienced at the resorts of Niseko and Furano, and rare birdlife spotted along the coastlines and in the wetlands.

Audley in Northern Japan Public transport in Northern Japan is not as comprehensive as in other parts of the country, so for this reason we recommend that you self-drive. Our first-hand knowledge of the routes makes this an easy option and enables you to discover remote mountain and countryside regions, where the pace of life is slower. We can tailor your itinerary to include one of Northern Japan’s festivals, or if you are a wildlife enthusiast, plan your itinerary around the perfect spot from which to view rare birds. We can also provide ski guides should you be travelling during the winter months and are interested in taking part in some winter sports.

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National Park The rugged scenery and vivid colours of this national park provide excellent hiking opportunities. See page 41 The red-crowned cranes perform spectacular mating rituals in the wetlands of Kushiro during February. See page 40

6 Dewa Sanzan Climb the 2,446 steps up Haguro-san, one of Dewa Sanzan’s three holy mountains to be blessed by a Buddhist priest amid ancient cedar trees. See page 38 7 Nyuto Onsen

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Accommodation Accommodation in Northern Japan varies quite considerably. Around the national park and lake resorts there are many large hotels catering for domestic tour groups. Although they attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a traditional ryokan, they offer both Western and Japanese style rooms. All rooms are en suite but there are also shared bathing facilities known as ofuro which are used for relaxation in the evening. Dining is mostly on a half-board basis with a buffet for both breakfast and evening meals, and the I I I I I quality of the food is usually extremely I I good. I I I I I I I I I I Smaller boutique properties and intimate I I I I I I I ryokans areI harder to come by, although we I have discovered a few which we will be happy to recommend.

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Asahidake Sounkyo Biei 2 Furano 1 1 Daisetsuzan 4 Sapporo 34 National Park

3 Shiretoko National Park Watch out for brown bears and other native wildlife in wild Shiretoko. See page 41 4 Sapporo Snow Festival In early February, Sapporo’s Odori-koen Park is filled with giant ice sculptures. See page 40

Bathe in an outdoor hot spring, particularly atmospheric in winter with snow falling around you. See page 39 Summer Festivals Marvel at the costumes, colours, music and energy of the Nebuta, Tanabata and Kanto festivals in Tohoku. See page 38

5 Skiing

Take to the slopes in Furano or Niseko on world-class powder snow. See page 40

Red-crowned cranes, Kushiro

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Northern Japan

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Steps to Haguro-san Shrine, Dewa Sanzan

Matsushima Bay

Tohoku

Matsushima & Sendai

Dewa Sanzan

Tohoku’s largest and most cosmopolitan city, Sendai is home to the spectacular annual Tanabata Festival, held each August. Although the city has few key sights, it makes a good base for exploring the region’s more southerly highlights. The picturesque pine-clad islands of Matsushima Bay, designated as one of Japan’s three great sights, are also within easy reach. A leisurely boat trip here allows visitors to experience the magical scenery that is said to have left Bassho, Japan’s foremost poet, speechless.

Dewa Sanzan is the collective name for the three holy mountains of Haguro-san, Gas-san and Yudono-san. These are actually three peaks of an extinct volcano, which sit shrouded in ancient cedar trees and surrounded by prolific rice fields, making it an excellent area for hiking. The mountains gained their sacred status over 1,400 years ago after the son of the reigning emperor made a pilgrimage to the area to practise severe ascetic religious exercises, which later became the founding principles of Shugendo Buddhism. Shugendo is an ancient blend of esoteric Buddhism, Chinese Taoism and Shinto deity worship and is practised by the Yamabushi monks, who strongly link their religious practices with the physical nature of the mountains in which they live. The Yamabushi are easily recognisable thanks to their distinctive garb of checked overshirts, billowing white trousers, straw sandals and small, peaked hats. The monks are now scattered all over the three mountains but you may see them at one of the many temples in the area or scurrying up the slopes. Dewa Sanzan is best explored over a number of days as there are some strenuous climbs, but if you have less time we recommend a shorter two hour ascent to the top of either Haguro-san or Gas-san.

Tohoku refers to the northern, ruggedly mountainous part of Honshu, where rural traditions have survived longer than in other parts of the country. Much of Tohoku was once volcanic and a number of scenic crater lakes and countless natural onsen resorts can be found in the region. Characterised by its splendid and varied scenery, northern Honshu offers wild, rugged coastline, densely forested volcanic mountains and picturesque rice fields, and its spectacular seasonal changes are celebrated with numerous festivals. Due to its northerly position, spring arrives here later than in Central and Southern Japan, with the cherry trees blossoming from late April into early May. The autumn leaves, on the other hand, begin changing earlier than elsewhere, in October. Tanabata Festival, Sendai

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Hirosaki Castle

Hinokinaigawa River, Kakunodate

Lake Tazawa

Kakunodate

Lake Tazawa

Hirosaki & Lake Towada

A quiet, former castle town and samurai stronghold, Kakunodate is enclosed on three sides by mountains. While the castle no longer remains, a large number of samurai houses have survived, making it one of the best places in Japan to view this old style of residence. Traditional shrines, temples and merchants’ storehouses are also dotted around the town, giving Kakunodate an authentic old-world atmosphere. The Hinokinaigawa River runs through the town and is lined with cherry trees for two kilometres, making it a very pleasant place to walk. In spring, blossom blankets the riverbanks, creating a spectacular tunnel of flowers that has led to it being designated a national beauty spot.

Just to the north of Kakunodate is Lake Tazawa, Japan’s deepest lake. In winter, this region lies beneath metres of snow but the lake never freezes, thanks, according to local legend, to the fiery dragon which lives beneath the surface. The area directly surrounding Lake Tazawa is home to various secluded onsen villages such as Aoni and Nyuto, which offer excellent hot spring bathing opportunities, particularly atmospheric in winter when the ground is covered in snow.

Politically and culturally important during the Edo Period, Hirosaki is now a fairly quiet city with a rich cultural heritage. Its most prominent feature is its castle, which was rebuilt in 1810 having been previously destroyed by fire. This three storey keep is surrounded by moats and sits within a large park, which is regarded as Tohoku’s top cherry blossom spot in spring. Several thousand cherry trees are located within the park, which create a magical fairytale scene when they are all in blossom. Only an hour and a half’s drive from Hirosaki is Lake Towada, the largest caldera lake on Honshu and one of the island’s most scenic settings. Towada is hugely popular with local visitors during koyo, the autumn colour season. This begins in mid-October, when the beech and maple-clad hillsides of the nearby Oirase Valley turn spectacular shades of gold and crimson.

Many traditional events are held throughout the year in Kakunodate. If you come at the right time you can enjoy some of these: the Sakura Matsuri (cherry blossom festival) in spring; the Sasara-mai (dance) in summer, in which people dance while they rhythmically rub two sasara (bamboo whisks) together; the stirring Oyama Matsuri in autumn, which includes a procession of floats and colourful lanterns; and the Hiburi Kamakura in winter, in which a straw bag on the end of a rope is set afire and swung around to pray for good health.

Tsurunoyu Ryokan, Nyuto Onsen, Tohoku The Tsurunoyu is the oldest and most authentic ryokan in the area. It is truly enchanting with an excellent outdoor onsen and traditional food consisting of local mountain vegetables and fish cooked over a small irori fire pit. There are several baths at the Tsurunoyu, each fed by a different source of water, with a large outdoor mixed-sex bath, which the brave are welcome to try. Tsurunoyu Ryokan, Nyuto Onsen

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Northern Japan

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Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Hokkaido

Hokkaido

Sapporo & Hakodate

Akan National Park

The second largest and northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Hokkaido is home to just 5% of Japan’s population and is arguably its wildest, most unspoiled island. Blessed with stunning natural scenery carved by the elements and sculpted by ongoing volcanic activity, the island is dotted with national parks which protect these dramatic landscapes. From the picturesque caldera lakes of Shikotsu-Toya to the rugged wilderness of the bear-haunted Shiretoko Peninsula, each has a plethora of wildlife and offers outstanding walking options.

Hokkaido’s bright, cosmopolitan capital, Sapporo, is well-endowed with gardens and parks and makes the perfect base from which to head out and explore the island. Each February the city welcomes visitors to the wonderful Sapporo Snow Festival, an ice-sculpting extravaganza on an epic scale. Northeast of Sapporo lie the pretty flower fields around Biei and Furano, which, along with Niseko to the west, become excellent ski resorts in the winter. Further south, separated from the mainland by the narrow Tsugaru Straits, is the charming port town of Hakodate. The intriguing mixture of Japanese and Western architecture here gives it an unexpectedly international atmosphere. The town is best appreciated by taking a cable car to the summit of Mount Hakodate at dusk and watching as the sparkling lights of the town radiate out into the distance.

Akan National Park in the east of Hokkaido is centred around several volcanoes and crater lakes. Lake Akan, well known in Japan for its unique ‘marimo’ algae which form in a spherical shape and can grow to be as large as footballs, is now a National Natural Monument. The lake is surrounded by volcanic mountains, thick forests and bubbling mud pools. The three main volcanoes in the park, Mount Meakan, Oakan and Akan-Fuji, have shaped the landscape with their eruptions, creating hot springs and fertile soils, which in turn have allowed vast forests to thrive. Excellent walking trails of all lengths and difficulties abound. The best panoramic views are from Lake Kussharo, which is an interesting place to visit due to the scenic beauty of the area, and for the nearby Kotan Ainu Folk Museum, which exhibits the customs, lifestyles and traditions of the indigenous Ainu people.

Hokkaido is also the heartland of the indigenous Ainu people and mainlanders did not arrive and settle here until the 1600s. Although the trade links gave the Ainu an opportunity for wealth and commerce, the influx of people was ultimately their undoing as they were persecuted and forced out of their homelands. During this time the Ainu were forced to learn Japanese, adopt Japanese names and to cease religious practices such as animal sacrifice and the custom of tattooing. Not until 2008 were the Ainu officially recognised as an indigenous group. There are a number of museums which document this history and are a good place to learn about this dwindling culture.

Kushiro Wetlands

Picking lavender, Hokkaido

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Established in 1987, the Kushiro Wetlands are Japan’s newest national park. The area is characterised by vast areas of reeds surrounding a central moorland, dissected by multiple tributaries of the Kushiro-gawa River, which snakes its way through the park to the sea. The park supports a huge biodiversity, including the red-crowned crane, one of Japan’s national symbols.


Mount Asahidake, Daisetsuzan National Park

Sounkyo Gorge

Bathing in a natural onsen, Akan National Park

Kushiro Wetlands

Ezo brown bear, Shiretoko National Park

Daisetsuzan National Park

Sounkyo

The island’s largest national park, Daisetsuzan has 16 volcanic peaks over 2,000 metres in altitude, and a wide variety of hiking trails for every level of fitness. The park is also well-known for its wildlife, which includes several rare species and the notoriously shy brown bear. Numerous hot spring towns are scattered around the park, among the best of which are Kogen, Tenninkyo, Asahidake, Tokachidake and Sounkyo. Each has excellent hot spring bathing facilities set against remarkable natural backdrops. Autumn is a popular time to visit the park due to the kaleidoscopic array of colours across the slopes, which appear far earlier than they do further south. The Ginsendai Trail to Mount Akadake in particular offers both vibrant colours and fantastic vistas.

Sounkyo Gorge is an area of striking natural beauty with sheer rock walls, craggy outcrops and magnificent views over the rest of the park. Sounkyo is also densely forested and can be wonderfully photogenic at any time of year, whether in the snow, amongst the fresh vibrancy of spring or the stunning display of autumn colours. The cable car and chairlift which lead from the town of Sounkyo Onsen towards the summit of Mount Kurodake offer the best views and give you an idea of the vastness of Daisetsuzan National Park. Sounkyo also has a number of spectacular waterfalls which give rise to the tumbling rivers that run through the gorge. A series of beautiful and easy riverside walks follow the gorge to reach these falls.

to test their skills. Whatever level of activity you enjoy, this is a very relaxing spot to come and appreciate such brilliant scenery, and the relative inaccessibility of the area means it is mercifully less cluttered by the usual tour bus traffic than other parts of the island.

Asahidake The small town of Asahidake sits at the foot of Daisetsuzan’s highest peak, Mount Asahidake, and is the ideal base for exploring the park. The town is thoughtfully landscaped, and offers a number of pleasant strolls along wooded trails between the hotels and guesthouses. Popular year round, the town makes a great base for hiking in summer with the Asahidake Ropeway (cable car) offering easy access to the high level hiking trails above the town. In winter the slopes are transformed into pistes, and skiers flock here

Shiretoko National Park Japan’s wildest region, Shiretoko is one of the least accessible and least explored parts of the country. Shiretoko means ‘the end of the earth’ in the local Ainu language, and when you finally arrive on this peninsula in the far east of Hokkaido you will be rewarded with a pristine landscape and a wealth of wildlife. The northernmost part of this peninsula does not have any roads, so can only be accessed on a sightseeing boat or by several days’ walking. This has left Shiretoko’s primeval forests, volcanic rocks and countless impressive waterfalls untouched, and sea eagles, Steller’s sea lions and brown bears thrive here. Perhaps the best way to explore the park is on foot, by basing yourself in the port town and onsen resort of Utoro, from where hiking trails through the forests and into the mountains begin. You can also take a boat tour from Utoro, a great way to see some of the park’s otherwise inaccessible wildlife and scenery. Further north from Utoro is Shiretoko Goko, a series of five small, jewel-like lakes set amid an astonishingly beautiful landscape.

Daisetsuzan National Park

www.audleytravel.com/japan • 01993 838 210 • Northern Japan

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Suggested itineraries Tailoring your trip Lake Towada

The itineraries shown are designed to give you a flavour of what is possible, and are routes that work particularly well. We can use these as a basis to plan your trip or can design a completely different itinerary to suit your tastes and interests. Please call one of our Japan specialists to start planning your itinerary.

Nyuto Onsen Kakunodate Asahidake Sounkyo Dewa Sanzan

Getting around

When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun

33 33

3

3

Tohoku Discovered This fascinating itinerary offers the chance to escape the crowds and explore a magical area of Japan rarely seen by overseas visitors. The region blends ancient culture and spectacular scenery. Travel by train or hire car to explore the clear lakes, deep forests and secluded inns of Japan’s best kept secret.

3

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Q

Travel is possible, but this is not the best time of year.

Q Snow or ski season.

Northern Japan can be visited year round, although it is necessary to be prepared for heavy snowfall and low temperatures in the winter months of December to April, which can make driving a challenge. The summer brings with it a slightly cooler climate than Southern Japan and in autumn the temperature begins to drop, but it is nonetheless a pleasant time to travel due the spectacular autumn leaves.

Kushiro

We offer trips to cater for a wide range of budgets. You can find up-to-date guideline prices for your trip to Japan on our website, alternatively please call our specialists to discuss your plans.

Tokyo

Wildlife & hot springs of Hokkaido For those seeking out the wilder side of Japan, this comprehensive self-drive tour explores Hokkaido’s splendid national parks. Hike in the high mountains of Daisetsuzan, watch out for bears along the Shiretoko Peninsula, and savour the wide, open spaces. Day 1

Arrive in Tokyo and begin exploring the city.

Day 2

Explore at your own pace or take a privately guided tour of the highlights.

Day 2

Explore some of the city’s highlights with a guide or at your own pace.

Day 3

Take the train out to Nikko and visit the Toshogu Shrine complex.

Day 3

Take the short flight to Kushiro in eastern Hokkaido. Drive to the Akan National Park via the wetlands.

Day 4

Explore Lake Chuzenji and the Kegon Falls.

Day 4

Explore Lake Akan by boat to enjoy the lake and mountain scenery.

Day 5

Take the bullet train to Matsushima and then cruise on the beautiful bay.

Day 5

Drive northeast to the Shiretoko National Park.

Day 6

Travel by bullet train to Hachinohe then pick up a hire car and continue your journey on to Lake Towada.

Day 6

Day 7

Explore Lake Towada and the Oirase Gorge.

Explore the beautiful landscape of Shiretoko. Take a boat trip along the peninsula, hike in the woods or simply drive along open roads.

Day 7

Drive from Shiretoko to Daisetsuzan National Park. Spend the night in the small town of Sounkyo.

Day 8

Drive from Lake Towada to the rural Nyuto Onsen hot spring resort.

Day 9

Relax at Nyuto in the morning then drive to Kakunodate via the crystal clear Lake Tazawa.

Day 8

After a morning exploring Sounkyo drive to Asahidake, at the foot of Mount Asahidake.

Day 10

Explore Kakunodate’s samurai district and then drive to Dewa Sanzan. Spend the night in simple temple lodgings.

Day 9

Walk around Mount Asahidake.

Day 10

Visit the pretty town of Biei by car, returning to Asahidake in the afternoon.

Day 11

Climb Mount Haguro-san’s 2,446 stone steps to the temple at the summit.

Day 11

Drive to Sapporo and explore this cosmopolitan city in the afternoon.

Day 12

Ascend Mount Gas-san, a hike of around two to three hours, to be blessed at the summit by a Yamabushi Buddhist priest.

Day 12

Explore Sapporo further, or venture out to the lavender fields of Furano.

Day 13

Fly back to Tokyo and spend your final afternoon at leisure.

Day 14

Travel to the airport for your onward flight.

Prices

Lake Towada, near Hirosaki

To Tokyo

Arrive in Tokyo and begin your exploration of this exciting city.

Time difference: GMT+9 hours

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Daisetsuzan National Park

Day 1 Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

33 The best time to travel. 3 A good time to travel, but there may be some factors to be aware of.

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Sapporo

Tokyo

Although much of Tohoku and Hokkaido are accessible by public transport, we recommend hiring a car as this provides more freedom and flexibility and the chance to experience sights not easily reached by bus or train. With most road signs in both Japanese and English and satellite navigation equipment provided in all vehicles, self-driving is an easy option.

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Matsushima

Akan National Park

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Shiretoko National Park

Day 13

Drive to the small town of Tsuruoka and then return by train to Tokyo.

Day 14

Onward flight from Tokyo.


Useful information Flights A number of airlines fly directly to Japan from London Heathrow. We choose from these airlines based on current airfares and taxes, your preference for travel and your itinerary. Connecting flights from regional UK airports can also be arranged. There are also several airlines which fly indirectly to Tokyo Narita, Osaka and Fukuoka international airports which may offer a more convenient option for your travels.

Terms & Conditions and Travel Insurance

Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa

Contact us

Honeymoons

Address:

A honeymoon in Japan is an excellent option for couples looking to combine culture and relaxation. Although quite an active destination to visit, Japan’s wealth of luxury and traditional accommodation, private hot spring bathing, quiet beach resorts, wonderful cuisine and privately guided excursions can all combine to create a perfect honeymoon.

Audley Travel, New Mill, New Mill Lane, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 9SX, United Kingdom. Telephone: 01993 838 210 Email: japan@audleytravel.com London Office: Audley Travel, Monsoon Building, 1 Nicholas Road, London W11 4AN, United Kingdom.

Group tours As well as tailor-made travel in Japan, we recognise that sometimes the most social and worry-free way to travel is in a group. We offer group tours up to a maximum of 16 people around the two most popular times of the year; cherry blossom in spring and falling leaves in autumn. Travelling on an escorted small group tour is the most cost-effective way of journeying through Japan with an experienced guide for the entire duration. The group tours use a mixture of private transport and the excellent and speedy Japan Rail network.

Responsible travel We care deeply about the places we travel to, and we work hard to ensure your visit has a positive effect. We seek out experiences and places to stay which mirror our passion, and invariably we find that these are the most rewarding. Wherever we can, we use local people and businesses as our partners in destinations. Not not only do we feel this gives you the best experience, it also brings benefits to local communities. The benefit also spreads further. Local people are motivated to preserve what attracts visitors, be it the culture, wildlife or environment. Conversely, we actively avoid ‘tourist traps’. The carbon footprint of flying is relatively large and we’d encourage you to carbon offset your flights.

Your booking is subject to the terms and conditions of Audley Travel which are detailed in the booking form. It is vital that you have adequate travel insurance and we are able to offer a number of policies either for the duration of your trip or on an annual basis.

AITO Membership Audley is a member of the Association of Independent Tour Operators. The Association represents Britain’s leading independent tour operators and encourages high standards of quality and service. Audley abides by the Assocation’s Code of Conduct and adheres to the AITO Quality Charter which can be viewed at www.aito.com

Photography in this brochure We would like to thank the following photographers and organisations for the images used in this brochure: Alamy, Audley staff, clients and suppliers, AWL images, iStockphoto, Jamie Marshall, Robert Harding, Superstock. All images used in this brochure were obtained in good faith by Audley Travel Group Limited and in the belief that all necessary consents and clearances were obtained for their use. For any queries relating to photography please contact us on 01993 838 040.

Visit our offices

www.audleytravel.com

If you would like to discuss your travel arrangements in person we welcome personal visits, please call in advance to arrange an appointment with one or more of our country specialists. Our offices are at the New Mill, a 17th century converted wool mill on the outskirts of Witney, ten miles west of Oxford on the edge of the Cotswolds. We also have an office in West London if this is more convenient for you.

Our website is packed with information, features and advice covering all our destinations across the globe. On the site you can browse by theme, special interest or region as well as viewing additional accommodation options and itineraries that are not featured in this brochure. You can download all our brochures online or contact us via the website where there is the option to tell us about your plans so that we can start tailoring your itinerary.

www.audleytravel.com/visit-us

Useful information

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New Mill, New Mill Lane, Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 9SX, United Kingdom Telephone: 01993 838 210 • Fax: 01993 838 010 Email: japan@audleytravel.com • Website: www.audleytravel.com

This brochure has been printed on paper from well managed forests, approved by the Forest Stewardship Council ,® using vegetable inks. Our printer holds ISO 14001 and FSC® environmental certifications. Should you wish to dispose of your brochure, we kindly request that you recycle it. The paper used in this brochure has also been carbon balanced.

Profile for Travel Designers

Audley Japan  

For more information call Beverley on 020 7720 8484 or email beverley@traveldesigners.co.uk

Audley Japan  

For more information call Beverley on 020 7720 8484 or email beverley@traveldesigners.co.uk

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