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The Heartland Tour
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Mixed Groups

13 Days / 12 Nights Trip to Japan

The Heartland Tour

Welcome to a country that fuses the ultra-modern and traditional with ease, a nation that blends the elegance of kimonos and the speed of bullet trains with verve.
Japan will surprise, amaze, delight and completely captivate you, from modern metropolis Tokyo, to imperial Kyoto, quiet bamboo forests to the iconic Mt. Fuji.  But no matter where you go, it’s the little experiences - a bowl of spicy ramen,fortune-telling at a Shinto shrine, the shade of a pale-pink kimono, the whimsicality of a robot cafe - that will make your time here truly captivating.
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  • Duration
    13 Days
  • Starting From
    $3,847
    /person
    Twin sharing
  • Travel Operator
    Dragonfly Tours
  • Flights
    Not Included
    Flight booking assistance will be provided.

Trip highlights

Kyoto takes you back in time
Highlight #1
Kyoto takes you back in time
Japan's ancient and imperial capital is famous for its elegant temples, tea gardens and markets.
Be astonished by Tokyo
Highlight #2
Be astonished by Tokyo
Explore a modern metropolis of skyscrapers and bullet trains, small ramen stalls and robot bars, and get a first-hand glimpse of life in the capital.
Take part in an elegant tea ceremony
Highlight #3
Take part in an elegant tea ceremony
Could there be anything more quintessentially Japanese?
Stay in a ryokan
Highlight #4
Stay in a ryokan
When in Japan, live like the Japanese do. In a traditional ryokan, wear a traditional robe, relax with a cup of tea, and sleep on a futon.
Video

 There’s simply no place like Japan

Futuristic cities, quiet bamboo forests, kimonos, sushi, Mt. Fuji and more will guarantee you an unforgettable time. Take a look at this video by Media Hog Productions for a glimpse of what’s in store.

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Itinerary

Tokyo

This evening, to start the Japan Tour, you are invited to a group meal (courtesy of Dragonfly Tours) at a local restaurant. It is a great introduction to Japanese food with a variety of flavours for all tastes. Afterwards, you take a walking tour around Shinjuku and the entertainment district of Kabukicho. It’s Saturday night and the area is buzzing with energy and neon and the streets are packed with people in search of big-city thrills.

Tokyo

This morning you head to Asakusa to get a taste of what Edo (the old name for Tokyo) used to be like. It’s a great place to explore, browse around the stalls and sample the local foods. But the main attraction is the great Senso-ji temple with its enormous, much-photographed, red lanterns at the gates. From there you take the Sumida River Cruise going under thirteen colourful bridges to Hinode, enjoying Tokyo from a less familiar angle.

In the afternoon witness the powerhouse of the Japanese youth culture in Harajuku. This is the source of Japan’s signature fashions and, today, Sunday, is the best day to see it. The renowned Takeshita Street will be jumping, and in the neighbouring Yoyogi Park you see bands, dance troupes, and exhibitions of skill from jugglers, kung-fu, karate and capoeira experts. Right next door to this, the Meiji shrine housing the deities of the Emperor Meiji and consort stands sublimely in a defiant and very serene manner in contradiction to the loud exhibitions of pop culture.

Before finishing up for the day, we take you to the famous pedestrian crossing in Shibuya so often used in documentaries and films about Japan. From the Megabucks Cafe on the corner, you have a bird’s eye view of the crowds flooding across as the lights turn green.

Kyoto

In the morning, you explore the Tsukiji fish market. In autumn 2018 the original world famous fish market moved to Toyosu, another area of the city where all the action takes place behind glass viewing windows down below.  While the new market is a cleaner and more efficient it does lack the atmosphere of the old market.  On the tour we visit the outer section of the old market which is still buzzing with atmosphere, stalls, shops and restaurants.

After spending a couple of days in the heart of modern Japan, it is now time to board the bullet train bound for Kyoto. As you shoot westwards at 270km/hr you see, on the right, weather permitting, one of the national symbols, Mt Fuji, in its full glory.

It’s been said many times before but it’s worth saying again — if there is one place you have to visit in Japan then Kyoto is that place. You stay here for four nights and there is a wealth of things to see and do. Kyoto has secured its place in the modern psyche through the treaty on carbon emissions but the ancient capital is still the capital of culture and history — and full of less rarefied delights such as the chance to bathe in the nearby hot springs.

On today’s itinerary is a visit to the must-see sites of Eastern Kyoto including Kiyomizudera, which was nominated in 2007 as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

You finish up in the evening with a walk around the atmospheric streets of the Gion geisha district where you have the opportunity to attend a show of traditional performing arts including a bunraku puppet play, gagaku court music, comedy skits and watch a real maiko (apprentice geisha) perform a traditional dance.

Kyoto

The day starts with a visit to the UNESCO site of Ryoanji, The Temple of the Dragon at Peace, the most famous of all the Zen gardens. The design is classic Zen minimalism: larger rocks sit in a flowing sea (or cosmos) of fine, raked gravel, consisting of carefully chosen, river-worn stones, and constructed to aid meditation. Famously, only 14 of the 15 rocks in this meditation garden are visible from any one vantage; to see the 15th is to achieve enlightenment.

Just up the road from Ryoanji, you visit the photogenic UNESCO site of Kinkakuji, the Golden Zen Pavilion said to house sacred relics of the Buddha. The gold-leaf-covered pavilion stands beside a reflecting pond and in the middle of a classically landscaped garden.

After lunch, you visit Nijo castle, also with UNESCO status — more of a palace than a castle, it was built by the legendary Ieyasu Tokugawa, the third of the three unifiers, as a show of might and domination. All the feudal lords in western Japan were required to contribute to the building of Nijo — these donations included the main tower and main gate of another castle.

Kyoto

For a moment of calm and tranquillity, you start the day with a traditional tea ceremony at an authentic teahouse, which has been a home of the art and supplying the highest quality Uji macha (green tea) to the Nishi Honganji temple for generations.

Later, visit the charming district of Arashiyama in western Kyoto, a short train ride away. Walk through the atmospheric bamboo grove to one of Kyoto’s most famous and important Zen temples, Tenryuji. With UNESCO World Heritage status, Tenryuji and its classic Zen garden was founded in 1339 and dedicated to the emperor Go-Daigo by Ashikaga Takauji, the first of the Ashikaga Shogun.

Kyoto

This is a free day set aside for shopping, relaxing, exploring and cultural experiences. Perhaps you would like to attend a workshop for one of the following:

    Taiko (traditional drumming)
    Ikebana (flower arranging)
    Wearing a kimono
    Cooking class at a local home
    Sake tasting
    Shodo (Calligraphy)
    Paper craft with Washi paper

If interested, please let us know in advance and we’ll get it arranged for you!

There is so much more to do in Kyoto and the surrounding area. Your tour leader will offer plenty of suggestions and let you in on a few local secrets to help you make the most of your day.

This day is also an opportunity to take a trip to one of the neighbouring cities: Nara or Kobe. Nara is another UNESCO trove and a former capital of Japan that predates even Kyoto. Kobe is a fashionable and affluent city with a cosmopolitan tone, derived from its history as one of the first places to admit foreign residents when Japan opened its Chrysanthemum Curtain in the 19th century. Another option in the summer is the beach — which is only an hour away.

Hiroshima

You go to Hiroshima today. There is no need to state what happened here on the 6th of August 1945. However, these days the city is an attractive and welcoming place. The only remains of that dreadful event are those that have been preserved as memorials. The analogy of Japan being like a phoenix isn’t hard to grasp. The Peace Park stirs emotions, and the Atomic Bomb Museum, well …

Tonight you stay on the beautiful island of Itsukushima, popularly known as Miyajima. This is a mystical place — sparsely populated, mostly forested, and home to a trove of treasures belonging to Japan’s spiritual history. You stay in a great ryokan with fantastic views and a very relaxed atmosphere. If you are lucky you might even spot a tanuki — a Japanese raccoon said to enjoy the odd bottle of sake and possessing magical powers.

Hiroshima

This morning you visit Itsukushima Shrine first built in 593 and famous for its ‘floating torii’ (shrine gate). It’s considered one of the top three most beautiful spots in the country, and has to be one of the most photographed too.

From there you meander through the trees and tame deer to the Mt. Misen cable car where you take the quick and easy route up this sacred mountain above the primeval forest to the summit with its fantastic 360-degree views. You also have the chance to see the eternal flame lit by the monk Kobo Daishi (Kukai) some 1200 years ago amongst an unusual collection of rock formations. From the top it’s an hour or so hike down the mountain, or simply take the cable car back. After a bite to eat in a restaurant in the woods, enjoy browsing through the souvenir shops at your leisure.

During the summer tours a trip to the beach is also a perfect way to wind down before enjoying the beautiful kaiseki meal in the evening served at the ryokan (Japanese inn).

Okayama

In the morning you make the journey to the less visited city of Okayama. After dropping off your bags at the hotel close to the station — and staying with ‘top threes’ — you can stroll around one of the top three landscaped gardens in the country, Koraku-en, situated beside Okayama castle.

Alternatively, you could visit the Bizen area (non-guided) in the outskirts of Okayama city famed for its historical role in sword making and pottery, and where there is a sword museum with an impressive display of swords going back to the Kamakura period. If you are lucky you may even see a master swordsmith working on katana and preserving age-old techniques.

In the afternoon you visit Kurashiki just west of Okayama with its picturesque and atmospheric old Edo quarter with quaint, willow-lined canals and museums full of treasures. The name of Kurashiki is not well known outside Japan, but it was a port, centre of commerce and culture and a scene of some of the many power struggles in Japan’s history. Unlike many modern cites, much of the old town remains. The buildings are distinctively white with black tiling, and willow-lined canals run through the town. Kurashiki is also the home of Japan’s first museum dedicated to Western art, the Ohara museum, a surprising and exciting find in this very Japanese town.

Okayama

Today you go to the neighbouring city of Himeji, home to Japan’s finest castle, Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992. It has survived clan wars, world wars, earthquakes, typhoons and the fiercest enemy, fire, for centuries. Himeji castle, white and majestic stands over the city and its elegance and white colour has earned it the nickname, “the Egret Castle”. The castle was constructed in the busy nation-building period that saw Kyoto’s Nijo Castle go up, and was improved and developed by various warlords over the centuries.

In recent years the structure has undergone extensive repairs and cleaning and the white has been burnished to ever-greater impressiveness.

Mount Koya

Today you hop up the misty, mystical mountains of Koya, the Buddhist Heartland and a proud National Heritage treasure. You are treated to a glimpse of the spiritual life. However briefly, you become part of the spiritual life of Koya, staying the night in beautiful temple lodgings and rising with the monks for the early morning chanting. You don’t need to be Buddhist or religious to enjoy this experience. In the evening you dine as the monks do in the local vegetarian culinary style, shojin ryori.

Another of the highlights here is Okunoin, the graveyard. At over 1000 years old, with ancient paths winding around huge cedar trees, it’s perfect for an atmospheric evening stroll through the mist.

Osaka

Your morning is free to explore more of Koya and then, if you can tear yourself away, you board the train and wind your way down the mountains to Osaka. After dropping off your bags at the hotel, which is conveniently close to the station, you go for a walk through the energy-filled streets of the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi downtown areas. Browse through the fantastic shopping malls packed with boutiques and electronics stores selling everything from kimono to tools. How about buying a traditional Japanese lantern to hang outside your house? You name it, Osaka has it for sale!

Alternatively, visit the Osaka aquarium housing the biggest fish tank in the world and where you can get nose to fishy nose with thousands of creatures from the Ring of Fire, the Pacific rim.

The Journey's End

Unfortunately today is the last day of the tour and there is no itinerary planned. If you wish to extend your stay, we can easily help arrange your accommodation for the extra nights - there is so much more to see and do in the area. Just drop us a line, we’ll be glad to help.

Likewise if you would prefer to return to Tokyo at the end of the tour for your departing flight, it's an easy trip to do by bullet train which will be covered by your JR Rail Pass at no extra expense (depending on the date).

Inclusions

 ALL accommodation. (12 nights)

 The support of your Tour Leader for the entirety of the tour.

 Entrance fees to Museums, Temples, Shrines and Gardens when with the guide as shown on the itinerary summery are included.  Visiting alternative sites at personal expense.

 ALL city to city transportation including the shinkansen bullet train.

 ALL local transportation is covered while following the set guided itinerary. (Any non-guided side-excursions at personal expense)

 Suica card - An electronic travel card for your convenience (saves messing around with tickets)

 Meet & greet at the airport in Tokyo (either Narita or Haneda) on arrival and (Guided) transfer to the tour hotel in Tokyo up to one week before the starting date of the tour.

 Tickets for transfer at the end of the tour (transfer is non-guided)

 Authentic Tea Ceremony at a tea house in Kyoto

 Baggage forwarding for one case / bag per person

 Miyako Odori (Geisha Spring Dance) - On spring tours only

 Breakfast every morning.

 Group meal on Day 1 in Tokyo (Alcoholic drinks included!)

 Dinners (Traditional Teishoku) on Days 2 and 3 at Hakone

 Dinners (Traditional Kaiseki Ryori) on Day 6 at Shirakawa-go

 Tour Info-Pack

 100% payment protection through the TTA (our membership number is U6165)

Not Included

 Additional 5% GST

 VISA Fee

 Meals, except for the ones mentioned above

 Any coin lockers that you may use

 Travel Insurance. You must take out travel insurance before travelling to Japan, we suggest this is done soon after a booking has been made.

 Flights to and from Japan!

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Start date

22 May 2021

End date

03 Jun 2021

5+ Spots left

13 Days / 12 Nights

$4,539

$3,847

Byond Postpaid starting at $216/month! Enquire with us now!

Start date

03 Sep 2021

End date

15 Sep 2021

6+ Spots left

13 Days / 12 Nights

$4,501

$3,847

Byond Postpaid starting at $216/month! Enquire with us now!

Start date

02 Oct 2021

End date

14 Oct 2021

4+ Spots left

13 Days / 12 Nights

$4,232

$3,847

Byond Postpaid starting at $216/month! Enquire with us now!

Start date

13 Nov 2021

End date

25 Nov 2021

6+ Spots left

13 Days / 12 Nights

$4,232

$3,847

Byond Postpaid starting at $216/month! Enquire with us now!

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A comprehensive list of inclusions and exclusions is mentioned on each trip page, but across all our trips, we have these in common: unique experiences, handpicked local experts, comfortable accommodation, and a trip leader who’s there to assist you around the clock.

No. We don't include flights and visa costs in our prices unless specified. We, however, will put you in touch with our partners who can help you.

Our travellers are friendly and open-minded. They come from countries all around the world. At the end of your trip with our multicultural groups, you will return with new friends, memorable experiences and incredible stories.

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We believe the early-bird catches the best travel worm :) The early-bird discounts are valid for the first few spots on the group and are not time sensitive. Your travel designer will let you know about the number of spots available.

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Requirement of visas whilst travelling depends on your nationality. You are responsible entirely, for obtaining all the documents that you’re required to produce during your vacation. We will provide you with the visa documents related to your booking.

Visas take varying periods of time – sometimes several weeks – to obtain. Do ensure that you plan an experience with us knowing that you’ll have your documentation under control. Failure to obtain visas could cause delays and cancellation that could cost you unnecessary additional expenses and inconvenience, so do plan ahead.

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Byond eTravel & Entertainment Private Limited 164, 9th Cross, Indiranagar 1st Stage, Bangalore - 560 038

If you have any queries regarding our trips, please email support@byond.travel or call us on +91 96061 73059

If you are from the press or want to talk to us about partnerships, please email vikram@byond.travel or rishi@byond.travel.

This Trip Is Operated By Dragonfly Tours

Welcome to Dragonfly Tours Japan, where you will find enthralling holidays and tours in Japan brought to you by guides who are passionate about their country and want to share it with you.  In small groups (most of our Japan tours have a maximum of 8-10 people) and with a flexible schedule our escorted tours will show you the best of Japan whilst also giving you the freedom to explore this magical country by yourself.  We have tours throughout the year including incredible last minute Autumn tours to Japan a brilliant winter tour in Japan and fabulous Japan tours in spring 2020.

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