Welcome to Japan! On arrival in Tokyo Narita Airport, you'll need to make your way to the joining hotel. The remainder of the day is free and your guide will be available to advise the best place to begin your visit.
After having a look at the panorama of the city from the top of the Tokyo metropolitan building, we will have a welcome dinner together in this most amazing capital.
We will begin today with a visit to the Tsukiji fish market. The worlds largest. It's an incredible display of Japans seafood commerce. From here you will move on to Asakusa to see the Senso ji Temple, Tokyo's oldest and most significant temple. The touring day will conclude at the Imperial palace in the heart of this sprawling metropolis.
Today we head to the Meiji Shrine after breakfast. Located adjacent to Harajuku, you will then spend some time observing the infamous youth subculture of this neighbourhood, before moving on to Shibuya. The options in these neighbourhoods are endless; Shinjuku park, Omotesando, Yoyogi park. The tour leader can direct you to these places should you wish to explore separately from the group.
Today we transfer from Tokyo to Kyoto in the morning by shinkansen bullet train. In the afternoon, visit the Heian Shrine dedicated to the emperor who founded this great city. Next, we will move on to Nanzenji temple, one of five Zen temples in Kyoto and then continue to the peaceful Philosophers Path lined with cherry blossom trees and end at Ginkakuji, the silver pavilion.
This morning we visit Nijo Castle, where we will learn about the history of ninja and the nightingale floors. Then we head to Kinkakuji, the golden pavillon and the stunningly perfect Ryoan-ji Zen garden. These are 3 major Unesco world heritage sites. We will finish the day in Gion area, the Geisha's district. Soak up the atmosphere of this historic quarter and try to catch a glimpse of the renowned geishas making their way to various appointments. They are an important contribution to keeping traditional Japanese arts alive.
You have a free day with several options. Daytrip to Nara, Osaka, or stay in Kyoto. You can explore the mountains and other attractions bordering the city, including the bamboo forest Arashiyama. Your guide will assist your planning.
Today is a travel day from Kyoto to Tokushima in Shikoku island (approx 6 hours). We then take a ferry ride to Tokushima port (approx. 2 hours 15 mins) and then a bus trip to Tokushima station (25 mins), where we arrive at our accommodation. This evening we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. After the hustle and bustle of the previous cities, life slows down amongst Shikoku's natural beauty.
PLEASE NOTE: Internet access on Shikoku island will be limited due to its geography
Today our pilgrimage walk is mostly flat as we visit Temples 1 to 6 along our journey. We start by taking a 20 minute train trip from Tokushima to Bando. We arrive at Ryozenji Temple. It is said that Ryozenji was founded by Gyogi (668-749) in the 8th century on the orders of Emperor Shomu. Even though scholars don't think Gyogi ever came to Shikoku, more than thirty of the temples claim him as their founder. The temples are 20minutes to an hour and a half apart in distance. You will finish the day at Anrakuji. Anrakuji Temple is the sixth in the group of eighty eight and was the training temple of the priest Honen (1133 1212). There is an option to visit Jurakuji, a further 20 minutes away before settling into our accommodation in Anrakjui for the evening.
17.3km total. Estimated walking time is 4 to 5 hours.
PLEASE NOTE: During the Shikoku hike portion of your trip; Your main luggage will be forwarded to the next accommodation 3 times as luggage cannot be transferred within the same day. This is very common and very reliable when travelling in Japan and is called a "Takyubin" service. You will be required to pack a change of clothes for 1 or 2 nights in an overnight bag. Your guide will coordinate this and inform you en route.
Today begins with a private transfer from Anrakuji to Fujiidera City (approximately 30 minutes). Our walk commences from Fujiidera Temple, established in the 7th century. Today we take the mountain path to Shozanji Temple. There are beautiful views as we trek 700 metres above sea level. No.11, Fujiidera: is famous for wisteria and the dragon painting on the ceiling. It is one of only 3 Zen temples on this pilgrimage route. Temple No.12, Shosanji Temple, is surrounded by huge cedar trees and shrouded in mist. This course is the most difficult of the trip as it rambles deep into the mountain. It can take 5 hours to cover this 12 km path with some steep inclines. You will enjoy a holy atmosphere and views of stunning mountain ranges.
Overnight: Temple accommodation where the group will be accommodated in one large room.
We continue along the pilgrimage route: Temple No. 24-25 (9.5kms, approx. 2.5 hours walking). This is a coast line course with some major roads and is mainly flat with nice views. We start the day with breakfast at approx. 6:40am and at 8:00am take a taxi to Mikurodo at Cape Muroto (approx. 4.5 hours, we will have lunch along the way). At 12:30 we start our walk from Mikurodo to Cape Muroto (15 mins) and continue to No. 24 Hotsumisakiji (30 mins). Having been unable to reach his goal of enlightenment on Mt. Tairyu, Kobo Daishi came here to try again. No. 25 Shinshoji (1 hr 45 mins) was founded by Kobo Daishi and he carved the honzon in 807. We will finish at approximately 5:00pm and have dinner at around 6:00pm. Total walk of 9.5km, estimated walking time 2 to 3 hours.
Our pilgrimage route today takes us from Temple No. 25-26 (10 kms, 3 hours walking) It is a coast line course, up and down hills with nice views. At 7:00am we begin with breakfast before an 8:30am start. We walk from No. 25 Shinshoj to No. 26 Kongochoji (approx. 1 hour 10 mins). The honzon is so life like that legend states that it walked to the alter by itself after being carved. We then continue on to Kiragawa Street (approx. 1 hour 50 mins). At approx. 1:30pm we finish and take a taxi to No. 31 Chikurinji (approx. 2 hours). The temple garden and 19 images of Buddhist deities are classified as a National Treasures. From the Meiji to Showa period, the town flourished with the coal industry and commercial shipping. The old atmosphere from the period prevails and the area is designated as an Important Traditional Architecture Preservation District. We walk to our accommodation and at approx. 6:30pm enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
No.32 Zenjibuji: steep stairs to the shrine.
It affords a nice view of the Pacific Ocean as its located on the seashore to safeguard ships.
No.33 Sekkeiji: famous for their treasures of Kamakura Buddhist statues.
This temple was rebuilt after it was burned down at the beginning of the Meiji period. The temple statues are considered national treasures. This is a rare Zen temple.
The course: walk through small towns adjacent to the sea. Total of 15km, estimated walking time 3 to 4 hours
Today we have time at your leisure to explore! Perhaps you want to experience the Dogo Onsen, one of the oldest onsens in Japan or the Matsuyama castle, one of the 12 genuine castles in Japan (own expense). This afternoon we will take the train to Okayama station and tonight we enjoy our farewell dinner to reflect on your journey.
This morning after breakfast you will make your own way to your outbound airport or your next location if you are extending your stay. Your guide will assist with these connections where our trip concludes. Sayonara!