THE WAY OF
14 nights (Self-guided)
Tokyo, Aizu, Nikko, Kamakura, Kyoto & Iga Ninja Village
From £2,595 per person
Bushido – or Way of the Samurai – is a deep philosophy that dictated the life of the samurai, filled with various rules, codes of honour, and martial arts teachings that still influences parts of Japanese society. This itinerary is perfect for those with an interest in samurai, ninja, and Japanese history.
This 14-night independent tour includes an exciting variety of samurai-related historical sites, as well as personalised experiences instructed by experts that will give an authentic insight into samurai philosophy and martial arts.
You will start out in Tokyo, where the Tokugawa clan shogun ruled throughout the Edo period before you head north to Aizu, a beautiful mountainous area domestically famous for its powerful feudal lords and legendary samurai units.
Next, stop by historical Nikko, before visiting Kamakura – the first Japanese capital ruled by a shogun. Head on to the cultural capital of Kyoto, from where you will take a day trip to the home village of the Iga ninja clan. Return home from Kansai International Airport
Visits to Tokyo, Nikko, Kamakura, Aizu, and Kyoto
Practice Zen Meditation, Kyudo, and Kendo
14 day Japan Rail Pass
Meet and Greet service upon arrival at the airport
Airport transfers from/to Narita International Airport
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN JAPAN, MEET & GREET AT NARITA/HANEDA AIRPORT (TOKYO)
Welcome to Japan! Our friendly Meet & Greet service representative will be waiting in the Arrivals lobby and holding a sign with your name on. The Meet & Greet will direct you to the Express Train bound for central Tokyo. Check in to your clean and comfortable hotel for the next 3 nights.
DAY 2: TOKYO
Your options are unlimited in this incredible city, which was Japan's de facto capital through the Edo period (1603 -1868). Explore Tokyo's past in the bustling, traditional Asakusa district, shop in the fashionable districts of Shibuya and Harajuku, and dine on Japan's finest cuisine, like a course of Fugu fish which could be fatal was it not for traditional preparation techniques passed down through generations. Tokyo is relatively straightforward to navigate, and our Information Pack will make travelling around the city a breeze. Maybe you would like to go see a historical Kabuki play, or pretend to be Zatoichi while learning the basics of a traditional Japanese musical instrument like the shamisen? We are ready to make the arrangements! You might spend your time today seeing the modern wonders of this buzzling capital, or you may seek out some of the beautiful bubbles from the past. We recommend the Edo period Rikugien, considered Tokyo's most beautiful Japanese landscape garden alongside Koishikawa Korakuen.
DAY 3: TOKYO
After breakfast, head to Tokyo Imperial Palace which has been the Emperors' residence since 1868, after the Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown. Over the course of the Edo period, 15 members of the Tokugawa clan ruled Japan from Edo castle, which stood where the Imperial Palace stands today. Edo castle was probably the largest castle in the history of Japan, and while the actual castle is long gone, you will be able to envision its scale as you gaze at the remaining original moats and gates. Please note that only parts of the Imperial Palace grounds and gardens are available to visitors. Afterwards, go on a stroll from the castle grounds to Nihombashi bridge, the historical centre of Tokyo. From here you can go on a cruise along Tokyo's original waterways, or if your trip coincides with a Sumo tournament the arena is not far away! Also nearby is the highly recommended Edo Tokyo museum, abundant with original artefacts and elaborate models
DAY 4: TOKYO TO AIZU
After breakfast, head to Tokyo Imperial Palace which has been the Emperors' residence since 1868, after the Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown. Over the course of the Edo period, 15 members of the Tokugawa clan ruled Japan from Edo castle, which stood where the Imperial Palace stands today. Edo castle was probably the largest castle in the history of Japan, and while the actual castle is long gone, you will be able to envision its scale as you gaze at the remaining original moats and gates. Please note that only parts of the Imperial Palace grounds and gardens are available to visitors. Afterwards, go on a stroll from the castle grounds to Nihombashi bridge, the historical centre of Tokyo. From here you can go on a cruise along Tokyo's original waterways, or if your trip coincides with a Sumo tournament the arena is not far away! Also nearby is the highly recommended Edo Tokyo museum, abundant with original artefacts and elaborate models.
DAY 5: AIZU WITH FULL-DAY JAPANESE GUIDE
Today your guide will stay with you for 8 hours of the day, taking you around on foot and by public transport (included in price). You might have many questions about samurai and Japan in general, and we encourage you to ask your knowledgeable guide about anything that comes to mind. First, stop today is Nisshinkan – an authentic samurai school recently rebuilt where visitors can learn about and experience Zen meditation as well trying Kyudo – traditional Japanese archery. As many of Nisshinkan's visitors are Japanese domestic tourists with a serious interest in history and culture, you are right to expect the instructors to be highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals. Your Japanese guide will act as your interpreter! Next, you will head to Mt Iimori and the unique Sazaedo temple. This is where the Byakkotai, a famous unit of teenage samurai, met their end, and your guide will tell you all about it while tracing their final footsteps. Last, stop for today is the imposing Tsurugajo castle and the adjoining Butokuden Dojo. At the Dojo, professional Kendo instructors will teach you how to fight like a samurai by using traditional Kendo swords of bamboo. Finish the day by exploring the rebuilt castle and its exhibitions.
DAY 6: AIZU
After a leisurely morning, head back on the train and go deeper in the countryside where you will stay in a traditional ryokan for one night. Here you can enjoy the peaceful nature and revitalise your mind and body in the natural hot springs which are famous in the area. Enjoy your ryokan with a cup of green tea or a sip of sake, or jump in a taxi to Ouchi-juku – an Edo-era village that has been preserved by the locals with help from the government. Here, electric wires are buried in the ground, and the dedicated inhabitants take great care of the very old and traditional houses they still reside in. This village was originally used as a resting spot on the samurai walking path from Aizu through Nikko to Edo (Tokyo). The surrounding scenery is green and lush in summer, and snowy white in winter. Tonight, enjoy a delicious dinner in your ryokan, included in your stay.
DAY 7: AIZU TO NIKKO
Enjoy a tasty breakfast and some more quality relaxation in your ryokan and hot springs before heading out and getting back on the train. You will take a different route to the one that brought you here, this time enjoying more scenery on a train following the samurai path to Nikko. Nikko is a beautiful temple town in the mountains between Aizu and Tokyo. One of the iconic spots to visit is Toshogu Shrine, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine and the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. If you are feeling energetic, we recommend a pleasant walk along the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, known for its row of 70 stone statues of Jizo. Be sure to check out the Shinkyo Bridge (‘sacred bridge’), ranked as one of Japan's three finest bridges; and the Cedar Avenue, one of the world's longest tree-lined roads with approximately 12,000 existing cedars. Check in to your comfortable hotel for the next 2 nights.
DAY 8: NIKKO AT LEISURE
Explore Nikko further or venture out west through the picturesque countryside to Lake Chuzenji, a scenic lake located at the foot of Mount Nantai, and Kegon Waterfall, ranked as one of Japan's three most beautiful falls. You also might like to visit Chuzenjiko Onsen, a hot spring resort town at the eastern shores of Lake Chuzenji, where you can go on a relaxing sightseeing cruise around the lake.
DAY 9: NIKKO TO KAMAKURA
Head back to Nikko station from where you will head for Kamakura. While Aizu is the land of the last samurai, Kamakura is where the samurai first emerged, as the first Shogunate of Japan established this city as the military and political capital during the Kamakura period (1185–1333). Also known as the ‘Kyoto of Eastern Japan’, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines, and other historical monuments. Today check out attractions in the vicinity of the city centre, such as the enormous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and the Komachi Dori shopping street, filled with cosy shops selling traditional street food, sweets, and souvenirs. Check into your centrally located hotel for the next two nights.
DAY 10: KAMAKURA AT LEISURE
Today we recommend you go station hopping on the 120-year-old Enoden train line which vintage trains uniquely run along streets, between houses, past many historical temples, and then along the coastline offering varied beautiful scenery the rails' 10km stretch. Be sure to stop for Kotoku-in temple and the 11.4-meter-high Great Buddha statue originally built over 750 years ago. Also stop at the Kamakura period Hasedera temple, Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine, Hokokuji Temple with its pacifying bamboo grove, and more! In summertime you might enjoy a snack on the beach while watching the many surfers chase the waves here.
DAY 11: KAMAKURA TO KYOTO
Board the train and Bullet Train again and head to Kyoto which is blessed with countless temples and shrines. The journey takes less than 3 hours, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon in Kyoto, where we recommend a stroll around the lovely side streets. The emperors of Japan resided in the cultural capital of Kyoto from 1180 to 1868. To say that the city is overflowing with culture and history would not be an overstatement. You will stay in a superbly located hotel in the heart of Kyoto for 4 nights.
DAY 12: KYOTO
A rich history of religion, art, and craft have combined to make this glorious city a spiritual home for the Japanese. For temples, we recommend Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji in the hills to the east of the city. Nijo Castle is also a must-see. This exquisite castle was built in 1603 as Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu's Kyoto residence. The Shogun only stayed there a couple of times, but this imposing castle's real purpose was to show Kyoto's citizens that the Shogunate's riches and powers surpassed even the Emperor! We also recommend the “Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum”, with its “Kyoto Ninja Experience” ticket which includes a tour of the Museum, dressing up in full ninja costume, throwing shuriken (ninja stars), using a ninja blow gun, wearing a samurai outfit, and watching a samurai show.
DAY 13: IGA NINJA-VILLAGE DAY TRIP
Today we suggest a day trip to Iga. Iga is famous for its history of Ninja training, which dates back more than 500 years. Even after this formerly secret village was exposed and invaded by Oda Nobunaga in 1581, Iga clan members including the famous Hattori Hanzo were later hired as bodyguards for Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. As the ninja excelled at secrecy, factual historical records are scarce, and their modern image is heavily influenced by fictional movie representations. Today's Iga Ninja village caters both to visitors who want to learn more about the authentic ninja, as well as to those who are drawn there by their modern representations. While here, check out the Ninja Museum of Iga-Ryu which has a good collection of related artefacts and weapons, and don't miss the Iga Ueno Castle, which was used for Akira Kurosawa's award-winning film Kagemusha.
DAY 14: NARA OR HIMEJI DAY TRIP
Spend your last full day in Japan either exploring Kyoto further or go on another day trip. If you go to Nara, you will have been to all the permanent historic capitals of Japan. Nara was the first permanent capital for the duration of the Nara period (710-794), which was before the emergence of the samurai. Nara is the home of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with the enormous wooden temple of Todai-ji housing the Great Buddha being the most famous. Alternatively, jump on the Bullet Train to Himeji and visit Himeji Castle. The castle built in 1609 features more than 80 buildings, and an intricately designed series of paths within the fortified complex which are designed to confuse any potential invaders. Not only is it famous for being the largest remaining Japanese castle, but also for the fact that it has survived wars and natural disasters over centuries without the need for major reconstructions.
DAY 15: DEPART JAPAN
Transfer from your hotel to Kansai International Airport (Osaka).
HOW INDEPENDENT TOURS WORK
ENJOY INDEPENDENT TRAVEL BUT NOT THE HASSLE OF PLANNING?
OUR INDEPENDENT TOURS COULD BE JUST THE TICKET!
Carefully put together by our team of specialists, our excellent collection of sample itineraries is designed to inform and inspire your next Japan adventure. Every one of our Independent Tours is fully tailor-made for you, ensuring your trip is everything you want it to be.
It's quite straightforward to travel independently in Japan. We will provide just the right amount of support and logistical planning to make you feel comfortable in a very foreign land. These itineraries are available for any departure date (with a few exclusions coinciding with Japanese National Holidays and some weekends). We'll do all the work for you and provide you with an information pack to make your trip run smoothly. You can also add guided tours as indicated and if you do want your own personal guide we can arrange this too.
ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS & LOCATION GUIDE
PRICING & INCLUSIONS
3* accommodation from £2,595.00 per person based on Twin/Double room occupancy.
Single Room Supplement on request.
13nights' accommodation in a Twin/Double room in standard accommodation in Tokyo, Aizuwakamatsu, Nikko, Kamakura and Kyoto on a bed & breakfast basis
1 night's accommodation in a ryokan in Aizu on a dinner, bed & breakfast basis
Private English-Speaking Guide for 8 hours on day 5
All transport costs including buses on day 5
Zen meditation and Kyudo practice at Nisshinkan on day 5
Kendo practice at Butokuden dojo on day 5
14-day Japan Rail Pass allowing you unlimited travel on the entire Japan Rail network including Shinkansen (Bullet Train) services
Transfer from and to arrival and departure Airport in Japan by express train
2 Luggage transfers
Meet & Greet service on arrival at Narita/Haneda International Airport (Tokyo)
NOT INCLUDED IN PRICE
Meals not mentioned in the itinerary.
Taxi, subway, and tramway fees.
OPTIONAL GUIDED TOURS
Tokyo: £98 per person full day, including lunch
Mt Fuji & Hakone: £170 per person full day, including lunch
Kyoto: £125 per person full day, including lunch
Nara Afternoon: £77 per person
To make a booking, a deposit of 10% of the total price is required.
The balance of the price of the trip must be made 12 weeks prior to departure.
Travel can be a great experience, but it can also be fraught with problems, so when going anywhere it is essential you are properly covered with good travel insurance. You should be protected against cancellation, curtailment, and loss or damage to your belongings as well as medical emergencies and have peace of mind if the unexpected happens.
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