Our Japanese discovery

Deva Travel client June Shallcross shares her recent experience of Japan…

This was to be my second trip to Japan, but the first for David. We had booked a tour with another company visiting the beautiful shrines and gardens but this was cancelled, so on the recommendation of Deva Travel we rebooked with Inside Japan for the following year. We chose the autumn tour so as to take in the changes in colour of the Acer and Cherry trees.

Before setting off we received a few booklets concerning the tour and detailed travel guides of the cities we were to visit; the information was excellent, giving customs, food, restaurant recommendations, language lessons etc.

On arrival in Narita airport after an 11 ½ hour flight, which was surprisingly quiet and smooth, we were met by our tour rep – Mark Fujishige.

The first hotel in the Asakusa area of Tokyo was centrally located with excellent views of the new Tokyo Skytree Tower and the Sensoji Temple and Kaminarimon Gate.

The next day we toured the area in daylight and then had a boat ride down the Sumida river to the Hama-rikyu gardens; it was beautiful strolling the gardens, and we had a tea ceremony in a lovely tea house at the side of a lake. We then took the train into the bustling heart of Tokyo to the Shinjuku district.

We took a private coach to Nikko where we saw the Toshogu shrine which was being repainted; as are all the important World Heritage sites in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2020.Here we stayed in a traditional deluxe Ryokan with superb hot spring baths. The evening meal was an amazing affair with many courses and exotic dishes. Our guide was invaluable explaining everything and translating information from the staff.

We took the scenic ‘Romantic Road’ to the national park surrounding Nikko, viewing the 97-metre high Kegon-no-taki waterfalls, lakes and the most stunning scenery travelling through the mountains. We then stayed the night in a western-style hotel in Karuizawa. This town was my favourite…it is absolutely beautiful with lots of traditional shops, the hotel was amazing, again with relaxing hot spring baths, which were ideal after a days’ walking and climbing up to the shrines and waterfalls.

We enjoyed the stunning landscapes and volcanic scenery and a stop at John Lennon’s favourite hotel to try his Royal Milk Tea. At each stop we had a specialist guide and all gave us mementoes of our day with them; from apples specially grown in the area to a guide book written by our guide.

This was an exciting day for us all as we got to go on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Nagano…a real treat.We saw the fantastic Zenko-ji temple and best of all went to see the snow monkeys.

On to Kanazawa where our first stop was the famous Kenrokuen gardens with their beautiful pools and fountains, the trees all shaped to show them to the best advantage. After lunch we toured Kanazawa Castle and tried our hand at gold lacquer work on a plate, where we sampled gold tea, gold hand cream and were given a sample of gold leaf as a memento of our visit.

We visited the Samurai district and a Ninja temple with lots of booby traps built into it for protection against enemies! We then walked through the traditional streets and visited a local fish market and soaked up the essence and beauty of Japan.

Kyoto  - I couldn’t believe we would be staying in a 5* hotel in Kyoto station, which is immense with its department stores, restaurants and numerous levels for trains. We could see 9 platform levels from our room with the Bullet trains arriving every few minutes. We also visited a very old shrine and had a walking tour of the Geisha district to acclimatise ourselves and then we went to see the Geisha dances…a Japanese treat.

DAY 10
Today was so exciting. I had visited Kyoto before so was eager to show David the wonderful gardens and temples. First stop was the Silver Pavilion, a gorgeous temple with stunning grounds; next was the Philosophers Walk – a stroll along a path next to a lovely stream past other beautiful temples to reach another temple where we viewed gardens before making our way across the city to the Golden Pavilion, truly awe inspiring. We travelled then to the 1000 Tori gates and walked up through a few hundred…but fortunately not all, as the site is just staggering in size and numbers of people.

DAY 11
This was our free excursion day. We took a taxi to the very famous Kiyomizu temple, which is all built of wood with no metal at all, not even nails. We then walked to Nijo castle in the centre of Kyoto, a flatland castle with the famous Nightingale floor so that the Shogun could hear everyone approach.

DAY 12
We travelled again by Shinkansen to Hakone and to the stunning national park with views of Mount Fuji and the beautiful Lake Ashi. On arrival we were taken to the Hakone Outdoor Sculpture Park to see the world famous collection by people such as Anthony Gormley and Henry Moore. The hotel was amazing with stunning views over the mountains, a wonderful spa and fabulous food and drink.

DAY 13
Today we criss-crossed the mountains by cable-car, walked up the volcano to eat black eggs, sailed across Lake Ashi by pirate ship and walked (or nearly crawled!) the old Tokaido Highway. How they managed to walk those mountain tracks all the way to Tokyo is incredible! A must was to buy the famous Hakone trick boxes to take back as souvenirs.

DAY 14
Back to Tokyo on the Romance Car; another wonderful train where we did some last minute shopping and visited Shinjuku Gyoen, a garden in the heart of Tokyo featuring various European styles of garden as well as Japanese. After a Sayonara dinner and a short walk round to see some of Tokyo’s lights it was time for our last night in Japan.

DAY 15
A wonderful trip, the best ever, a beautiful country, lovely people, everywhere spotlessly clean and I would return tomorrow and do the same tour again. Mark, our guide, was excellent as were the other specialist guides; we did so much more than I can ever write here it was a truly stunning tour - THANK YOU for recommending it Deva Travel.

Author: Client blog from June and Dave Shallcross

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For holidays booked and departing in 2017