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Paths Less Traveled (Self Guided Trip)

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 16 day(s)
Group Size: 1 - 14 people
Destination(s): Japan  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 2864 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2864 US Dollar (USD)

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Kyoto

Welcome to Japan! Your adventure begins at the futuristic Kansai Internaitonal Airport, a man made floating island in Osaka Bay. You will be met on arrival and provided with reserved-seat tickets for the 75min express train journey to Kyoto. Your accommodation is just a short taxi ride from the station, so you will soon be settling in! Meals: None

Day 2: Kyoto

Before you make your way to the rural island of Shikoku you have two full days to explore the sights and attractions of Kyoto, Japan’s cultural heart and former capital city. Kyoto is home to many of Japan’s finest temples, shrines and gardens, and you will have the service of a private guide to introduce you to some of the very best. The itinerary for the day is not fixed in advance, leaving you free to choose only the sights that interest you. Just let your guide know the sort of places you like and the interests you have and they will be happy to put together an itinerary for the day’s sightseeing. Meals: Breakfast

Day 3: Kyoto

Today is a free day to further explore Kyoto. You might like to take a traditional boat ride down the Hozugawa river to the charming Arashiyama district in northwest Kyoto, or perhaps take a break from the temples and shrines by checking out the ultra modern Kyoto station building or browse the shops and restaurants of the downtown Kawaramachi district. You could even use the included Japan Rail Pass to make a day trip to nearby Nara to see the famous Great Buddha statue, or to Osaka for a blast of modern Japan before you make your way through rural Shikoku. Meals: Breakfast

Day 4: Tokushima

Today you will take a direct and comfortable highway coach from Kyoto to Tokushima. You will have time to look visit the Awa Odori dance centre and take in the views from Mt. Bizan before taking a short local train ride out to Tatsue-ji in the countryside just outside the city. Here you will be staying in a traditional temple lodgings. Tatsue-ji temple is number 19 on the famous 88 temple pilgrimage circuit of Shikoku; you will have the chance to sleep and eat with ‘henro’, Japanese pilgrims making their way around the circuit, visiting every temple along the way. The experience includes meals of traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Day 5: Iya Valley

Today you leave the coast behind and head west into the mysterious valleys and forested hills of central Shikoku. The Iya Valley is another of Japan’s most isolated regions with steep hills and plunging valleys that were used as hidden retreats for warring clans and political dissidents in days gone by. Today the area is accessible, but largely undeveloped, a beautiful area of stunning scenery, dotted with sleepy villages and tiny hamlets. Accommodation is located in the heart of the mountains - a great base for walks and relaxation. Meals: Breakfast

Day 6: Kochi

Travel to the beautiful southern coast of Shikoku today where Kochi is your next stop, a medium sized city with a relaxed, atmosphere and a certain sense of the exotic, with its colourful local street markets and palm-tree lined streets. Kochi gives the chance to access the Shimanto river and explore one of Japan's great rivers. Canoe trips can be organised through local tourist information or you may like to travel by sightseeing boat if you would rather someone else put in the hard work! Meals: Breakfast

Day 7: Kochi

Tosa Bay off the coast of Kochi is one of a handful of areas of coastal Japan where you can see whales and other marine mammals. Though Japan is perhaps more famous for its hunting and killing of whales, in recent years there has been a growing interest in recreational whale watching, focusing on preserving these magnificant creatures and educating people about marine wildlife issues. There are several whale-watching operators in Kochi and tourist information will happily help arrange a trip out into the bay for you. The whale-watching season runs from April through to October. If you visit outside of these times then there is plenty more to keep you occupied in Kochi, including local museums, coastal walks and the street markets which showcase the best and freshest local produce. Meals: Breakfast

Day 8: Uwajima

Today you move on around Shikoku to Uwajima a historic town on the saw-toothed west coast. You are now well off the established tourist trail and Uwajima is a fine place to simply stroll around and experience the feeling of being in a part of Japan rarely glimpsed by foreign eyes. The town’s sights include a formal stroll garden, a museum highlighting Uwajima’s historical importance as home to the Date clan, and an eye-opening fertility shrine, with attached sex museum! In Uwajima you will enjoy a stay in a classic ryokan, a chance to experience the very best in traditional Japanese hospitality. Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Day 9: Matsuyama

You will travel west along the northern coast of Shikoku to the pleasant town of Matsuyama, famous for its fine original castle and Dogo-Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest hot-spring resorts. You will be staying right next to the famous Dogo-Onsen, so today is the perfect place for an introduction to the Japanese art of hot-spring bathing! Meals: Breakfast

Day 10: Matsuyama

Matsuyama's fine castle deserves exploring today. It sits atop a hill in the centre of the city, offering fine views over the surrounding area and out to the Inland Sea. Much of the castle remains unchanged from the 1600s, making it something of a rarity in Japan, where many cities, and their castles were destroyed in Allied bombing raids during WWII. The castle has some pleasant park areas surrounding it, and Matsuyama is also home to some good museums. You may also like to check out one or two of the temples that make up the famous 88-temple pilgrimage route around Shikoku. Meals: Breakfast

Day 11: Kotohira

Today you will head onto the charming town of Kotohira which is home to Shikoku’s most famous shrine, Kompira-San, which sits on a hillside overlooking the town. This afternoon you can challenge the 800 steps which lead to the inner sanctum of the shrine; the climb is well worth it, as you are rewarded with fantastic views from the top, as well as friendly encouragement from the Japanese making the climb with you. Other sights of Kotohira include the Kanamaruza kabuki theatre, one of Japan’s oldest playhouses, dating back to the 1830s and a sake museum. Tonight you have an included evening meal at your riverside ryokan accommodation. Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Day 12: Takamatsu

From Kotohira complete your circle around Shikoku Island with a stay in the attractive city of Takamatsu. Here the main draw is Ritsurin Koen - one of the best traditional gardens in Japan. You may also like to visit one of the several interesting museums in Takamatsu including the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum and a sculpture garden designed by Isamu Noguchi. Also of interest is the plateau of Yashima, an ancient battle ground with views of the Inland Sea and nearby Shikoku-Mura, a collection of traditional houses displaying Shikoku architecture and construction techniques. Meals: Breakfast

Day 13: Naoshima

Now for something completely different! Today you will head by ferry to Naoshima Island, just off Shikoku. This traditional, rural island has become home to a World class collection of art museums and galleries and is now a fantastic showcase of contemporary art and sculpture. Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Day 14: Naoshima

A full day on Naoshima to explore the island - we recommend bicycle hire but you can also get around by bus or taxi. The main Benesse museum, designed by the famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando is the main draw and includes work by Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Bruce Nauman and Jasper Jones. Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

Day 15: Osaka

Today you will bid farewell to Shikoku and travel by ferry back across to Honshu, Japan’s ‘mainland’. A short train ride and you will be in the heart of modern Osaka, the largest city in the Kansai region. Your final afternoon and evening will be a huge contrast from the peaceful rural scenes of Shikoku as you check out the bright lights of this vibrant city. Osaka’s colorful central streets are a great place for people watching, and offers some great souvenir shopping opportunities. Osaka is famous throughout Japan for its hearty food and drink and enthusiastic party spirit. What better way to celebrate the final day of your trip in style than by letting down your hair and joining the locals for some good food, good drink and a guaranteed good time! Meals: Breakfast

Day 16: Depart

The time has come to say 'sayonara' to Japan as you make the short transfer back to Kansai International Airport for your flight home. In just two short weeks you will have seen a side of Japan that few foreigners and even many Japanese have never seen. Meals: Breakfast

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:

- 15 nights accommodation (8 nights Japanese-style)
- Breakfast each morning
- 5 evening meals
- Meet and Greet upon arrival at Osaka Kansai Airport
- Most transport between destinations including airport transfers
- 8 hours private guide service in Kyoto

Price Excludes:

- International Flights
- Local transport (local taxis, subways, buses) at any destination
- Any entrance fees (including those for shrines, temples and museums)
- Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip.