The heat and humidity of summer are oppressive, and yet this season is when Japan is at its most lively. This tour takes you to two of the most festive events of Japanese summer, one being Kyoto’s Okuribi Daimonji festival, and the other being the Taisai festival in Wajima. Along the way, you will also cover some of Japan’s main spaces, places, and experiences as you appreciate the culture of the summer season.
*We will gladly tailor the length and content of the trip to fit you best.
- Participation in the exciting Taisai festival of Wajima
- Attendance at Kyoto’s famed Okuribi Daimonji festival
- A night of meditation and learning at a Buddhist temple (optional)
- Thunderous rhythm practice through learning Japanese taiko drumming
- Cooking with local families
- A chance to make soba buckwheat noodles
- Participation in a Japanese tea ceremony
- Relaxation at an onsen hot spring
- A ride on the famous shinkansen bullet train
The following tour is an example of what we can offer your group as a festive, summer tour of Japan. If interested, feel free to contact us to find out what we can add to this schedule to make it special for you. We look forward to making a custom tour for you!
Day 1 Yokoso, and Welcome to JapanOvernight in Kyoto City
After arriving in Japan, you will transfer to your accommodation in Kyoto. Itinerary will be tailored according to your flight schedule.
Days 2 and 3 Shadows of Ancient JapanOvernights in Kyoto City
These next two days will find you exploring the ancient capital of Kyoto. Summer in Kyoto brings with it cool refreshing treats in terms of views and eats. With 17 World Heritage Sites – the most properties in one city in the world — you will be sure to encounter whispers of Japan’s past amongst the lively everyday. Exploring Kyoto east and west, you will make visits to amazing places such as the Golden Pavilion, scenic Togetsukyo Bridge with its cool river rushing below, and the graceful slopes of Ninenzaka and Sanenzaka as you wind your way through the historic streets, perhaps catching a glimpse of a geisha as she makes her way to work. In the heat of the summer, be sure to keep an eye out for festive yatai food carts selling kakigori shaved ice – an excellent way to beat the heat and enjoy a bit of culture. This city also holds for you a highlight of this tour – the Okuribi Daimonji fire festival where mountains are set ablaze to form brilliant orange symbols meant to wish safe passage to back to the afterlife for spirits who came back to visit during the obon festival of spirits.
Day 3 Meditation on Mount Koya (alternate)Overnight in a Temple on Mount Koya
Leaving Kyoto, traveling through the more ancient capital of Nara for glances of the grand Buddha and the impressive and intricate temple that houses it, you will continue onward to Mount Koya. Mount Koya is a major cultural center for Buddhism and has continued to be an important pilgrimage site from the ninth century onward. Mount Koya is the center of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, a religion whose history stretches across the seas and time to Tibet. It is on Mount Koya where you will visit an ancient forest and solemnly beautiful graveyard dedicated to the disciplined souls of monks of old. Following a visit to Kongobuji with its beautiful stone garden and elaborate Japanese-style artworks, the day will be topped off by a stay at a monastery where you will dine on shojin ryori vegetarian cuisine, and learn the basics of meditation and a temple monk’s way of life.
Day 4 The City of Peace and The Ocean GateOvernight in Hiroshima City
Enjoying another beautiful early summer sunrise on Koya, you ready yourself to head out toward Hiroshima and its island neighbor, Miyajima. Starting your adventures today on the temple island, you will see for yourself the majesty of the floating shrine while savoring other wonderful gems to be found on the island. Finishing your exploration of Miyajima, you will then venture into Hiroshima City, the city that remains forever in our hearts due to the tragedy that struck back on that fateful day in 1945. Happily, today’s Hiroshima is a lively and vibrant town that dedicates itself to peace and remembrance. Hiroshima City’s summer nights are no less vibrant as its nightlife comes to a peak. Wander the colorful streets, and be sure to try the famed local dish called okonomiyaki.
Day 5 Peaceful Remembrances and Colorful NightsOvernight in Osaka City
Today you will start with a visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum, including a stark reminder of the power of the atom with a stop at the Genbaku Atomic Bomb Dome. Time and availability permitting, you may even get a glimpse of a great example of innovation and progress with a trip to the near-by Mazda car factory. Leaving Hiroshima behind, you will head to the charming feudal-era town of Kurashiki. Famed for its preserved white-walled warehouses that date back to the time when shogun and samurai roamed the land, Kurashiki is proud of its heritage, and keeps the warehouses in use by filling them with intriguing shops, galleries, museums, and cafes. Do not forget to take a stroll alongside the neighboring canal as the shade of its beautiful willow trees will provide a lovely break from the summer sun. After an afternoon of charm in Kurashiki, you will then head to Osaka City – Japan’s city of comedians and bright neon lights. An evening and night in downtown Osaka is like no other. Many shops are open late, musicians sing their souls to the night sky, colorful people of all walks of life decorate the streets with their individual flare, and the decor Dotonbori will be sure to stick in your mind’s eye.
Day 6 The Countryside of the Japan SeaOvernight in Kanazawa City
Awakening after a night of boisterous fun in Osaka, you will head northwest to the countryside of the Japan sea. First, you will make a stop in an area known as Echizen, which among other wonders, is famous for making flavorful soba buckwheat noodles. There, you will try your own hand at making the local delicacy. After lunch, you will move on to the golden city of Kanazawa, so called due to its being home to some of the most skilled artisans of gold leaf. It is in this city you can explore well-preserved geisha and samurai districts, appreciate the horticultural expertise put into the palace garden known as Kenrokuen, and contrasting historic aesthetics with those of the much more modern that can be found at the 21st Century Art Museum.
Days 7 and 8 Festivals of the Deep CountrysideOvernights in Wajima Town
Venturing further along roads less traveled, you will head into the land of the Noto Peninsula. This land is a veritable treasure trove of discoveries. As locals in the area have come together to assure that modern or western chains do not tarnish their serene countryside, you will find here unsullied coastlines, quaint fishing villages, forgotten bays, and remote monasteries. Arriving in the early afternoon, you will be welcomed by friendly locals who will spend the day with you exploring and telling you the stories of their town while you help them prepare for the next two night’s festivities. The highlight of these days will be the nighttime celebrations, in which you’ll get to play a part. You’ll be joining the tumultuously fun abare fire and fight festival. The first night brings the fire as large festival carts are carried around blazing pine torches by teams of one hundred men. The second night brings the fight as those same beautiful carts are thrashed and mangled as they are paraded around, and eventually pitched most ceremoniously into the festival shrine bonfire.
Day 9 Morning Markets and on to the Japanese AlpsOvernight in Takayama City
Thanking your new friends for the wonderful time, you head out to the town’s morning food and crafts markets before continuing on to the mountains and the charming farming village called Shirakawago. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shirakawago is the beautiful conclusion to the strong efforts of the local townspeople who wanted to keep their unique, and once nearly isolated mountain culture alive. It is here you will walk through a town of thatched-roof gassho-zukuri farmhouses, built and kept in the traditional style of long ago. After being swept away by the charm of Shirakawago, you will head onward to the feudal-era town of Takayama. It is in Takayama that you will take in a different view of eras long past, its streets once no stranger to parades of feudal lords and their entourages. Towards the evening, feel free to relax at your accommodation, taking a soak in the onsen hot spring bath, and perhaps dining on local Hida beef – a direct rival to the famed beef of Kobe.
Day 10 Pristine Nature and a Dark CastleOvernight in Matsumoto City
Another morning of market delights followed by a pleasant drive through scenic mountain roads takes you to the bastion of nature known as Kamikochi. With its turquoise-colored river alone being a sight to behold, you will soon realize why this area is home to Japan’s most famous hiking trails. Leaving the breathtaking views, you will continue on to the castle town of Matsumoto. It is here you can explore the oldest castle in the land that has remained mostly in tact from the day it was built. Matsumoto, also holding history from the feudal era will be sure to complement your experiences in Takayama.
Day 11 The Hot Springs and Views of HakoneOvernight in Hakone
Making one more stop in mountainous Japan you will visit Hakone – an area beautifully carved by fire, and famed for its hot springs, clear-day views of Mt. Fuji, as well as its unique museums. Taking the day to explore this land of volcanic beauty, you will again get the chance in the evening to relax in one of its famed hot springs, preparing yourself for the natural and urban adventures awaiting you the next day.
Days 12 to 14 The Hot Springs and Views of HakoneOvernights in Tokyo City
Finishing your exploration of Hakone, you prepare yourself for entry into the heart of modern Japan – the city of Tokyo. This city is like none other as the most current pop and sub cultures mix with the ancient history of the country. Today you will see what makes Tokyo so dynamic and famous as you adventure through highlights new and old.
The next day takes you further back into history as you will trek out to the most magnificent memorial ever made for one of Japan’s great historical figures. The great unifier of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, boasts a posthumous mansion of fine architecture and intricate craftsmanship. A tour through the shogun general’s lavish resting place will help you soon come to realize why the Japanese say you cannot say you’re content until you’ve seen Nikko.
Day 15 Farewell and SayonaraItinerary will be tailored according to your flight schedule.
We wish you pleasant travels as you leave this land of the rising sun. We hope that you are taking with you lasting memories of the times you had here, and hope that you can return one day to discover even more. Farewell from all of us at Windows to Japan, and sayonara.