October 13 - 24, 2014 (12 days and 10 nights)
** Guaranteed Departure **
$ 100 EARLY BOOKING DISCOUNT
(deposit must be made by 2/15/2014)
Chitose, Otaru, Nikka Whiskey, Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, Sapporo, Odori Park, Sapporo Beer Garden, Lake Shikotsu, Poroto-kotan (Shiraoi Ainu Museum), Noboribetsu, Jigokudani (Hell Valley), Mt. Showa Shin-zan, Usu-zan Ropeway, Hakodate, Fort Goryokaku, Goryokaku Tower, Hakodate Morning Market, Seikan Undersea Tunnel, Aomori, Nebuta Gallery, Oirase River Valley, Morioka, Morioka Tezukuri Mura, Hiraizumi, Geibi-kei Gorge, Matsushima, Bay, Fukushima,
Kiku-Matsuri (Crysanthemum Festival), Buke-Yashiki (Samurai Mansion), Aizu Wakamatsu, Iimoriyama Hill, Nikko, Tosho-gu Shrine, Odaiba, Narita
$ 495 per person
(Individual arrangements to meet group are not included)
Monday, October 13 (Day 01)
HONOLULU to NARITA to CHITOSE
Our tour commences this morning when we assemble at the check-in lobby at the airport for baggage check-in procedures. We will depart Honolulu for Narita International Airport. Lunch and a snack will be served on board the flight. After completing entry and customs formalities at Narita Airport, we'll transfer to check-in for our domestic flight to Chitose International Airport in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost and second largest island.
Tuesday, October 14 (Day 02)
On arrival at Chitose Airport, we'll transfer to our hotel in Chitose to check-in for the night.
Accommodations at ANA CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL CHITOSE or similar
Wednesday, October 15 (Day 03)
CHITOSE - OTARU - SAPPORO (B)(D)
This morning, we'll travel to Otaru, a charming port city facing Ishikari Bay located in western Hokkaido. A well-known symbol of the city is Otaru Canal, adorned with Victorian-style street lamps and old warehouses, providing a nostalgic and romantic atmosphere. Many of the buildings along the canal have been restored into museums, restaurants, and shops. Enjoy strolling through Sakaimachihondori, a preserved merchant street in the center of the town to browse through the sweet shops, glassware shops and a unique music box shop. Otaru is also noted for its intricate glassware featuring its most popular item - a drip-free soy sauce bottle. Created in all sizes, shapes and colors, this is one of the most popular items to bring home as a souvenir. We'll visit Nikka Whiskey, one of Japan's top whiskey makers, founded by Masataka Taketsuru. Known as the father of Japanese whiskey, he studied the techniques in Scotland before bringing the trade to Japan. View the traditional distillation process at its main distillery in Yoichi, the neighboring town of Otaru. Weather permitting, enjoy an exciting ride on the ski lift at the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium, a venue located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Okura. The lift provides us with an opportunity to feel firsthand how steep the ramp is. We'll continue on to spend the night in Sapporo, the largest and capital city of Hokkaido. On arrival, we'll drive through the city to view Tokei-dai (Clock Tower), the symbolic landmark of Sapporo mounted on the Russian-style Memorial Hall. We'll also pass by Odori Park, a wide promenade separating the north and south of the city, featuring art objects, fountains, plants and flowerbeds. This evening, enjoy a delicious Genghis Khan dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden.
Accommodations at SAPPORO CENTURY ROYAL HOTEL or similar
Thursday, October 16 (Day 04)
SAPPORO - LAKE SHIKOTSU - SHIRAOI - NOBORIBETSU (B)(D)
We'll travel south to scenic Lake Shikotsu, Japan's second largest caldera lake, part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Due to the small surface area to depth ratio, the water temperature of this lake remains constant throughout the year, making it the northernmost ice-free lake in Japan. We'll continue on to the town of Shiraoi, visiting Poroto-kotan (Shiraoi Ainu Museum), an outdoor reproduction of a small Ainu Village. Interesting exhibits and artifacts are displayed in the museum relating to the history, culture, and lifestyle of the Ainu - the indigenous people of northern Japan. Traditionally dressed Ainu men and women will perform a traditional song and dance in a cises (a thatched house). One of the villagers will demonstrate how to play the mukkuri (mouth harp), an Ainu musical instrument made of a piece of thin shaved bamboo with a thread attached to it. We'll continue on to spend the night in a beautiful hotel in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido's most famous hot spring resort. Before checking in, we'll visit Jigokudani (Hell Valley), a spectacular ravine located just above the town of Noboribetsu. Hot steam vents, sulfurous streams, and other volcanic activity can be viewed at this magnificent site - the main source of Noboribetsu's hot spring waters. Enjoy dinner and relax in the fabulous onsen at the hotel this evening.
Accommodations at NOBORIBETSU GRAND HOTEL or similar
Friday, October 17 (Day 05)
NOBORIBETSU - LAKE TOYA - MT. SHOWA SHINZAN - HAKODATE (B)(D)
We'll travel along picturesque Uchiura Bay and scenic Toya-ko, a large and attractive caldera lake in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. This region features one of Japan's youngest and still active mountains - Mt. Showa Shinzan. Located on the east flank of Mt. Usu, Showa-Shinzan was created as a result of hundreds of explosive eruptions and mudslides. Hissing steam still escapes through some of the fissures of this new mountain. Weather permitting, enjoy a ride on the Usu-zan Ropeway to the upper observation deck, offering a close-up view of the volcano's summit with panoramic views of Lake Toya and the neighboring Showa Shin-zan. We'll continue our drive around Uchiura Bay to spend the night at the seaport city of Hakodate, Hokkaido's third largest city located at the island's southern tip. En route, we'll make a stop to shop at Kombukan, a kelp shop offering a wide variety of kombu and kombu-related products. On arrival in Hakodate, we'll visit Fort Goryokaku, a massive, star-shaped, Western-style citadel, built for the defense of the city. After the fort lost its military importance, it was eventually turned into a public park. Enjoy a bird's eye view of this star-shaped fortress and the city from the observation deck at Goryokaku Tower. Dinner will be provided for you this evening at the hotel.
Accommodations at HAKODATE KOKUSAI HOTEL or similar
Saturday, October 18 (Day 06)
HAKODATE - SEIKAN UNDERSEA TUNNEL - AOMORI (B)(D)
This morning, we'll enjoy an exciting shopping excursion at the Hakodate (asaichi) Morning Market, a large marketplace where many indoor and outdoor local vendors offer a huge selection of dried seafood products such as scallops, squid, cuttlefish, and a nice variety of seaweed-related products. Have fun bargaining with the various vendors for the best discounted prices for your merchandise. We'll transfer to the Hakodate Railway Station and board a train for a relaxing ride through the Seikan Undersea Tunnel, traveling beneath the Tsugaru Strait. The tunnel connects the island of Hokkaido to the main island of Honshu. At present, Seikan is noted as the longest and deepest tunnel in the world. We'll arrive in Aomori, the northernmost capital city of Aomori Prefecture on Honshu Island to spend the night. Aomori Prefecture is noted as Japan's largest producer of apples and this afternoon, we'll visit an apple orchard to enjoy an apple picking experience (subject to availability). Dinner will be provided for you this evening.
Accommodations at AOMORI SUNROUTE HOTEL or similar
Sunday, October 19 (Day 07)
AOMORI - LAKE TOWADA - MORIOKA (B)
We'll visit Nebuta Gallery, where colossal floats used for the summer Aomori Nebuta Matsuri are displayed. These huge floats (nebuta) are constructed of painted washi paper pasted over a wire frame and often depict gods, samurai warriors, kabuki actors, historical and mythical figures from Japanese culture, including characters from the popular NHK Taiga Drama historical TV series. We'll continue on to enjoy a scenic drive along the picturesque Oirase River Valley, one of Japan's major tourist attractions of the Towada-Hachimantai National Park during the autumn season. The Oirase stream flows along the scenic Oirase Gorge, winding among trees with brilliant red, yellow and orange colors along with dozens of waterfalls cascading down into the stream from the walls of the gorge. We'll drive by scenic Towada-ko, the largest crater lake on Honshu Island, drained by the Oirase River. Located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, its bright blue color is due to its great depth. We'll continue on to spend the night in Morioka, one of the most appealing old castle towns in Japan with a long history of ironware making. We'll visit the Morioka Tezukuri Mura (Handy Works Center), a facility where you can "see, touch, and create" various craftworks and foods of Morioka. Wood work, pottery, metal work, ironwork and tie-dye workshops are set-up where you can observe experienced craftsmen at work. Enjoy the experience of making your own nambu senbei at one of the workshops. Dinner will be on your own this evening to try some of the local cuisine offered at one of the restaurants located at the train station near the hotel. Specialties of Morioka are wanko-soba (soba noodles served in tiny bowls) and reimen (cold firm Chinese noodles).
Accommodations at HOTEL METROPOLITAN MORIOKA or similar
Monday, October 20 (Day 08)
MORIOKA - HIRAIZUMI - MATSUSHIMA (B)(D)
Our tour continues on to enjoy a scenic and relaxing ride on a flat-bottomed boat, gliding on the peaceful waters of Geibi-kei Gorge, located outside of the city of Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture. Enjoy the natural scenery with impressive tall cliffs and rock formations as we glide on the shallow river through the gorge, navigated with a serenading boatman on board. Weather permitting, the fall colors should be at their peak this time of the year. We'll continue on to Shiogama Pier to board a ferry and enjoy a scenic cruise on Matsushima Bay. The breathtaking view of the pine-studded islets floating in the bay is noted as one of the three most beautiful sights of Japan - Nihon Sankei. On arrival in the town of Matsushima, we'll proceed to our hotel and check-in for the night. The afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy strolling through the unique shops in this quaint little town. As an option, you may want to visit Zuiganji, one of Tohoku's most famous and prominent Zen temples, well-known for its beautifully gilded and painted sliding doors. Upon entering the temple grounds, the approach to the main hall proceeds along a long, straight path flanked on both sides by cedar trees. An alternate path to the right of the entrance has caves that were used in the past for meditation and now contain some monuments and statues. Enjoy a fabulous dinner and relax in the hot springs at the hotel this evening.
Accommodations at MATSUSHIMA CENTURY HOTEL or similar
Tuesday, October 21 (Day 09)
MATSUSHIMA - FUKUSHIMA - NIHONMATSU - AIZU WAKAMATSU (B)(D)
Kokeshi dolls (Japanese dolls) are one of the most popular and famous products in Japan. A traditional folk craft, they are a long-renowned tradition in the Tohoku area. These dolls, handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with no arms or legs and thin painted lines to define the face and body. Enjoy the experience of drawing your own features on a kokeshi doll to take home as a souvenir. Our journey continues on to Fukushima, the southernmost prefecture of Tohoku to the city of Nihonmatsu. The main attraction here in the autumn season is to visit the Kiku-Matsuri (Chrysanthemum Festival), held annually on the grounds of Kasumigajo Castle. Stroll through the grounds of the castle to view beautiful and unique displays of brightly-colored chrysanthemum flowers, some draped on mannequins depicting various historical or mythical figures from Japanese culture, kabuki actors, and characters from the NHK Taiga drama historical TV series. These flowers were introduced into Japan in the 8th century and the Emperor has adopted this flower as his official seal. We'll continue on to spend the night in Aizu Wakamatsu, a small castle town with a long samurai tradition. We'll visit the famous Aizu Buke-Yashiki (Samurai Mansion), a residence that served as the quarters of the region's most important and highest ranked samurai, including his family, employees, and servants. The original complex has been reconstructed and furnished to replicate its appearance in the Edo Period. Enjoy dinner and relax in the hot springs at our onsen hotel this evening.
Accommodations at HIGASHIYAMA GRAND HOTEL or similar
Wednesday, October 22 (Day 10)
AIZU WAKAMATSU - NIKKO - KINUGAWA ONSEN (B)(D)
This morning, we'll visit Iimoriyama, the final resting place of the Byakkotai (White Tiger Force), a unit of young teenaged samurai warriors of the Aizu domain who fought in the Boshin War. They were outnumbered and forced to retreat to Iimoriyama. After believing that their castle - Tsuruga Castle - had fallen and their lord and families were gone, they committed seppuku (suicide) rather than die in the hands of the enemy. Their tombstones are located on this hill, nearby the location where they killed themselves. We'll proceed to visit Nikko, a small town located at the entrance to Nikko National Park, one of Japan's major tourist attractions due to its splendid shrines and beautiful autumn foliage. Nikko is famous for Toshogu Shrine - Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Consisting of many Shinto and Buddhist buildings set in a beautiful wooded forest, Toshogu Shrine is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate who ruled Japan for over 250 years. A huge stone torii (Shinto Shrine Gate) and a beautiful red and gold five-story pagoda mark the entrance to the shrine. This evening, enjoy dinner and relax in the soothing hot springs at our elegant hotel in Kinugawa Onsen.
Accommodations at KINUGAWA PARK HOTEL or similar
Thursday, October 23 (Day 11)
KINUGAWA SPA - ODAIBA/TOKYO (B)
We'll continue on to spend the night on Odaiba, a popular shopping and entertainment district on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Situated across the Rainbow Bridge from central Tokyo, the island was initially built for defensive purposes but has since developed into a popular tourist attraction with a wide selection of shopping, dining & leisure options. A new entertainment facility that recently opened - DiverCity Tokyo Plaza - features a unique attraction - Gundam Front Tokyo. For a small fee, you may visit this complex featuring various attractions and a shop centered around this anime series' robots. A 'life sized' Gundam statue stands in front of the building. Aquacity Odaiba is a shopping mall featuring many shops, boutiques, and as an option, you can visit the ramen 'food theme park' where you will be able to try different varieties of ramen from all over Japan. The mall is located within walking distance of our hotel. Dinner will be on your own this evening.
Accommodations at HOTEL GRAND PACIFIC LE DAIBA or similar
Friday, October 24 (Day 12)
ODAIBA - NARITA TO HONOLULU (B)
The morning is at your leisure to enjoy more shopping or to explore more of Odaiba on your own. We will depart for Narita International Airport in the afternoon to check-in for our evening flight home. We will arrive Honolulu in the morning of the same day due to the crossing of the International Date Line. A meal will be served on board the flight.
The tour price is based on double occupancy and a minimum group size of 20 passengers. Fare adjustment may apply for groups of 20 or under. The rate is based on tariffs and exchange rates effective 12/1/13. Tour fare is subject to change according to any airfare increase, fuel surcharge increase and fluctuation of the rate of exchange between U.S. and foreign currency. In the event of revaluation, the land portion of the tour price may be adjusted prior to your final statement.
Land portion based on 100 Yen = $1.00 U.S.
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