"Thank you for organising our holiday (to China).

We had a great time.

All of the guides were on time, very well informed and easy people to be with.

We have seen so many things and eaten in local places where we would never have gone by ourselves.

We wouldn't hesitate to recommend you and if you would like more details of our adventures or a statement of recommendation let us know."

Nicola, Michael and Family


"Arrived home safe and well and had a wonderful holiday in Nepal and Bhutan"

Michael and Eileen


"Just wanted to thank you for booking our holiday to Koh Lanta.

Everything was perfect and I can thoroughly recommend the Layana Resort and the island of Koh Lanta to any one who wants a laid back, peaceful, non commercialised holiday."

Jane and Andy


"I just wanted to let you know what a great time I had in the Philippines and Borneo.

Everything went without a problem. Great time, great pics, etc.

Thanks for all of your help with this trip"

Peter


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Enlightenment Japan - 10 Days


A rich insight into the rich spiritual and cultural practices of Japan, from exploring Tokyo to learning Zen meditation in Kyoto.

Discover historic temples, take relaxing spas and uncover the native flora and fauna that makes Japan such an enchanting destination.


Day 1 - Arrival in Tokyo


Upon arrival at Tokyo Airport, guests will be met by an EXO representative who will assist them in boarding the right train or shared shuttle bus to their hotel.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Distance and journey time:

Narita International Airport (NRT) to Tokyo City (95km): approx. 90mins

Haneda International Airport (HND) to Tokyo City (25km): approx. 50mins


Day 2 - Tokyo (B)


This morning guests will be met at the hotel by their guide and taken on a full day of sightseeing in Tokyo, utilizing the city’s efficient train system.

The day will begin with a stroll through Hama-Rikyu Teien, the former private garden of an Edo period lord. Take a break in the tea house known as ‘Nakajima No Chaya’ which stands elegantly in the park’s lake. Here, guests will have the chance to get a taste of matcha, or Japanese green tea.

Next comes an opportunity to see Tokyo from a different angle, on a boat cruise along the Sumida River.

After the cruise, guests will head to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi, or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also the home to the Senso-ji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops that sell Japanese crafts and souvenirs and are a delight to wander through.

In the afternoon, head across Tokyo to Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree-lined avenue boasts a multitude of flagship fashion stores designed by internationally renowned architects.

Before the tour ends, guests can take time to explore the Meiji Shrine - Tokyo’s most famous shrine which is dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji.

Note: The order of this itinerary may change depending on the location of the guest’s hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Time:

Start (guided tour): 09:00

Duration: 8hrs

*including pick-up/drop-off and transfer times


Day 3 - Tokyo - Yamanouchi (B,D)


Today is a self-guided day.

Depart from Tokyo Station for Nagano via the Hokuriku bullet train, which can reach speeds of 260kph. Upon arriving at Nagano Station, guests will transfer to the limited express train for the journey to Yudanaka Station. Upon arrival, a shuttle bus will take guests to their ryokan (traditional Japanese-style inn).

This traditional accommodation has tatami mat flooring, futon beds, and hot spring onsen baths. Being an onsen resort, guests will also see some of the local people and guests strolling down the street in their yukata (light robes) as they head for a soak in the hot spring baths.

Dinner tonight will be a kaiseki, a traditional Japanese meal comprised of nine or more dishes. The meal is made up of seasonal dishes using only the freshest of local Nagano ingredients.

Overnight in Yamanouchi.

Distance and journey time:

JR Tokyo Station to Yudanaka Station (256km): approx. 2.5hrs


Day 4 - Yamanouchi (B,D)


Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

This morning guests can visit Jigokudani Yaen-koen to see the famous snow monkeys. Jigokudani literally means “hell’s valley” due to the steam and boiling water that bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground. It is in these hot spring baths that the resident Japanese macaques like to soak. The journey to the park from the nearest bus stops and parking lot can only be done on foot, requiring around half an hour of trekking, so guests should wear comfortable shoes (and warm clothes especially during the colder months).

The monkeys live in large social groups and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions. Accustomed to humans, they can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests. Whilst the monkeys are most numerous during the colder months, they can be observed all year round.

In the afternoon we recommend a visit to the charming nearby town of Obuse, which features a number of traditional houses and stores. More than 100 houses in the town participate in an ‘Open Garden’ event. If this sign is displayed in front of the house, it means guests can enter the property and enjoy the gardens, offering a unique insight into Japanese houses.

Obuse is also the home of Hokusai, the famous ukiyo-e (woodblock) painter during the Edo period, and Masuichi-Ichimura, the local sake brewery that produces high quality sake from locally produced rice.

Note: transportation to/from Jigokudani can only be arranged locally (at own expense)

Tonight, another amazing dinner will be served at the ryokan.

Overnight in Yamanouchi.

Distance and journey time:

Yudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop or Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi: 9~15mins (bus)

Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop or Kanbayashi Onsen-guchi to monkey park: approx. 30~35mins (on foot)

Yudanaka Station to Obuse Station (16km): approx. 45mins (local trains, transfer in Shinshunakano Station is needed)


Day 5 - Yamanouchi - Kyoto (B)


Today is a self-guided day.

Guests can take a one last soak in their onsen before embarking on the journey to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital.

Founded in 794 AD and formerly called ‘Heian-kyo’ (which means “capital of peace and tranquility”), Kyoto was chosen as the seat of the emperor and was modelled on the capital city of China during the Tang dynasty. Hence, Kyoto’s culture comes from an amalgamation of several influences – the imperial court, the samurai, the patrons of Zen Buddhism, and the tea ceremony. Kyoto is also the home to an astonishing 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Distance and journey time:

Yudanaka Station to JR Kyoto Station (432km): approx. 5.5hrs


Day 6 - Kyoto (B)


Rise and shine early in the morning to experience the quintessential Japanese enlightenment experience – Zazen (Zen seated meditation).

Having been picked up from their hotel by the guide, guests will be taken to a Zen temple where they can learn the basics of the seated meditation that led the Buddha to Enlightenment. Folded legs, an erect posture, half-closed eyes, and a focus on measured breathing leads to an awareness of the way the mind works.

After the course, guests will head to the Heian Shrine, home to one of Japan’s largest torii gates. The highlight of this shrine is definitely its gardens, which are collectively known as ‘Shin-en.’ Naka Shin-en, one of the four gardens, was featured in the movie ‘Lost in Translation.’ The stone pillars on which the actress walked are called garyu-kyo, and serve as a walkway through the serene Soryu Pond.

This will be followed by a stroll through Maruyama-koen, a public park that sits just beside the Yasaka Shrine. Here guests will find a weeping sakura tree, a small pond and a bridge; components which are commonly found in Japanese parks and gardens. Locals and tourists flock to the park when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

The walk continues until guests reach the Yasaka Shrine, which is also called “Gion Shrine” as it is located between the Gion and Higashiyama districts. It is famous for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which is considered one of Japan’s biggest and most popular festivals.

This spiritual day finishes with a tea ceremony in one of the tea houses in Gion district. The Tea Master will provide a full explanation of Japanese tea as well as the tea ceremony itself, its long history and its relationship with Zen Buddhism.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Time:

Start (guided tour): 08:15

Duration: 8hrs

*including pick-up/drop-off and transfer times

Start (Zazen): mostly at 09:00

Duration: 90min

Start (Tea Ceremony): 15:00

Duration: 45 mins


Day 7 - Kyoto, Day Trip to Nara (B)


Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

In the afternoon, guests have the option to go out of town and travel to Nara using their Japan Rail Pass. For 74 years during the 8th Century, Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain.

Nara is just a small town, with most of its main tourist spots located around Nara Park, which is also home to a large number of tame deer. Guests can visit the Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building and home to Japan’s largest Buddha, or Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most celebrated shrine.

Distance and journey time:

JR Kyoto Station to JR Nara Station (42km): approx. 45mins *via Rapid train

Overnight in Kyoto.


Day 8 - Kyoto - Koyasan (B,D)


Home to more than 100 temples, Koyasan has been the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect, for over 1,200 years. Koyasan and its vicinity are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The journey to Koyasan is one of the highlights of the trip. Guests will take several local trains, with the final ascent being on a cable car which offers one of the most scenic journeys in Japan, as it winds its way up into the mountains.

Guests will be met by their guide at Koyasan Station, taken to some popular sites and offered an insight into Japanese Buddhism.

The first stop will be at Kongobu-ji Temple, the main temple of Shingon Buddhism and home to Japan’s largest rock garden. If guests are lucky, they might see a small group of worshippers led by a monk, chanting scripts in front of the temple.

Another unmissable attraction is Okuno-in, Japan’s largest cemetery which holds the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. The classic approach starts from Ichinohashi Bridge and stretches up to 2km. The cemetery is filled with more than 200,000 tombstones that belong to feudal lords, prominent monks, and even well-known Japanese companies. At the end of the cemetery guests will find the Gokusho Offering Hall, Torodo Hall of Lanterns, and Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum.

After the tour, the guide will escort guests back to their accommodation.

Tonight’s accommodation will be a shukubo, or Japanese temple lodging, and the dinner will be shojin ryori, a traditional Buddhist cuisine.

Overnight at Koyasan.

Distance and journey time:

JR Kyoto Station to Koyasan Station (112km): approx. 3hrs 52mins

Time:

Start (guided tour): upon arrival at Koyasan Station (around 11:30)

Duration: 4hrs

*including pick-up/drop-off and transfer times


Day 9 - Koyasan - Osaka (B)


Today is a self-guided day.

To complete the Koyasan experience, guests are strongly recommended to join the morning prayer, which usually starts at 6:00 a.m. This offers the chance to witness the monks pray and see the inside the worship room (only in Japanese and taking photos inside the prayer room is discouraged). Afterwards, guests will have another shojin ryori meal for breakfast.

The rest of the morning is free for guests to further explore Koyasan before continuing their journey to Osaka, Japan’s culinary capital. Osaka’s flamboyance, fun-loving people, and amazing food make up for what it lacks in tourist attractions.

Suggested Self-Guide Itinerary:

In Osaka, the following places are recommended:

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment district and former “pleasure district.” It is well-known for its bright neon lights, energetic shop owners, and food stalls that are filled with some local Osakan delights such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and fugu (poisonous puffer fish).

Umeda

Umeda is where most of the city’s most modern buildings are found. Here guests will find: 1) HEP (Hankyu Entertainment Park), which features a big Ferris wheel and is perfect for some last-minute shopping; 2) Kitashinchi District, where guests can sample some of the city’s specialties; and, 3) Umeda Sky Building, a pair of skyscrapers connected in “mid-air”, built in an unusual architectural form rarely seen anywhere in the world. Here guests can feel the fresh air and enjoy 360-degree panoramic views at the ‘Floating Garden Observatory’.

Overnight in Osaka

Distance and journey time:

Koyasan Station to Nankai Namba Station (in Osaka) (65km): approx. 118mins


Day 10 - Departure from Osaka (B)


The rest of the day is at leisure until the time comes for the guests’ scheduled transfer via train or airport shuttle bus to Kansai International Airport.

Distance and journey time:

JR Namba Station to Kansai Airport (50km): approx. 49mins

JR Shin-Osaka Station to Kansai Airport (61km): approx. 48mins

Namba (OCAT) bus terminal to Kansai Airport: approx. 50mins


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