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The Best of Japan

  • Destination: Asia & India, Japan
  • Duration: 11 days
  • Start: 09/27/2017
  • End: 10/07/2017
  • Double Occupancy: $8195

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On this exclusive 11-day program across Japan, we journey from cutting-edge Tokyo to the pleasures of nature and a celebrated Japanese inn in the shadow of Mount Fuji at Hakone, explore the traditional life of the Japanese farmer in Takayama, and end— as we must — in splendid Kyoto, the Japan of our imagination. “The charm of Kyoto works slowly and imperceptibly,” wrote Italian photographer Fosco Maraini, “finally emerging as one of the most enchanting places in the world.”
Start in Tokyo (NRT); End in Kyoto (Fly out of Osaka Kansai – KIX).

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“I stood at the Ginza crossing looking at the kimonos and old army uniforms, hearing the geta and watching Hokusai’s Mount Fuji being blocked out by all the new buildings. They might lose a view, I philosophized, but they were gaining a city.”

A Half-Century of ChangeDonald Richie, Japan

Please click ( + ) signs by each day for detailed information.

Day 1

Wed, Sep 27 • Depart USA for Tokyo, Japan

Depart the USA on any regularly scheduled flight to Tokyo (NRT), Japan.
Day 2

Thu, Sep 28 • Arrive Tokyo, Welcome to Japan

Shinjuku-Ni-chomeBelow the surface of glittering, ultra-modern Tokyo is a city with ancient roots, where Shinto shrines, gardens and Buddhist temples stand close to skyscrapers. At the heart of the hyperactive city center lies the serene Imperial Palace, the home of the ruling emperor that provides a tangible link to the city’s historical past. On arrival at Narita Airport, you will be met in the arrival hall by and assisted with the included shared transfer to your hotel (80 – 145 minutes). Upon arrival, check in. Your tour leader will be at the hotel and will be in touch with you.

Hotel: Hilton Tokyo
Room: Deluxe
Meal: None

Day 3

Fri, Sep 29 • Tokyo

RoppongiToday, you will enjoy a full day Tokyo city tour. The Imperial Palace Plaza is a functional palace where the emperor and his family reside. Much of the palace grounds – including the palace itself – are closed to the public and secluded behind, old trees and Edo Period moats. The Imperial East Garden is the only part of the Imperial Palace complex that is open to the public. Entry is through the Ote-mon Gate, which was once the principal gate of the city of Edo, the former name of Tokyo. The garden lies at what was the heart of the old Edo castle. From the gardens there are views of central Tokyo.

Meiji Shrine is a Shinto Shrine dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Emperor Meiji passed away in 1912 and Empress Shoken in 1914. After their demise, people wished to commemorate their virtues and to venerate them forever and the shrine was constructed in 1920 in their honor.

We pause for an independent lunch before continuing to the Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of Tokyo’s most
venerated temple sites. The Asakusa Kannon Temple is dedicated to the Bodhisattva, Guan Yin, the Chinese deity of mercy and benevolence that has its origins in Hindu belief from India. Originally this deity was a male figure (also recognized in Tibetan Buddhism) – with the arrival of Buddhism into China in the first centuries of the last millennium the concept of a male figure being
merciful was slowly changed to that of a female figure – women being considered more merciful than men in traditional Chinese culture – this evolution into a female deity took root in China and with the spread of Mahayana Buddhist culture from China to Japan in the 7th century the cult or devotion of Guan Yin became widespread in Japan.

Alleys of shops selling all manner of souvenirs and crafts surround the temple – it has become famous as the Nakamise shopping street – the temple and its market shops are popular with the Tokyo population and visitors alike.

End the day at the Ginza, Tokyo’s shopping district, where you will find many luxurious shops, long-established department stores, restaurants and clubs. A consumer’s paradise filled with bright lights, expensive goods, and fashionable shoppers. You may join the guide and take a subway back to the hotel to experience the efficiency of the Japanese rail system or take the bus back.

This evening, welcome dinner is included.

Hotel: Hilton Tokyo
Room: Deluxe
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4

Sat, Sep 30 • Tokyo

Tukiji-MarketEnjoy the day for personal exploration of parts of Tokyo that interest you. We will offer an optional trip to the Tsukiji Fish Market, followed by a sushi making workshop. Or you may want to visit one of the many excellent museums in the city, such as the National Museum or Edo- Tokyo Museum, or just wander the exciting streets of Tokyo and take in this mega-metropolis.

This evening you may want to explore the gayborhood, Shibuya, a short walk from our hotel.

Hotel: Hilton Tokyo
Room: Deluxe
Meals: Breakfast

Day 5

Sun, Oct 1 • Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Fuji_picToday, you will enjoy a full day Mt. Fuji & Hakone Park tour.

Mount Fuji – Japan’s highest and most prominent mountain, can make for lifelong memories. The mountain itself may look more attractive from afar than from close up, but the views on clear days are very rewarding. Mount Fuji is divided into ten stations with the first station at the foot of the mountain and the tenth station being the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station, which is around 1400 to 2400 meters above sea level.

NOTE: In the event of bad weather the road to Mt Fuji 5th Station may be closed, in which case a visit to Mt Fuji visitor center will be arranged.

Lunch is independent. Continue to Hakone National Park. Created by volcanic activity, Lake Ashi lies at approximately 2,380 feet above sea level. Enjoy a boat cruise on the picturesque lake, framed by the mountain landscape. Afterwards travel by aerial cableway up and down Mt. Komagatake, a 1637 meter volcano mountain rising above Lake Tazawa’s eastern edge, for a sweeping view of celebrated Hakone National Park and Mt. Fuji (if weather permits).

We spend the night in style at Gora Kadan — a traditional Japanese Inn known for its luxurious private Onsen (open-air hot baths), artfully prepared dinners, elegant rooms and exquisite attention to detail.

We take advantage of the pleasures of—and dine tonight at—our Ryokan, set on the grounds of the former retreat of the Imperial Family, Kanin-no-miya.

Hotel: Gora Kadan
Room: Japanese Standard Rooms A or Japanese-Western Standard Rooms D
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6

Mon, Oct 2 • Hakone | Nagoya | Takayama

bulletTrainWe will prepare our large suitcases to be transferred to Kyoto and pack an overnight bag for our trip to Takayama. This morning, you will be transferred to the Odawara Station for our bullet train to Nagoya.

Odawara/Nagoya on first class bullet train Hikari#507 (1008/1117). Arrive Nagoya and meet our guide on the platform. We will be escorted to our next train. Nagoya/Takayama on first class limited express train “Wideview-Hida#9” (1143/1408).

Arrive Takayama, and begin our sightseeing at the Takayama Yatai Kaikan (Festival Floats Exhibition Hall). Every Spring and Autumn, Takayama hosts a festival to celebrate the change of season. During the festival a procession of brightly colored floats takes over the town streets. This exhibition gives visitors who cannot witness the festivals a chance to see some of the floats used in the procession. Each float is different in style and decoration, reflecting the tradition of the district in Takayama to which it belongs.

Continue on to the Kusakabe Heritage House (Kusakabe Mingeikan), one of the oldest of several common homes in Takayama that are open to the public. Its former residents, the Kusakabe family, used to be successful merchants, active in the money lending business.

After sightseeing, transfer to hotel to check. Buffet dinner at hotel this evening.

Hotel: Associa Takayama Resort
Room: Standard
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7

Tue, Oct 3 • Takayama

Kanazawa_artToday, you will enjoy a full day Takayama tour. Begin with a visit to the morning market for a chance to sample and the variety of fresh vegetables of Takayama.

Takayama Jinya Manor House is located in the old town near the Nakabashi Bridge. Because of its valuable timber resources, the Hida Region around Takayama was put under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1692. The Takayama Jinya served as the local government office headed by the officials dispatched from Edo (present day Tokyo). The building complex was in official use until 1969, and is now open to the public as a museum. It includes various nicely maintained tatami mat rooms that once served as offices, conference rooms, guest rooms and residential space.

Proceed to the Sanmachi Quarter. Sanmachi is a gem of old houses that have been carefully preserved on three streets – Ichi-no-Machi, Ni-no-Machi, and San-no-Machi. These three streets are lined with traditional shops, breweries, restaurants, museums, and private houses. Some of these establishments have even been named as “Important Cultural Property” due to the history and beauty that surrounds them. Take a stroll around the area, to get a feel of what it was like
during the historic days in Takayama.

Lunch is independent.

This afternoon, visit the Sake Brewery. Sake is one of Takayama’s traditional specialties and the old town is dotted with charming traditional brewery houses (these are identified by the balls of cedar boughs hung from the main entrance). Sake is brewed in a specific manner and the old town breweries are considered bastions of tried and true traditional methods. Enjoy samplings of the different sakes as you visit each brewery.

You will also visit Hida Folklore Village – an open air museum exhibiting over 30 typical farmhouses and other traditional buildings from the Hida region, the mountainous district of Gifu Prefecture around Takayama. The museum’s main attractions are a number of gassho- zukuri houses. The massive farmhouses with their steep, thatched roofs that look like praying hands (“gassho-zukuri”) were moved here from the nearby Shirakawa-go region.

After sightseeing, return to the hotel. Buffet dinner at hotel tonight.

Hotel: Associa Takayama Resort
Room: Standard
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8

Wed, Oct 4 • Takayama | Nagoya | Kyoto

day8This morning, transfer to Takayama Station for our train to Nagoya. Takayama/Nagoya on first class limited express train “Wideview-Hida#6” (0938/1202). Arrive Nagoya, connect with our onward Bullet Train to Kyoto.

Nagoya/Kyoto on first class bullet train Nozomi#107 (1233/1308) (no assistant/guide on boat the train).
Arrive Kyoto, commence sightseeing at Kinkakuji Temple (also known as Golden Pavilion) – one of the landmarks of Kyoto and an epitome of Kitayama culture, the Golden Pavilion. Originally a villa of the Saionji family on the hills of Kitayama, it was offered to the third Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga in 1397. After his death, the villa was converted into Golden Pavilion (Rokuonji). The Golden Pavilion, a stunning gilded three story reliquary hall, is situated at the margin of a large pond named Kyokochi Pond. The architecture is typical of the Muromachi Period (1333 – 1573).

Then with a visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. The most famous of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is surrounded by countless torii gates, offerings by worshippers that cover the hiking trails of Inarisan, the wooded mountain behind the shrine’s main buildings.

After sightseeing, check in to our hotel. In a country where gay life is active but largely under the radar, our hotel, the excellent Hotel Granvia Kyoto, was the first to join The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association and, in 2014, broke new ground by facilitating same-sex weddings in conjunction with Shunkoin Temple.

Hotel: Granvia Kyoto
Room: Standard Rooms
Meals: Breakfast

Day 9

Thu, Oct 5 • Kyoto

Itoh-DiningThis morning, we visit the Nijo Castle, which was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu (founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate) in 1603 as his personal residence in Kyoto. It has been a venue of various important historical events. It was here that Ieyasu and his rival Hideyori Toyotomi held talks. In addition, in 1867 the fifteenth Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced his resolution to return administrative power to the Imperial Household from the castle. The castle grounds include the main compound and a magnificent Ninomaru Palace with its beautiful Momoyama style architecture.

Then visit to Ryoanji Temple – The Temple of the Dragon at Peace is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. It belongs to the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism. The temple garden is considered to be one of the finest examples of a kare-sansui, a Japanese rock garden, or Zen garden, in Japan. The temple and gardens are listed as Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Take a break midday at Itoh Dining, an excellent Teppanyaki restaurant (it’s part of the NOBU group) set along a narrow alley in Gion.

Next, enjoy a walking tour in the Gion district. The walk will take us through the back streets and alleyways of Kyoto’s, lined with old wooden houses, that is the world-renowned geisha district. We may see the geiko (geisha from Kyoto) or maiko (apprentice geiko) make their way to and from their lessons

Return to the hotel. Dinner is independent.

Hotel: Granvia Kyoto
Room: Standard Rooms
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10

Fri, Oct 6 • Kyoto | Nara | Kyoto

buddhaToday we journey to Nara, a fitting comparison to Kyoto and capital of Japan during the 8th century, visiting the remarkable collection of UNESCO-designated temples, including Kasuga Taisha, lined with thousands of stone and bronze lanterns.

Lunch is independent. This afternoon, continue to the Kiyomizu Temple. According to legend, Priest Enchin built his hermitage and a small chapel here in 788 A.D. With support from General Sakanoueno Tamuramaro, the temple was erected in 798. Many of the present buildings were reconstructed between 1631 and 1633 by order of Shogun Iemetsu Tokugawa. As you approach the main hall, enjoy a panoramic view from the platform commanding a panoramic view of Kyoto surrounded by cherry blossoms in the spring, green foliage in the summer, and crimson maples in autumn.

After sightseeing, return to the hotel. This evening, we depart for our Farewell Dinner and to celebrate to our trip.

Hotel: Granvia Kyoto
Room: Standard
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 11

Sat, Oct 7 • Kyoto | Depart Kansai

Your day is free until your included shared transfer to Kansai International Airport in Osaka (KIX). (60-90 minutes).


The Hilton Tokyo | 5☆


With 811 modern rooms and the conveniences of a luxury hotel, the high-rise Hilton Tokyo is conveniently located in Shinjuku, the heart of Tokyo’s business, shopping and entertainment district.

Gora Kadan | 5☆


The former retreat of the Imperial Family, Kanin-no-miya, in Hakone National Park, the exquisite Gora Kadan is a Relais Chateaux property, celebrated for its attention to detail.

Hotel Associa Takayama Resort | 5☆


Set in the hills of Takayama and overlooking the Northern Alps, the hotel features its own hot spring facilities, including open-air baths that look out on a magnificent view of the region. Rooms are in Japanese and Western styles.

Hotel Granvia Kyoto | 5☆


Awarded one of the Top 25 Hotels in the 2014 Travelers’ Choice® awards for Japan, this ultra- modern deluxe hotel is known for its convenience, service and for being the first hotel is Japan to join the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

Rates & Facts

Rates Double Occupancy Single Occupancy
12 Participants $8195 $11395
10 Participants $8695 $11895
Optional Hiroshima
Based on 2 persons $1795

  • Accommodation with private facilities including breakfast, as described in the itinerary
  • Accommodations in Gora Kadan ryokan including breakfast & dinner
  • Sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary, including entrance fees
  • Arrival & departure transfers by shared Airport Limousine Bus
  • Sightseeing are by private vehicle
  • National English-speaking national guide to accompany the group throughout the tour
  • Coda Tours representative to accompany the group throughout the tour base on minimum 10 participants
  • Services of drivers, English speaking local guides and assistants during transfers and sightseeing Bullet trains: Odawara/Nagoya/Kyoto/Hiroshima/Kyoto in first class
  • Limited express trains: Nagoya/Takayama/Nagoya in first class
  • Local bottled water during sightseeing
  • Welcome & farewell dinners (food & Japanese tea only)
  • Gratuities to the assistants, guides, drivers
  • Pre-departure information and assistance from Coda Tours
Does not include:

Any international / domestic flights; any accommodations/sightseeing/transfers/meals not indicated in the itinerary; any airport taxes (usually in the cost of your airline ticket); excess baggage charges; travel insurance (recommended); any expenses of a personal nature such as laundry, minibar charges, telephone charges, etc. Tipping to national guide & Coda Tours representative; any visa or passport expenses


The climate of Japan is temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan is divided into six principal climatic zones: Hokkaidō, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, and Ryūkyū Islands.

Tokyo Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High 48˚ 49˚ 54˚ 64˚ 72˚ 76˚ 82˚ 86˚ 79˚ 69˚ 61˚ 53˚
Low 35˚ 36˚ 41˚ 50˚ 58˚ 66˚ 71˚ 75˚ 69˚ 58˚ 49˚ 40˚
Rain Fall 2” 2” 4” 5” 5” 6” 5” 5” 8” 7” 3” 2”

Kanazawa Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High 47˚ 48˚ 54˚ 64˚ 71˚ 77˚ 84˚ 87˚ 80˚ 71˚ 61˚ 52˚
Low 35˚ 35˚ 40˚ 49˚ 57˚ 66˚ 74˚ 75˚ 68˚ 57˚ 47˚ 39˚
Rain Fall 2” 2” 4” 6” 6” 10” 9” 4” 7” 4” 2” 1”

Kyoto Jan Feb Mar Apr May June Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High 46˚ 48˚ 53˚ 66˚ 73˚ 80˚ 87˚ 89˚ 82˚ 71˚ 60˚ 51˚
Low 30˚ 32˚ 33˚ 44˚ 51˚ 60˚ 69˚ 71˚ 64˚ 51˚ 41˚ 32˚
Rain Fall 2” 3” 4” 6” 6” 9” 8” 6” 8” 5” 3” 2”

Visas & Passports You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business “visa free” stays of up to 90 days. Your passports must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan.

Japan uses the yen as its currency. Japan is a cash society. Luckily, it is also the safest country in the world so you may carry cash with you without the worry of being robbed. Generally there is no need to buy Japanese yen in your home country before your trip, as you will most likely pay a higher commission (about 3%) and a worse exchange rate than you would get at the airports, banks, or ATMs in Japan.


Tipping is rare in Japan; however, in Japanese-style inns (=ryokans) you can put a money bill (Y1000) in a small envelope and hand it to the person who you think deserve it.

Airport Taxes

International and domestic airport taxes. Most of the time, these taxes are already included in your air ticket.


The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt, which is different from North America (120V), Central Europe (220V) and most other regions of the world. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins, which fit into North American outlets


Japan’s time zone is UTC+09:00. If it is 12:00 in Japan then it is:
• 11:00am in New York
• 10:00am in Chicago
• 9:00am in Los Angeles


Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps- rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

Optional Extension to Hiroshima

Day 11

SAT OCT 7 • Kyoto | Hiroshima | Kyoto

This morning, walk to Kyoto Station with an English speaking assistant for your bullet train to Hiroshima.

Kyoto/Hiroshima on first class bullet train Nozomi#3 (0830/1006) (no assistant/guide on board the train).

Arrive Hiroshima, meet by an English speaking local guide and commence sightseeing the Peace Memorial Park. Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park is one of the most prominent features of the city. Even visitors not looking for the Peace Park will likely stumble upon the large park of over 120,000 square meters. Its trees, lawns, and walking paths are in stark contrast to the surrounding downtown area.

The park’s main facility is the Peace Memorial Museum. Consisting of two building, the museum surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the nuclear bomb. Its main focus though is on the events of August 6; the dropping of the bomb and its outcome in human suffering. The personal details displayed are quite upsetting, and serve to remind that we should not take peace for granted.

Lunch is under your own arrangements.

Then, transfer to Miyajima-guchi and take the ferry (share basis) to Miyajima for the Itsukushima Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to three princesses: Ichikishima-hime, Tagori-hime, and Tagitus-hime and was found in the 6th century. Then, one of Japan’s most powerful men, Taira no Kiyomori, rebuilt the shrine in 12th century. The shrine appears to be floating at high tide. Walking on the walkways between the buildings is an interesting experience. There is the Japan’s oldest Noh theatre in the shrine. Also, bugaku (ancient music and dance), which was introduced to Miyajima by Kiyomori, is staged.

After sightseeing, transfer to Hiroshima station.

Hiroshima/Kyoto on first class bullet train Nozomi#48 (1712/1852) (no assistant/guide on board the train).

Arrive Kyoto, meet by an English speaking assistant and walk back to hotel.

Hotel: Granvia Kyoto
Room: Standard Rooms
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12

SUN OCT 8 • Kyoto | Depart Kansai

Your day is free until your included shared transfer to Kansai International Airport (60-90 minutes).


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