Cherry Blossom in the famous Takato Park, Nagano
Spectacular Cherry Blossom
Cameras at the ready, because there's a reason Japan's cherry blossom season is famous throughout the world. Appearing every spring (exact dates vary year-to-year but always fall in March and April), the blossom of the iconic pink cherry trees is reason enough in itself to visit Japan, but it also provides a spectacular backdrop to the country's other natural and cultural jewels. A visit to Japan's cherry blossoms in full bloom is also made all the more special by the practised and revered appreciation the Japanese people have for this natural phenomenon, which they call "Sakura".
On this tour you'll visit the country's most interesting cities, take in some stunning ancient culture and architecture, and sample some of Japan's traditional cuisine, all while surrounded by the pink hues of cherry blossom at every turn. From its start in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the trip will take you to well-preserved gardens of Kanazawa, Matsumoto and its famous castle, and naturally beautiful Hakone, before finishing up in the modern, bustling capital of Tokyo.
Experience the beauty of cherry blossom season
Practise your photography skills on the "Sakura"
Travel in speedy style on a Japanese bullet train
See Kyoto's Golden Pavilion glisten in the light
Sample Japanese delicacies at Kyoto's Nishiki market
View 1,500 cherry trees in the Shinjuku Gyoen Garden
This exciting trip to Japan includes international flights, private airport transfers and accommodation, and is all based on prices during peak cherry blossom season. The trip includes all of your breakfasts, as well as two dinners and some cultural tours with a private guide. It also includes all necessary rail and other travel passes.
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your holiday, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has travelled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip.
All of our trips are entirely bespoke and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
Your international flight from the UK will take you overnight to Kansai International airport in Osaka. Prepare for your Japanese cherry blossom adventure to begin!
On arrival in Osaka on Day 2, you'll be met in the arrivals hall by an assistant who'll help you validate your 14-day Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), as well as give you your PASMO smart card – an easy way to pay for public transportation and more in Japan. You'll then enjoy a comfortable private transfer to the Hotel Granvia Kyoto in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto, where you'll spend the next three nights.
The next morning after breakfast you'll embark on a half-day tour which includes two of the city's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First, it's the Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion thanks to the fact that two whole floors of the Zen Buddhist temple are covered in real gold leaf. Next, you'll travel to the decorative Nijo Castle, which was built over 400 years ago and still stands as one of the city's most impressive architectural feats. The day will finish with a foodie visit to so-called "Kyoto's Kitchen", officially known as Nishiki Market. You'll be able to browse over 100 shops selling everything from fresh seafood to Japanese Sweets – which local delicacies will you sample?
Your second full day in Kyoto is free for you to spend at your leisure, and is the perfect chance to take in the stunning cherry blossoms in bloom. With the Japanese revering Sakura for hundreds of years, it's not hard to find some fantastic spots to experience nature's annual parade of pink. Why not stroll down the Philosopher's Path, which runs alongside a small canal and is lined with hundreds of cherry trees? Or visit the garden of the Heian Shrine – one of the best spots in Kyoto to see weeping cherry trees in blossom. The opportunities for Sakura viewing are endless!
Things to do
On the morning of Day 5 you'll make your way to the train station, where you'll use your JR Pass to join the excitingly named Thunderbird Express train to Kanazawa. Aboard the "rapid train" you will speed smoothly through the countryside, covering 230 kilometres in just two hours. Once you arrive, you'll be staying at the Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel, a contemporary hotel conveniently located in the city centre. You'll have the evening to relax and explore the nearby area – or just enjoy the hotel's top-class facilities and restaurants.
The next day you have free to spend exploring the city's most spectacular cherry blossom views and historical sights. Kanazawa Castle and the adjacent Kanazawa Kenrokuen Gardens are thought to be two of the best places in the whole of Japan to experience cherry blossom season, as the garden's classic landscape design provides the perfect backdrop to the delicate pink trees.
General + Wildlife
This morning you'll make your way back to Kanazawa Station ready to climb aboard one of Japan's famous bullet trains for a one-and-a-half-hour ride to Nagano, also included in your JR Pass. From Nagano you'll transfer onto another modern train – the Shinano Limited Express – for a short one-hour journey to Matsumoto. You'll be staying at the elegant Matsumoto Marunouchi Hotel, and will have the rest of the day to explore – you could visit Matsumoto Castle, explore the vibrant district of Nakamachi, or view one of Japan's largest art collections at the Japan Ukiyoe Museum.
The next day is yours to spend as you please. A trip out of town to Takato Castle Park could be a wise choice, as it's said the park is one of the top spots in the country to see cherry trees in their full spring bloom.
General + Wildlife
You'll begin Day 9 by travelling by train to Hakone, a region designated as a Geopark by UNESCO, and known as the gateway to Mount Fuji region. The recognisable and impressive form of this well-known peak can be seen from much of the area. You'll have a Hakone Pass which allows to you explore the area with ease on the extensive transport system, and your base during your stay will be the Hakone Kowakien Ten-yu. This traditional-style inn provides a tranquil retreat in which to sample a slice of the Japanese way of life in luxury. You'll sleep on traditional futons laid on top of tatami mats, and you can bath in the piping hot spring waters of the hotel's onsen baths.
You'll have the next day to explore Hakone – why not ride the world's second-longest cable car to the top of Mount Owakudani, where upon reaching the top you have the chance to try a "black egg", cooked in the hot springs in the valley and rumoured to add seven years to your life! The city also has a varied assortment of fascinating museums and shrines that can be visited using your Hakone Pass, such as the Hakone Open Air Museum, which displays world-class sculptures outside in front of a background of surrounding valleys and mountains.
You'll again be using your invaluable JR Pass to take a train to Japan's capital Toyko from Odawara Station. In this exciting, metropolitan city you'll be staying in the smart Park Hotel Tokyo, and the rest of the day will be free to spend at your leisure. You might chose to head straight out and explore the famous area of Harajuku, or take some time to rest in the comfort of your hotel.
The next day you can enjoy a half-day tour on which a local guide will show you some of the most interesting parts of the city. First, you'll see the impressive Imperial Palace, after which you will visit Asakusa, Tokyo's "old town" where you can almost see back in time to days gone by. You'll be taken to visit Tokyo's oldest temple, the magnificent Sensoji, and take a stroll down Nakamise, a well-known shopping street that's the perfect place to pick up local snacks or traditional souvenirs. Taking the subway, you'll finish the tour with a trip to Meiji Shrine, Tokyo's most famous Shinto shrine.
Your last day in Tokyo is free to spend at your leisure soaking up the beautiful scents and sights of the Sakura cherry blossoms. You might choose to take a stroll through Ueno Park or make a visit to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – some say this park is the most beautiful green space in Tokyo, and with over 1,500 cherry blossom trees it's sure to be truly spectacular during the Sakura season. Take a picnic and sit amongst the blossoms on the central lawn.
On your last day in Japan, you should have some time to explore Tokyo a little more, before your private transfer takes you from the hotel to Narita Airport for your flight to the UK. You won't forget the experience of cherry blossom season in this magical country for many years, and will be leaving with some beautiful memories (and breathtaking photos).