Unmissable Gardens in Japan
- Duration : 14 days
- Locations : Tokyo, Kanazawa, Takamatsu, Okayama, Matsue, Kyoto
This Japan tour allows you to visit the most beautiful Japanese gardens. 5 of them are on the programme of this trip: Mito, Kanazawa, Takamatsu, Okayama and Adachi.
In addition to all the zen or dry gardens to discover during your visits to Tokyo and Kyoto.
Charming accommodation, transport and 2 guided garden tours are included in this individually organised trip.
2 week itinerary
- Tokyo (2 days)
- Kanazawa (1 day)
- Takamatsu and the artists island Naoshima (2 days)
- Okayama (1 day)
- Matsue (2 days)
- Kyoto (4 days including 1 day in Nara)
The first and last day are reserved for your arrival and departure from Japan (and for the last bit of souvenir shopping!).
Please find below the itinerary details.
WARNING : The tour departure and end dates presented on this page relate to your stay in Japan. On departure, you will have to leave Europe on the day before. The return flight is on the same day due to the time difference. For further details, refer to "More about your trip".
Why this trip to Japan ?
- A Japan tour specifically designed for lovers of Japanese gardens: itinerary, guided tours...
- Welcomed at the airport by our team, you will be taken to your hotel in Tokyo by shuttle bus
- In Tokyo, discover the city's most beautiful gardens on a private guided tour
- Take the Shinkansen to Kanazawa, to visit the Kenrokuen Park before a night in a ryokan
- Afterwards, the Ritsurin Koen Garden in Takamatsu, will delight all Zen lovers
- Enjoy a view of the feudal castle from the huge Koraku-en walking garden in Okayama
- Visit the Adachi Garden Museum, "Japan's the most beautiful garden"
- In Kyoto, a second private guided tour will take you to the most secret Zen gardens
- Recommendations available in your travel diary
- Enjoy unlimited internet access thanks to your pocket Wi-Fi
- If necessary, contact our Japanese bilingual English-speaking assistance 24/7
- Benefit from the expertise of Japan Experience, European leading travel agency in Japan.
Your trip in detail
Day 1 : Wake up in Tokyo 東京
Arrival at Tokyo airport (Narita or Haneda).
Welcome to Japan! Yokoso 日本へようこそ！
Reception at the exit from Customs in English by our airport assistant, who will give you all your travel documents.
Unaccompanied transfer from the airport to Tokyo (see details).
Check-in at Hotel B Akasaka Mitsuke or equivalent 3* (rooms available from 15:00).
You can pick up your pocket Wi-Fi at the hotel reception desk.
Day 2 : First steps in the capital
What is there to do in Tokyo on the first day?
We advise you to slowly start visiting Tokyo from its western districts:
- Harajuku: the avant-garde district
- Meiji Jingû, the imperial shrine
- Takeshita-Dori: the most famous street in Japan
- Omotesando: Tokyo's Champs-Élysées
- Shibuya and its unmistakable "crossroads"
One of our many experienced English-speaking guides can also accompany you to visit the classic sights of Tokyo (optional, from 9:00 to 17:00).
Day 3 : Edo Gardens
Travel back to the Edo period (1603-1868) and discover ancient Tokyo by visiting two to three of the capital's beautiful gardens over the course of one morning. Beautiful all year round, these serene havens make you forget the hectic city around you.
In the afternoon, we recommend the following "loop".
Start from Tokyo Central Station, with its original architecture, then go to visit:
- Ginza, Tokyo's chic district
- Tsukiji, the small outdoor food market
- Hamarikyu, the Japanese garden between Tokyo's buildings
- Asakusa, a traditional district and place of pilgrimage, accessible by a cruise on the Sumida River
- Sensô-ji Buddhist temple, one of the oldest in the city
- Tokyo Sky Tree reaching a height of 643m, and its panoramic view of Tokyo at sunset
Enjoy a cruise on the Sumida River between Hamarikyu and Asakusa.
Another idea: Mito Garden (1 hour 20 from Tokyo, pay with your transport card) to explore your first of "Japan's three most beautiful gardens". The three most famous gardens in Japan (日本三名園, Nihon sanmeien) are the Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, the Kōraku-en in Okayama and the Kairaku-en in Mito, famous for its 3000 plum trees. You will also discover the other two during the tour.
Day 4 : The pearl of Japan
Go to Kanazawa by Shinkansen high-speed train (direct journey, included in your package).
Explore Kanazawa, between the North Sea and the Japanese Alps:
- Kenroku-en, the beautiful Japanese garden of Kanazawa
- The contemporary art museum and its outdoor gallery
- Omicho, the sea of Japan fish market
- The Nomura house, residence of the samurai and its picturesque old quarter
Check-in at your ryokan. At night at the ryokan, you will be treated to a tasty traditional Japanese dinner before retiring to your tatami room.
Day 5 : Garden and bonsai
Traditional Japanese breakfast at the ryokan.
Check into your hotel.
Garden lover or not, the large Japanese garden in Takamatsu is a must-see. The Ritsurin koen, covering more than 16 hectares, is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan.
There is information in your travel diary on Takamatsu and its region. There are some great sights, such as the bonsai village south of the city. There are also many unusual restaurants and bar/café addresses in Takamatsu.
Night in your hotel in Takamatsu.
Day 6 : The Art Island
Breakfast at the hotel.
We recommend that you spend the day visiting Naoshima Island on foot. The ferry terminal is a 20 minute walk from the centre, and it only takes 50 minutes to reach the island (Purchase on site, about 8€/pers round trip). Details in your travel diary. On the island, we advise you to rent a bicycle (optional on this trip).
Naoshima Island is world-famous for its modern art museums, the architecture of some of its buildings, and the scattered outdoor sculptures throughout its territory. These numerous museums and buildings were designed by the architect Ando Tadao. You will be impressed, among other things, by Monet's water lilies, displayed in a simple room where you enter without shoes!
N.B.: access to one of the museums of Naoshima, the Chichu Art Museum, is subject to reservation.
A day with no actual garden, but a small, wild and pleasant island with museums with unmissable architecture and collections: let yourself be charmed.
Return to Takamatsu at the end of the day by the same route as in the morning.
Second night in Takamatsu.
Day 7 : One of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan
Breakfast at the hotel.
Head to Okayama, 1 hour by train (direct, included in your offer). You will reach the island of Honshu via the longest bridge in the world comprising a road and a railway.
Check-in at your hotel between the station and the castle.
Explore the castle and its magnificent Koraku-en park, before leaving in the middle of the afternoon for the romantic town of Kurashiki, a 17-minute train ride from Okayama (included with JR Pass).
In the evening, return to Okayama to admire the illuminated castle.
Day 8 : A castle by the water
Breakfast at the hotel.
Depart for Matsue by train (2,4 hour direct journey, included in your package), on the shores of Lake Shinji. The train follows this coastline, lined on one side with beaches (one of which is called Hawaii...!) and on the other with the slopes of the Daisen volcano, a symbolic site of Japanese spirituality.
Matsue, the capital of Shimane prefecture, is certainly off the beaten path, but there are plenty of reasons to visit:
- The Plover Castle, one of the last 12 feudal castles in Japan to have not been rebuilt. From the top of this picturesque building, the view of the entire region is spectacular.
- Lafcadio Hearn Museum, which traces the life of this naturalised Irishman in the late 19th century, at the very beginning of Japan's move to open up to the outside world. A fascinating visit that takes us back to this amazing era. The museum has undergone recent renovations (including of the digital kind) which make the visit interactive and very pleasant.
- The samurai district with its preserved houses and gardens.
- The Japanese art museum, with its precious treasures, including prints by Hokusai.
In the evening, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over Lake Shinji (the city is very well oriented for this).
Afterwards, don't hesitate to explore the bars of this lively student city, before going to your 3* hotel in the heart of the city.
Day 9 : Japan's most beautiful garden
Breakfast at the hotel.
The Matsue area is home to two exceptional gardens: the Yushien Peony Garden and the Adachi Garden Museum, the "Japan's Most Beautiful Garden".
The Yushien Garden, on an island in the middle of Lake Nakaumi, is accessible by bus (25 minutes) from Matsue Station.
The Adachi Garden Museum can be reached after a 20-minute train ride and a 10-minute shuttle bus ride. This museum, created by a businessman and benefactor, brings together numerous works by great Japanese artists of the 20th century, exhibited in a museum that opens onto an exceptional garden. This garden is regularly acclaimed as "Japan's most beautiful garden" by the national and international press.
More details in your travel diary.
2nd night in your hotel in Matsue.
Day 10 : Heading for the old capital
Breakfast at the hotel.
In 5h00, reach Kyoto (1 change, included in your package) and check into the Tsugu 京都三条 Hotel or equivalent 3*.
You have 4 days to visit Kyoto.
Start in the afternoon in the historic Gion district near your accommodation :
- Kiyomizu-Dera, the great water temple
- The historical streets of Sannen-zaka & Ninnen-zaka
- Kodai-ji, the maple and bamboo temple of Kyoto
Day 11 : Zen gardens, secret gardens
In the morning, meet your guide at 9am for a tour of Kyoto's most beautiful gardens.
Karesansui, tsukiyama, zen gardens, dry gardens,... The art of Japanese gardens is an art of ancestral wisdom. Through a guided tour of some of the most beautiful - but not the most famous - of Kyoto's gardens, learn to unravel the beauty and hidden meaning of Japanese gardens.
In the afternoon, you can continue to visit Kyoto heading west :
- Nishiki, Kyoto's culinary market
- Nijo castle, former residence of the shogun
- Arashiyama, to visit the bamboo grove and its monkey mountain
Day 12 : Now for some activity...
This is your last full day to visit Kyoto, so make the most of our many optional activities:
- Want to enjoy nature? Check out our cycling activities along the Kamogawa River or hiking in the Takao Gorge!
- Looking for Japanese countryside? Let yourself be tempted by a trip to Ohara, or try our flagship activity: on the Tea Road!
If you wish to visit at your own pace, continue exploring Kyoto's 2000 unique temples, shrines and gardens!
Day 13 : Between temples and deer
For your last day, we recommend taking the 50 minute journey to Nara, which is included in your package.
Visit to Nara, the first permanent capital of Japan in the 8th century:
- The Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha and its thousands of lanterns
- The Todaiji, its great bronze Buddha and the imposing Nan-Daimon gate
- Kofukuji temple and its beautiful pagoda
Return to Kyoto and stop for sunset at Fushimi Inari, the huge 10,000 torii sanctuary in Kyoto. If you wish to be accompanied on this day, one of our English-speaking guides will unveil all the secrets of Japan's first capital (optional, return trip from Kyoto).
Day 14 : Sayonara, and see you next time!
Direct transfer to Kansai International Airport (included but not accompanied).
Return flight to Europe, North America, Australia.
Do not hesitate to extend your trip by one or more days to Kansai or elsewhere... We will be able to advise you!
- 3 nights in a 3* hotel in the heart of Tokyo, close to public transport
- 1 night in a 3* ryokan in Kanazawa, traditional half-board
- 2 nights in a 3* hotel in Takamatsu
- 1 night in a 3* hotel in Okayama, near the train station
- 2 nights in a 3* hotel in Matsue
- 4 nights in a 3* hotel in the heart of Kyoto, close to public transport
The basic rate includes a twin room for two people.
- Airport transfers
- Prepaid public transport card
- Japan Rail Pass for 7 days
Experiences and meals
- Airport welcome
- Traditional dinner and breakfast in the ryokan at Kanazawa
- Breakfasts excluding Tokyo and Kyoto
- Tokyo Garden Tour (half day)
- Kyoto Garden Tour (half day)
Included in your self-guided tour
- Unlimited Wi-Fi access with pocket Wi-Fi
- Complete e-travel diary sent 20 days before your departure
- 24/7 telephone assistance in English and bilingual Japanese
Not included in the price of your trip
- Flights Europe <> Japan
- Optional insurance policies
- Personal expenses including meals (breakfast optional)
- Public transport when your transport cards have run out (see details)
- Anything not included in the "included in your tour" section
Your tour :
- The prices displayed on this page may vary according to the exchange rate of the Japanese ¥.
- Unfortunately, this tour is not accessible to people with reduced mobility.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Children and babies accepted. From 3 to 11 years old a child rate is offered. In each accommodation, a standard adult bed will be offered to them, and a standard seat will be allocated to them in transport. From 0 to 2 years old inclusive, a "baby" rate is offered. This price corresponds to the allocation of a cot in the majority of the accommodation of the chosen circuit. However, we cannot guarantee a baby cot in each accommodation.
- This programme is subject to change due to circumstances such as weather conditions or any other case of force majeure. Please note that due to the current circumstances, any information mentioned is subject to change or modification.
- Your travel documents will be given to you as follows:
- Travel diary by email 3 weeks before departure, and other electronic documents
- Paper documents (airport transfer tickets, transport cards) when you arrive at the airport by our airport assistant.
- Your pocket Wi-Fi at the hotel reception upon arrival.
Your accommodation :
- Some hotels may ask you to pay a tourist tax on arrival. This depends on the city and even the hotel, as some do not include it in the booking price. Normally, it is 200¥/night/person (about £1.37/1.93$) but can be slightly higher in 4* hotels. It must be paid in cash at the hotel reception. For traditional Japan Experience accommodations, it is included in the initial tour price.
- Room size: in Japan, a densely populated country where everything is compact, 3-star luxury hotels are of very good quality but the rooms are often quite narrow (12 to 20m2/129 sq ft to 215 sq ft) depending on the hotel. Please note the size of the single room, between 10 and 16m2 (107sq ft and 172 fq ft). For more comfort, you can choose our luxury 4* accommodation upgrade option.
- Double room: Rooms for two people in western hotels have 2 single beds (twin rooms) by default, which can usually be joined together. As an option, you can select a double room instead of a twin if you prefer a double bed.
- Single room: People travelling alone and wishing to book a single room must pay a supplement at the time of booking. The single room supplement is compulsory for orders with an odd number of participants. Please note that if you request more than two people in a single room, the single room supplement will be applied to all accommodation except for the ryokans (3 and 4*). In fact, as this is traditional accommodation, people with the same reservation are grouped together in spacious rooms for up to 5 people.
- 3-person room: If there are 3, 5 or more of you and you do not select the single supplement, a triple room will be allocated to you.
- In the case of a group order (> 5 people), it is possible, depending on hotel availability, that not all members of the group will be accommodated in the same hotel. Nevertheless, we aim to keep you close.
- Names of the hotels : The names given on the site are for information only. In the event of unavailability, an establishment of equivalent standing will be scheduled. Hotels, corresponding to local standards, are given as an indication and may be changed on site for hotels of a similar category.
- In the ryokan in Kanazawa, guests sleep on comfortable futons placed on the tatami mat. The room has a private sink and toilet. As is customary in Japanese ryokan, the onsen bathroom is shared (not mixed) unless you take the "private bathroom in the room" option.
OPTIONAL: Enjoy a private Japanese bathroom (traditional or modern onsen) in your room. This option is recommended for mixed couples, families, people who are modest or have visible tattoos.
The 4* ryokan (see 4* option) have comfortable futons raised on either western beds in a traditional tatami room. The bathrooms and toilets of the 4* ryokans are private.
Your transport :
- Flights are not included in this tour. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to include flights in your order: Flights in economy class with stopovers or direct flights, eco-premium or business air upgrades, provincial departures or abroad: we will be able to advise you.
- The tour departure and end dates presented on this page relate to your stay in Japan. You will arrive in Japan via Tokyo (Narita or Haneda airports) and depart from Kansai airport (KIX, not Itami ITM). On departure, you will have to leave the day before Europe and land at 6:30 p.m. at the most to make the most of the airport services of your circuit (reception and transfer to Tokyo).The return flight is on the same day due to the time difference, with a departure time of 9am at the earliest. Please do not hesitate to consult us for any uncertainty or need for precision in the choice of international flights.
- If the flights have been purchased by your care without the intervention of Japan Experience, it is necessary to send us by mail 1 month before your departure your flight information (flight number, airport, date and time of arrival) to allow us 'Organize your welcome and airport transfer.
- Airport transfers: The shared shuttle bus leaves from the airport and stops either in front of your hotel or at a stop located between 1 and 15 min walk from your hotel. Our airport assistant in Tokyo will drive you to the platform to take the airport transfer. Afterwards, this hotel transfer is unassisted. If you would like to be accompanied from the airport to your hotel reception please choose the option "Accompanied Airport Transfer". The same applies to the return trip from Osaka to KIX airport.
- Included in your tour is a pre-charged transport prepayment card of ¥ 1,500 (around £10.30 / 14.54$) (suica or Pasmo brand); and a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. These cards should cover a large part of your trips during the stay. Upon expiry of the 1,500¥ Transport Prepayment Card, or if the line you are travelling on is not covered by your Japan Rail Pass, any travel will be at your own expense by recharging your pre-paid transport card (at vending machines in all stations and metro stations).
- The Japan Rail Pass is a personal train pass for foreign travellers who wish to visit Japan. This pass allows unlimited travel for 7 consecutive days on all Japan Railways (JR) trains throughout Japan. You will receive a voucher to be exchanged at a JR office when you are welcomed at the airport by our assistant (list of addresses provided in your travel guide). You will be asked to show your passport and fill in a form. During this exchange, you will select the start date of your pass. Once your Pass has been activated, it will be valid for 7 consecutive days from the date chosen. To prevent wasting time when you arrive at the airport, you are requested to exchange your voucher upon arrival in Tokyo City. This is because exchanging it at the airport could delay your airport shuttle. With your Japan Rail Pass in hand, just go to the station, show your pass to the ticket inspector at the entrance gates and board any JR train. Trains in Japan are almost all open seating. If you are worried about not having a seat (on a shinkansen for example), simply go to a ticket office and reserve your seat at no extra charge. The Japan Rail Pass covers all JR and Shinkansen lines in Japan. The following journeys are not covered:
- Travel by metro and bus in the cities (payable by pre-paid transport card, included in your package)
- Transfers from the train station to the hotels (by foot, bus, metro or taxi)
- Travel on private train lines (other than JR)
- Travel on Nozomi and Mizuho high-speed trains (shinkansen)
- Trips made outside the validity period of the Japan Rail Pass
- Japan Rail Pass: It is not necessary to possess a Japan Rail Pass which covers your entire stay. This is only cost-effective if it is used for long journeys between the different stages of your stay (especially in shinkansen) which are very expensive. In large cities like Tokyo, only about ⅓ of public transport is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and getting around is relatively cheap (Tokyo metro tickets: £1.71 / 2.42$; Kyoto daily bus card: £4.28 / 5.97$). Thus, providing you with a Japan Rail Pass for more than 7 days (14 or 21) would not be cost-effective and, on the contrary, would significantly increase the cost of your trip.
- If a person taking part in the tour is a Japanese national and a resident of Japan, or a foreigner with tax residence in Japan (including a student), then that person is not eligible for the Japan Rail Pass. Please contact us to get the price of the tour without a Japan Rail Pass. They will have to buy the train tickets for the tour directly in Japan. The Kansai Thru Pass is also subject to the same nationality/residency requirements. This is not the case for the Hakone Free pass. If this person is a Japanese citizen but not a resident of Japan, then he/she can benefit from the Japan Rail Pass under certain conditions (see https://www.japan-experience.com/frequently-asked-questions).
Your activities :
- Airport reception is in English. Your airport assistant will be waiting for you at the customs exit holding a sign with the name of the reservation. They will give you your travel documents and take you to your airport transfer. They will not accompany you to Tokyo (this is possible, but optional)
- Half-day guided tours in Tokyo and Kyoto: these take place in the morning (4 hours for Tokyo, 3 hours for Kyoto). Transportation and entrance fees are not included, nor is lunch.- Half-day guided tours in Tokyo and Kyoto: these take place in the morning (4 hours for Tokyo, 3 hours for Kyoto). Transportation and entrance fees are not included, nor is lunch.
Your meals :
- Traditional Japanese dinner and Japanese breakfast (mostly savoury) are included in your ryokan. Do not hesitate to indicate any dietary requirements you may have, we will pass them on to the ryokan so that they can take them into account when planning the meals. If the ryokan does not take any of these dietary requirements into account, we cannot be held responsible and no compensation will be issued.
- Breakfasts which are not included in your package can be added at the reception when you arrive at the hotel. However, you will find many cafés near your hotel serving copious breakfasts, often tastier than those in the hotels, which sometimes have tight schedules and are predominantly savoury. However, if you would like to add breakfast to your offer when you make your reservation, you can select it as an option.
Your additional services:
- A pocket wifi is included in your tour. It allows unlimited high-speed internet access. Your pocket wifi will be delivered to you on arrival at the first hotel on your tour, in the name of your tour reservation.
- It comes with a small booklet to operate your device (don't panic: simple operation) and a prepaid envelope to return your device at the end of your stay. Your pocket wifi will work naturally until the last day of your trip to Japan.
- A maximum of 5 devices can be connected to a pocket wifi (phone, tablet, computer).
- A single pocket wifi is provided for a circuit order of 1 to 5 people. For an order of 6 people or more, a second pocket wifi will be added automatically and at no extra cost to your reservation.
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