Japan by Rail for the Colours of Autumn
From Sapporo To Hakodate, Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kurishiki, Nagasaki, Hakata, Otaru, Niseko, Gokayama, Nanao, Naoshima Art Island, World Heritage Gunkanjima, Kagoshima and the Satsuma Volcano. - 15 Nights

Departing from:
Sapporo
Destination:
Hakodate, Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kurishiki, Nagasaki, Hakata, Otaru, Niseko, Gokayama, Nanao, Naoshima Art Island, World Heritage Gunkanjima, Kagoshima and the Satsuma Volcano.
Duration:
15 Nights
Travel Dates:
30/10/20 to 15/11/20
Offer Expires:
15/11/22
Tour Operator:
Railway Adventures
Reference Code:
RA

From

AU$12,395

Price per person

Package Details

Overview

Japans’ natural beauty is on show all year round but during Autumn, (and the stunning Cherry Blossom season of course), the country is ablaze with colour and life, and the best way to capture this unfolding spectacle is on a journey from the cold North all the way to the warm South, chasing the turning leaves on the trees on Japan’s fast, safe and comfortable railway system. Autumn is also a time for festivals; Sumo Tournaments, Geisha Dancing celebrations, Sake brewing season, and the ‘Culture Day’ national holiday. Of course, the great Japanese gardens are a must-see at this time of year, as are iconic cities and remote grass-thatched medieval villages but what about the lesser-known wonders like the Naoshima Art Island, the Nagasaki Atom Bomb Museum, and Peace Park, the newly opened highly acclaimed museum to the Ainu, (Japan’s indigenous peoples) and the charming little steam Railway and Museum in the historic city of Otaru. This is a journey, incorporating many lesser-known places in Japan, off the beaten track in many parts, and away from the normal tourist hordes. There’s a wealth of variety on this tour and it offers a once-in-a-lifetime 2,800 km north-to-south adventure across the welcoming nation of Japan.

Details

It’s not hard to argue the merits of train travel but to truly discover how far rail technology has come in the last two centuries, simply visit Japan. Its excellent railway system is one of the world’s most extensive and advanced, and train travel is unarguably the best way to explore this fascinating country. Speed, efficiency, comfort, convenience, a choice of spectacular destinations, and some remarkable trains are hallmarks of travelling by rail in Japan. However, the warm-hearted and peaceful people make your time in Japan. Travel is safe and easy and you know that good service is always on hand. Bernie and Scott have been to Japan a dozen times and are excited to present this very different adventure full of art and culture, entertainment and history with great food and hotels and all the way is the spectacular scenery of Japan in Autumn.

‘Green’ class Shinkansen coaches and seats are not always available on Japan Railways and will occasionally be substituted for regular class seats. You will be notified of this before the issuing of tickets by your tour leader and guides.

  • Travel throughout Japan on your ‘Green’ (first) Class JR Rail Pass*
  • No less than 6 Bullet train trips from the North to the Southern tip of Japan
  • Special Steam Trains runs like the SL Hitoyoshi journey across Kyushu
  • Numerous “Resort Train” journeys including the new ‘Brides Curtain’ train
  • Reside in superb hotels mostly 5 stars and all highly rated by Trip Advisor
  • Attend the Gion Odori Festival, a once-a-year largescale Geisha-dancing celebration
  • Explore the railway museum in Otaru and the Upopoy Ainu National Museum
  • Special themed meals such as an Ainu lunch, Ninja Dinner, and a Sake Brewery feast
  • Numerous art gallery visits, kiriko-glass making, and ‘washi’ Japanese-paper making
  • Spectacular rooftop Onsen Hot Spring Baths in Hakodate and Hakata
  • Take a traditional tea ceremony and Japan’s ultimate relaxation foot-bath therapy
  • Boat cruises at Naoshima, the fishing port of Nanao, and across Nagasaki Bay
  • Gorgeous gardens at Kenrokuen in Kanazawa and sublime Sengan-En in Kagoshima
  • Sail to Japan’s ‘off-the-beaten-track’ gem, the art sanctuary island of Naoshima.
  • Ohara Museum, whose collection of Western Art is arguably the best in Japan.
  • Be moved at the excellent Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park at Nagasaki
  • Be captivated at the Grand Sumo Wrestling Tournament at Fukuoka Stadium
  • Services of your experienced tour leaders, brilliant local Guides, and our ever-present Japanese operator

Day 1 • Sunday 30 October: ARRIVE SAPPORO
Arrive in Sapporo and proceed to your hotel, the Clubby, Sapporo, home of Japan’s best hotel breakfast. In the early evening, we gather in the lobby for personal introductions and a celebratory welcome dinner with drinks. Overnight: Hotel Clubby (D)

Day 2 • Monday 31 October: SAPPORO – OTARU – SAPPORO
Enjoy a morning excursion by train and coach to the historic port city of Otaru. After a walk to Sapporo Station, enjoy the 30-minute train ride to Otaru, a highlight, the train travels along the Pacific coast. In Otaru, board a local coach for a guided tour of the Otaru Railway Museum, located on Hokkaido’s first railway line, and presenting not just the history of rail in Hokkaido, but
the development of Otaru itself. Then, take a city tour including Otaru’s Canal Zone and the remains of the Temiya Freight narrow gauge line, originally established in the late 19th century to transport coal and marine products. Otaru is a port city with a thriving fishing industry, so after a lunch featuring some of the day’s catch, we’ll head back to Sapporo by train, where you can join our guide in spending the afternoon exploring the city, or simply relax and see off any last elements of jet-lag. Overnight: Hotel Clubby (B, L)

Day 3 • Tuesday 1 November: SAPPORO – JOZANKEI – NISEKO – NIKI – SAPPORO
A coach excursion to enjoy some of Japan’s finest rural scenery starts with a transfer to the Hot Spring town of Jozankei, famous for its wonderful autumn colours. After a coffee-stop, we continue further into the mountains and Japan’s most famous ski-resort, Niseko, where we’ll visit the beautifully appointed atelier gallery of a locally-based British artist for a private tour followed by a memorable lunch based on traditional Ainu cooking concepts. In the afternoon, we switch the focus to Japan’s ever-more-popular drinks culture, starting with a visit to the Niseko Distillery, opened in 2021 to produce premium Japanese Whiskey using the water resources unique to Niseko. Then, continue to the Niki Hills Winery in the hills rolling down to the Sea of Japan. Here, we enjoy a winery tour, tasting of their award-winning wines, and dinner in the winery restaurant, before a 45-minute drive back to Sapporo. Overnight: Hotel Clubby (B, L, D)

Day 4 • Wednesday 2 November: SAPPORO – AINU MUSEUM (SHIRAOI) – HAKODATE
Today we take a scenic train journey across the island and down the coast to Hokkaido’s southernmost city, Hakodate. The first leg is a 90-minute ride to Shiraoi on the Pacific Coast, the home of the new Upopoy Ainu National Museum and Park, which opened to visitors in April 2020 after years of preparation and accumulated expectations. This now offers the most complete record of the culture of Japan’s indigenous people, the Ainu, whose roots trace to Hokkaido, and the nearby and now-Russian Kurile Islands and Sakhalin. After a visit to Upopoy and time for lunch, our journey continues with a 3-hour express train ride along the coast of the Tsugaru Straits, south to Hakodate, famed for having some of Japan’s finest panoramas. Here also, there is a distinct Russian strand to the city’s history, thanks to the city’s role as one of the few sanctioned 19th-century trading ports. Check into your hotel with its resort feel and sweeping views. It also boasts spectacular rooftop Onsen Hot Spring Baths. Later in the evening, we’ll venture out to enjoy more of the scenery, before enjoying our last taste of Hokkaido’s cuisine. Overnight: La Vista Hotel, Hakodate (B, D)

Day 5 • Thursday 3 November: HAKODATE – SEIKAN TUNNEL – TOKYO
Today is Culture Day and a national holiday. This morning enjoy a visit to the bustling morning market (subject to opening*) followed by a visit to Fort Goryokaku, Japan’s first western-style fortress, designed on a unique star-shape plot of land which is now the city’s main park. After time to buy a lunch-bento-box at the station, our journey continues south aboard Japan’s newest Bullet Train, the vibrant green Hokkaido Shinkansen “Hayabusa”, which started operation on Hokkaido as recently as 2016. Leaving Hakodate, we’ll head south into the Seikan Tunnel, the World’s longest undersea tunnel, totalling 54km in length, 23 of which are under the seabed. After tunnelling under the Seikan Straits, we reach the main island of Honshu and traverse the vast Tohoku area much of which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. And, after a journey of just over four hours, we arrive at the Tokyo Terminal. Our home in Tokyo is the iconic Station Hotel, reopened in 2012 following a total restoration of the historic western facade of Tokyo Station, famously modelled on Amsterdam Station.  Our first dinner in Tokyo is at the themed restaurant Ninja Tokyo, which delightfully combines an introduction to Ninja Culture, excellent cuisine, and a generous sprinkling of entertainment. Overnight: The Tokyo Station Hotel (B, D)

Day 6 • Friday 4 November: TOKYO
A free day in Tokyo presents an opportunity to relax or kick on, according to your preference. You may wish to head for historical Asakusa, or Museum-Central in Ueno, for a dose of culture. Or to aim for the young crowds & unique fashions of Harajuku & Shibuya, perhaps getting lucky and catching a wedding at Meiji Shrine. You can also venture further afield if you wish. Armed with your rail pass and a Pasmo-card to cover subway journeys, pick-your-poison, such as the Railway Museum at Omiya or you may decide simply to stroll to Ginza and try some of the world’s freshest sushi, your call! Overnight: The Tokyo Station Hotel (B)

Day 7 • Saturday 5 November: TOKYO – GOKAYAMA – KANAZAWA
This morning we embark on the next leg of our journey, heading north-west into the Japanese Alps on the Hokuriku Bullet-Train “Kagayaki”, on which we travel just over 2 hours to Toyama.
Boarding a coach, we will head an hour south into Japan’s rural heartlands, exemplified by the village of Gokayama, the lesscrowded, less-developed sibling of the now-famous Shirakawa-go settlement. Here, after enjoying a local lunch, there will be opportunities to see traditional thatched-roofed ‘Gassho’ houses, and to visit a ‘washi’ Japanese-paper making atelier in charming Ainokura, and there experience the traditional craft of paper-making. After a liberal immersion in the sights and sounds of rural Japan, we’ll head to our next home-away-from-home, the medieval Samurai city of Kanazawa. Overnight: Hyatt Centric Hotel, Kanazawa (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Sunday 6 November: KANAZAWA
While Kanazawa is a beautiful city in itself, it is also the entrance to one of rural Japan’s best-kept secrets, the Noto Peninsula. So, rather than simply staying in Kanazawa, we’ll spend today exploring this region, starting with a journey aboard the ‘Hanayome Noren’, one of Japan’s unfailingly charming locally themed trains. The ‘Bride’s Curtain’, the train’s interior & exterior are inspired by the local crafts. Disembarking at Nanao, a vibrant fishing port, we’ll visit the bustling Fish Market, & have time for lunch before a short cruise across the harbour. After lunch, dive further into Japanese culture at the waterfront hot-spring resort of Wakura Onsen, famed as the home of Japan’s most prestigious ryokan. Here, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and one of Japan’s favorite forms of relaxation, a foot-bath, before ending the day with the unforgettable experience of a drive along the beach – the Chirihama Nagisa Driveway! Overnight: Hyatt Centric Hotel, Kanazawa (B)

Day 9 • Monday 7 November: KANAZAWA
Kanazawa is a charmingly walkable city, and so this morning we’ll take a single taxi journey to Kenrokuen Gardens, and there embark on a Garden and Kanazawa castle and Park walk, followed by a city tour on foot, taking in the Higashi Chaya and Nagamachi Samurai Quarters. The tour will end before lunchtime, allowing the opportunity to eat and stay longer in the city centre or to return to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon. Overnight: Hyatt Centric Hotel, Kanazawa (B)  

Day 10 • Tuesday 8 November: KANAZAWA – KYOTO – KURASHIKI
This morning, an early start at 08h00, walking to the station for an express train ride south to Kyoto, where we’ll enjoy a brief but intense 5-hour stay, incorporating a true ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. From Kyoto Station, we’ll head directly into the famous historical Gion district for lunch, and then straight onto the Gion Kaikan Theatre to attend the Gion Odori Festival, a once-a-year large-scale Geisha-dancing celebration. After the Festival, head straight back to the Station for a late afternoon Bullet Train to Okayama, followed by a local train to the picturesque town of Kurashiki, our home for the next two nights. Overnight: Royal Park Hotel, Kurashiki (B, L, D)

Day 11 • Wednesday 9 November: KURASHIKI – NAOSHIMA ART SANCTUARY – KURASHIKI
Today, enjoy the opportunity to visit another of Japan’s ‘off-the-beaten-track’ gems, the famous art sanctuary island of Naoshima. We take trains to Okayama and then Uno Port and catch a ferry to Naoshima Island. On the island, we’ll split into small groups for visits to two of its critically acclaimed Art Museums, punctuated by lunch. Naoshima is not only a treasure trove of art but showcases the design work of some of the World’s finest architects. In the late afternoon, we return to Kurashiki for an evening at leisure. Overnight: Royal Park Hotel, Kurashiki (B, L)

Day 12 • Thursday 10 November: KURASHIKI – NAGASAKI
This morning, after sending suitcases to Nagasaki, enjoy a leisurely walking tour of the charming town of Kurashiki, focusing on its historical Bikan Quarter, and featuring a visit to the Ohara Museum, whose collection of Western Art is arguably the best in Japan. Then free time to enjoy lunch, before an afternoon Shinkansen and express train journey to the southern island of Kyushu, and the historically storied city of Nagasaki, where our hotel, just a year old, is a five-minute walk from the station. Overnight: Hilton Nagasaki (B, D) 

Day 13 • Friday 11 November: NAGASAKI
Morning city tour by coach visiting the historical areas of Nagasaki, including the Dejima Museum the Glover Hill & Garden, and an opportunity to experience kaleidoscope-making. Then enjoy a lunch featuring Nagasaki’s most famous culinary dish, Chanpon Noodles, in the restaurant reputed to have first created the dish, Shikairo. In the afternoon, take a boat trip across Nagasaki Bay to the World Heritage Island of Gunkanjima, a unique monument to the growth of Japanese industry in the 20th century, and more recently an iconic filming location used in the 007 film Skyfall. Overnight: Hilton Nagasaki (B, L) 

Day 14 • Saturday 12 November: NAGASAKI
This morning we make an unhurried visit to the famous Peace Park, an uplifting Garden featuring the iconic Peace Statue, a large fountain, and a variety of other memorials dedicated by  countries around the world in memory of those killed by the Atomic Bombing dropped on August 09, 1945. A short walk down the hill from the Peace Park lies the Hypocenter Park, the  epicentre of the explosion, now home to a damaged pillar from Urakami Cathedral, the main church in Japan which was located a short distance from the epicentre and destroyed
in the explosion. And, adjacent to this is the Atomic Bomb Museum, at once fascinating in its detail of the science and history which led to the dropping of the A-Bomb, and emotionally sobering in its vivid depiction of the destruction caused. The striking Memorial Hall offers a peaceful and uplifting end to our visit. The afternoon and evening are free for individual exploration and relaxation. Overnight: Hilton Nagasaki (B)

Day 15 • Sunday 13 November: NAGASAKI – S.L.HITOYOSHI RIDE – FUKUOKA (HAKATA)
Leaving Nagasaki early this morning by coach, we cross the Shimabara Peninsula, skirting 1,483m Mount Unzen, a volcano which erupted spectacularly 31 years ago with tragic consequences, before a one-hour ferry crossing of the Ariake Sea to Kumamoto in the very centre of Kyushu. After time to buy snacks In Kumamoto, board a train pulled by the Steam Locomotive Hitoyoshi for a nostalgic two-and-a-halfhour journey through the Kyushu countryside, heading north to Tosu. Once in Tosu, change from the nostalgic to the ultra-modern and board a Shinkansen for a 12-minute dart to Fukuoka (Hakata) where our final hotel of the tour is a short walk from the station. After a late lunch at the hotel, our guide will lead a short afternoon exploration of the city on foot. Overnight: Miyako Hotel Hakata (B, L) 

Day 16 • Monday 14 November: FUKUOKA – KAGOSHIMA – FUKUOKA
Our last day is an ambitiously full one, encompassing a visit to Kyushu’s southernmost, storied province of Satsuma (now Kagoshima), which once declared war on the British. And who hasn’t had that urge on occasion!?! But we’ll be back in Fukuoka in the late afternoon for a final highlight. The day starts with a short walk to the station and a 90-minute Shinkansen south to Kagoshima. On arrival, we’ll make a quick panoramic tour, ending at the sublime Sengan-En Gardens, pride of the Shimazu Clan which has governed Satsuma/Kagoshima for centuries. Here, after a garden tour, including a chance to learn more about the industrial history of Japan. or watch a craftsman making kiriko-glass, we’ll enjoy lunch at a restaurant positioned to enjoy sublime views across the Garden to Kagoshima’s most famous landmark, the Vesuvius-like Sakurajima Volcanic Island, just across the Bay. After lunch, it’s back to Fukuoka and straight to the International Center to attend the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, an opportunity to witness first-hand the unique ceremony, energy, and passion of what many still consider Japan’s national Sport. Then, after a quick freshen-up at the hotel, there’s a chance to relive highlights (and a few embarrassing moments) from the tour over dinner at a local Sake Brewery, with, of course, a chance to taste their pride and joy. Overnight: Miyako Hotel Hakata (B, L, D)

Day 17 • Tuesday 15 November: FUKUOKA – TOKYO/OSAKA – Departures
After our 2,800 km north-to-south Japan Odyssey, the order of the last day is very simple – head for home! For those with flights out of Osaka or Tokyo, this will involve one final Shinkansen & airport express combination, schedules for which will be liaised during the tour. And for those with a flight out of Fukuoka, good call! It’s just a 15-minute taxi or subway ride from our hotel. (B)

Inclusions

  • 14 nights’ accommodation in centrally located 4-5 star hotels with daily breakfast
  • All meals (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • Comprehensive sightseeing with your hosts and local guides
  • Drinks included with welcome and farewell dinners

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