Explore Japan on foot
Meet your tour guide and other group members in the lobby of the tour hotel in central Osaka. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local city restaurant.
We travel to Asuka by the private Kintetsu Railway and visit three important sites on foot and by local bus. We divide into smaller groups to stay in charming, small Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse) in Asuka. Our Minshuku are traditional Japanese homes with tatami-mat rooms and futons for sleeping, with delicious dinners and breakfasts prepared by our hosts.
We meet after breakfast and spend three hours planting rice (in springtime) or harvesting rice (in autumn/fall). Rice growing has enormous significance in Japanese society. It is great fun and highly educational to plant or havest rice with your own hands. After lunch we spend more time exploring the landscapes of Asuka, including the magnificent sets of terraced rice fields on the outskirts of the town. These terraces are a rare and special sight!
Spend the morning cooking food for lunch with members of the local community, using the freshest, seasonal, local ingredients. The food we cook will nourish the body; learning from and interacting with the local residents will nourish the heart, too. In the afternoon, we learn Wadaiko (Japanese drumming) with a local group which has given more than 1500 live performances in 38 countries around the world.
This morning we travel by train to to Kobe. We arrive at lunchtime to explore Japan's sixth-largest city, designated a UNESCO City of Design in 2008 and still part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Kobe is one of five Japanese port cities which opened to the west at the end of the 19th century. We visit Nunobiki Waterfall and wander in the elegant Kitano area. There will be free time later in the afternoon to explore further.
Today we visit northern Kobe and try our hand at Kayabuki (Japanese traditional roof-thatching using pampass grass, reeds and other materials). We meet a young Kayabuki craftsman who has dedicated himself to preserving kayabuki buildings and educating younger generations. We then transfer by train to Sasayama, an ancient castle town which flourished as a transportation hub linking western Japan with Kyoto.
Noteworthy sights in Sasayama include the area of Sasayama Castle, the former samurai house area and the former merchants' house area. We will explore the town on foot and visit the museum of Old Tamba Pottery, one of Japan's six ancient pottery styles. There will be free time to wander the town.
This morning we travel to Kameoka, then enjoy a scenic two-hour boat ride along the Hozu River down to Arashiyama in Kyoto. Arashiyama is a pleasant district in western Kyoto famous for its bamboo groves. In historical times, court nobles favoured this place to enjoy its natural setting. In Arashiyama, we visit Tenryu-ji Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and walk through the atmospheric bamboo forest.
This morning we visit Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine and walk through the beautiful vermilion gates which line the paths on Mount Inari. We continue to a traditional Japanese paper lantern studio and try our hand at making a small paper lantern to carry home as a souvenir. There will be a free time in the afternoon and a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant in the evening.
Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel in Kyoto. Your guide will offer advice on your journey to the airport for your homeward flight, or on onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.
I would like to commend you for the excellent preparations made for my family's Shikoku Tour. Although I was not able to join them, my wife and daughter enjoyed themselves thoroughly through out the seven-day tour. All of the accommodations were top class, and your independent tour instructions were very effective in helping them to get around all the interesting sights. Best of all was the assistance that they got from Takeo-san who went out of his way to be a very good host to them. I will certainly recommend services of Japan Roads to my friends who are planning to visit Japan.
Just got back from a fantastic trip. Everything worked out perfectly. Your staff and associates in Japan were hugely helpful and provided lots more very useful information. Not to diminish anyone's contribution to this excellent experience but I would like to single out for special praise whoever chose and booked the Hotels/Ryokans. I suspect it might have been Mizue, who's handwriting was on all the cards, and most of the added information. There was only one Hotel I would have called average. Many were good, several were outstanding and a couple were truly memorable, and I say this from the perspective of a man who has traveled the world for 35yrs (well over 2 million miles at the last count) and stayed in some of the best.
Please convey my heartfelt thanks to those involved, but especially to the person who arranged the superb accommodations; it is, as you know, not just (or even) a matter of the infrastructure that makes an accommodation outstanding, it is mostly to do with ambience, staff, location and that indefinable something. Whatever "it" is your accommodations person can spot it.
Once again, many thanks for arranging everything, and effusive praise for all your staff. I would unhesitatingly recommend your company to any like minded folks who want to explore for themselves, need guidance and want the assurance of top quality accommodation at the end of the day.
I believe the Shoguns and Samurai Tour was the best we went on after 5 previous Tour of Japan especially the Minshukus and Ryokans.
We want to commend Mari Ohara in the highest terms possible. She said "Yes, of course!" to every request anyone made and followed through. You couldn't possibly have come up with a better ambassador of Japanese culture than Mari. It was a terrific trip. The food, the variety of sites, the pace: everything was superb. Hats off to everyone involved, and, again, thanks especially to Mari-san for sharing her love of Japan with us.
Aria is a golden asset. When I first met her I was surprised that such a relatively young person would shoulder so much responsibility. But she is well up to the task. She accommodated a wide variety of requests and requirements with the most practical aplomb I could imagine. And even when taxed beyond what I would have thought reasonable, she remained chipper and upbeat. The trip lived up to my expectations or exceeded them on many levels. Thanks for the great memories.