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JAPAN: Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun

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JAPAN: Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun

A trip to the Empire of Japan  日本: 12 days from Belgium or France.

Itinerary:

Shikoku Island, in the Setouchi area, Kyoto and surroundings, Nara.

Departure from 2 people. Choice of dates.

Shikoku Island in the Setouchi region is a  sanctuary of tranquility . On the island of 88 temples, tranquility is to Shikoku what modernity is to Tokyo. Shikoku awaits you with its range of  natural and cultural sites : Tokushima, Kagawa, Matsuyama. The name 日本, Nippon, means “origin of the sun” or “where the sun is born”, which is often translated as “Empire of the rising sun”. Japan forms an archipelago of 6,852 islands (over 100 m 2 ), of which the four largest are Hokkaido, Honshu; Shikoku and Kyushu; alone representing 95% of the land area of ​​the country.
12 DAY PROGRAM

Flight from France or Belgium to Osaka Airport, Japan.

Arrive in Osaka. Take the Shinkansen train to JR Okayama Station, then board a conventional train to the city of Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku. The journey should take around 2 hours from Osaka. Welcome and transfer to the hotel in Takamatsu. End of the day free.

The city of Takamatsu is home to the largest and one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in the country. This 16-hectare “large-scale garden” was reserved exclusively for the local nobility. 

But the political climate has changed and the Ritsurin Garden  was declared a prefectural park in 1875, exactly 250 years after its creation. Admiring this garden view, our eyes are tricked into seeing the view stretch far beyond the outer garden wall. 

This scenic enhancement continues in the park, with man-made hills and six lakes adding distance and topographical diversity, miniaturizing nature to a very Japanese scale. Taking a boat ride on the glass-shaped ponds is highly recommended, as is a visit to the teahouse. Sipping tea while gazing at the tranquil garden and carp-filled ponds offers a quintessentially Japanese experience. considered one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. 

It is often said that Ritsurin Koen deserves to be included in the list of “the three most beautiful gardens in Japan”.Takamatsu Castle , also known as Tamamo Castle, which was built in 1590 beside the Seto Inland Sea. It is one of the few Japanese castles to be built by the sea, with a moat fed directly with seawater. You will end your day at the shopping arcade which stretches from Takamatsu Castle to Ritsurin Koen. With its many boutiques, restaurants and two department stores, this 2.7 km indoor shopping mall is considered the longest in Japan. 

Lion Dori, a street parallel to the main shopping street is home to restaurants, especially those serving Sanuki Udon. Free lunch and dinner. Overnight in Takamatsu

 Kotohira-gu Sanctuary Classical architecture is oriented towards Buddhism, but also  Shinto , and is fully expressed through temples and sanctuaries. 

Several sites are thus listed as world heritage. Road to Kagawa, north of the island. The picturesque town of Kotohira in Kagawa Prefecture on the island of Shikoku is home to the Kotohira-gu shrine of Mount Zouzu. Affectionately known as “Kompira-san”, Kotohira-gu Shrine is the head of a collection of shrines spread across Japan dedicated to a god of the sea.

People come to these shrines to pay homage hoping to bring good fortune to sailors. Kotohira-gu receives great reverence and attracts thousands of pilgrims who come to climb the 785 steps leading to the shrine. It may seem like a lot of steps, but at this point you’re actually only halfway up the mountain. For those in need of additional blessings, or just keen on exercise, there are another 583 steps leading to the inner sanctum at the top. 

If that sounds a little daunting, there are also palanquins available to hire if you really want to reach the top, but for some reason you can’t tackle the climb. Whichever way you get there, the view from the top of the mountain gives you a view of the hills and the distant beauty of the Seto Inland Sea beyond. 

It’s impressive enough to help you forget the effort it took to climb that high. Of course, you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. 

The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. Overnight hotel Kagawa. Whichever way you get there, the view from the top of the mountain gives you a view of the hills and the distant beauty of the Seto Inland Sea beyond. 

It’s impressive enough to help you forget the effort it took to climb that high. Of course, you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. 

The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. Overnight hotel Kagawa. Whichever way you get there, the view from the top of the mountain gives you a view of the hills and the distant beauty of the Seto Inland Sea beyond. It’s impressive enough to help you forget the effort it took to climb that high. 

Of course, you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. Overnight hotel Kagawa. 

the view from the top of the mountain gives you a view of the hills and the distant beauty of the Seto Inland Sea beyond. It’s impressive enough to help you forget the effort it took to climb that high. Of course, you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. 

The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. Overnight hotel Kagawa. the view from the top of the mountain gives you a view of the hills and the distant beauty of the Seto Inland Sea beyond. It’s impressive enough to help you forget the effort it took to climb that high. 

Of course, you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. 

Overnight hotel Kagawa. you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. 

Overnight hotel Kagawa. you’ll probably find the descent much easier and you should have enough breath to take in the beauty and significance of the various shrines you pass along the way. The historical sites continue to Kotohira itself, making it a pleasant and less strenuous chance to enjoy the best that this quaint town has to offer. Overnight hotel Kagawa.

Road to Matsuyama, northwest of Shikoku and visit the city of Uchiko, which is growing in popularity as a place for historic walking tours. 

The slower pace of this beautiful time capsule tucked away in Ehime Prefecture gives visitors the chance to imagine themselves in Meiji Japan, or even the pre-modern Edo era. At that time, Uchiko was a center of wax and candle production, its wealth reflected in the ornate buildings of the time. 

Paying homage to this history, the city now has more than 90 merchant houses restored to their original 18th and 19th century state. The best way to take it all in is to walk the streets with a guide. 

Asking them to point out distinctive patterns and architectural features from the city’s glory days provides context and guidance, allowing you to see much deeper into the history of this city than if you approached its specially preserved streets unaccompanied. 

But Uchiko is more than a nostalgic cityscape – several museums and the famous Uchiko-za theater, with its fascinating behind-the-scenes tour, are highlights that will have you lingering, wanting to know more. 

As a final treat, be sure to visit Omori Warousoku, the last place in town that still produces handmade candles – and while you’re there, pick up a piece of history as a souvenir. Route the visit of along with its fascinating behind-the-scenes tour, are highlights that will have you lingering, wanting to know more. 

As a final treat, be sure to visit Omori Warousoku, the last place in town that still produces handmade candles – and while you’re there, pick up a piece of history as a souvenir. 

Route the visit of along with its fascinating behind-the-scenes tour, are highlights that will have you lingering, wanting to know more. As a final treat, be sure to visit Omori Warousoku, the last place in town that still produces handmade candles – and while you’re there, pick up a piece of history as a souvenir. Route the visit ofMatsuyama Castle

This castle is built on the flattened summit of Mount Katsuyama, positioned in the very center of the homonymous city which it has protected for centuries. Built between 1602 and 1628, it is one of twelve castles to retain its original Edo-era keep intact thanks to Japan’s turbulent emergence into a modern nation. 

Today, the twenty-one buildings of Matsuyama Castle are listed as Important Cultural Properties by the national government, and it is one of the most valuable castles in Japan. The castle’s steep position on top of a hill allows for superb views of the surrounding countryside and far out into the Seto Inland Sea, which alone will be well worth the 20 minute walk to the top. 

If the walk is not ideal for you, the castle’s cable car and chairlift can prove an attractive alternative to the ascent. Over the centuries, parts of the castle have been destroyed by fire or bombardment, but thanks to historic renovations and meticulous maintenance, Matsuyama Castle offers a rare history lesson in feudal architecture and warfare. that will fascinate all ages. 

As a bonus, you can also rent armor and wield a sword to elevate your castle experience to a completely different level of authenticity. Night hotel Matsuyama. Free lunch and dinner. Matsuyama Castle offers a rare history lesson in feudal architecture and warfare that will fascinate all ages. As a bonus, you can also rent armor and wield a sword to elevate your castle experience to a completely different level of authenticity. 

Night hotel Matsuyama. Free lunch and dinner. Matsuyama Castle offers a rare history lesson in feudal architecture and warfare that will fascinate all ages. As a bonus, you can also rent armor and wield a sword to elevate your castle experience to a completely different level of authenticity. Night hotel Matsuyama. Free lunch and dinner.

Train from JR Matsuyama station to Okayama. Then the Shinkansen train to Kyoto. Overnight in Kyoto.

You can explore the city freely. Our suggestion begins with  Fushimi Inari Shrine . The red porticos in a row to infinity offer you a very special atmosphere. Visit the Sanjusangendo  temple  and its thousands of statues representing Buddha in meditation. Free lunch and dinner. Overnight at hotel in Kyoto.

Discover the  “city of a thousand temples”  by visiting the most beautiful and best known of them. You travel through this important city by bike or on foot to visit all the interesting places sometimes a little far from each other. 

Take a day to discover the east of the city, which is home to a large number of temples and shrines, such as the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) to the north. Then take the  Path of Philosophy , pleasant with its canal and its cherry trees, and take the time to enjoy the  Eikan-do temple and its surprising wooden footbridges which connect the buildings, or  Nanzen-ji   , and notice the astonishing Roman aqueduct enthroned in the garden and the imposing gate!

You will not miss the  Heian sanctuary , which was built for the millennium of the city, in an architecture which is reminiscent of the first palace imperial, and the  Yasaka shrine , located in the alleys of the  Gion district . You will then continue your walk through the small cobbled and pedestrian streets,  Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka , with their typical houses and shops. 

This is how you will get to  Kiyomizu-dera Temple, distinguished by its source of pure water which is considered sacred. From its wooden terrace, you will have a breathtaking view of the city and its surroundings. Lunch and dinner are free. Overnight hotel in Kyoto.

From Kyoto, road to discover the  city of Nara . It was also the capital of Japan before Kyoto. Let yourself be surprised by the presence of many deer alongside the ancient temples. 

Admire Todai-ji Temple, one of the largest wooden temples still standing. Inside sits a colossal Buddha. The stone lanterns of  Kasugane Shrine will surely attract and seduce you. Road to Uji . Tea plantations have created a variety of extraordinary quality. 

The Byodo-in pavilion is also a splendor that should not be missed. Return to Kyoto in the evening to spend the night there. Free lunch and dinner.

In Kyoto, the discovery continues! You go to the northwest of the city to admire the three most famous places of this ancient capital: the very beautiful and vast complex of temples, the Ninna-ji, which housed the imperial family .

It consists of many buildings and gardens in different styles, varying with the eras of construction, the  Ryōan-ji . You will stroll in the dry garden containing 15 stones visible at a glance, and which invites you to meditation and rest. Finally, you arrive in front of the  Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) presenting a remarkable architecture, enhanced by the contrast it offers with the garden and its reflection in the lake. 

Then continue with the  Nijo-jo castle  which is a former palace housing the Shoguns and which has a rich and superb decoration. It is located in the heart of the city. The Tenryu-ji temple located in  Arashiyama  and the bamboo grove are well worth a detour. Do not come to Kyoto without strolling through the typical alleys of the  Gion district  where you may come across geishas and you will discover typical tea houses. 

In the evening, enjoy the vibrant and bustling city center at the major thoroughfares  Shijo and Kawaramachi. You can also enjoy the covered galleries of Teramachi and the small streets of  Pontocho , full of restaurants and bars. 

Lunch and dinner are free. Night hotel Kyoto.

Road to Hikone Castle , outside the center of Kyoto. Above Lake Biwa, it offers you a breathtaking panorama. 

The village of Kurama  nestled in the hollow of the mountains is home to a magnificent temple from which a wonderful hiking trail

Take it and let yourself be surprised by temples and sanctuaries at the bend of a path, in the middle of the forest. 

Walk to Kibune, an impressive village built on the river. Return to Kyoto and hotel overnight. Free lunch and dinner.  

The Airport Limousine-bus shuttle takes you to Kyoto airport. Regular flight, in economy class for Belgium or France.