Our Cherry Blossom Tour itinerary began in Tokyo — one of the world’s leading capitals. Cutting- edge neon-lit sky-scrapers and designer fashion malls sit side-by-side with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, sprawling parklands and lovingly tendered gardens that provide a glimpse into a more contemplative time in the nation’s history. A fascinating contrast of the old and the new, Tokyo still retains many of its unique cultural traditions and customs from centuries ago. The city’s markets continue to import produce from all over the country allowing locals and visitors to select from a huge variety of dining choices ranging from traditional Japanese food to authentic international cuisine. Its numerous and diverse shopping areas include such well-known names as Akihabara, Ginza and Odaiba with entertainment ranging from traditional attractions such as sumo, kabuki and bunraku to the latest musicals and shows.
From Tokyo the group traveled to Hakone, best known for its stunning views of Mount Fuji which reflects almost perfectly in Lake Ashinoko. Set in a crater and boasting a magnificent volcanic landscape, our visit to Hakone includes a lake cruise and plenty time to enjoy the onsen (traditional hot springs) located throughout the region.
From the foot of Mount Fuji we then journeyed to Takayama, a small town that has the Japanese Alps as a backdrop. With much of the old town preserved and unchanged for over 400 years ago, this unique city offered many splendid attractions including the gassho-zukuri thatched-roof houses and countless shops selling antiques and interesting old tools and equipment.
Kanazawa, the next city on our itinerary was the seat of the Maeda Clan and accordingly grew to become one of the great cultural centres of ancient Japan, rivalling Kyoto and Tokyo. The second largest city to escape destruction during World War Two, Kanazawa is home to the Kenroku-en Gardens — ranked in the top three in Japan. Our visit there din’t fail in taking people’s breath away. Some participants also enjoyed the ‘gold-leaf’ ice cream that the region is known for.
Our itinerary then continued to Kyoto, the cultural and historical heart of Japan. As capital of Japan for over 1000 years, Kyoto wrote the nation’s history and gave birth to Japan’s distinctively refined culture. These days, the city has more than two thousand Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, many World Heritage sites, rich cultural and performing arts and a deep tradition in crafts. Our group enjoyed visits to both sake and whiskey making facilities, temples of various faiths and a wonderful selection of Japanese foods.
No itinerary to Japan is complete without a visit to Hiroshima — the last city on our itinerary. The two World Heritage sites in Hiroshima encapsulate the two aspects of the city’s philosophy. The A-bomb Dome is a lasting memorial to world peace, while the beautiful island shrine of Itsukushima testifies to the glories of Japanese art and culture.
Another amazing conference to Japan.