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Summer Festival Gion-matsuri “July 12-22, 2024”

A unique tour for those interested in traditional Japanese culture, festivals, Japanese gardens, and castles. The highlight of the tour is one of Japan's oldest festivals - Gion-matsuri and two evening festivities that precede it. A great chance to see the real Japan, learn about its cultural heritage, immerse yourself in traditional Japanese life, stroll through the historical geisha quarters, taste the local cuisine, participate in festival mysteries and enjoy the charm of Japanese summer!

CUSTOMIZED ITINERARY FOR YOUR DATES

Dates

  • 12 — 22 July 2024 года

Duration

  • 11 days / 10 nights

Price

  • On request

Itinerary

  • Tokyo → Osaka → Nara → Kyoto → Amanohashidate → Izushi → Himeji → Koya → Tokyo
Reservation

Daily itinerary

1

July 12, 2024 (FRI)

Arrival at Narita International Airport
Meet your tour guide at the Arrivals
Transfer by private bus to Tokyo
Check-in at the hotel, rest
Hotel accommodation: Tokyo [Read more...]

2

July 13, 2024 (SAT)

Breakfast at the hotel
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Tokyo Sightseeing by private bus: Asakusa district, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise street, TeamLab Planets, Shibuya Sky
Lunch during the tour
Return to hotel or walk around Tokyo on your own
Hotel accommodation: Tokyo [Read more...]

Shibuya Area

Shibuya scramble crossing is one of the busiest crossings in Tokyo. The green light comes on from four directions at once, and several hundred people (during peak hours, the number can reach 1,000) rush simultaneously in all directions, managing to dodge each other with ease built up over the years.

For its picturesque yet orderly crowds, the crossing is beloved by filmmakers, and people worldwide are familiar with it from TV series, movies, and commercial videos. The best spot to watch the hypnotic flow of people is the Starbucks coffee shop on the 2nd floor of the building on the north side of the crossing.

There is also a statue of the faithful dog Hachiko near Shibuya Station, where he used to meet his master, a professor at Tokyo University, every day. After the professor’s sudden death, the dog came to the station every day for nine years, waiting for his master to return. Hachiko became the symbol of loyalty.

3

July 14, 2024 (SUN)

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Self-transfer to Shin-Osaka by Shinkansen bullet train (2nd class)
Meet your guide at the platform of Shin-Osaka Station
Osaka Sightseeing by private bus: Umeda Sky Building, Dotonbori District, Midosuji Alley
Lunch during the tour
Transfer to Kyoto by private bus
Check-in at the hotel, rest
Hotel accommodation: Kyoto [Read more...]

Umeda Sky Building

Designed by architect Hara Hiroshi in 1993, this 173-meter building is the 19th tallest in Osaka and one of the most notable parts of the cityscape. Two forty-story towers are connected at the top by Floating Garden Observatory, whose glass verandas offer beautiful city views. The basement floor, with stores and restaurants, resembles a Japanese city street of the early 20th century. Various companies’ offices occupy the building. There is a lovely park with fountains at the base of the towers.

Dotonbori District

Dotonbori is a neighborhood that stretches along the Dotonbori canal between Dotonboribashi Bridge and Nipponbashi Bridge. The history of Dotonbori goes back four hundred years. In the early 17th century, this area was designated for entertainment venues by a government decree. By the end of the Edo era, there were six Kabuki theaters, five Bunraku theaters, and other smaller establishments. A restaurant area eventually grew around the theaters, and the district became one of the most popular places for evening entertainment for citizens and visitors. By now, there’s little left of the traditional theaters, but the area is still famous for its active nightlife, entertainment, and delicious food.

4

July 15, 2024 (MON)

Breakfast at the hotel
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Nara Sightseeing by public transport: Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Shrine, deer park
Lunch during the tour
Return to Kyoto
Evening pre-festival "Yoiyoi-yama"
Hotel accommodation: Kyoto [Read more...]

Todai-ji Temple

Todai-ji is a Buddhist temple complex whose main building is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. Built in the mid-8th century by order of the emperor with donations from all over the country, the temple features the biggest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan. Almost all the bronze produced in Japan at the time was used to cast the colossal sculpture. The complex also has several unique wooden structures, including the giant Nandaimon Gate with the famous Nio guard figures, the Bell Tower, and Nigatsu-do Hall. The entire complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kasuga Shrine

Kasuga Taisha is one of Japan’s most ancient Shinto shrines, founded in the mid-8th century to protect the capital, Nara. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is famous for its kasuga-zukuri architectural style, the thousands of stone and bronze lanterns decorating its grounds, and the pristine ancient forest where sacred deer, considered messengers of the deities, roam free.

5

July 16, 2024 (TUE)

Breakfast at the hotel
Meet your tour guide at the hotel lobby
Zen-meditation at the temple
Kyoto Sightseeing by public transport: Golden pavilion Kinkakuji, Zen Rock garden, Yasaka Shrine, geisha quarters, history of Gion-matsuri festival
Lunch during the tour
Evening pre-festival "Yoi-yama" festivities
Hotel accommodation: Kyoto [Read more...]

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Kinkaku-ji Temple, often called the Golden Temple, is one of Japan’s most famous temples and Kyoto’s main attractions. Built at the end of the 14th century, this complex, with its three-story pavilion covered with gold leaf, captivated the minds of its contemporaries. The famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima captured its fate and glory in the novel “The Golden Temple.” Today Kinkaku-ji Temple is a must-see on any traveler’s itinerary in Japan. In addition to the famous pavilion, the UNESCO World Heritage Site also features a traditional walking garden, small waterfalls, and a tea house, representing the culture of the samurai era.

Zen Rock Garden

Zen Rock Garden, or dry garden, with its hidden meanings and allegories, is a beautiful place for contemplation and meditation. Each garden element has meaning, and no randomly placed pieces exist. A dry garden is an orderly system subject to well-established aesthetic rules. Sea waves spread before the viewers, the mountain peaks rise above the clouds, and animals freeze in different poses. This microcosm of Zen Buddhist aesthetics is created using stones of various shapes. The distinctive symbolism of rock gardens is a unique manifestation of the multifaceted Japanese culture.

Yasaka-jinja Shrine

According to the legend, Yasaka-jinja Shrine was founded in 656 (almost a century and a half before Kyoto) and has long been loved by the citizens. When epidemics ravaged the country in 869, the emperor ordered a grand procession to the temple, and the deity Gozu Tenno stopped the disease. It was the beginning of Japan’s oldest and most colorful festival, Gion Matsuri. In Yasaka-jinja, you can pray to deities of family, beauty, and wealth and stroll through Maruyama Park to enjoy live music and see the rickshaws running around.

Gion (Geisha District)

Geisha district Gion is Kyoto’s largest and most vivid geisha district. Its history dated to the Middle Ages when restaurants and tea houses for pilgrims began to open around Yasaka Shrine. The picturesque streets of the district are filled with traditional houses with wooden facades, running rickshaws, geisha, and their apprentices (maiko), who still live in Gion and entertain guests every night with their dancing, talking, and table games.

The Yoiyama period of Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival)

The Yoiyoiyama and Yoiyama evening festivities preceding the yamaboko parade are an opportunity for the residents of the areas responsible for building the floats to rest after their work. The other citizens can relax, enjoy the cool of the night, and see up close the decorations of the magnificent floats that have guarded the Old Capital for centuries.

On the main streets that are closed to traffic, the festival floats are accessible this evening, and there are rows of stands selling food and souvenirs. Here you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of an authentic Japanese festival with its traditional music and entertainment.

6

July 17, 2024 (WED)

Breakfast at the hotel
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Morning parade of Gion-matsuri (by public transport and on foot)
Lunch during the tour
Free time in the afternoon
Evening Mysteries - continuation of Gion Festival
Return to hotel in Kyoto
Hotel accommodation: Kyoto [Read more...]

Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival)

Gion Festival is one of Japan’s three major holidays and Kyoto’s main festival. The accompanying celebrations stretch throughout July, but the festival peaks on July 17 when a parade of giant floats decorated with ancient treasures goes through the city.

7

July 18, 2024 (THU)

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Move to the Sea of Japan by train
Walking tour at Amanohashidate: Heaven's Bridge viewpoint - one of Japan's three most beautiful landscapes, Chionji Temple, walk along the sand spit
Lunch during the tour
Check-in at the hotel
Hotel accommodation: Amanohashidate [Read more...]

8

July 19, 2024 (FRI)

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Transfer to "Little Kyoto" - Izushi town by private transport
Walk around Izushi town
Lunch during the tour (local Izushi-soba buckwheat noodles served on small plates)
Transfer to the castle Takeda-jo
Walking through the Japanese Machu Picchu - Takeda castle
Transfer to Himeji by private transport
Check-in at the hotel, rest
Hotel accommodation: Himeji [Read more...]

Izushi Castle Town

The historical area of Izushi, the so-called “little Kyoto,” is a beautiful provincial center of medieval Japan, which the local feudal lords carefully arranged in the manner of the imperial capital. There are a few sightseeing attractions here: the walls and towers of the castle, the oldest street clock in Japan (1881), the colorful Inari Shrine, and the old Kabuki theater. In Japan, the town is famous for its buckwheat noodles izushi-soba served on small plates. The tradition of such serving dates to the Edo period when Izushi street vendors began to serve noodles in convenient portions on small plates. Local potters immediately mastered the production of such dishes, which was the beginning of Izushi pottery.

9

July 20, 2024 (SAT)

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Meet your guide at the hotel lobby
Himeji-jo - White Heron Castle Walking Tour
Lunch during the tour
Shinkansen transfer to Shin-Osaka (2nd class)
Transfer to the sacred mountain Koya-san by private bus
Check-in at "shukubo" monastery hotel
Vegetarian dinner at the monastery hotel
Hotel accommodation: Koya [Read more...]

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is one of Japan’s 12 historically preserved castles and is considered the most beautiful. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was built in the early 17th century and was second in size and beauty only to the lost Edo Castle, the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns. Unscathed by wars, fires, and natural disasters for 400 years, the castle is often featured in movies about the samurai era. Fans of classic Japanese cinema remember it for Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran.” The impregnable castle holds secrets of Japanese military strategy and keeps stories of gods and ghosts. The name “White Heron Castle” reflects the beauty of its walls.

10

July 21, 2024 (SUN)

Vegetarian breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Meet your tour guide at the hotel lobby
Walking tour around Koya-san: Kongobuji Temple, Okunoin ancient Buddhist cemetery
Lunch during the tour
Transfer by private bus to Shin-Osaka Station
Self-transfer to Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train (2nd class)
Check-in at the hotel, rest
Hotel accommodation: Tokyo [Read more...]

Koya-san (Mount Koya)

The Koya Mountain Monastery Complex is one of the most important centers of Buddhism in Japan, founded 1,200 years ago by the monk Kukai. In addition to its religious and historical value, it is also an important cultural monument. The majestic architecture of the complex, paintings by famous artists, unique artifacts accumulated over hundreds of years, the largest rock garden, and one of the oldest cemeteries in Japan – all of it provide a rare opportunity to have an insight into the Japanese philosophy of life and death.

11

July 22, 2024 (MON)

Breakfast at the hotel, check-out
Self-transfer to the airport
Departure [Read more...]