The Length of the Bullet Train Line in Japan
21 days from £8,950 per person
- Nyuto Onsen
- Hiroshima and Miyajima
With two recent extensions of the line to Aomori in the north and Kagoshima in the south, the bullet train now runs the full length of Japan's two most populous islands Honshu and Kyushu. What better way to explore the stunning scenery and cultural heritage of Japan than by Shinkansen, with some detours off the beaten track en-route?
For cherry blossom in late spring, a cooler start in summer or leaf-peeping in early autumn, start at the northern port of Aomori. With the ingenious Japan Rail Pass, one can visit 'haunted' Hakkoda mountain and its primeval vistas, or grand Hirosaki castle at no extra cost. It's a set of smooth, fast bullet trains ride south from here, but at each stop there are opportunities to go further than most westerners by using local transport.
Nyuto Onsen, tucked away in the mountains of northern Honshu, is one of Japan's oldest hot spring bathing spots. A night here takes one back in time to the days when Japan used thatched roofs and oil lamps. Further south, have the creature comforts of an upgrade city hotel in Sendai and use it as a base to explore the striking temples of Hiraizumi or those at Yamadera clinging to the mountain face. It's also easy to reach Matsushima Bay, a charming coastal spot in season and one of Japan's official top three views.
One of Japan's top boutique spa properties, Niki Club, is down the line, then spend time exploring the temple sights and natural beauty of Nikko national park. Mid-trip, take a draught of the Tokyo megalopolis before a breather in Mt Fuji national park. The traditional inns here are the last word in Japanese-style R&R, and the 'kaiseki' multi-course meals are delectable.
The cultural mecca of Kyoto is Japan's second city, but actually far smaller than Tokyo so one can have a decent stab at seeing the sights in a couple of days. Reach Hiroshima mid-morning thanks to the bullet train, leaving ample time to explore the Peace Park and iconic shrine with 'floating' gate on nearby Miyajima island.
The bullet train then whizzes on to Kumamoto, home of an impressive castle and a train ride from Mount Aso, the world's largest live volcanic caldera. Save the most bizarre for last, as the 1,000-year-old cedar trees and sprawling vegetation on Yakushima island envelop explorers in a lost world. For an enduring image of urban Japan's constant battle against the encroaching natural elements, visit Sakurajima volcano near Kagoshima which belches ash daily.
Japan Airlines connects via Tokyo and lands back at Heathrow the same day. We would expect nothing less from the most efficient nation on earth, yet nothing feels hurried on this epic exploration of Japan.
21 days from £8,950 per person
- Day 1 - In Transit
Fly Overnight from London to Tokyo.
- Day 2 - Hakkoda Hotel - Aomori
Onward flight to Aomori, at the northern tip of Honshu.
- Day 3 - Hakkoda Hotel - Aomori
Excursion to Hakkoda Mountain and Tashirotai marshlands, or Hirosaki Castle, using the included Japan Rail Pass.
- Day 4 - Tsurunoyu - Nyuto Onsen
Take the bullet train to Tazawako then local transport to Nyuto Onsen mountain hot springs.
- Day 5 - Westin Sendai - Sendai
Take the bullet train south to Sendai and optional afternoon excursion to Yamadera Temple Complex, Naruko Gorge, Hiraizumi Temples or Matsushima Bay today.
- Day 6 - Westin Sendai - Sendai
Optional day trips from Sendai using the included Japan Rail Pass.
- Day 7 - Niki Club - Nasu
Continue southwards to Nasu for a one night countryside spa break.
- Day 8 - Nikko Hotel Station Classic - Nikko
Explore the temples and mausoleum of the Tokugawa Shoguns at Nikko.
- Day 9 - Nikko Hotel Station Classic - Nikko
Excursion to Chuzenji Lake plateau including Kegon, Ryuzu and Akechidaira waterfalls.
- Day 10 - Mitsui Garden Ginza Premier - Tokyo
Take the bullet train to Tokyo and a half day guided tour of Meiji Shrine, Harajuku teen fasion and Omotesando boutique stores.
- Day 11 - Mitsui Garden Ginza Premier - Tokyo
At leisure in Tokyo.
- Day 12 - Yoshimatsu - Hakone
Travel west to Mt Fuji National Park and stay in a quality traditional inn, half board', with luxury 'kaiseki' multi-course Japanese cuisine.
- Day 13 - Royal Park Hotel - Kyoto
Catch a morning bullet train two hours on to Kyoto, and have a privately guided orientation including some of the great city's treasures.
- Day 14 - Royal Park Hotel - Kyoto
At leisure in Kyoto.
- Day 15 - Sheraton - Hiroshima and Miyajima
Take a morning bullet train two hours to Hiroshima, then spend the day exploring the Peace Park and the shrine on nearby Miyajima island.
- Day 16 - Hotel Nikko Kumamoto - Kumamoto
Whizz on south onto Kyushu island and stop at Kumamoto. There is ample time to visit its famous castle and Honmaru Goten Palace.
- Day 17 - Hotel Nikko Kumamoto - Kumamoto
Excursion to Mt Aso, the world's largest live volcanic caldera with 10,000 people living within the rim.
- Day 18 - Sankara - Yakushima
Take the bullet train to Kagoshima and the ferry straight on to mysterious Yakushima island with its 1,000 year old cedar trees.
- Day 19 - Sankara - Yakushima
Explore the island or relax at your accommodation or on the beach today.
- Day 20 - Dormy Inn Kagoshima - Kagoshima
Take the ferry back to Kagoshima, relax in town or take an excursion to Sakurajima volcano.
- Day 21 - In Transit
Transfer to Kagoshima airport for a breakfast-time flight to Tokyo, and connect to the homeward flight that lands same day in London.
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