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Experience and learn about the spiritual side of Japan.

The Pilgrimage Route of Japan tour will allow you to access and enjoy some of the culturally attractive areas and scenic sites of Japan. The tour will take you on a journey inside the religious aspects of Japan, and give you an alternative and deeper understanding of Japanese culture and history. This itinerary will provide insight into Japan’s cultural roots in Shintoism and Buddhism, which are still practiced in some of the temples that we will be visiting. Many of the spiritual sites are located in places surrounded by nature. This means that you will be rewarded with scenic views that will invoke a sense of calmness. Be immersed in the environment as you will have the opportunity to experience the lifestyles and cultures firsthand.

Before beginning the pilgrimage routes, we will first journey through historical and landmark figures like Himeji Castle, Kurashiki, and Hiroshima. Then, we will begin with the scenic routes of this tour by visiting Miyajima Island, one of Japan's three most scenic places (Nihon Sankei). Then drive through the Shimanami Kaido, a 60-kilometer-long toll road that connects Japan's main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku, passing over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. Most of Shikoku is still largely untouched by mass tourism. This is a place of immense natural beauty, steeped in colorful legend, and history, and dotted with 88 pilgrimage temples.

Take a ferry to Wakayama and visit Koyasan. You will have the opportunity to experience staying at a temple and eat a Shojin Ryori (vegetarian) dinner. In the morning, you will join the monks in their meditation practice in order to further understand their spiritual customs. In Kumano, we will be walking and breathing in the sites of the trail along with temples and shrines among other significant structures of the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From those holy grounds, you can see the tallest waterfall in Japan, Nachi Fall. It is said that the deity of the waterfall is enshrined at the main shrine. Ise Grand Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Japan and is rebuilt every twenty years to symbolize death and rebirth. It is surrounded by 300-year-old cedar trees and untouched foliage. After visiting the mountains and temples, we will visit one of the lesser-known treasures of Japan where pearl harvesting was first officially crafted into art and trade.

Our Pilgrimage Route of Japan is a tour that will bring you cultural awareness of the historical past and belief systems so rooted in Japan.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Osaka Kansai Airport
Welcome to Osaka! You will be met at the arrival gate by an AJT representative holding an "All Japan Tours" sign.

Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport or similar class
Hotel Elsereine Osaka or similar class (NOTE 1 & 2)

NOTE 1: If you wish to stay in the center of Osaka for the first night instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport, we can arrange for you to stay at Hotel Elsereine Osaka (or a similar class). In this case, airport transfer is not included, but we will provide you with directions to get to your hotel in advance.

NOTE 2: If you will be flying into Itami Airport (ITM) instead of Kansai International Airport (KIX), we can arrange for you to stay in the center of Osaka (Hotel Elsereine Osaka or similar class) instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport. In this case, airport transfer and a meet-and-greet are not included, but we will provide full instructions to get to the hotel in advance.

NOTE 3: The meet and greet are ONLY available for flights arriving in Terminal 1 after 11:00 AM. For guests arriving in Terminal 2, airport pickup is not included, but we will provide you with directions to get to your hotel in advance.

NOTE 4: If you wish to stay extra nights before the tour starts, please contact us to book hotel accommodations.

Day 2
Himeji (Himeji Castle), Kurashiki (Canal Area / Ohara Museum of Art)
Today we take a 2-hour ride on a private coach to Himeji to visit the Himeji Castle. It is known as "White Egret Castle" and "White Heron Castle" because of its brilliant white exterior, which resembles a bird taking flight. Himeji Castle is the largest, most visited castle in Japan, and is one of the few remaining original castles in the country. This splendid example of traditional architecture was declared one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. Next is a visit to Kurashiki. Back in the day, this scenic town thrived as a port for rice shipments. Several old rice granaries and examples of historic architecture still remain, in addition to the stone-lined canal. We will also visit the Ohara Museum of Art, which is considered the first museum of Western art in Japan. It is a private museum consisting of three adjacent buildings next to the canal. In the afternoon, we will continue our journey to Hiroshima for two nights.

Breakfast / Dinner
Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima or similar class

Day 3
Hiroshima (Peace Memorial Park - A-Bomb Museum / Miyajima Island - Itsukushima Shrine)
Today our travels will continue with a visit to the Peace Memorial Park, the iconic landmark of Hiroshima's memorial for those who passed away in the infamous Hiroshima bombing on August 6th, 1945. There, we will also enter the A-Bomb Museum where documents, artifacts, and videos are displayed throughout the museum. After lunch, we will take a short ferry ride to the island of Miyajima; the cherry blossoms on the island are a spectacular sight. At high tide, we can see the famed vermilion torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine looks like it's floating in the middle of the sea. The shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while Miyajima has been selected as one of Japan's three most scenic places (Nihon Sankei).

Breakfast / Lunch
Grand Prince Hotel Hiroshima or similar class

Day 4
Shimanami Kaido (Scenic Driving / Kirosan Observatory), Takamatsu (Shikoku Mura Village / Ritsurin Park)
In the morning, we will drive through the Shimanami Kaido to Shikoku Island. The Shimanami Kaido is a 60-kilometer-long toll road that connects Japan's main island of Honshu to the island of Shikoku, passing over six small islands in the Seto Inland Sea. It is also known as the Nishiseto Expressway. We will stop by Kirosan Observatory where you can take in views of the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridges standing among hundreds of islands that are beautifully scattered all over the Seto Inland Sea. The modern observation deck was cleverly designed and built halfway into the ground of the hillside so as not to spoil the natural surroundings. We then proceed to Takamatsu with a stop at the Shikoku Mura Village. Shikoku Mura (Shikoku Village) is an open-air museum situated at the base of Yashima. This pleasant hillside park preserves and exhibits traditional buildings and structures that have been relocated here from all over Shikoku Island. Then visit Ritsurin Park, a masterpiece of Japanese landscape 100 years in the making. This sprawling park features beautiful ponds and pavilions with Mt. Shiun as the perfect backdrop.

Breakfast / Lunch
JR Hotel Clement Takamatsu or similar class

Day 5
Naruto (Shikoku Pilgrimage Trail - Ryozenji to Gokurakuji <1.2 KM / 0.75 mi> / Ferry from Tokushima to Wakayama, Koyasan (Temple Lodging - Shukubo / After vegetarian dinner, visit Okunoin's graveyard at night)
We continue our journey today at Naruto. Naruto is the starting point of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which leads around the island to visit 88 temples across Shikoku associated with the famous Buddhist monk, Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Naruto's Ryozenji Temple is the first temple of the pilgrimage. We will be traveling by foot for approximately 1.2 km (0.75 miles) from Ryozenji Temple to Gokurakuji Temple. From Shikoku Island, we will board a ferry to Honshu Island where we will stay in a monastery in Koyasan complete with authentic Buddhist vegetarian meals. We will experience life very much as a monk would in Japan. Koyasan is the center of Shingon Buddhism, a Buddhist sect that was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, one of the most significant personalities in Japan’s religious history. The temple complex of over 100 temples is located on a mountain top, surrounded by cedar trees and mountain peaks. After a vegetarian dinner at the temple, you will have the option to follow your guide at night to Okunoin's gravesite. It is the largest cemetery in Japan where the founder of Shingon Buddhism is said to be in eternal meditation.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner
Koyasan Sekishoin or similar class

Day 6
Koyasan (Early Meditation with Monks / Okunoin Temple / Kongobuji Temple / Danjo Garan)
Today's activities begin with reflection as we meditate with the monks of Koyasan. Then we will go to Okunoin Temple which is surrounded by many grave markings, the majority of which are old and worn out. The gravesite is also the resting place of the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, Kobo Daishi. Next is Kongobuji Temple which was originally built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Nobunaga's generals during the warring era. The temple also has the Ohiroma room, a special room designated for ceremonies and rituals with tatami mat floors and elegantly designed sliding doors. The pilgrimage finishes at Danjo Garan, a temple complex also belonging to Kobo Daishi's original foundations. Painted in brilliant vermillion color, one of the pagoda structures called the Konpon Daito stands out amongst the others.

Breakfast / Dinner
Katsuura Onsen Hotel Nakanoshima or similar class

Day 7
Kumano (Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail - Daimonzaka to Nachi Fall <2.2 KM/ 1.3 mi>, on the way, visit Seigantoji Temple & Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine)
This morning we head out to the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where pilgrims have walked the forest trails for over 1000 years. The Kumano region is the mountainous southern portion of the Kii Hanto, the largest Peninsula of Japan, where sacred trails are still used for the pilgrimage to the three grand shrines of Kumano. We will walk along a short section of the Daemon-Zaka Trail and visit the 133-meter-high Nachi Waterfall, whose vertical torrent pouring over the cliff edge into the virgin forest, is said to be the highest in Japan. We slowly climb the pilgrim's steps to visit Seigantoji Temple, originally built in 1590, a very picturesque 3-storied vermilion colored pagoda that creates a perfect picture of Japanese tranquillity.

Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner
Toba Grand Hotel or similar class

Day 8
Ise Shima (Ise Grand Shrine / Okage Yokocho District / Mikimoto Pearl Island)
The pilgrimage continues to Ise Shima where the Ise Grand Shrine is located. The Ise Grand Shrine has a two-thousand-year history, is Japan's most important Shinto shrine, and serves as the center of all Shinto shrines nationwide. Situated near the banks of the Isuzu River, the shrine is surrounded by Japanese cedar trees, some 800 years old. The inner shrine is considered to be the abode of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, the deity the emperor was considered to be descended from. At Okage Yokocho Street we can experience the townscape of a bygone era, where buildings leading to the inner shrine reproduce the architecture and atmosphere that surrounded Ise pilgrims during the Edo Period (1600-1868). Our next stop is at Mikimoto Pearl Island wherein in 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto first perfected the technique of producing cultured pearls and started a new worldwide industry. Here we see 'Ama', women pearl divers, demonstrate their skills, watch how cultured pearls are produced and see a truly amazing collection of million-dollar treasures made with pearls.

Breakfast / Lunch
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport or similar class
Hotel Elsereine Osaka or similar class (NOTE 5 & 6)

NOTE 5: If you wish to stay in the center of Osaka for the last night instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport, we can arrange for you to stay at Hotel Elsereine Osaka (or a similar class). In this case, airport transfer is not included, but we will provide full instructions for you to get to the airport in advance.

NOTE 6: If you will be flying out from Itami Airport (ITM) instead of Kansai International Airport (KIX), we can arrange for you to stay at Hotel Elsereine Osaka (or a similar class) instead of Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport. In this case, airport transfer is not included but we will provide full instructions for you to get to the airport in advance.

Day 9
Tour Ends
After breakfast, our tour officially ends. Checkout time is 11 am and Osaka Kansai Airport can be reached in a three-minute walk.

Breakfast

NOTE 7: If you would like to stay longer in Japan, please contact us to book hotel accommodations.

Please Note:
All prices are per person, based on twin (double on request) or triple occupancy.
International flights are not included on our tours - this allows you the flexibility to choose your own departure and get the best value for your money!
We can arrange international flights for US customers if needed, please ask for details.

Deposit

We require US$200 deposit per person to hold the space at time of booking and the final payment is due 2 months prior to departure.

What's included

  • 1-night temple lodging, 5 nights Western-style and 2 nights Japanese style accommodation
  • Meet and greet upon arrival at Osaka Kansai Airport
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Private coach transfers between destinations in Japan
  • Comprehensive escorted with AJT professional English speaking tour guide
  • Gratuities

 Meals

  • Breakfast everyday
  • 5 lunches and 4 dinners

 Admission fees and activities

  • All entry fees to sites, activities listed in the itinerary

Additional Information

 Transport

Travel by private coach between destinations, hassle free baggage handling.

 Arrival Departure Airports

This tour starts and finishes in Osaka for arrivals and departures at Osaka Kansai Airport (KIX).

 Meal Requests

Vegetarian or special meals can be arranged.

 Meet and Greet

Please note that the meet and greet and airport transfer to the first hotel is ONLY available on the first day of the tour after 11 AM. If you plan to stay extra nights before the start of the tour, we will provide full instructions in advance for you to transfer to your hotel on your own.

Itinerary In Brief

  • Day1   Arrive in Osaka
  • Day2   Himeji - Kurashiki
  • Day3   Hiroshima
  • Day4   Shimanami Kaido - Takamatsu
  • Day5   Naruto
  • Day6   Koyasan
  • Day7   Kumano
  • Day8   Ise Shima
  • Day9   Tour ends

Click here for detailed itinerary 

Tour schedule and prices subject to change without notice

What's NOT included

  • International Airfares
  • Meals that are not included in the itinerary
  • Travel Insurance
  • Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks
  • Personal expenses such as telephone and laundry bills

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