Day 1 London - In flight
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home, for your journey to London Heathrow Airport and a scheduled British Airways flight to Osaka via Tokyo.
Day 2 Tokyo - Osaka - Kyoto
On arrival in Tokyo, a scheduled Japan Airlines flight takes us to Osaka, from where we transfer by coach to Kyoto. Our hotel is the Kyoto Hotel Okura (4T); and after settling in, the rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 3 Kyoto
Kyoto is Japan’s old capital, surrounded on three sides by snow-covered mountains and full of exciting places to discover. The city’s rule ceased in 1868, however its historic value is still vast. It is said that over 1,000 Buddhist temples stand in Kyoto, from true architectural masterpieces to some more petit, secret sanctuaries. Our half-day tour takes us to Nijo Castle, a great demonstration of the power of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto. We visit the Nishijin Textile Centre, in the middle of Kyoto’s traditional weaving district which has been Japan’s main centre for the production of textiles and kimonos for over a millennium. We have time to learn of their traditions and watch a Maiko show. We also stroll the long, narrow street lined by the lively Nishiki Market, specialising in all types of food products. The rest of the day is at leisure to find your own favourite corners of this traditional city, with an abundance of colourful shrines and sublime gardens to find as you explore.
Day 4 Kyoto - Yudanaka
Our luggage will be transferred separately to Tokyo for our arrival tomorrow, therefore please pack an overnight bag for today. We transfer to Kyoto station for the bullet train to Nagoya, reaching speeds of up to 285kph. In Nagoya we transfer to an express train to take us to Nagano. We take a sightseeing coach tour of Nagano, taking in the Zenkoji Temple, one of the most important and popular temples in Japan. This 7th century sanctuary hides the first Buddhist statue brought into Japan, on the introduction of the religion to the country. Nicely ornamented buildings have been added to the original temple, holding further important statues. There will be free time to obtain lunch along Nakamise, one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets, where you can find traditional snacks and souvenirs, before we continue to Yudanaka by coach and check into the Kanbayashi Hotel Senjukaku (3T+), a modern traditionally-styled Japanese Inn, where dinner is included this evening. The area is renowned for its beautiful scenery, smothered in snow in the winter months.
Day 5 Yudanaka - Tokyo
We take a walk to the unique Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) live in large groups, unrestricted by fences. A highlight is the hot springs, where the monkeys bathe to keep themselves warm, seemingly unfazed by the presence of people. Later, we depart for Tokyo and check in to the Keio Plaza Hotel (4T). The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 6 Tokyo
Spend today learning about Japan’s bustling capital. We visit the Tokyo National Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Japanese art and national treasures including ancient pottery, beautiful kimonos and samurai swords. We take in the colourful Ameyoko Shopping Street, where a huge variety of goods are sold, and have a short walking tour of Yanaka, one of the few districts in Tokyo that still holds the rustic charm and worn, winding alleys that much of the city lost several decades ago. For an unrivalled view of modern Tokyo we ascend the Skytree, a 634m-tall communications tower and the world’s second tallest structure. From the observation decks you can admire views of up to 70km on a clear day.
Day 7 Tokyo
Today is free for you to explore Tokyo, with many sights to choose from. With innumerable shrines to find, the exquisite Senso-ji Temple is the city's most famous, however if your visit falls on 3 February, you may find yourself in the company of crowds celebrating Setsubun. The city is home to the Emperor’s Palace still used today by the Imperial family, with beautiful parks which can, in part, be explored on a tour. There are also a number of excellent theatres, including the historic Kabuzi-za, where you may see a traditional, highly skilled Kabuki performance. For a different experience that will leave you in no doubt that you’re in Tokyo, head to the intersection in front of Shibuya Station, famously known for the scramble of hundreds of pedestrians simultaneously crossing the road in all directions. Or for a moment away from city bustle, Ueno Park is the city’s largest green space, with its own selection of temples and museums dotted over the 212-acres.
Day 8 Tokyo - Hakodate
Today you embark on a scenic bullet train journey that takes you all the way up to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, travelling to Hakodate via Hayabusa. On arrival, we walk to our hotel, the Hakodate Kokusai Hotel (3T+). Our luggage will be transferred separately to Hakodate and an overnight bag will be necessary for today. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure until an included tour after dinner, to ascend Mount Hakodate by coach. The views from here are incredible at night, with a city of lights stretching out before you between two bays.
Day 9 Hakodate
We have a full-day sightseeing tour planned, starting with a visit to Hakodate morning market, where 300 stalls entice visitors with a delectable array of fresh produce. We ascend Goryokaku Tower for fabulous views across the city to the star-shaped fort of Goryokaku, the Tsugaru Strait and Yokotsu mountain range, and head to the Bay Area, where red brick warehouses stand as symbols of the shipping industry that thrived here as Japan opened up to international commerce. We also visit Motomachi, an area that also flourished with the influx of trade and the influence of western culture is apparent in the old consulate buildings and pretty, foreign churches.
Day 10 Hakodate - Sapporo
Our day starts with a visit to Onuma Quasi National Park, a beautiful area that includes serene lakes marked by small islands and the majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake, covered with snow in January. We also visit spectacular Noboribetsu Jigokudani (Hell Valley), an area filled with hot steam vents, sulphurous streams and other volcanic activity, including a 450m crater. It is the main source of the Noboribetsu onsen, spring waters that gush out over 3,000 litres of water a minute at over 130°C. Our journey takes us to Sapporo, where we check in at the Sapporo Excel Hotel Tokyu (4T). After a short time to settle in, we take an excursion to witness the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival. The city of Otaru is decorated with small snow statues and lanterns and the canal looks particularly pretty with glass floats carrying candles on the freezing surface.
Day 11 Sapporo
Spend today in awe of the Sapporo Snow Festival. It started in 1950 with just six statues carved from snow by school students. Within five years hundreds of people helped to make numerous sculptures and the spectacle has since grown into an incredible display of approximately 250 snow and ice sculptures of huge proportions. You can watch some of the works in progress and admire pieces designed by participants of the international ice sculpture contest, enjoy a drink at the ice bar and glide down the giant snow slide. We travel by local metro and with no set time to return to the hotel, you are free to enjoy the festival into the evening, to appreciate these works of art illuminated by candles and coloured bulbs.
Day 12 Sapporo - Tokyo - London
Today we leave for Sapporo airport and a scheduled Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo and onward scheduled British Airways flight to London Heathrow Airport. On arrival you will be met and guided to your Titan vehicle, for the journey home.