Colourful autumn leaves, known as koyo in Japanese, draw just as many visitors to the country in autumn as the famous cherry blossoms do during spring.
In fact, the viewing of autumn leaves has been a popular activity in Japan for centuries. You can capture the splendour of Japan’s autumnal colours for yourself on a 16-night Autumn in Japan cruise with Travelrite and The Senior from November 6.
The fully-escorted cruise aboard luxury cruiser Diamond Princess, with sightseeing tours at each port of call including Tokyo and Kyoto, circumnavigates Japan, departing and arriving in Yokohama.
And with highlights including an exciting bullet train ride on the famous Shinkansen to Tokyo, a trip to Toyko’s fish market, browsing around Gion (Kyoto’s most famous geisha district), a ride on Hakone Ropeway’s aerial cable car and a chance to snap Mt Fuji from 2300 metres up, this holiday is sure to leave you with lasting memories – and plenty of amazing photographs.
Temples and teahouses
The tour starts with four days soaking up the wonders of Kyoto – the former imperial capital of Japan – with its atmospheric temples, sublime gardens, traditional teahouses and the heart of Japan’s geisha world.
Included in the itinerary is a visit to the Philosopher’s Path, a pleasant stone path through the northern part of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district that follows a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees.
There are also visits to Zen temple Kinkakuji, better known as the Golden Pavilion (its top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf) and the Ryoanji Temple – the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden.
No visit to Kyoto is complete without seeing Gion, the geisha district made famous from the novel and film Memoirs of a Geisha. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geisha and maiko (geisha apprentices) entertain.
The final day in Kyoto is spent marvelling at Ginkakuji – home to the Silver Pavilion, Nansenji Temple (one of the most important Zen temples in Japan) with spacious grounds at the base of Kyoto’s Higashiyama Mountains, and the Imperial Palace. This was the residence of the imperial family until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869.
Then hold on to your seats for a ride on the Shinkansen bullet train (travelling at speeds of up to 270kph) from Kyoto, bringing guests into the hustle and bustle of Toyko for two days of exploring.
Tokyo highlights include Meiji Shrine, Asakusa (Tokyo’s old town), a visit to the fish market (the largest and busiest fish market in the world), a wander through the Ginza shopping district and a stop at the Imperial Palace East Gardens.
On day seven, it’s time to board the Diamond Princess at Yokohama for a couple of relaxing days at sea before stopping at the Japanese port cities of Akita, Niigata, Tsuruga and Sakaiminato en route to South Korea.
Ports of call
Arriving in rustic Akita, in Japan’s northern regions where year-round festivals and street parades are part of daily life, travellers will experience local culture and folklore at the Namahage Museum and sample the local tipple at the Sake Brewery.
Niigata, on the Sea of Japan, is a nature lover’s dream with skiing in winter, festivals in summer and sake all year round. At Bandaii Pier sample the most famed white fish in Japan from local vendors and explore Niigata’s opulent history at the tatami-clad Northern Culture Museum.
In the port city of Tsuruga, surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides, there is an excursion to Kehi-no-Matsubara pine grove, one of the largest pine forests in Japan. You can also see the impressive torii gate that greets visitors to the Kehi-jingu Shrine, Tsuruga Red Brick Warehouse, Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum and Nihonkai Sakana-machi Fish Market.
Active fishing port Sakaiminato is surrounded by water. Here the tour visits Adachi Museum of Art and Matsue Castle. Dating back to 1611, it is one of the oldest castles in Japan.
On day 13, the cruise crosses the Sea of Japan to the port of Busan in South Korea for a sightseeing tour and visit to the ancient Silla capital, Gyeong-Ju, a place UNESCO designated as one of the world’s top 10 historic sites. Explore the royal tombs at Tumuli Park, then experience the serenity of an 8th-century Bulguksa Temple.
The cruise returns to Japan on day 15 with a chance to travel halfway up Mt Fuji. This is followed by lunch and a journey through the Owakudani Valley on the Hakone Ropeway’s aerial cable car, offering amazing views of Hakone National Park.
Economy air travel from Australia to Osaka, and return from Tokyo is included, plus three nights’ accommodation in Kyoto and two nights in Tokyo, as well as more than $2000 per person value in sightseeing tours, entrances, transfers and gratuities.
Details - Autumn in Japan Cruise, November 6-22, 2019, from $6785 per person twin share. Phone 1800-630-343, www.travelrite.com.au