Japan: nature, culture, science: Tokyo to Kagoshima
12 days 17 October 2020
Discover Japan on a 12-day journey taking in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Kagoshima. Travel from a buzzing metropolis to snow-capped mountains; from hot springs to volcanic islands.
A burgeoning centre for technology and countless areas of spectacular natural beauty, Japan is a must-see destination for science and nature lovers. Join us on a special journey across Japan in during its glorious autumn colours to see exceptional landscapes, visit leading institutions and explore space, robotics and AI. Accompanied in Tokyo by Rowan Hooper, New Scientist’s features editor and author of Superhumans.
DAY 1: TOKYO ARRIVAL
You will be met on arrival by the tour leader and transferred to your hotel for early check-in.
In the afternoon, join a guide city tour of Tokyo. Firstly, visit Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji and a popular place for traditional Japanese weddings. Drive down Omotesando, a broad tree lined shopping avenue home to some of the world’s top fashion brands. Continue to the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, which stands at 238 meters. Head up to the observation deck where on a clear day you can even see as far as Mt Fuji. The tower also houses the excellent Mori Art Museum.
In the evening, there will be a welcome dinner introducing Rowan Hooper from New Scientist, as well as your local guide.
DAY 2: MIRAIKAN MUSEUM OF EMERGING SCIENCE
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, simply known as the Miraikan, is a museum created by Japan’s Science and Technology Agency. Some of the highlights of the museum include real-time displays of data from a huge array of seismometres across Japan, which show that the country is gently vibrating. Also see Asimo – the Honda robot, who is one of the star attractions along with the model Maglev train. After time to explore the museum at leisure, head to the watch a 30-minute movie at 4D Dome Theatre.
DAY 3: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE THEN SPACE MUSEUM TENQ
Meet with your guide and depart for the National Museum of Nature and Science with hands-on physics and robotics sessions, an impressive collection of taxidermy animals and a 360-degree virtual theatre relocated from the Aich Expo.
After lunch, visit the Space Museum, TeNQ. A futuristic museum filled with audio-visual shows and experiences designed to give you a deeper understanding of the mysteries of space. There are nine areas to explore in total, but the main highlight is the Theatre Sora, which uses real-life footage to project a realistic recreation of what earth looks like from space. Once you’ve marvelled at the earth from up high, head to the Science Room to learn about scientific discoveries as they happen.
Your evening meal will be in a local sushi restaurant.
DAY 4: TOKYO TO HAKONE
Walk to Shinjuku Station and take the two hour express train service to Hakone. As you transfer to Owakudani, you will start to smell sulphur in the air, coming from the active volcano. The walking trails around Owakudani lead to steam vents and bubbling pools and the eggs sold locally are boiled in the volcano’s natural hot springs and are said to prolong life by seven years.
Continue your journey via cable car heading towards Togendai, where you will board a pirate boat to Hakonekomachi. Both are ports on the shores of Lake Ashi, an enormous volcanic crater created by an eruption 3,000 years ago.
DAY 5: HAKONE TO NAGOYA
Travel to Nagoya by Bullet Train to visit SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, the railway museum of Central Japan Railways. The museum seeks to educate visitors on the advances in high speed rail in Japan and displays a number of actual trains including historic steam locomotives, world record setting experimental shinkansen (Bullet Train) and the latest magnetic levitating trains (Maglev). Enjoy dinner at a local Teppanyaki restaurant.
DAY 6: TOYOTA MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY, THEN TO KYOTO
The museum introduces the history of Toyota from its beginnings as a textile machinery manufacturer to its cutting edge automotive technologies and the car production process.
After visiting the museum, you will take another bullet train to Kyoto. Visit Nijo Castle, built by the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the Kyoto residence of the Shogun and its stunning gardens. T
Finish the day with a visit to Nishiki Market. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, Nishiki is a narrow shopping street lined with more than 100 shops, selling fresh seafood and vegetables, pickles, Japanese sweets and sushi.
DAY 7: KYOTO CITY TOUR
The first stop on the guided tour is Tenryuji Temple in Arashiyama. Ranked among Kyoto’s five great Zen temples Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama and is ranked by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
On the way to Nonomiya shrine your path will lead you through Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves, which are unlike any other place in Japan. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats for centuries. Nonomiya shrine is a Shinto shrine where in ancient times, unmarried imperial princesses stayed for a year or more to purify themselves. The shrine is referenced in numerous works of literature, most notably in the world’s first novel; The Tale of Genji.
After lunch, travel on to Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, which was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After the death of Shogun Yoshimitsu it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples, with its top two floors completely covered in gold-leaf.
In the evening, you will enjoy a sumptuous Japanese dinner in the private room of a traditional restaurant with an hour of private Maiko or Geisha entertainment consisting of conversation and dancing accompanied by the shamisen (Japanese stringed instrument).
You will also have a chance to ask questions about the Geisha and their world. This is a special night of food, drink, traditional entertainment and great photo opportunities.
DAY 8: KYOTO
After all that, you deserve a rest day to enjoy this wonderful city at your own pace. You can easily visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha shinto shrine or Yasaka pagoda.
DAY 9: KYOTO TO KAGOSHIMA
Take a bullet train from Kyoto to Kagoshima. Covering over 700km in just 4.5 hours whilst southern Japan flies past your window. Kagoshima is located in the southern corner of Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island. An early centre of Japanese civilization, Kyushu offers many historic treasures, modern cities and natural beauty.
DAY 10: TANEGASHIMA
Depart by ferry to Tanegashima, a jorney of around one and a half hours out through the pictoresque Kagoshima Bay.
After lunch, you will travel to the Tanegashima Space Centre to join a guided facility tour. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is responsible for all civilian space activities in Japan, with activities ranging from basic space research to ongoing space missions. This site houses the largest rocket-launch complex in Japan. Overnight on the island of Tanegashima.
DAY 11: TANEGOSHIMA TO KAGOSHIMA
Transfer by ferry back to Kagoshima. Then on to Sakurajima Island to view one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. The volcano smokes constantly, and minor eruptions generally take place multiple times per day. It is of course forbidden to approach the crater, but Sakurajima is still a delight to visit, thanks to various observation points, foot baths of hot spring water and hiking trails. Then take a ferry back across Kagoshima Bay, to enjoy a final evening together.
DAY 12: DEPARTURE TO YOUR CHOSEN AIRPORT