Cherry Blossoms are indigenous to many East Asian countries including Korea and Japan. This combined tour offers you the best opportunity to have a detailed expedition to two beautiful countries in Asia when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
APRIL 07 - 19, 2014 | 13-Day Journey | US$4,888.00
Day 1. Monday, April 7 (USA/Seoul)
Depart USA - Seoul, South Korea
[Meals on board]
Day 2. Tuesday, April 8 (Seoul)
Welcome to Seoul 'the land of the morning calm.' Meeting, assistance and transfer to our hotel.
Day 3. Wednesday, April 9 (Andong Hanoe Village/Gyeongju National Museum)
Start our tour of Korea with a visit to the traditional Andong Hanoe Village, a UNESCO heritage site. Pupolarly known as the birth of Korea's Confucianism, the place is preserved for it's thatched-roof villages. This picturesque village is also known for it's mask dance. Should time/weather permits, we'll get to enjoy the traditional performance amidst the picturesque surroundings. Later, we transfer to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty for the Gyeongju National Museum. Divided into 3 main halls and an outdoor garden exhibit area. The artifacts range from prehistoric times to the Three Kingdom period, as well as items buried with the Royalties in the Tombs of Cheongmacheon area.
Day 4. Thursday, April 10 (Gyeongju)
Today's tour starts with the UNESCO preserved site of Bulguksa Temple. Built in year 528, the name of the temple is literally translated as "Temple of Buddha's Land" or "Buddha's World Temple". It aims to realize the blissfulness of the Buddhist scriptures where the mortal being's suffering is being released. The steps leading to the temple being called the "Blue Cloud Bridge" and "White Cloud Bridge" as well as the decorative elements in the architecture are all symbolic of the temple's name. In the afternoon, we'll visit the Seokkuram Grotto, a small and quaint temple which houses an elegant but majestic statue of Buddha. Our last stop is the Cheomseongdae means "star gazing platform". It was built out of 362 pieces of cut granite which represent the 362 days of the lunar calendar and it is the oldest astronomical observatory in Asia.
Day 5. Friday, April 11 (Seoul)
Head back to Seoul for the Gyeongbuk Palace, the main and grandest of the five palaces. Construction started in 1300's and in the 1400's its beauty flourished. Few fires destroyed it and was burnt down during the Japanese occupation. It was reconstructed several times since and now brought back to its former glory. Leisurely walk in the palace grounds as we tour the various buildings. Next we drive pass the Presidential Blue House, home to the current President of Korea (No photography allowed). Next, we visit the Presidential Museum set up in 2010 to coincide with APEC meeting. The museum encompasses the past, present and future of Seoul as well as the entire Korea. Later in the afternoon, enjoy as we prowl the streets of popular Namdaemun (South Gate Market) and Dongdaemun (East Gate Market).
Day 6. Saturday, April 12 (Seoul)
This morning, we try our hands on making the zesty Korean dish - Kimchi. An instructor will provide us with the ingredients and teach us the method of cooking. Then to Jogyesa, considered the "Head Temple" of Buddhist in Korea. From here, walk the streets of Insa-Dong, often considered the "Mary's Alley of Seoul" or antique streets. This evening, we'll enjoy a local production that has garnered world acclamation. The Nanta "Cooking" Show celebrating it's 14th year of showbiz. A non-verbal comedy, the production showcases traditional drumming skills in a lighthearted kitchen scene and instead of drumstick, they thrill the audience with pots, pans and knives. Later in the evening, we'll visit the popular Itaewon - Seoul designated "Special Tourism District" to highlight it as a destination for internationals to enjoy a diversity of culture, shopping, and entertainment experiences.
Day 7. Sunday, April 13 (Incheon/Osaka Kansai Airport)
Welcome to the "Land of the Rising Sun" - Japan. Meeting, assistance and transfer to our hotel.
Day 8. Monday, April 14 (Osaka/Nara/Uji/Kyoto)
Start- visit Osaka Castle, whose construction began in 1583 on the ruins of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple. The castle was the largest of its time and played a major role in the unification of Japan during the 16th century. Then to Nara, the oldest capital city of Japan. We'll visit Todaji Temple, the largest wooden building in Japan. It also houses the largest bronze statue of Buddha at 16.3 meters high, and the surrounding park is filled with over 1,000 Sika deer. Continue to Uji where we can experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. In the afternoon, to Kyoto, a historical city that was spared from air raids and saved from the atomic bomb during the World War II. Visit the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, in the scenic and historic Fushimi district, which is regarded as one of the brewing capitals of Japan and is home to more than 20 breweries.
Day 9. Tuesday, April 15 (Kyoto)
First is a visit to the spectacular Heian Shrine, where we see an extensive stroll garden of the Meiji period with a grove of weeping cherry trees. Of special note are the stepping stones in the pond, which were actually the pillars of a 16th century stone bridge that once spanned the Kamo River. Here we'll also find the largest Torii Gate in Japan spanning the road leading to the shrine. At the Nishijin Textile Center, we can view displays of Kimonos and even watch a kimono fashion show. Visit the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) covered with 18 carat gold leaf. This 3 story structure was originally built by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitshu in 1397. Next is the Ryoan-ji Rock Garden, famed for its exceptional rock and sand garden (seki-taki). Lastly, we will tour Gion, the old Geisha Quarter, and Pontocho, whose cobblestone alleys vibrate with night life.
Day 10. Wednesday, April 16 (Kyoto/Toyota/Bullet Train Ride)
Today's tour starts with the famous Kiyomizu Temple, best known for its wooden state that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and in fall, as well as the city of Kyoto in the distance. Continue to Toyota Kaikan Museum, which has displays of Toyota's new car models and technologies. Next, experience a Shinkansen bullet train ride, which can reach speeds of up to 300km/hr. We will stay at the Onsen Hotel at Atami Onsen, where we can soak in the therapeutic waters of spa bath and feast on a traditional Japanese Kaiseki banquet dinner.
Day 11. Thursday, April 17 (Hakone/Mt. Fuji/Tokyo)
Travel to Hakone and take a 20-minute ropeway from Togendai to Owakundani. Much of the area here is considered an active volcanic zone since its creation from the eruption of Mount Hakone some 3,000 years ago. Here we can experience hot springs and hot rivers where sulfurous fumes still linger. Owakundani also has splendid view of Mt. Fuji in good weather. Next, we head to Gotemba Peace Park, take in the scenic view of Mr. Fuji and thousands of cherry blossoms, then proceed to Mt. Fuji. Along the way, enjoy the changing scenery, from thick vegetable to lowlands to rolling clouds. We will stop at Mt. Fuji 5th station (depending on the weather) to admire the world famous peak. And afternoon in Tokyo. Today's last visit is Shinjuku, Japan's largest entertainment district, with department stores, subterranean malls, and electronic shops sorrounding Shinjuku station.
Day 12. Friday, April 18 (Tokyo)
Tokyo Tower/Imperial Palace/Sumida River Cruise/Asakusa Sensoji Temple/Ueno Park/Odaiba
In the morning, we will be taken to Tokyo Tower, the world's tallest self-supporting steel tower. At 333 meters high, Tokyo Tower is 13 meters taller that its model, the Eiffel Tower. We will go up to 150 meters to the main observatory deck and get a bird's eye view of Tokyo. Next is a visit to the Imperial Palace, the former site of Edo Castle. In the heart of the city, we can explore the park, surrounded by moats and stone fortifications. In the afternoon, board a cruise ship at Hinode Pier for a 40-minute ride along the Sumida River to Asakusa. At the Nakamise walkway, we can peruse the many stores that lead to Tokyo's oldest and most famous Buddhist Temple, Sensoji Temple. Continue to Ueno Park, famous for its more than 1,000 cherry trees. From here we will cross the Rainbow Bridge and be treated to stunning views of Tokyo Bay. We will travel to the man made islands of Odaiba and see cutting edge architecture, as well as the night view of Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge.
Day 13. Saturday, April 19 (Tokyo/USA)
Official end of our tour, check out and transfer to the airport our flight to home or to wherever your destination may be.