Japan and China Tour – a fully guided 20-day grand tour combining the best of Japan and China.
Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Shanghai, Xian, Beijing
The history of these two countries is so intertwined and their cultures bear so much in common that it makes perfect sense to combine them on one trip. The itinerary covers all the highlights of the places visited including the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army. Special activities include tea ceremony, cultural, cooking and art lessons. Optional day trip to Nikko can also be arranged on request.
Small group size (20 maximum) | Experienced tour leader | Expert local hand-picked by owners of Laurus Travel | No forced shopping stops | Authentic local cuisine | Sushi making lesson | Full course traditional Japanese dinner | Cultural show in Kyoto | Peking roast duck dinner | Great Wall visit at Mutianyu with cable car | Inter-city travel by bullet train – only 1 local flight throughout whole trip
Meal Code: B = breakfast / L = lunch / D = dinner
Day 1/Thu: Departing Home City
Your Japan and China tour begins with your transpacific flight departing from a city of your choice. You’ll lose a day upon crossing the International Date Line.
Day 2/Fri: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo! Transfer to our centrally located hotel on your own. We recommend Airport Limousine Bus because it is both convenient and cost-effective. The 125-minute ride from Narita International Airport costs 3,100 Japanese Yen (JPY) or 28 US dollars per adult. If you hire a taxi, the 60km drive can set you back by 225 US dollars! The bus ride from Haneda Airport is 70 minutes, costing 1,230 JPY or 11 USD.
Those arriving past 9:00 pm will receive a message from the guide advising the meeting time and place the next morning.
Day 3/Sat: Tokyo (B/D)
Tokyo, literally meaning Eastern Capital and officially known as Tokyo Metropolis, is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and one of the most populous mega-cities in the world with 13.5 million living in the prefecture and close to 38 million in the Tokyo-Yokohama region. Formerly known as Edo, the city has been the de facto seat of government since 1603 when Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarter – Shoguns, although appointed by the emperor, were the de facto rulers of Japan during the shogunate period from 1192 to 1867. The city was renamed Tokyo after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868. Covering an area of 2, 188 square kilometres, Tokyo Metropolis was formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo.
Our full-day sightseeing begins with a stroll through the plaza outside the Imperial Palace (the palace itself is not open to tourists). This is followed by a visit to tranquil Meiji- Jingu, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife.
We then drive through ritzy Ginza shopping district on our way to Nakamise-Dori in Asakusa. Nakamise-Dori is a vibrant promenade lined with food stands and souvenir shops. The street connects the famous Asakusa sightseeing spots of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) and Asakusa Kannon Temple (also known as Senso-ji Temple), the oldest temple in Tokyo dating back to 628 AD.
We spend the rest of the day exploring the history of Tokyo at Edo-Tokyo Museum. The main features of the permanent exhibitions are the life-size replica of the Nihonbashi bridge, the Nakamuraza theatre and scale models of towns and buildings from the Edo, Meiji and Showa periods.
If time allows, we will also go up to Tokyo Skytree for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Enjoy a full-course Japanese style welcome dinner.
Day 4/Sun: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hakone – Tokyo (B/L)
Full day excursion to Mt Fuji and Hakone by coach. Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain (3,776 m) in Japan, is a two-hour drive from Tokyo. We first stop by the Fuji Visitor Center to learn about current weather conditions as well as the history, formation and ecology of Mt. Fuji through exhibits and films. We then proceed to Mt Fuji’s 5th Station sitting at 2300 metres above sea level.
After lunch, we enjoy a 15-minute cruise on Lake Ashi. This is followed by a breathtaking ride of the Hakone Ropeway, which, on a clear day, offers stunning views of Mt. Fuji and surrounding mountain slopes dotted with lakes. Tour the Owakudani Geothermal Valley before returning to Tokyo.
Day 5/Mon: Tokyo (B)
Free day to explore on your own. Please ask your tour leader or local guide the day before for recommendations.
Day 6/Tue: Tokyo – Kanazawa (B)
This morning we ride the bullet train to Kanazawa. The 2.5-hour journey is a perfect way to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Japan. On arrival, we walk across the station to our centrally located hotel. In Japan, a train station is generally located in the heart of a city.
Kanazawa is a jewel of Japanese tourism often bypassed by foreign tourists due to its relatively remote location. However, Japanese themselves come here in droves. Travellers visiting here are richly rewarded with a best preserved Edo-period city where the Samurai, merchants, Geisha and the Daimyo (lords) all left their marks. Kanazawa is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Crafts and Folk Art. Its cuisine is famous throughout Japan.
Afternoon sightseeing begins at Kenroku-en Garden. One of the Three Great Gardens of Japan (Koraku-en in Okayama and Kairaku-en in Mito being the other two), Kenroku-en was developed from the 1620s to the 1840s by the Maeda clan, the daimyo who ruled the former Kaga Domain. Kenroku-en means “garden which combines six characteristics” – the six aspects considered important in the notion of an ideal gardens: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness.
We then walk across the road to Kanazawa Castle, to which Kenroku-en Garden used to be part of. The restored castle was first built in 1580 for Maeda Toshiie, the fourth son of a minor samurai family who entered the service of a powerful daimyo at the age of 15 and quickly rose through the ranks. The castle was reconstructed multiple times mostly due to fire damages. The last time the castle was destroyed by fire was in 1881.
The Hishi Yagura turret, Gojikken Nagaya warehouse, and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura turret were faithfully restored in 2001 to their 1809 form, using traditional construction methods. Today’s pillars are Japanese Hinoki Cypress with massive American cypress as ceiling beams. The castle’s distinctive, whitish roof tiles are made of lead.
Day 7/Wed: Takayama – Shirakawa-go (B)
Today we embark on a full-day excursion by coach to Takayama and Shirakawa-go.
Famous for its inns, sake breweries, food festivals and local folk art, Takayama, 118 km southeast of Kanazawa, is a delightful town nestled among the Japanese Alps. Our sightseeing takes in an open-air market, Sanno-machi Historic District and a sake brewery.
We return to Kanazawa in the afternoon and visit Shirakawa-go en route. Sitting at 400 meters above sea level, Shirakawa-go is part of the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama – a World Heritage Site inscribed by UNESCO in 1995. Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The Gassho-style large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs here are the only examples of their kind in Japan.
Day 8/Thu: Kanazawa (B)
The first stop of our morning sightseeing is Nomura Samurai Residence located in a historical preservation area where people actually live and go about their daily lives. A highlight of the restored house is the small but supremely exquisite traditional garden.
We then proceed to our sushi making class for a session filled with fun and laughter. You’ll have to be careful with what you make because that will become your own lunch! Sushi is a native to Japan and consists of cooked rice mixed with a small amount of vinegar and combined with ingredients such as raw seafood, vegetables and sometimes tropical fruits. Ingredients and forms of sushi presentation vary widely but rice is always part of it. Raw seafood served without rice is called sashimi.
Afterwards, we visit the Higashi Chaya Geisha street and then have the balance of the day at leisure.
Day 9/Fri: Kanazawa – Kyoto (B)
Walk to the train station after breakfast and board an express train (2.5 hours) to Kyoto. After lunch, we arrive at Kiyomizu Temple, whose massive veranda provides stunning views of the city; the temple represents the best of classical Japanese garden making.
We spend the rest of the day exploring Gion Preserved District. While here, you may want to attend a stage show that incorporates tea ceremony and Kyo-mai dance.
Day 10/Sat: Kyoto (B)
Nicknamed City of Ten Thousand Shrines, Kyoto (literally: capital city) served as Japan’s capital for more than one thousand years before the imperial court moved to Tokyo in 1868 AD, at the beginning of Meiji Restoration (1868 to 1912 – a historical period responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation in the early 20th century). Kyoto is a scaled replica of China’s Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). With a population of 1.5 million, Kyoto forms a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area.
We begin this morning with an excursion to Arashiyama (Storm Mountain), a nationally-designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Sites to visit here include the Togetsukyo Bridge and the Bamboo Forest.
Afternoon schedule takes in Saihoji Temple and Kinkakuji Temple. Saihoji is where the famous moss garden is located; before entering the garden we will sit down on the wooden floor with shoes off to copy a page of Buddhist script accompanied by the monks chanting the text.
Kinkaku-ji, meaning Temple of Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Buddhist temple and one of the 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site. The official name of the temple is actually Rokuon-ji (Deer Garden Temple) but is widely known as Golden Pavilion Temple because of the three-story building on the grounds of the temple. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf.
Day 11/Sun: Kyoto – Nara – Osaka (B/D)
Full day excursion by motor coach to Nara and Osaka takes in Nara Park (where 1,200 wild sika deer roam free) and Todai-ji Temple (Great Image Buddha) in Nara, and Osaka Castle and Dotonbori District in Osaka.
Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and former capital of Japan (710-794). With a population of roughly 370,000 and an area of 280 square kilometers, the city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture. Eight temples, shrines and ruins together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest collectively form “the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Situated at the mouth of the Yodo River on Osaka Bay, Osaka is Japan’s third largest city by population after Tokyo and Yokohama, and serves as a major economic hub. Osaka was once known as the “nation’s kitchen” because of its role as Japan’s rice trading centre during the Edo period.
Day 12/Mon: Osaka – Shanghai (B)
Free morning to explore on your own.
We transfer to the airport for late afternoon or evening flight (less than 3 hours) to Shanghai. Meet your guide on arrival and transfer to the hotel.
Day 13/Tue: Shanghai (B/L/D)
With a population of 24 million (2015), Shanghai is China’s biggest city. Rapid economic growth in the past 30 years has again turned Shanghai into a leading global city with significant influence in commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport. Today’s visitors to Shanghai are delighted by its futuristic skyline that blends so well with its treasured historical landmarks.
Following tour orientation we visit Jade Buddha Temple located in an old neighbourhood, the famous waterfront promenade known as the Bund, the Yu Garden at the old town centre and Shanghai Museum. Tonight we enjoy a delicious welcome dinner.
Day 14/Wed: Shanghai – Xi’an (B)
Free morning to explore on your own. Please feel free to ask your guide for recommendations.
This afternoon we board the bullet train #G1932 (14:15/20:34) for Xi’an.
Day 15/Thu: Xi’an (B/L)
Morning visit to the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Built on the excavation site, the museum is located 30km east of the city. Designed to follow the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) into eternity, the Terracotta Army represents one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
Afternoon at Shaanxi Provincial Museum. The modern, well-organized museum was completed in 1992 and traces the history of Xian from prehistory to Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The extensive galleries and exhibitions offer the visitor an excellent introduction to the area that greatly improves understanding of the numerous historical sites in and around the city.
Day 16/Fri: Xi’an – Beijing (B/D)
Free morning to explore on your own. Travel to Beijing by bullet train in the afternoon. Capital of China, Beijing is a world-class cultural and educational centre. With a population of 21.7 million (2017), it ranks as China’s second largest city behind Shanghai. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates – treasures that make it the most popular tourist city in China by the number of visitors it receives every year.
Day 17/Sat: Beijing (B/L/D)
We begin today with a visit to the Forbidden City. Officially known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties lived and carried out their administration. Construction of the Forbidden City took 14 years (1406-1420) to complete. The complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 72 hectares or 180 acres. It exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1912 but the royal family was allowed to continue to live in the Forbidden City till 1924, when the last emperor, Pu Yi, was driven out of the imperial palace. One year later the Forbidden City was turned into a museum. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, this is the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
After lunch we proceed to the Summer Palace, a well preserved UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The imperial resort was first named Garden of Clear Ripples, which was burnt down by the allied forces of Great Britain and France in 1860 during the Second Opium War (referred to as Arrow War by the British). Reconstruction started 25 years later and was completed in 1895 when the name was changed to Yi He Yuan (Garden of Good Health and Harmony). The design gives prominence to Longevity Hill and Kunming Lake, south of the hill. The sprawling complex covers an area of 290 hectares and the buildings inside consist of over 3,000 bays.
Today we enjoy a delicious dinner at a popular Peking Roast Duck restaurant. Peking Roast Duck is a famous Beijing dish prized for the thin and crispy skin with authentic versions serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners. The meat is eaten with pancakes, shredded scallion, cucumber, and a sweet and salty sauce made of wheat flour. Condiments may also include pickled garlic and white sugar.
Day 18/Sun: Beijing (B/L)
Today we embark on a full-day excursion to the legendary Great Wall at Mutianyu, 75km northeast of the city.
Zigzagging over 6,000 kilometres from east to west along the undulating mountains, the Great Wall was built to hold off tribal invaders from the north. As history shows, the Wall failed the Chinese rulers miserably, especially in the case of Kublai Khan who and his men swept across China from the Mongolian steppe, thus the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368).
Construction of the earliest sections of the Wall started in the 7th century B.C. A major renovation started with the founding of the Ming Dynasty in 1368 and took 200 years to complete. The wall we see today in Beijing is almost exactly the result of this effort.
Day 19/Mon: Beijing (B/L)
We begin our sightseeing today with a visit to a traditional hutong neighbourhood. Hutong refers to an ancient alleyway with siheyuan or ”4-sided courtyard house” on both sides. The name hutong dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368 A.D.). According to some experts, the word originated from the Mongolian language, in which it is pronounced as hottog and means “well.” In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of hutong should be “a place where people live around”.
We then visit historic Jingshan Park. The park to the north of the Forbidden City was part of the imperial palace serving the royal families as a convenient site for farming, recreation and ancestor worshipping. The man-made hill (46 metres above ground, 89 metres above sea level) overlooks the Forbidden City and provides a great spot for bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area.
Next up is Tian’anmen Square. Located in the heart of Beijing, the square measures 880 metres from north to south and 500 metres from east to west. Said to be the largest public plaza in the world, Tian’anmen Square has the capacity to hold one million people. The imposing Tian’anmen Tower sits at the north end of the square while the Monument to the People’s Heroes dominates the centre. The square is flanked by The Great Hall of the People (west) and the National Museum (east). Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum and Qianmen (Front Gate) are located in the south of the square. One of the top 16 tourist attractions in Beijing, Tiananmen Square is also the witness of the Chinese people’s great struggles for democracy and personal freedom since 1919.
Afternoon sightseeing at the Temple of Heaven, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in southeastern Beijing the Temple of Heaven is China’s largest extant sacrificial temple where, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the emperors conducted the elaborate and most exalted sacrifices addressed to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Construction of the temple started in 1406, during the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle, and took 14 years to complete. The temple was expanded under the Qing emperors Qianlong (1736-1796) and Jiaqing (1796-1820). Occupying 2.73 square kilometres (roughly 1,700 by 1,600 metres), the area of the Temple of Heaven is more than twice that of the Forbidden City.
The famous Hongqiao Pearl Market, the largest pearl market in the world, is right across the street from the Temple of Heaven. The market is recommended in numerous guidebooks as a good place to buy fresh water pearls, a market segment dominated by China. If you are interested, please ask the guide to drop you off there. However, you’ll need to get back to the hotel by taxi, which costs about 50 yuan or US$8.
Day 20/Tue: Beijing – Home City (B)
Your memorable Japan and China tour ends today. Transfer to the airport for return flight. Re-cross the International Date Line and arrive home the same day.
Contact us for printer-friendly PDF file. | 13-day Best of Japan
|Tokyo||4||Grand Palace Hotel||first class|
|Kanazawa||3||Hotel Nikko Kanazawa||first class|
|Kyoto||2||Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto||first class|
|Osaka||1||Hotel Nikko Osaka||first class|
|Shanghai||2||Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou||luxury|
|Xian||2||Sheraton Xian North City||luxury|
|Beijing||4||Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng||luxury|
|Current Departure Dates and Tour Prices|
- A passport with at least two (2) blank visa pages and six (6) months validity at the end of the tour is required.
- Japan Tourist Visa is not required of nationals from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and a host of Western countries if the stay is within 90 days.
- China tourist visa must be obtained prior to arrival. Click here for details.
You are not required of any inoculation certificate to enter Japan or China. However, we do suggest you visit your family physician or a travel medicine clinic to determine what precautions you should take. We recommend inoculation shots for hepatitis A and suggest that you check out advice provided by the US CDC and Health Canada.
Tap water in Japan is safe to drink. Sometimes the taste of chlorine may be a bit too strong but you can get rid of it by boiling the water.
Tap water in China is NOT potable. But bottled water is readily available. Please see General Info for more.
If you have no problem eating sashimi or sushi containing raw fish back home, then you should be doing fine eating in Japan. When you travel to another country, stomach upset may be an issue even though the food is clean and cooked. This is because your stomach is still adapting to the ingredients or minerals in the local food.
Always carry a roll of toilet paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer containing more than 60% of alcohol, no matter where you go. This advice applies even if you are travelling in your own country.
A Special Note on Train Travel
Since we travel mostly by train between cities, it’s crucial that you limit yourself to one suitcase and one carry-on with a combined weight of 15 kilograms (33 lbs) or less. Your suitcase should have wheels and measure 25″ by 18″ by 10″ or smaller. The carry-on should be a backpack. Navigating train stations in Japan and China involve lots of walking and frequent going up and down on narrow escalators. If your bag is too heavy or you come with two pieces, not only will you struggle to catch up with the group, but you may also have a hard time finding space to store your luggage on the train.