Unlike our 13-day Japan trip, we do not use our own bus for this trip.
Public transport in Japan is unrivaled across the globe. Did you know that the average delay of the shinkansen is just 0.6 minutes (36 seconds) ?! During our transfer from Osaka to Magome, the first stretch from Osaka to Nagoya is with the shinkansen 'Nozomi Super Express'.
At Nagoya you step onto a highway bus. Ninety minutes later you get off at the bus stop on the highway, from where it is a twenty minute walk to the ryokan where we stay (you carry your own luggage).
The highway bus from Magome to Tokyo takes about 4 hours to complete a distance of more than 300 kilometers. The final stop is Shinjuku Station, where you transfer to the Yamanote line to Ueno. From the station to the hotel is a ten minute walk. The following applies to the highway bus: The dimensions for your luggage, when length, width and height are combined, is a maximum of 100 cm; so for example 20x45x35 cm.
Airport transfers are not included. You must make your own way to and from the start/end destinations. You can use airport buses/private railway lines.
The metro is actually indispensable as a means to explore the vast Japanese capital. The free app "Tokyo Subway", available from the App Store, is very handy. This shows you how to find the nearest metro station (also offline) and how to get from station A to B. You can see at a glance where you may have to change and how long the journey is.
In both Osaka and Tokyo, we use a central western-type hotel, with bath and toilet in the room. In the hotels, there is always free wireless internet, and a simple breakfast (juice, coffee or tea, sandwiches ...) included.
In Magome you overnight in a traditional ryokan. You sleep on a futon in a tatami room with shared bathrooms and toilets (men and women are separated). A futon mattress is quite thin but in the wardrobe you will always find extra bedding. Breakfast is also included.
In the evening it is possible to dine at the ryokan. A Japanese meal of seasonal local delicacies is served. The cost is ± 3,000 yen (about 20 euros). If you want this, you must reserve this on day 1 of the trip in Osaka, with the tour leader.
In Japan, everything is a little smaller than in Europe. The same applies for the rooms. Single rooms are approximately 10 square meters, twin rooms 16 square meters. Taking into account the size of the rooms, we strongly recommend people who travel alone to book the single supplement (at extra cost). This supplement applies only to the hotels in Osaka and Tokyo, in the ryokan you share the tatami room with one or more single travellers of the same sex.
Note: You will be asked for your passport upon check-in at the hotels. The reception staff make a copy of this. Hotels in Japan are required by law to identify and register their guests upon check-in.
SANJA MATSURI - TOKYO
Together with the Kanda Matsuri and the Sanno Matsuri, Sanja Matsuri is one of the biggest festivals in Tokyo. Every year, during the third weekend of May, tens of thousands of people from all over Japan (and beyond) gather in the Asakusa district for a large religious festival.
The origin of the festival dates back to the beginning of the 7th century. According to tradition, in the early morning of 18 March 628, two brothers named Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari went fishing in the Sumida-gawa River. To their astonishment, rather than fish in their nets, they saw a statue of the Kannon Bodhisattva, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Their story was heard by Hajino Nakatomo, a wealthy landowner. The three were converted to Buddhism and a small shrine in honour of the Bodhisattva was built on the banks of the river: the Senso-ji Temple.
The streets and alleys in and around the temple in Asakusa provide the setting for a fantastic 3-day festival. Starting on Friday afternoon and lasting until Sunday evening, parades take place which include the parading of mikoshi (portable shrines). The taiko drum is beaten and the bamboo flute blown. Everywhere there are tents with snacks and drinks. It is also something to see the many members of the local yakuza gang showing off their tattooed torsos to the huge home crowd.
The Tenjin Matsuri festival is held on the 24th and 25th of July in the Japanese port city of Osaka. Together with Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo and Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, this festival is widely regarded as one of Japan's three biggest festivals. The festival literally translates as 'Festival of the Gods', thus finding its origin in Shintoism, Japan's original religion.
The festival is over 1000 years old and honours Sugawara-no-Michizane, the deity of scholarship. This god (also known as Tenman Tenjin) is worshiped in the Tenman-gu sanctuary in the center of the city. This shrine is the beating heart of the festival but today the whole city is immersed in an infectious celebration.
The 25th is undoubtedly the most spectacular day. It begins with the country parade, a tribe of three thousand people, dressed in medieval costume, carrying the mikoshi or portable shrines through the city. The land procession ends at the Okawa River, where everyone boards the many vessels for the river procession. The festivities reach a climax during the hanabi or fireworks, a sound and light show lasting more than one and a half hours.
The difficulty of our trips varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an impression of the difficulty of a particular journey, we have developed a classification system.
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
This Japan tour falls into category B. This trip is doable for anyone who prepares properly and is flexible. We stay in medium class hotels and have one ryokan experience. Travelling distances are relatively short. Do bear in mind however that routes may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or some other reason, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
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