Japan and China

Japan and China

Join us on a trip to East Asia during which you will experience the exciting cultural countries China and Japan! The trip takes you to some of Asia’s largest, most modern and most influential metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Osaka, but you will also have many opportunities to get acquainted with the countries’ rich past, proud traditions and fascinating landscapes. During one and the same trip, you walk along the Great Wall of China, see the sacred mountain Fuji and enjoy the beautiful gardens of the ancient imperial city of Kyoto – among many other things.

Japan and China 2

Day 1: Flight to Beijing
Meals are included on board the long-haul flight.

Day 2: Tiananmen Square
We arrive in Beijing in the morning. Our local guide meets us at the airport after which we head to Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest square, where the Chinese central power has traditionally always had its headquarters during the periods Beijing served as the capital of the Middle Kingdom. Just north of the square is the Forbidden City, from which the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties ruled their empires, from the early 15th century when the third Ming emperor made Beijing his capital, until 1912 when the last emperor of Qing abdicated. It was also from the top of the stone gate that forms the main entrance to the Forbidden City that Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China in 1949. At the southern end of the square is Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, where the “great helmsman” has been on parade since 1977, and on the east and west sides, the square is flanked by the National Museum of China and the Great Hall of the People, where the National Congress meets. After lunch, we go to the hotel for check-in and a few hours of rest (or exploration on our own) before meeting up the evening before the welcome dinner. Overnight in Beijing. (Dinner.)

Day 3: Forbidden City and Hutongs
After breakfast, we head to the Forbidden City, one of Beijing’s foremost world heritage sites, for a guided tour of the vast palace grounds to which only the emperor and his court had access. During the tour, we get to know about the palace area’s distinctive and symbolic architecture and what functions the most important buildings fulfilled. We then head to one of Beijing’s cultural heritage sites where you will still find so-called hutongs – winding alleys lined with walled one-story houses from the imperial era. In modern times, these beautiful old quarters, to a very large extent, have had to give way to other buildings. On site, we visit one of the households in one of the hutongs and have a homemade lunch with the family. Overnight in Beijing. (Breakfast and lunch)

Day 4: Great Wall of China and Ming Tombs
In the morning we head north towards the Great Wall of China, the world’s longest fortification built in defense of dreaded barbarian invasions. On the endless plains on the outskirts of the Chinese Empire, there were warlike tribes, often of nomadic background, who posed a threat to the empire. During the course of history, the “barbarians” on the other side of the wall succeeded in subduing parts of China – or seizing the entire empire, which took place during the Mongol conquest of China in the 13th century and the Manchu conquest in the 17th century. During the journey towards the huge defense facility that winds along the mountain ridges, we visit a manufacturer of cloisonné, a traditional metal craft that has been refined by the Chinese since the 15th century. During the return journey, we visit the Ming Tombs, where most of the emperors of the Ming Dynasty are buried in scenic surroundings. Overnight in Beijing. (Breakfast and lunch.)

Day 5: Temple of Heaven and train to Shanghai
After breakfast we visit the Temple of Heaven where the emperors held annual sacrifices in honor of Heaven so that the kingdom would be blessed with good harvests. In the afternoon we take high-speed trains to Shanghai. Overnight in Shanghai. (Breakfast and lunch.)

Day 6: Shanghai
In the morning, we head to Shanghai’s Pudong financial district east of the Huangpu River, which flows through downtown Shanghai. Here we go up to China’s tallest skyscraper Shanghai Tower, from where you get a fantastic panoramic view of the river and the city. Shanghai seems endlessly large and the silhouette of all the skyscrapers is completely incomparable. Next we go to the promenade The Bund next to the west bank of the Huang River with its older European settlements. From here you get a glorious view of the modern buildings on the other side of the river. After lunch, we continue to Shanghai’s oldest district by the wonderful Yuyan Garden, which dates back to the 16th century. We continue to Shanghai’s most picturesque neighborhoods that once belonged to the foreign concessions in Shanghai, but whose old colonial buildings now house boutiques, cafes and restaurants. During the evening we see a breathtaking acrobatic performance. Overnight in Shanghai. (Breakfast and lunch.)

Day 7: Shanghai
After breakfast, we head to the charming canal city of Zhujiajiao with a history that stretches back more than 1,700 years. Here you will find beautiful arched stone bridges, well-preserved classical architecture, exquisite gardens and charming old alleys. We walk around the small streets with beautiful well-built arch bridges over the canals and of course do a tour with a rowing boat in the canal system. Here you feel really moved far back in time! Overnight in Shanghai. (Breakfast and lunch)

Day 8: Shanghai – Fukuoka – Hiroshima
We head to the airport before the trip to Fukuoka, from where we continue by train to Hiroshima. Overnight in Hiroshima. (Breakfast.)

Day 9: Miyajima and Peace Park
After breakfast we head to the ferry camp at Miyajimaguchi before the short boat trip to the holy island and the world heritage Miyajima with its world famous Shinto shrine. In the afternoon we visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, the most important monuments Peace Park, and the ruin Genbaku Dome which is all that remains of Hiroshima’s buildings before the bomb. Overnight in Hiroshima. (Breakfast)

Day 10: Hiroshima – Osaka
In the morning we take the shinkansen (express train) to Osaka where we visit the city’s famous castle which played a significant role in the latter half of the 16th century when Japan began the process of national unification after a long period of constant civil war. . We also visit Dotonbori, Osaka’s most famous shopping and entertainment district along one of the city’s old canals. Overnight in Osaka. (Breakfast.)

Day 11: Osaka – Nara – Kyoto
In the morning we travel to the ancient city of Nara founded in the early 700s. Nara was the first real capital of the early Japanese state and there are therefore many historically interesting sights here. During the day, visit two world heritage sites. The Todaiji Buddhist Temple is one of the world’s oldest and largest wooden buildings and houses a huge bronze Buddha statue. The temple was built shortly after Nara became the capital and is located in a park where deer have always been allowed to roam freely. The temple is contemporary with the nearby Shinto shrine Kasuga Taisha, known for its beautiful temple walkway lined with thousands of moss-covered stone lanterns. In the afternoon we head to Kyoto – the cradle of Japanese culture. During the late eighth century, the capital was moved to Kyoto, which remained the capital of Japan well into the 1860s. Overnight in Kyoto.

Day 12: Ryoanji, Kiyomizu and Gion
Today we visit additional temples that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We start the day by visiting the Ryoanji Zen Temple with its famous stone garden. The carefully composed stone arrangements lie like islands in a sea of ​​raked gravel and are meant to be viewed during quiet contemplation. Therefore, we go there in the morning when it is still relatively empty. We then head to the nearby Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), probably Kyoto’s most famous temple. Most of Kinkakuji is covered in gold leaf and the three floors of the temple all have their own distinctive architectural style. Cloudless days, Kinkakuji is reflected crystal clear in the surrounding water and the associated promenade garden is created to blend harmoniously into the underlying landscape. In the afternoon we visit the Kiyomizu Temple dating from the end of the 8th century. The temple is beautifully situated on the slopes of the Higashiyama Mountains in eastern Kyoto and is especially known for its huge wooden porch where pilgrims used to gather. Kiyomizu means “the clear water” and alludes to the source adjacent to the temple. The spring water that many of the temple visitors stand in line to drink from is said to have miraculous properties. We then walk slowly along the beautiful slopes of Higashiyama and follow the alleys down to the famous geisha district of Gion. The promenade is certainly one of the most beautiful in all of Japan and goes through cultural heritage sites with small boutiques and lanes with discreet tea houses. We arrive in Gion in the late afternoon when the geishas set out to entertain their guests at one of the more exclusive tea houses. With a little luck, it is possible that we will meet one of them. Overnight in Kyoto. (Breakfast.)

Day 13: Fushimi Inari Taisha and Nijo Castle
In the morning we visit the Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha, known for its thousands of red-painted torii portals that form a suggestive passage, almost like an avenue, to walk through. A torii symbolizes the transition from worldly to holy ground. Fushimi Inari Taisha is dedicated to the god of rice, sake and merchandise and the torii portals are donated by Japanese entrepreneurs and businessmen. Adjacent to the sanctuary are also numerous stone statues depicting foxes – the messenger of the rice god. We visit the place in the morning when it feels especially mysterious and magical. In the afternoon we visit the Nijo Castle, built in the early 17th century to serve as the residence of the shogun (Japan’s military dictator) on the occasions he visited Kyoto. We admire the castle’s magnificent wooden gate with richly decorated and colorful details and visit the castle’s rock garden. As a precautionary measure, a “nightingale floor” was laid in the castle’s passages, the planks of which whistle when you step on it. The idea was that the sound would reveal nocturnal intruders with the task of assassinating the shogun. We hear how it whistles underfoot as we view the castle’s tatami-clad reception halls with their distinctive screen paintings. Overnight in Kyoto. (Breakfast) We hear how it whistles underfoot as we view the castle’s tatami-clad reception halls with their distinctive screen paintings. Overnight in Kyoto. (Breakfast) We hear how it whistles underfoot as we view the castle’s tatami-clad reception halls with their distinctive screen paintings. Overnight in Kyoto. (Breakfast)

Day 14: Tokyo – Hakone
In the morning we go to the shinkansen to Hakone. During the day we go on a short boat trip on the crater lake Ashinoko and then visit Owakudani – “the boiling valley”. When the weather is nice, you can usually get a very beautiful view of Mount Fuji from here. Owakudani is a sulfur-long crater area with boiling springs that has been more volcanically active than usual recently. Should the activity have increased during the planned visit, we go instead to the outdoor museum Hakone Open Air Museum which offers a nice view of the surrounding landscape. The magnificent nature forms a beautiful backdrop to the modern outdoor art that is the museum’s pride. Here is an impressive collection of sculptures by both Japanese and Western artists. Western artists include greats such as Picasso, Rodin and Henry Moor. In the evening we stay at a so-called ryokan, a kind of Japanese hotel that usually offers traditional baths. Overnight in Yamanashi. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner.)

Day 15: Hakone – Tokyo
In the morning we start our journey towards Japan’s legendary mountain Fuji. With its height of 3,776 meters, it is Japan’s highest mountain and something of a national symbol. Fuji is an active volcano, but the most recent eruption is quite far back in time (1708). It is perhaps not so surprising that this almost perfectly cone-shaped volcano has been considered sacred since time immemorial. Fuji attracts tourists from all corners of the world and in 2013 gained status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Weather permitting, our bus will reach the fifth station from where many pilgrims and tourists begin their climb to the top during the summer months when this is possible. In the afternoon we head to Tokyo, the capital of Japan. Overnight in Tokyo. (Breakfast)

Day 16: Tokyo
After breakfast, we head out into the hustle and bustle of the city in one of the world’s largest cities. We head to the lively district of Asakusa which is often described as a more populous part of Tokyo. There we visit the popular Buddhist temple Sensoji, which comes in handy during a morning visit, when it is still relatively empty. In ancient Japan, marketplaces sprang up adjacent to major temples as visiting pilgrims wanted to sample local delicacies and buy something to take home to loved ones. Even today, many of the larger temples in Japan are home to a lively commerce. Those who want to spend a while at Nakamise dori, a promenade next to the temple buildings lined with small shops and stalls. Here you can buy typical Japanese souvenirs or maybe taste Japanese snacks and goodies. Then we go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum where we visit the museum’s permanent exhibition that sheds light on Tokyo’s fascinating history from the Edo period to modern times. We continue to the Tsukiji area, known for its many fish shops and fish restaurants. Much of the offer in Tsukiji is quite exotic and of course things that you can hardly find at fishmongers back home in Sweden. In the afternoon we visit the neighboring district of Ginza, Japan’s most fashionable area where you will find exclusive boutiques as well as the larger clothing chains and the most well-stocked department stores. Before returning to the hotel, we finally visit Meiji jingu, a shrine built in memory of Emperor Meiji (1852 – 1912) and his wife, Empress Shoken (1869-1912). In Japan, Emperor Meiji is associated with the modernization process that began in the latter half of the 19th century. From having previously been cut off from the outside world in almost total self-isolation, Japan developed during Emperor Meiji’s reign to become an Asian superpower. Meiji jingu is therefore a symbol of Japan’s transformation into a modern nation under the care of the Meiji emperor. The sanctuary is also a place where elements of the imperial cult that once surrounded the Japanese emperor are expressed. (Breakfast) The sanctuary is also a place where elements of the imperial cult that once surrounded the Japanese emperor are expressed. (Breakfast) The sanctuary is also a place where elements of the imperial cult that once surrounded the Japanese emperor are expressed. (Breakfast)

Day 17: Tokyo
In the morning we make a short visit to the Imperial Palace. As the palace is seldom open to visitors, we have to content ourselves with viewing it at a proper distance. Then we visit the electronics district Akihabara which offers a large selection of cheap electronics and tax-free goods. Akihabara has also become something of a heaven for so-called otaku. An otaku is a person who has an extreme interest in, for example, manga (Japanese comics), anime (animated film) or computer games. It is not uncommon for such people in their spare time to sometimes dress up as one of their favorite characters in these genres. In Akihabara, there are plenty of cafes, pubs and shops that focus on this rather special target group. From Akihabara we walk to the nearby Ueno district along Ameyoko dori, a lively and popular market street with a rich selection of food stalls and shops selling everything – from dried fish to clothes. From the Ueno station, we go to the Shinjuku station along Tokyo’s ring line, the Yamanote line, which connects Tokyo’s major districts. We thus get an insight into what Tokyo’s efficient transport system for the city’s residents looks like by actually experiencing it for themselves. The Shinjuku station is one of the world’s most intensive traffic hubs and every day more than 3.5 million people pass through here. During rush hour, you can see a never-ending stream of commuters on their way to or from work. The Shinjuku district with its tall buildings, huge TV screens and neon signs is a fantastic sight. We first visit Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, a skyscraper in western Shinjuku. The skyscraper with its two towers was inaugurated in 1991 and is said to be designed to resemble a computer chip. From here we get a magnificent view of the megametropolis Tokyo which lies below us. On a clear day, you can even glimpse Fuji from here. We then go on a walk in the district that not only houses Tokyo’s austere financial center but also the megametropolis’ most spectacular and neon-lit entertainment district – Kabukicho. (Breakfast and dinner)

Day 18: Return from Tokyo
Transfer to the airport and flight to the boarding place. Meals are included on board the long-haul flight.

Japan and China