THERE are not many countries left in the world which are safe, absolutely beautiful and full of friendly, honest people. Well Japan is definitely one of them. A number of our long-term Greenmount Travellers have suggested Japan as "right near the top" of a pretty extensive list of destinations visited on our farm tours.
To visit Japan is to enjoy an unforgettable insight into how this nation has blended traditional values with modern growth.
Most Japanese farms are small, but the many farmers are well organised into co-operatives with a lot of marketing and political influence.
Think Japanese farming and think rice, noodles and Wagyu cattle. Australia has a long history of association with Japanese agriculture, from exporting noodles and beef, to importing Wagyu genetics.
Our tour will cover the best farming regions and new technology and will take you to some of the unspoilt, authentic areas while not missing out on the ‘must-see’ sights and cultural experiences.
And lots more. A truly fascinating place to visit and plenty to see.
FOR RUGBY WORLD CUP FANS, THE FINAL REGION VISITED ON THIS ITINERARY IS THE NORTHERN ISLAND OF HOKKAIDO. THE WALLABIES PLAY THEIR FIRST POOL MATCH AGAINST FIJI AT SAPPORO (ON HOKKAIDO) ON SEPT 21, A FEW DAYS AFTER THE END OF THE TOUR.
Depart Australian ports for Tokyo. Evening arrival and transfer to city hotel.
To help get our bearings in this throbbing metropolis, we have a guided tour this morning of downtown Tokyo and nearby sights. We will also visit the famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market – the inner Tsukiji fish market moved away from downtown in October 2018. Here we will see on amazing display a mind boggling array of seafood and other fresh foods.
We also visit the traditional area of Asakusa with the famous Kaminari-mon gate and Sensoji temple.
This morning we board our charter coach and head out of Tokyo to the fuedal-era town of Hakone for lunch with a view of Mt Fuji. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, less than 100 kilometers from Tokyo. Famous for hot springs, outdoor activities, natural beauty and the view of nearby Mt. Fuji. Then on to the Fuji Five Lake area and hope for some clear viewing weather for the magnificent mountain. We head up to the Kawaguchiko 5th station of Mt Fuji, one of the most popular starting points for climbing the mountain. We then return to Tokyo for a free evening.
This morning we catch the subway to Tokyo Station and transfer to the Shinkansen (bullet train) for our (very fast) journey to Nagano in the Japanese Alps. This trip takes around 3 to 4 hours by road. On the fantastic Shinkansen, we'll do it in half that time. On arrival Nagano we transfer to the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park, an incredible opportunity to interact with Japanese macaque monkeys in the wild and in their natural social groups as they bathe in the hot springs.
We continue on to Matsumoto with a visit to a wasabe farm on the way. Matsumoto is famous for its beautifully preserved medieval castle.
Today we continue further into the Japanese Alps to Takayama, a breathtaking town surrounded by 3000 metre peaks. Takayama is a castle town of old wooden houses dating back to the 16th century. We have a farm visit this afternoon and we also visit one of the town’s famous sake breweries. We enjoy a sightseeing tour of Takayama including the Hida Folk Museum (Minzoku-kan) where facts and images of traditional life in farming villages are on display.
Option this morning of a visit to a market where the wives of local farmers sell fresh mountain vegetables, as well as homemade miso (Japanese bean paste) and local handicrafts. We then board an express train to Nagoya and connect with a bullet train bound for Osaka.
This morning we set off on a full day trip to Hiroshima via bullet train. In Hiroshima we visit the Peace Park and the A-bomb museum. The park and museum are built around the A-bomb dome which is the skeletal remains of the former Industrial Promotion Hall. This is one of the few buildings near the centre of Hiroshima which was left at least partially standing after the first atomic bomb was detonated several hundred metres away – and 600 metres overhead – on the morning of August 6, 1945. The Peace Park is a fitting memorial to the horrors of nuclear war.
Then we visit Miyajima Island and its famous giant ‘floating’ torii gate. Later in the afternoon, we transfer back to the railway station for the bullet train back to Osaka and a free evening.
This morning we board our private coach to visit a Kobe Wagyu cattle farm. Kobe beef refers to beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyogo Prefecture. The cattle are raised on less than 300 farms, some with as few as five cows. Each animal is fed a strictly controlled diet including large quantities of beer and sake mash. We enjoy a Kobe beef (what else?) BBQ lunch.
Then we continue on to the historic city of Kyoto, which was the Japanese capital for over 1000 years.
Morning tour of this beautiful city including Nijo Castle, the Imperial Palace, the Golden Pavilion, Kiyomizu temple and Marayuma Park.
We then have a free afternoon to enjoy the prettiest city in Japan. In the evening there are plenty of great restaurants along Pontocho Street and nightlife in the Gion area. One option this evening is to enjoy a traditional Kaiseki dinner and Maiko (apprentice geisha) dance performance. A Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner and is a showcase of the multitude of skills and techniques that go into the preparation of such intricate and artistic meals.
This morning we catch a bullet train to Nagoya and a visit to Toyota’s Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. Some have dubbed this a ‘shrine to manufacturing perfection’ – during our visit we will learn about past, current and future projects including hybrid, electric and hydrogen cars. We then continue by train to Tokyo’s Haneda airport for an afternoon flight to Obihiro.
We are now on the island of Hokkaido in Japan’s far north. Obihiro is in the highly productive agricultural region of Tokachi province. Hokkaido is Japan’s ‘frontier’. It is the island with the lowest population, it has beautiful national parks and boasts some of the best agricultural areas in the country.
Today we enjoy farm visits in the largest cropping region of Japan which is also a major beef and dairy region. We will spend the day with farmers from a local farm group, SRU (Soil Research Union). There are 40 farmers at this branch, one of 12 SRU branches in Hokkaido. We will visit a 2000 head beef operation plus highly productive dairy farms.
At dinner we will be joined by some of the local farmers at Bitou’s restaurant. Bitou’s is run by one of the farmers and serves fine beef from Tokachi Ono farm.
In the morning, we visit a wine research centre and a winery near Obihiro before heading west towards Chitose and the spectacular volcanic crater forming Lake Shikotsu. We are nearing the end of our tour so it’s high time to take on board the local customs by spending a night at a very traditional ryoken (hotel) and onsen (open air baths fed by natural hot springs). Our ryoken is in a very remote location on the shore of Lake Shikotsu.
This evening we enjoy a farewell – and very traditional – Japanese dinner.
Quick look around Sapporo before heading to the airport for afternoon departures direct to Tokyo and Australia.