Jul 20, 2016

A journey under the rising sun


From rituals around brewing tea to a ride on the bullet train, Japan protects its old and new with pride.

Japan’s jam-packed cities and its challenging language and cultural sensitivities can be tricky to navigate for new visitors but with Scenic, there’s no need to go it alone. 

When we take you to some of the most intriguing destinations the ‘land of the rising sun’ has to offer, we also take the hard work away. From its ancient traditions to its contemporary, cutting-edge technological marvels, we have the highlights of old and new Japan covered in our carefully constructed itineraries.

The innumerable twinkling lights of Tokyo shine brightest from Tokyo Bay and a Scenic Sundowners dinner cruise on this picturesque waterway provides an incomparable view of the city. It's been said the view from the bay can seem surreal as the vast, thronging metropolis seems serene and peaceful from the water as you sip your sake or Asahi beer. Step outside into the moonlight between courses and soak up one of the world’s great modern city vistas. 

In contrast, another of Tokyo’s great cruise experiences is a trip along the Sumida River to Asakusa old town, where ancient temples and shrines take centre stage, headlined by the seventh century Buddhist Temple Sensoji and its huge red paper lantern. 

Asakusa old town is an absorbing and unforgettable moment in time. The tour of the Toyota Factory in Nogoya, which includes the assembly plant and the Kaikan Toyota Museum, is a mesmerising peek into the world of hi-tech robotics and legendary Japanese efficiency. 

And if the Toyota tour triggers your need for speed, you’ll love the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Racing through the countryside at up to 320 kilometres per hour, slicing travelling time between major cities, a ride on the bullet train is one of the big bucket list experiences of any trip to Japan. And Scenic does it in style in Business Class seats.

With a 1,200 year history, Kyoto’s historic preservation districts offer plenty of incredible experiences. Among them are the world-famous geisha quarter, the kimono textile district, the sake-brewing area of Fushimi and the tea growing region of Uji. 

The sheer volume of World Heritage-listed palaces, villas and pagodas – along with the art and crafts, cuisine and festivals – combine to make Kyoto a must-see. Your Scenic experience also includes the heady canal and cherry tree-lined Philosophers Walk, named in honour of Japanese thinker and Kyoto University academic Nishida Kitaro who came here daily.

The spectacular World Heritage – listed Himeji Castle has survived wars, earthquakes and fires and incredibly, stands much as it was when it was completed in 1609. Himeji’s traditional wooden architecture and white plastered stone walls make it one of the country’s most photogenic landmarks.

Osaka is Japan’s second largest city and the tour of Downtown Osaka is retail heaven, especially around Minami-ku. The observation deck atop the Umeda Sky Building affords magnificent views of the port and city and there are plenty of museums to explore, including the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, which will take you back to the age of the samurai, geisha and kabuki.

Despite its modern architecture, Osaka, on the island of Honshu, also gives a glimpse into the past in the historic old town of Osaka. With the castle of the ancient feudal town of Kishiwada as its centrepiece, the adjacent Gofuso Japanese Gardens and Nagayamon Gatehouse make up a trio of historic attractions. In the old town’s shopping street, ‘or shotengai’, see family-owned grocers, traditional confectioners and take in fragrant business of tea brewing among the maze of laneways. 

Along with their tea, Japanese people love their beer and during the fun and informative guided tour of the Asahi Beer Factory you will see the entire production process from barley-mashing to packaging. And best of all, you will sample the results at the end of the tour.

Try a glass of Asahi Super Dry served at minus two degrees and find out why it is one of Japan’s most popular amber fluids.