Geek Nation Tours is proud to continue our Signature Battlefield tours with our Samurai and the Battlefields of Sekigahara tour. On October 21st 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu lead his forces on to the plains of Sekigahara to an eventual victory that would change the course of Japanese history. This battle is one of the most famous of all Samurai battles in Japan’s long history.
The tour will be built around areas of Japan that still give one the feeling of living in those ancient times. It is our goal to take you back to the time of Samurai. So join us as we explore not only this battlefield in detail but also a wide range of Samurai related sites. The first days of our tour bring us to the Seki Cutlery Festival which is dedicated to blades of all sorts. We will see sword making demonstrations, the Seki Sword Tradition Museum and an outdoor knife show where you can purchase blades of your own. We will then slow the tour down and just like ancient times we will be forced to hike by the Shogunate (your Geek Nation Tours representative) between Magome and Tsumago. The road was well traveled by Samurai in ancient times and feels like a journey into the past. We will plunge into a traditional Japanese onsen or two just like the Samurai used to sooth aching bones… Castles will also be on the list and as such we will visit some of the very best – Matsumoto and Himeji Castles. Last but not least, we will visit the small city of Takayama and journey back to ancient Japan in its timeless temples and streets.
With this said, Sekigahara does play a big part in what we will see and we are lucky as we will be in Japan for the annual Battle of Sekigahara Festival… We will be able to see re-enactors dressed in traditional Samurai garb and explore the details of the battle…
You will be treated to at least two guides for this tour. We will have a local guide with us for most of the tour and your Geek Nation Tours representative studied in Japan. You will be well covered for all things Japanese.
If you ever dreamed of living in ancient Japan this is the tour for you!
Today we will arrive from all around the world into Nagoya. You will be given detailed instructions on how to meet the rest of the tour participants at our hotel (always remember you will be in constant contact with our representative). From there you will have a free day to explore all that Nagoya has to offer…. Whether that is seeing the Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology, the Nagoya Public Aquarium, Nagoya City Science Museum, Toganji Temple or just hanging out and shopping on the famous Osu Shopping Street….
When everyone has arrived however your Geek Nation Tours representative will start our exploration into all things Samurai by visiting the Nagoya Castle or the Tokugawa Art Museum.
Today we will hop on the train to travel from Nagoya to Seki. We will arrive right in a town celebrating one of its largest festivals. We will have two days to explore the Seki Cutlery Festival. Seki has a long history of producing the finest quality swords and blades in the world. The area has been doing this for over 900 years and today we will get a taste of this tradition. Throughout the town we will see sword-forging and polishing demonstrations, cutting and sheathing performances and sword collection displays. We will also explore the outdoor knife show that boasts a multitude of stalls for all those interested in purchasing any type of blade. Breakfast included
Today we will visit all remaining aspects of the festival including the Seki Sword Tradition Museum and return to the outdoor knife show. A private local guide will be with us today to help explain the sword making process and to give us deeper details into the festival itself. We will also tour a local Kendo (way of the sword) or Kyudo (way of the bow) dojo and see how these traditions still live in Japan.
Remember a key ingredient to enjoying any festival in Japan is to eat from a street vendor or two. So this is where we are going to eat on days 2 and 3. We will also enjoying the odd Japanese beer as we take the whole day to enjoy what the festival has to offer.
Today we will board the train once more and arrive in Magome to hike the Magome/Tsumago trail. Our bags will be transferred to our Ryokan in Tsumago. Ryokan are traditional Japanese hotels that are still in use today. We will sleep on tatami and eat just as explorers did in ages bygone.
The trail itself is 8 km long and is what remains of the Nakasendo – the route through the Kiso Valley which connected Tokyo and Kyoto. It is not a difficult hike but it will put you in the spirit of ancient Japan.
When we arrive in Tsumago we will be pleasantly rewarded with a town which looks virtually untouched for centuries. Tsumago is a traditional post town that welcomed visitors on the path to and from Tokyo. It is one of the best preserved post towns in Japan and is like visiting an open air museum. The residents go to great lengths to recreate the ambiance of the Edo Period. Cars, phone and power lines are all kept hidden to better let visitors imagine that they have been transported to ancient times.
Breakfast and Dinner included
If we have time we will visit the Kyodokan Folk Museum or just settle in for a traditional meal and beverages.
Day 5 will see us on the train again on the road to Matsumoto to visit its wonderful castle. Matsumoto castle is one of the most beautiful and historically intact castles in all of Japan. It was built during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period) around 1593 (the same time period of course as Sekigahara). It was never attacked in those times and also avoided being so during World War II. Matsumoto is known as the black castle and this hirajiro (a castle built on a plain) is both forbidding and beautiful.
We will spend the day at the castle and have some free time in the evening to have dinner on our own as we explore this bustling country town.
Today we will head off to the Japanese Alps by motor coach and visit the onsen town of Hiraya. The onsens in this area are said to have been discovered in the 1560s by Takeda Shingen’s troops as the passed through the area. We will visit two onsen today – the Hiayu no Mori and Hirayu Minzokukan. We will again stay at a traditional ryokan and if possible head off to another onsen in the morning of Day 7 like the Okudida Garden Hotel Yakedake onsen.
Breakfast and Dinner included
TakayamaWe will continue our travels by motor coach and leave Hirayu to visit Takayama. Takayama is a favourite for people visiting this area. Takayama is known for the Sanmachisuji or “Old Town” that is wonderfully preserved with many houses and shops dating from the Edo Period (1600-1868). Later this day we will get a tour of a small traditional Sake distillery and visit several other shops. We will stay in Old Town for most of the day or wander Takayama at will – before retiring for a traditional meal at our ryokan.
Breakfast and Dinner included
We will spend a full day in Takayama today. For those wanting to get a bit of rest this is the day for that… For anyone interested however our representative will be headed off to visit Takayama Jinya (A traditional Japanese government office used during the Edo period) and the local morning market. If time presents itself we will visit two… One near the Jinya and one on the Miyagawa River.
After this we will have a slow walk through the Higashiyama Walking Course which will bring us to the Teramachi area that has over a dozen temples and shrines and the beautiful Shiroyama Park. The park is also the former site of the Takayama Castle and we can discover its ruins here… It is here that we will again see the calmer side of Japan and be able to envision it in the days of the Samurai.
Today we will take the train form Takayama to Sekigahara. The town will be gearing up for the annual Battle of Sekigahara Festival and enthusiasts and reenactors will be gathering here from all around the country. The goal of the festival is to turn the clock back to 1600 and you will see many people walking around in full Samurai armour and you will even see warring clan period related goods sold in outdoor markets. There are live stage events and loads of demonstrations reminiscent of the time period. We will again hop into the festival spirit and celebrate as the locals do – who knows you might even meet a Samurai or two…
Today we will watch the Sekigahara Battle re-enactment and again participate in the festival. There will be plenty of time to take in some of the spots we missed or to revisit things we saw yesterday. With that said we will have a local private guide to take us on a visit of the Sekigahara battlefield so we can dive into the history of the battlefield itself.
Today many will be returning home and will thus take the early train from Sekigahara to Nagoya. You will be given instructions on how to get to the airport and sent on your way to return home and the present day.
Beautiful KyotoFor those staying with the tour for a few more days we will travel from Sekigahara to Kyoto. Here you will have a free day. There are tonnes of temples and shrines to see in Kyoto – too many to list actually… But you are free to wonder on your own or to visit some popular ones with our Geek Nation Tours representative.
We will gather for dinner to welcome all the extension participants to Kyoto and to tell each other what we did that day… As a matter of fact past tour participants agree that our meet-ups are an important part of the tour experience – a time where you can get to know other Geeks and maybe hear a great suggestion or two on what to do the following day, exchange “war stories” and have loads of fun. You can join us every night or you can do your own thing. Geek Nation Tours wants you to have the most freedom to “Geek Out” as much as possible so our meetings will be completely optional and you can come and go as you please.
Breakfast and Dinner included
Today we will see Kyoto in a very specific light. We will slow down our pace, travel by foot and visit a few of the more spiritual places in this ancient city. We will visit Ryoan-ji. This Zen temple is known worldwide for its rock and sand garden. It is the finest of all rock gardens in Japan and is said to have been founded in the 1400s. It is said to bring together many aspects of Zen Buddhism and acts to clear the mind and cleanse the spirit.Ginkakuji
From here we will visit an often forgotten walk through this city. The Philosopher’s walk takes us from Nansenji Temple to the often missed Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). We will take our time on the walk stopping for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the way. If we have time we will visit Honen-in also or many of the other temples in the area.
Kyoto and in particular this area has a specal way of sheltering us from the business of normal city life and you will again be transported to the past.
We will look for a restaurant on our way home to have dinner and then we will be free to explore Kyoto by night.
Today we will go to perhaps the most famous castle in Japan – Himeji Castle. We will leave Kyoto via Shinkansen or Bullet Train and head south. The journey will take us pass the Japanese country side and may not give you a particular Samurai-esque feel, however you will see how Japanese travel on a daily basis.
Currently renovations to Himeji are in full swing. There is a possibility that our late arrival in 2014 will allow us access to the castle or a special view of the end phases of the reconstruction. If however this is not the case we will explore more of Kyoto this day and have our final meal together in one of its many traditional restaurants.
Breakfast and Dinner included
All good things must end, unfortunately, and today we return to the Kyoto/Osaka Kensai airport and depart for home. The photos, memories and friendships you made on the tour are yours to keep forever!