Baseball, Wrestling on the Game Plan for Japan Trip
The temples and imperial palaces are obvious tourism destinations for people visiting Japan.
During a trip being organized by Sports Travel and Tours of Hatfield, Massachusetts, for this fall, travelers can see those stunning sights and take in Japan’s two most popular sports: sumo wrestling and baseball.
“Cultural Highlights of Japan with Baseball and Sumo,” is a two-week trip that departs from San Francisco, California, on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Travelers will hit the ground running on Tuesday, Sept. 11 with a visit to the Hanshin Tigers Museum and a tour of Japan’s oldest stadium, the Hanshin Koshien Stadium, built in 1924. The tour will be led by a retired Hanshin Tigers player. The day will also offer a city tour of Osaka; and a Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) game.
Travelers will overnight at Hotel New Hiroden on the banks of the Kyobashi River, getting a good night’s sleep before boarding a ferry to Miyajima for sightseeing on Thursday. Stops include “the floating shrine on the sea,” called the Itsukushima Shrine, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, and the Fude no Sato Kobo calligraphy museum, where guests can try their hand at the ancient art form.
Take the Shinkansen to Kyoto for a Korean barbecue-style dinner, and settle into the Hearton Hotel Kyoto for a three-night stay. Come Friday morning, guests will travel by motor coach to the Kasuga Taisha Shinto Shrine, Nara’s most celebrated shrine that was established at the same time as Tokyo and dedicated to the deity responsible for protecting the city.
Another Friday stop is the Todai-ji Temple, also known as the Great Eastern Temple, which was constructed in 752. It houses one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha, called Daibutsu.
Returning to Kyoto, visitors will see the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates and the network of trails up sacred Mount Inari.
Saturday’s agenda includes a tour of Kyoto and an NPB game, while Sunday takes travelers again on the Shinkansen to Nagoya and then on a scenic mountain train to a beautifully preserved old town in the Japanese Alps called Takayama. Get an almost bird’s-eye view of the thatched-roof homes, winding river, surrounding mountains and adjacent rice paddies from the Shirakawago Shiroyama Observatory Deck, and visit a Gassho-Zukuri farmhouse.
Travelers will dine on Hida beef, a highly esteemed beef local to the area, before bunking in a place that might seem a little more familiar in a foreign country: Best Western Hotel Takayama.
After stretching their legs, guests can put their feet up while taking the train and the Shinkansen to Odawara. The evening is all about relaxation with dinner, a hot spring bath and a good night’s rest at Aura-Tachibana, a traditional Ryokan style hotel in the city of Hakone.
There’s plenty to see on Tuesday, starting with Hakone National Park. Sightseeing there includes a scenic cruise on Lake Ashi and a cable car ride showcasing Owakudani Valley and Mt. Komagatake. Moving onto the city of Kamakura, travelers will visit the Great Image of Buddha, the Komachi-dori shopping district and the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shinto Shrine.
The final three nights will be spent at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa, with convenient access to Tokyo’s expressways and subway. Exploring the capital begins with a tour of Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday. The tour will include a lecture by a local baseball celebrity.
An independent lunch in the Tokyo Dome City, an urban entertainment zone with a wide variety of food and drink options, will offer a break before a tour of the Meiji Jingo Shinto Shrine and visit to Ginza, one of the busiest districts in Japan with fashion boutiques and department stores. Guests will get lessons in Japanese culture including the tea ceremony (Sado), calligraphy (Shodo), kimono (Waso) and sword play (Batto).
Round out Wednesday with another NPB game and spend the final day touring Tokyo. Destinations include the Tsukiji Outer Market, a Sumida River cruise, the Nakamise shopping street and the Ryogoku Kokugikan, also known as the Ryogoku Sumo Hall, to experience one of the greatest sporting traditions in the world: sumo wrestling.
Thursday night’s farewell dinner to wrap up the long journey will be Shabu Shabu, one of the country’s most popular dishes consisting of paper-thin slices of beef and vegetables that are cooked by each diner at the table in a pot of hot broth.
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