Expert-Led Group Tour

Japan group tour - Science and technology with New Scientist

11 days

from £4,995pp
  • Visit Japan's three cosmopolitan and iconic cities; Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto
  • Take an exclusive tour of The University of Tokyo and receive a private talk on robotics
  • Get involved in a research project on the coral-fringed island of Okinawa
  • Explore The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)

Experience cutting edge Japan on a 11 day journey taking in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Okinawa. Travel from snow-capped mountains to buzzing cities and from hot springs to subtropical coral reefs.

Home to Erica the robot, a burgeoning centre for technology and countless areas of spectacular natural beauty, Japan is a must-see destination for science and nature lovers. Join us on a special journey across Japan in wintertime to see exceptional landscapes, visit top universities and get involved in a research project on the coral-fringed island of Okinawa.

Tokyo is a futuristic city, both functionally and aesthetically. One of the Steppes' team recently returned from the city and commented on how he felt he was wandering around the film set of Blade Runner. A guided tour of Miraikan, Tokyo’s Science and Innovation Centre will do nothing to disavow this notion. At the cutting edge of technology, Miraikan provides a fascinating insight into neutrino observation, space and frontier exploration, natural disasters, iPS cell research and next-generation medicines. In short, a museum designed to satisfy the curiosity of the human mind.

This tour is not just about visiting museums as there is time set aside for experiencing the extraordinary natural phenomena of Japan. Visit the volcanic region of Owakudani and walk the trails around the steam vents and bubbling natural springs. Travel by boat across Lake Ashi, an enormous volcanic crater born out of an eruption, 3,000 years ago. The cultural side of Japan is also a feature of this trip as we have included a journey on the iconic bullet train to Kyoto for a taste of quintessential Japanese lifestyle, history and culture.

The tour concludes with five days spent in Okinawa, located in the island’s capital, Naha. From this base, visit Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology campus to meet with local researchers and academics to learn about coral restoration, trap insects and input data into a research project and visit the ‘sustainable homes’ development project – a blueprint for sustainable living.

This is a one-off itinerary exclusive to New Scientist readers and Steppes Travel clients, with special access to research facilities and institutions. As group size is limited, we advise early booking. 

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN JAPAN IN NOVEMBER?

Autumn is a pleasant time to visit Japan, as the leaves begin to change colours in Tokyo and in the central regions of the country. The days will be getting cooler in northern and central regions, whilst in Okinawa it will be slightly warmer and dryer.  

WHAT IS FOOD LIKE IN JAPAN?

Based around fresh, seasonal produce, Japanese cuisine is renowned for being nutritious and tasty. Rice is a staple ingredient and is generally offered with miso soup as an accompaniment. Sushi is Japan's most famous delicacy and can be found throughout the country.

Breakfast is included as part of this tour and will mainly comprise of international food. Dinners are also included and will vary throughout the different regions.

WHAT IS ACCOMMODATION LIKE IN JAPAN?

Japan offers a large range of both Japanese and western style accommodation, including some unconventional forms such as capsule hotels and temple lodgings.

As part of this tour you will be staying in mainly western style 3-4* hotels.

WHAT IS THE MIRAIKAN MUSEUM?

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known as Miraikan, opened in 2001. Its name translates as "Future Museum". It was created by Japan's Science and Technology Agency. It is situated in a new purpose-built building in the Odaiba District of Tokyo, which, can be reached by the Yurikamome driverless fully automated transit system from downtown Tokyo in about 15 minutes.

Some of the museums highlights include real-time displays of data from a huge array of seismometers across Japan which show how the country is permanently, gently vibrating. The occasional earthquakes for which Japan is noted show up as larger movements. Visitors can search the online database of recent earthquake activity.

WHAT IS THE OKINAWA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE?

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, alternatively known as OIST, is a graduate school located in Okinawa, Japan. Over half of the faculty and students are recruited from outside Japan, and all education and research is conducted entirely in English.

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accompanied by an English speaking guide
  • Airport transfers by private vehicle
  • All dinners (except on day 8)
  • Breakfast included everyday
  • Entrance fees to Miraikan museum
  • Four nights 3* accommodation in Okinawa
  • Half day Tokyo city tour with guide by private coach.
  • Internal flight from Kyoto to Okinawa
  • Kyoto city tour by private coach inc Nijo Castle visit
  • One night 4* accommodation in Hakone
  • Rope Way and Pirate boat in Hakone
  • Service charges
  • Three nights 3* accommodation in Tokyo
  • Train travel Shinjyuku to Hakone Yumoto in economy
  • Transport to/from Miraikan museum
  • Transport to/from OIST
  • Transport to/from Tokyo University
  • Travel from Odawara station for Kyoto by Bullet train
  • Two nights 4* accommodation in Kyoto

what is excluded

  • All drinks
  • All lunches
  • Dinner on day nine
  • Entrance fees not mentioned
  • Gratuities (Tipping is not generally practised in Japan. )
  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Suggested group flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

British Airways BA7, scheduled to depart London Heathrow at 10:50 on Saturday 3rd November, arriving into Tokyo Haneda airport at 07:35 on Sunday 4th November.

An arrival transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. You will be met at the arrivals hall by a member of our local team and transferred to the Shinjuku Washington Hotel. For those not taking the suggested group flight, please speak to one of our team should you need help organising a private departure transfer.


Tokyo
For those making their own way to Tokyo and not taking the suggested group flight, the starting point for the group is the Shinjuku Washington Hotel in Tokyo. Please speak to one of our team should you need help organising a private arrival transfer.

Your guide will discuss what time he will meet you to depart for your half day Tokyo city tour. Firstly, visit Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji and a popular place for traditional Japanese weddings. You will have the chance to walk down Omotesando shopping street, a broad tree-lined avenue, home to the flagship stores of the world's top brands.

Next, travel to the Roppongi District to visit the Roppongi Hills Observation Deck. The 238 meters tall Mori Tower is the centrepiece of the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo's Roppongi district. The tower houses the entrance to the excellent Mori Art Museum and the Tokyo City View observation deck. On a clear day, you can see Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree and even as far as Mt. Fuji.

You will then be driven back to your hotel.

Japan is an intriguing blend of the resolutely traditional and the restlessly innovative - and nowhere typifies this more so than Tokyo. Look beyond its futuristic façade and you will discover a different Tokyo, where ancient traditions and customs are quietly maintained. An enthralling and captivating city of many layers, it is an essential place to visit for any keen traveller.


Dinner included.


You will be staying at Shinjuku Washington Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Miraikan Museum
After breakfast at the hotel, meet with your local guide and transfer by private coach to the Miraikan Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, simply known as the Miraikan, is a museum created by Japan's Science and Technology Agency. Some of the highlights of the museum include real-time displays of data from a huge array of seismometers across Japan, which show that the country is gently vibrating. Also see Asimo - the Honda robot, who is one of the star attractions along with the model maglev train.

Proposed itinerary:

10:00 arrival at Miraikan

10:00-11:10 Miraikan tour guided by a science communicator (probably Masatoshi Shimizu)

11:10-11:30 a short talk about Japanese robotics by the same science communicator in a separate room

11:30- Free time to explore the museum at leisure (open until 17:00)

After a full day exploring the museum, return to your hotel in the late afternoon.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at Shinjuku Washington Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 3

The University of Tokyo
After breakfast at your hotel you will be met by your local guide and transferred to The University of Tokyo.

The itinerary is as follows:

10:00-11:00am Robotics lab A - Lecture and tour.

Transfer by foot to the Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) (a 10-15-minute walk)

11:30am ERI - Brief tour and view exhibits.

12:30-1:30pm Lunch at a dining facility on campus (Not included, but there is a nice restaurant on the campus of our agriculture school)

2:00-3:00pm Robotics lab B - Lecture and tour.

Optional guided tour of campus to follow for those interested.

In the late afternoon transfer back to your hotel.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at Shinjuku Washington Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 4

Tokyo to Hakone
** Please prepare an overnight bag for the Hakone stay, your luggage will be sent to the hotel in Kyoto separately ***

After breakfast, check out and meet your local guide in the lobby (timings to be discussed with the guide).

Walk to Shinjuku Station and take a limited express service from Shinjyuku to Hakone-Yumoto station (a journey time of around two hours).

After arriving to Hakone - Yumoto station, you will be met with your private coach and depart to Owakudani station. You will smell sulphur in the air, which is coming from this active volcano. The walking trails around Owakudani lead to steam vents and bubbling pools and the eggs sold locally are boiled in the volcano's natural hot springs and are said to prolong life by seven years.

Continue your journey via Rope Way heading towards Togendai, where you will board a pirate boat to Hakonekomachi. Both are ports on the shores of Lake Ashi, which is an enormous volcanic crater created by an eruption 3,000 years ago.


Transfer by private coach to your hotel for check in.

The rest of the day at leisure.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at Shinanoki Ichinoyu, bed and breakfast

Day 5

Hakone to Kyoto
After breakfast, check out and meet your guide in the lobby before being driven to Odawara Station. Depart Odawara station for Kyoto by Bullet train, a journey time of around two hours.



After arriving to Kyoto station, you will be transferred by private coach to your hotel.

Hakone is a natural nature wonderland famous for its hot springs, outdoor pursuits and the view of the nearby Mount Fuji. It is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and is less than 100 km from Tokyo, thereby providing a popular weekend destination for city residents keen to escape the frenzy of the capital. Besides the towering mountains, lakes and views of Mount Fuji, it is also blessed with interesting historical sites.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 6

Kyoto
After breakfast, meet your guide to travel Nijo Castle by private coach.

Nijo Castle was built by the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the Kyoto residence of the Shogun and is surrounded by stunning gardens. The ornamental building was completed in 1603 and is well-known for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, and 'chirping' nightingale floors. From Nijo castle a private coach will take you to Kinkakuji

Kinkakuji is also known as the Golden Pavilion, which, was originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun. After the death of Shogun Yoshimitsu it became a Buddhist Temple at his request, and is now one of Kyoto's most famous temples, with its top two floors completely covered in gold-leaf. After visiting Kinkakuji, a private coach will take you to the nearby town of Arashiyama.

Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. Founded in 1339 at the start of the Muromachi Period, the temple is now considered an important cultural property and ranked by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In addition to its temple buildings, there are beautiful gardens with walking paths.

On the way to Nonomiya shrine the path will take you through Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves, which are unlike any other place in Japan. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries. Nonomiya shrine is a Shinto shrine where in ancient times, unmarried imperial princesses stayed for a year or more to purify themselves. The shrine is referenced in numerous works of literature, most notably in the world's first novel; The Tale of Genji.

You will then travel by private coach back to the hotel.

Kyoto is quintessentially Japan. Peaceful temples, lavish gardens, and majestic palaces combine to create a slice of Japan at its purest and most distilled. Witness Geishas darting from one liaison to the next, or amble through one of the famous bamboo thickets. The home of Japanese cuisine and wearing its rich culture on its sleeve, Kyoto is a truly magical city.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 7

Kyoto to Okinawa
After breakfast, check out and depart for the airport by private coach with your local guide.

Fly Kyoto to Okinawa & the Southern Islands


Okinawa
On arrival into Okinawa you will have a half day city tour exploring the highlights of the city by private coach.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Naha, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Okinawa
Today you will have a full day at leisure.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Lunch and dinner not included


You will be staying at JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Naha, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
Check out of the hotel and take all your luggage as you will be moving to a hotel closer to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology for the next two nights.

After breakfast, you will be met by your local guide and transferred to the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology by private coach, where you will spend the day.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) is an interdisciplinary graduate school. Over half of the faculty and students are recruited from outside Japan, and all the education and research is conducted entirely in English. The research community consists of faculty and researchers divided into 'units' based on area of study. The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology has no departments. OIST researchers conduct multi-disciplinary research in neuroscience, mathematical and computational sciences, physics, chemistry, integrative biology and molecular, cell, and developmental biology.

After a welcome by OIST staff, the schedule will be as follows:

OIST expert to meet the group at the hotel (09:00)

Introduction of OKEON Project by Dr. Masashi Yoshimura

Transfer from Hotel to Sumiyoshi Park (10:00)

OKEON Site visit - Researchers brings participants to a park where monitoring projects are taking place. The site is in a rural location so suitable footwear is required.

Transfer from Sumiyoshi Park to OIST Campus (12:00)

Lunch at OIST cafe (at own expense)

OIST Campus

Visit labs and a campus tour (13:00-15:00)

Transfer from OIST Campus to hotel (15:00)

Transfer to your hotel.


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at The Peridot Smart Hotel Tancha Ward, bed and breakfast

Day 10

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology
After breakfast, you will be transferred for your second day at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), where time will be spent discovering more about coral regeneration and sustainable living.

Transfer from hotel to OIST Campus (10:00)

Introduction of our coral related research.

Transfer from OIST campus to ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort (12:00)

Lunch at hotel (not included)

After lunch, OIST researcher(s) will join you on board the hotel's glass boat. (14:00)

Travel in a specially designed glass-bottom boat to study the extent of coral bleaching on the island. Guided by OIST researchers, there will be the chance to learn about the coral research taking place. Coral is an endangered species, not only in Okinawa, but around the world and the institute is one of the world leaders in identifying the causes of this potentially disastrous environmental situation.

Transfer from ANA Intercontinental Manza Beach Resort to OIST (16:00)

After lunch, you will be taken to see OIST's sustainable homes and learn about their plans for efficient, intelligent use of solar power.

Transfer from OIST to hotel (17:30)


Breakfast included at your hotel. Dinner included at a local restaurant. Lunch not included


You will be staying at The Peridot Smart Hotel Tancha Ward, bed and breakfast

Day 11

Okinawa departure
After breakfast, you will have time at leisure until your departure.

You will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home.


Suggested group flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

British Airways BA4636, scheduled to depart Okinawa Naha airport at 20:45 on Wednesday 14th November, arriving into Tokyo Haneda airport at 23:00 on the same day. Connect onto British Airways flight BA4609 departing Tokyo Haneda airport at 02:45 on Thursday 15th November, arriving into London Heathrow at 06:25 on the same day.

A departure transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. For those not taking the suggested group flight, please speak to one of our team should you need help organising a private departure transfer.


Please note the flight from Okinawa to Tokyo is not included.

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Enquire about this holiday:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.


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