Discover Japan's most historic towns and villages on this tour that takes you deep into rural Honshu, and across the Japanese Alps. After some time in the old district of Tokyo take the bullet train to the 16th century city of Kanazawa, known for its fine Japanese garden and Samurai districts. Continue to an isolated hamlet in the Hida Mountains for an overnight stay in a traditional thatched farmhouse, and explore Takayama, a wealthy trading town during the Edo Period that attracted many gifted craftsmen. Traverse the Japanese Alps to the castle town of Matsumoto, and enjoy the spectacular walk between two post towns on the old Nakasendo highway in the Kiso Valley. The tour finishes in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, to explore many of the country's most treasured heritage sites.
Day 01: Arrive in Tokyo
Upon arrival in Tokyo you will be met by our representative and welcomed to Japan. Our representative will escort you to the Keisei Skyliner express train to Keisei Ueno Station in Tokyo. This journey will take around 40 minutes. You will also be provided with taxi vouchers to get from the station to your hotel. Check into your Hotel for three nights.
Day 02: Tokyo
Today you will take a full day private tour of the city with a private English speaking guide, travelling by public transport. Places of interest that can be visited include Tsukiji fish market, one of the world's largest fish markets handling over 2,000 tons per day, and is especially famous for the auction of high quality tuna used for sushi and sashimi. Tokyo's National Museum houses displays of historic costumes including samurai armour and swords and fine kimonos, antique folding screens, tea ceremony utensils and Japanese paintings. The Sumida River cruise travels through the busy heart of the city and to the edge of Tokyo Bay where you will be able to see the reclaimed land islands and the large Rainbow Bridge that dominates the bay. Hamarikyu Garden is a tranquil oasis on the edge of the bay and flanked by the modern skyscrapers of the Shiodome district. The gardens reflect Japan's changing seasons. Enjoy Japanese tea with Japanese sweets in the wooden pavilion by the edge of the park's lake.
Day 03: Tokyo
Today is free to explore more of Tokyo, or the nearby towns of Nikko & Kamakura. Nikko is famous for its ornate religious architecture, some of the most important in all of Japan, in a beautiful woodland setting. Kamakura is a sleepy coastal town that served briefly as capital of Japan in the 1100s, leaving a rich cultural legacy.
Day 04: Tokyo - Kanazawa
Travel by train from Ueno station to Kanazawa, changing trains at Echigo Yuzawa, a journey of approximately 4 hours. On arrival check into your Hotel.
This afternoon is at leisure to explore Kanazawa independently. The city is easy to get around either by public transport or by using taxis. Places of interest that we recommend visiting include the beautiful Kenrokuen garden rated as one of the three best gardens in the whole of Japan. There are also several small geisha districts, old tea houses, samurai houses and a ninja temple.
Day 05: Kanazawa - Shirakawa-go
Make your way to Kanazawa Bus Station for the express bus to Shirakawa-go departing in the morning, a journey of 1 hour 15 minutes. On arrival check into your Hotel.
This afternoon is at leisure to explore Shirakawago independently. Surrounded by pine tree covered mountains in the heart of the Hakusan National Park, Shirakawago is one of the most scenic parts of Japan. Besides the beautiful scenery, the unique Japanese thatched-roof farmhouses are one of the main attractions. You have the whole day and evening to explore the village, visit the exhibition hall, or take a walk in the surrounding countryside.
Day 06: Shirakawa-go - Takayama
This morning travel by public bus from Shirakawago to Takayama, a journey of around 1 hour. On arrival check into your Ryokan for two nights.
This afternoon is at leisure to explore Takayama independently. Visit Takayama's old town area to explore its narrow streets full of carefully preserved inns, tea houses, shops and merchants houses of the Edo period.
Day 07: Takayama
Today is at leisure to explore more of Shirakawago independently. Suggestions for today include Takayama's morning market, famous for local farm produce, flowers and crafts. The town has many shrines and temples to explore, and the fascinating Hida folk village where old farm houses from across the Hida region have been rebuilt beam by beam. There are also some great sake micro breweries which offer the chance to sample Takayama's most famous product.
Day 08: Takayama - Matsumoto
This morning take the bus to Takayama to Matsumoto, a spectacular journey through the Japanese Alps lasting around 2 hours 20 minutes. On arrival check into your Hotel.
This afternoon is at leisure to explore Matsumoto independently. The city is most famous for one of the only original castles in Japan, a great place to get a feel for ancient Japan and how the samurai used to live and fight. The city also has a number of sake breweries tucked away in the backstreets, and an interesting museum of Ukiyoe woodblock prints.
Day 09: Matsumoto - Tsumago
This morning travel by train from Matsumoto to Nagiso. From Nagiso station you will need to take a taxi to Tsumago. The journey takes about 7-8 minutes. On arrival check into your Hotel.
A stay in Tsumago is to step back in time and experience old Japan. Tsumago is situated in the picturesque Kiso Valley and the hike between Tsumago and Magome along the old post route is highly recommended this afternoon.
Day 10: Tsumago - Kyoto
This morning you will need to take a taxi back to Nagiso station. The journey takes about 7-8 minutes and later travel by train from Nagiso to Kyoto, changing trains in Nagoya. On arrival in Kyoto check into your Hotel for four nights.
Today you will take a full day private tour of the city with a private English speaking guide, travelling by public transport. Places of interest that can be visited include Kiyomizu Temple, perched on a hillside with good views towards central Kyoto. Dating from 1633, the main hall sits on hundreds of interconnecting wooden pillars above a sacred spring that is believed to have therapeutic qualities. Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of Japan's most famous sights. This glittering temple is covered entirely in gold leaf and set on a small lake amongst well-tended gardens. Ryoanji Temple belongs to the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism and was founded in 1450. The adjoining garden is an austere collection of 15 rocks adrift in a sea of sand. Nijo Castle was built in 1603 to demonstrate the power of the first Tokugawa Shogun Ieyusa. The design of this castle, built by the first Shogun of a united Japan, reflects an ambition to impress rather than anticipation of combat.
Day 11: Kyoto
Today you will take a tour of the beautifully preserved 'machiya', a Meiji period town house full of antiques. Located in Kyoto's textile district, this town house was built as a textiles shop with living quarters stretching far behind and has been in the same family for 13 generations. During your tour you will be shown how to dress in kimono, and taught the ancient techniques of the tea ceremony. A traditional lunch will then be served on authentic Meiji period dining ware.
Day 12: Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto
Today is free to explore more of Kyoto, or alternatively take a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nara located just 40 minutes from the city.
Day 13: Kyoto - Tokyo
Today travel by bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours and check into your Hotel. Later explore Tokyo on your own or do some last minute shopping for latest gadgets.
In time transfer by Narita Express train to the Airport to catch your flight back home.