Discover the back roads of Japan with this superb itinerary. You begin your journey in the lively metropolis of Tokyo before heading to Hakone, the gateway to Mt Fuji. Relax in a luxury hotel here. Located in the foothills of Mt Fuji, Hakone is where you can relax and unwind in the soothing natural hot springs before boarding the Bullet train to Kyoto - the cultural heartland of Japan. Here you will explore the highlights of this fascinating city. You'll then get off the beaten track and visit the lovely Japan Alps. In Takayama you can view stunning scenery and experience traditional Japan. A short trip away is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go where you can wander the picturesque A-framed thatched houses. On the way back to Tokyo you will stay overnight in the castle town of Matsumoto, considered one of Japan's finest.
Day 01: Arrive in Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo! You will be greeted and escorted to your hotel by our representative and checked in for three nights. Rest of the day at leisure.
Day 02: Tokyo
Today we will be using public transport and we start the day by ascending the Tokyo Municipal Government Building for a fantastic view of Tokyo. We then move on to the bustling, traditional Asakusa district to visit Sensoji Temple- the oldest temple in Tokyo. After lunch we will enjoy a pleasure cruise from Asakusa pier along the Sumida River to Hama-Rikyu - site of one of Tokyo's loveliest gardens.
Day 03: Tokyo
This morning we will visit the beautiful Meiji Shrine and then you will have the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 04: Tokyo - Hakone
It's time to say goodbye to Tokyo for a few days as you speed on the Bullet Train to Hakone, a beautiful resort set in the foothills of Mt Fuji. We check into our hotel for the night. You are free to spend the afternoon strolling through the mountain paths and relaxing in your hotel's soothing hot spring bath, looking out over the beautiful scenery. Enjoy a delicious three course meal tonight.
Day 05: Hakone - Kyoto
Following breakfast, we will explore the landscape of Hakone by private coach, enjoy a cruise across Lake Ashi, ride in a cable car for a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding mountains and volcanic valleys of Owakudani and visit the Hakone Open Air Museum. We then board the Bullet Train to Kyoto, the cultural heartland of Japan. Check into your centrally-located Kyoto hotel for four nights.
Day 06: Kyoto
Enjoy a full day visiting the sights of Kyoto by private air-conditioned coach, beginning with the beautiful temples and blossoming gardens of Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. Next, we will visit the famous Zen Buddhist rock garden at Ryoan-ji. Following a buffet lunch at Kyoto Handicraft Centre, we will visit Kiyomizu-dera, a hillside temple offering fabulous views over the city.
Day 07: Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto
Today we will take the train to the sleepy town of Nara, Japan's first permanent capital and home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The highlight of the day is a visit to Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world and home to the Great Buddha. Nara Park is a lovely place to stroll, relax and feed the deer. This afternoon you are free to continue exploring Nara or return to Kyoto.
Day 08: Kyoto
Spend another day in Kyoto or alternatively use your JR Pass to explore the surrounding area. Japan's lively second city, Osaka, is only a short train ride away. Hiroshima is also possible as a day excursion.
Day 09: Kyoto - Takayama
This morning we leave Kyoto and transfer by Bullet and local train to Takayama, a lovely town in the Japan Alps. You will have time this afternoon to relax and explore Takayama's atmospheric streets, museums and folkcraft. We will check in to your hotel in Takayama for two nights.
Day 10: Takayama - Furukawa - Takayama
We join a guided bus tour today to visit the two UNESCO World Heritage sites of Shirakawago and Gokayama. These two picturesque villages are famous for their traditional 'gassho-style' Japanese houses that are unique to their region. We will enjoy delicious local cuisine for lunch.
Day 11: Takayama - Matsumoto
We travel by private coach to Matsumoto, where we will arrive around lunchtime. Spend the afternoon at Matsumoto Castle, one of the most impressive castles in Japan, before checking in to your hotel for one night.
Day 12: Matsumoto - Tokyo
After breakfast we take the train back to Tokyo. We return to our hotel for our final night in Japan. You have the afternoon at leisure before we all get together for a lovely farewell dinner.
Day 13: Depart Tokyo
Take the limousine bus to the airport for your flight back home.