After three nights in Tokyo's most traditional district, you will swap skyscrapers for mountains and escape the crowds for rural villages and inns. The preserved villages, World Heritage sites, mountain scenery and folk museums will introduce you to a more traditional, quieter face of Japan. Along the way you will experience fantastic gardens, explore samurai residences and have the opportunity to shop for local arts and crafts. Shirakawago and Tsumago are two very rural villages - the former a collection of thatched farm houses deep in the countryside, the latter an ancient post town on the Nakasendo route. Both have fantastic leisurely walks and offer tiny Japanese-style inns with a genuine warm welcome and home cooked food.
This all awaits you as you travel through the stunning countryside and regional towns towards the ancient capital of Kyoto, a city bursting with culture, history and art; a chance to experience the religious and cultural traditions of this fascinating country. A glimpse of a geisha rushing between appointments is the icing on the cake for any visit to Kyoto. One of Japan's best extant castles makes for a stunning spectacle in Matsumoto, whilst the Kenrokuen gardens in Kanazawa are rated amongst Japan's top three. Takayama's morning market meanwhile, gives you the chance to get to see a little bit of small town life.
Professional private guiding is included for one day in Tokyo and Kyoto allowing the chance to delve deeper into both of these historic cities. We will also book a visit for you to the Tondaya machiya in Kyoto where you can experience a tea ceremony and enjoy a guided tour of this historic old town house. Your three nights in Kyoto gives you the opportunity of making a day trip using the included Japan Rail Pass for no extra cost. Possible destinations include Hiroshima, Himeji and Kobe.
Connecting the past with the present, the Traditional Japan Self-Guided Adventure will captivate you with the hidden secrets of this ancient land.
Twin: £1930 Single: £2500
Twin: £2970 Single: £3910
- 14 nights accommodation (4 nights Japanese-style)
- Breakfast each morning (Upgrade) or most mornings (Standard)*
- 4 evening meals
- Meet and Greet upon arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport
- Tokyo Pasmo card for use on subway
- Most transport between destinations including airport transfers
- Excursion day from Kyoto (using included Japan Rail Pass)
- 8 hours private guide service in Tokyo & Kyoto
- Tondaya machiya visit with tea ceremony, kimono dress-up & lunch
- InsideJapan Tours Info-Pack
- International Flights
- Local transport (buses, subways, taxis) at any destination
- Day 4/5 – Taxi transfer between Nagiso and Tsumago (approx. 2000yen per taxi each way)
- Any entrance fees including those for shrines, temples and museums
- Baggage handling - you will be expected to carry your own bags for the duration of the trip
No seasonal supplement
Black Out Dates
There are no black out dates for this trip. However, please be aware that at the busiest times of the year the named accommodation may not be available and in this case the price can not be guaranteed. However, we will always do our best to match the prices you see here as closely as possible.
Included evening meals are in Shirakawago (1), Takayama (2) and Tsumago (1).
*Breakfast is included each morning if staying at Upgrade accommodation. If staying at Standard accommodation then breakfast is included 11 out of 14 mornings. This is because the Standard package uses an apartment/residential style hotel in Tokyo (B:conte Asakusa). If you would prefer a hotel that serves breakfast please ask your travel consultant for an alternative.
The listed accommodation in Tsumago and Shirakawago are very traditional inns and the rooms are NOT en-suite. En-suite alternatives are available however - please ask us for details.
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Tokyo
Your Japanese adventure begins today from the moment you arrive in Tokyo’s Narita Airport. You will be met by your driver for your comfortable shuttle bus transfer to your hotel in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Asakusa is Tokyo’s most historic district and home to the capital’s oldest temple, Senso-ji. The surrounding colourful market of traditional snack stands and souvenir stalls has been serving temple visitors for centuries. Asakusa offers visitors the chance to mingle with the locals and soak the atmosphere of an almost lost Tokyo from the days before the soaring skyscrapers.
Day 2 Tokyo
To help you find your feet in one of the world’s largest cities, you will have a knowledgeable guide at your disposal today. The guide will lead you to some of Tokyo’s most famous sights as well as some lesser known places of interest. The itinerary will be agreed by you and the guide on the day, so if you have any special interests, from sushi to computer games, the guide will be delighted to incorporate this. Tokyo’s public transport is truly first rate and as you travel around the city by bus, train and subway you can get the full Tokyo low-down first hand from your local guide.
Please note breakfast is not included at the standard accommodation in Tokyo (days 2-4) as it is a residential/apartment style hotel. If this is a problem then please ask your travel consultant for an alternative hotel. Breakfast is included each morning at the Upgrade accommodation
Day 3 Tokyo
Armed with your complimentary InsideJapan Tours Info-Pack and a good city map, you will be ready to discover the many sights, sounds and tastes of Tokyo. Once a small fishing village called Edo, Tokyo is now a glittering megalopolis and you won’t run out of things to do today! At Asakusa hop on the waterbus for a cruise down the Sumida River to the Hama Rikyu Garden, a perfect Japanese landscape garden juxtaposed against the gleaming skyscrapers of Shiodome. Spend the afternoon exploring The Ginza’s luxurious department stores and more traditional boutiques. Or why not take a gentle stroll though Ueno Park and visit the Tokyo National Museum. To witness a truly Japanese tradition, visit the sumo stables to watch the wrestlers’ early morning practice session.
Day 4 Kanazawa
For a day that highlights the great contasts that make modern Japan, you will leave Tokyo behind and travel across the Japan Alps to the pretty town of Kanazawa on the northern coast. The first leg of today’s four hour journey is by the world famous Shinkansen or ‘bullet train’. The train quickly glides through the Tokyo suburbs and out past green paddy fields which later give way to the steep snow-capped mountains of the Japan Alps. High in the mountains at Echigo Yuzawa you must change to a Limited Express train for the second leg to Kanazawa, travelling past numerous ski resorts and finally along the coast. Kanazawa, meaning ‘marsh of gold’, was one of the few Japanese cities to escape WWII bombing and today maintains Japanese traditions and culture in a way many other cities have long forgotten. Former geisha houses nestle next to tea shops in wooden streets lit by old fashioned street lamps.
Day 5 Kanazawa
A full day to explore Kanazawa today; Kenrokuen is the biggest draw; one of the three most loved gardens in Japan stretching over 25 acres and featuring a wide variety of trees, flowers, ponds and waterfalls. You can also explore the old castle grounds and there are a number of cultural experiences available here as well - ask us for details.
Day 6 Shirakawago
An hour’s bus ride will take you to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawago. Hidden deep in the Alps in the Shogawa river valley, Shirakawago is a beautiful village comprising of gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukuri literally means ‘constructed like hands in prayer’ as the steep thatched roofs of the farmhouses resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together. The roofs were built without nails in a design developed over many generations to withstand heavy winter snowfall. While many visitors bus into the village for the day, you will spend the night in one of the farmhouses allowing you to step back in time and feel a part of Shirakawago. A home cooked dinner is included and your hosts will take you up into the farmhouse loft where silk worms were traditionally kept.
Day 7 Takayama
Today you’ll travel by bus to Takayama, where you will spend two nights in a family-run traditional Japanese inn. Takayama came to prominance in the Edo period (1603-1868) due to the high quality work of its craftsmen. Today the old town displays much of this skill in the well-preserved inns, tea houses and merchant shops with the latticed windows and overhanging roofs characteristic of this era. It's little wonder that many visitors are captivated by Takayama’s charms as friendly locals and wizened old ladies bustle about the narrow streets and along the banks of the Miyagawa River, all set against the backdrop of the majestic Hida Mountains deep in the Japan Alps.
Day 8 Takayama
There are many ways to spend a relaxing free day in Takayama. In the morning head to the lively riverside market to see the stands selling local farm produce, flowers and crafts. Hire bikes and explore Takayama’s many temples and shrines which earn the town the nickname ‘Little Kyoto’. The local cuisine is truly a joy, including Japan’s best beef, soba noodles, miso based dishes and roasted rice balls. Sake is the locals’ drink of choice and micro breweries abound, so pop in for a tasting!
Day 9 Matsumoto
The stunning journey to Matsumoto is by express bus and takes you through spectacular scenery as you pass right over the crest of the Japan Alps. Matsumoto is home to the ‘black crow’ castle, a designated National Treasure of Japan and one of the best original castles in the country. The nickname is attributed to the castle’s black appearance and three-tiered shape of the castle’s donjon or main tower. The castle offers an insight into how the samurai used to live and fight in ancient times. Matusmoto has produced many famous authors and artists, including Suzuki of the famous violin Suzuki method. As such the city has something of a creative, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Matsumoto is home to soba noodles and for those braver foodies, raw horse is on the menu!
Day 10 Tsumago
Travelling south by train, you will reach Tsumago, once a post town on the old Nakasendo Highway linking the ancient capital of Kyoto with Matsumoto. Today, Tsumago is loved for the residents’ efforts to preserve the town’s Edo Period ambience. Power lines are hidden away and cars banned from the main roads during the daytime so that the beautiful, traditional buildings and flag-stone streets can be seen in their true glory. Tsumago is situated in the picturesque Kiso Valley and the hike between Tsumago and Magome along the old post route is highly recommended.
Day 11 Kyoto
Once the capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto remains its key position as the cultural and historical centre of Japan. Kyotoites are rightly pride of their home; by turns a thriving, modern city and also the epicentre of tradition; home to Japan’s most atmospheric temples and shrines, 17 of which are designated World Heritage Sites. Arriving from Tsumago on the ‘bullet’ train, Kyoto station itself is an ode to futuristic architecture. But spend the afternoon meandering from the Silver Temple along the Path of Philosophy to the 400 year old Sanmon Gate and you’ll soon feel the ancient heartbeat of this very special city.
Day 12 Kyoto
Today you will have the services of a local guide to help you navigate both the geography and history of Kyoto. Itineraries are not fixed in advance, so you and the guide can decide exactly what you’d like to see on the day. Of course the guide will have lots of recommendations, from the 1,001 gold statues of Kannon at Sanjusangendo Temple to the handicraft market at Kitano Tenmangu. A visit to Tondaya Machiya is also on the agenda today. A machiya is a traditional Japanese town house and there are very few still in existence. You will have a tour of the house and will also get the chance to try on a kimono and take part in a time-honoured tea ceremony. A traditional Japanese lunch is included. In the afternoon you are free to continue your exploration of Kyoto. If gardens are your thing, then visit the serene strolling garden at Heian Shrine and hop across the lily pond stepping stones just as Sayuri does in the final scenes of Memoirs of a Geisha. Alternatively head out to the pretty district of Arashiyama. Literally meaning ‘storm mountain’ this area has it all, gorgeous temples, cosy cafes, enchanting bamboo groves and even a monkey mountain! Kyoto also boasts some great museums, including the International Manga Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art.
Day 13 Kyoto
You may like to take advantage of your included Japan Rail Pass to make a day trip out of Kyoto to a nearby place of interest. Another ancient capital, Nara, lies just 40 minutes away by train and is worth a daytrip for the huge bronze daibutsu or big Buddha statue at Todai-ji Temple. This temple and others are set in a beautiful sprawling park which is also home to 1,200 sacred, but rather cheeky deer who are believed to be messengers of the gods. Osaka, famous for its down-to-earth people and hearty cuisine, is just 30 minutes away and Hiroshima can be reached in two hours on the ‘bullet’ train.
Day 14 Tokyo
Your Japan adventure will come full circle as the ‘bullet’ train whisks you back to Tokyo. Your final night will be in the Shinjuku district among the sleek, polished skyscrapers of the business centre. Just across the tracks in east Shinjuku lies Tokyo’s neon playground, perfect for some last minute shopping and a great final night out.
Day 15 Depart
Sadly your holiday must come to an end. You will travel to Narita Airport on the comfortable airport limousine bus.
|Standard Price:||£1930 (Single Price: £2500)|
|Upgrade Price:||£2970 (Single Price: £3910)|
|Start: Twin Share pp £65
Single pp £65
End: Twin Share pp £65 Single pp £80
|Start: Twin Share pp £90
Single pp £110
End: Twin Share pp £115 Single pp £175
B:Conte Residential Hotel
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