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Traditional Japan

14 Nights: £1700 (excluding international flights)
Leave the bright lights and fast living behind and immerse yourself in the more traditional and laid-back side to Japan. This trip will take you off the beaten track and show you a very different Japan, away from the usual tourist haunts whilst also including the must-see cities of Tokyo and Kyoto.

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.

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Prices:
2014
Standard:
Twin: £1700  Single: £2190

Upgrade:
Twin: £2610  Single: £3430


What's Included:
  • 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
  • InsideJapan Tours Info-Pack
What's NOT Included:
  • 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

Supplements
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

Meals: None

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

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

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

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

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast/Dinner

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

Meals: Breakfast

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.

In the afternon we will arrange a visit to Tondaya Machiya. A machiya is a traditional Japanese town house and Tondaya is a very fine example of this style of residence. 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.

Day 12 Kyoto

Meals: Breakfast

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.

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast

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

Meals: Breakfast

Sadly your holiday must come to an end. You will travel to Narita Airport on the comfortable airport limousine bus.
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Photos


Kanazawa's traditional streets

Kenrokuen - One of Japan's top 3 gardens

Gassho Zukuri 'praying hands' farmhouses in Shirakawa-go

Traditional Festival

Yakitori, Takayama festival

Riverside dining, Kyoto

Classic Japanese lantern, Gion - Kyoto

The 'Black Crow' Castle, Matsumoto

Tsukiji Fish Market - Giant tuna from around $8,000!

Sushi Chef, Tsukiji market

Green tea and a cake - Hamarikyu Gardens, Tokyo

Pricing Information

2014
Standard Price: £1700     (Single Price: £2190)
Upgrade Price: £2610     (Single Price: £3430)
 
 

Accommodation


B:Conte Residential Hotel

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

Opened in May 2011, the B:Conte is a brand new apartment-hotel with each room featuring a fully equipped kitchenette and home appliances including a washer & dryer. The fully en-suite rooms are well sized and modern and the location is fantastic - right in the heart of historic Asakusa. Numerous shops and restaurants are on your doorstep and ancient Sensoji temple is just a short walk away. Access to the rest of Tokyo is easy from the nearby Asakusa subway station. House keeping, internet access and cable TV are all included.

APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo

Kanazawa

Business Hotel

The APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo is a modern business hotel situated in the centre of town. All the rooms are western style with en-suite bathroom and are of a moderate size. On the ground floor there is a branch of 'Seattle's Best' coffee shop and the hotel also boasts a top floor spa, sauna and relaxation space.

Minshuku Koemon

Shirakawago

Minshuku (JP)

The Minshuku Koemon is a thatched roof inn which is conveniently located in the southern half of the village close to the Doboroku Matsuri Exhibition Hall. Housed in a traditional Gassho Zukuri House, the inn offers warm welcome and traditional ambience. The inn has just 5 rooms and bathing facilities are shared use. Stays here include two home-cooked meals which use ingredients local to the area.

Takayama Yamakyu

Takayama

Minshuku (JP)

The Yamakyu is a lovely traditional Japanese-style inn. The guestrooms are simple, but very authentic with tatami mat floors and thick futon bedding. Rooms have en-suite toilet and sink, but baths are shared in the traditional manner, with separate bathing areas for ladies and for gents. The Yamakyu prides itself on its cuisine, offering the best in home cooking with plenty of local influence. Staff are friendly, some English is spoken and they can assist with planning your Takayama sightseeing. Internet access is available in the lobby. The Yamakyu is situated on the edge of Takayama; around 15 minutes walk from the station, and within easy walking distance of the main sights of the town. A stay at the Yamakyu is a great way to get an authentic experience of traditional Japanese style accommodation.

Richmond Hotel Matsumoto

Matsumoto

Business Hotel

Located in the centre of Matsumoto just a short walk from the station and 10 minutes stroll from the castle, the Richmond Hotel Matsumoto is an excellent business hotel. The rooms are large and many of the rooms on the higher floors offer views of the surrounding mountains. All of the rooms are en-suite and offer cable television and free high-speed internet as well as the usual facilities such as direct dial telephones and air conditioning. A restaurant is available on the ground floor and PCs with internet are available free of charge in the lobby.

Minshuku Daikichi

Tsumago

Minshuku (JP)

This is authentic, old style minshuku, has appeared on TV Tokyo’s "Top Ten Minshuku" programme and been patronised by many celebrities. Known for its warm welcome and local cuisine, the minshuku has just 5 guest rooms. Rooms are not en-suite but there is a shared bath which can be used privately.

Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo

Kyoto

Moderate Hotel

The Mitsui Garden Hotel is a good mid range hotel located on one of Kyoto's main avenues, Shijo. The Yuzen Gallery of silk dying and Mibu Temple are just a few minutes walk away and all of Kyoto's sights are easily reached from here. The hotel was renovated in February 2010 and features modern and comfortable fully en-suite rooms. You can also use the on-site traditional Japanese style bath house if you wish. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar/cafe.

Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza

Tokyo

Moderate Hotel

The Shinjuku Sunroute Plaza is conveniently located on the south side of Shinjuku station and opened in late 2007. The building has a sleek and modern design throughout, from the spacious lobby area to the well-appointed guestrooms, which offer flatscreen TV with video-on-demand and spacious bathrooms. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar and also a guest lounge providing internet access and complimentary hot drinks. The hotel is in a fantastic location in the lively Shinjuku district of Tokyo, with an endless choice of shopping, dining and entertainment options within a few minutes' walk. The hotel is also just two minutes on foot from Shinjuku station, offering easy access to other areas of the city.

 
Inside Japan Tours - Independent British Travel Awards 2011 - Best Tour Operator To East and Central Asia
The Guardian, The Observer - Travel Awards 2010 Winner - Best tour operator (small)
Inside Japan Tours - Silver at the British Travel Awards 2009