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Overview

Travel through the Japanese Alps to discover a region awash in culture and soaring landscapes. Stand in the shadows of Mt. Fuji, trek to mirror-like Taisho-ike Pond and wander through Kenroku-en Garden. Explore UNESCO-heritage Kyoto and Shirakawago, staying in traditional, family-run inns for a truly local experience.

Trip Highlights

Across the Roof of Japan

Be charmed by Matsumoto

Spend two days in Matsumoto, trekking to glimmering lakes, admiring ancient buildings, soaking in onsens and encountering bathing snow monkeys.

Get a dose of culture in Shirakawago

Visit UNESCO-heritage Gassho-zukuri houses and stay in a traditional family-run inn for a glimpse into Japan’s rich culture.

Cycle Kyoto’s charming streets

Explore Kyoto’s temples and castles, bamboo forests and rock gardens with a fascinating bike tour.

Itinerary

1

Arrival in Tokyo

Narita International Airport (NRT) to Central Tokyo: 1.5 h Haneda International Airport (HND) to Central Tokyo: 50 min

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, our representative will be waiting to assist with transportation into the city (either boarding the right train or finding the appropriate shuttle bus). The remainder of the day is free at leisure.

Overnight in Tokyo

2

Tokyo

Start (guided tour): 09:00 Duration: 8 h *including pick-up/drop-off and transit times

Meet up with the guide this morning at the hotel for the trip to Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo, however it’s most attractive aspect is its teahouse called Nakajima-no-Ochaya.

Enjoy a break in the teahouse and a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about sado (tea ceremony).

From the park, take a scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through.

The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings.

The shrine is also home to around 120,000 trees, making one forget that just outside its grounds are two of the city’s popular shopping districts, Harajuku and Omotesando.

Note: The order of this itinerary may change depending on the location of the hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo

3

Tokyo, Optional Day Trip to Kamakura or Nikko

JR Tokyo Station to JR Kamakura Station: 50 min JR Tokyo Station to JR Nikko Station: 2 h

Today is a self-guided day. 

Suggested Self-Guided 

Enjoy the rest of the day exploring this amazing city. Make an early start to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries. Alternatively, take an excursion outside of Tokyo to one of the following places: 

Kamakura

One of Japan’s former capitals, Kamakura is a delightful seaside town home to many ancient shrines, temples, and other structures like the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands at 13-meter tall. 

Distance and journey time (approximation):

JR Tokyo Station to JR Kamakura Station: 50 min 

Nikko

Located north of Tokyo, Nikko is a city that lies in the mountainous area of Tochigi Prefecture well-known for its national park. Some of the popular places in the park include the Toshogu Shrine complex and the Tamozawa Imperial Villa. 

Note: Toshogu Shrine is currently undergoing partial 

Distance and journey time (approximation):

JR Tokyo Station to JR Nikko Station: 2 h 

Note: Roundtrip train tickets to Kamakura or to Nikko can be arranged at an additional cost. 

Optional Tour: Tokyo Gourmet Tokyo is a paradise for foodies, offering everything from small street food stands and tiny traditional Japanese restaurants to high-end dining experiences. Since only the finest of ingredients are used in Japanese cuisine, everything that comes across the table will delight the 

Discover one of Tokyo’s more traditional areas and its local food scene with a local English-speaking food expert. Dive into the narrow streets of these lively neighborhoods and discover the hidden local gourmet gems. Visit tiny shops that have been run for many generations, as well as some restaurants that are well loved by the 

With the help of the guide, taste some of the staples of Japanese street food, such as some freshly fried meat croquettes, local noodle specialties and traditional Japanese sweets, accompanied by some delicious Japanese 

Meet the food expert at a designated train station and enjoy 6-8 different venues during the tour. With plenty of chances to indulge in a variety of local food and drink, there are guaranteed to be happy tastebuds and full stomachs at the end of this 

Time:

Start (tour): 11:00

Duration: approx. 3.5 - 4 h 

Overnight in Tokyo

4

Tokyo - Matsumoto

Tokyo Station to Matsumoto Station: 3 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Travel to Matsumoto, a small castle town surrounded by rice fields, vineyards, wasabi farms, and the great Japan Alps.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

The afternoon can be spent with a stroll around the city.

Visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the only twelve remaining original castles in Japan. It is well-distinguished for its black exterior, red arch bridge, and a view of Japan Alps in the background.

Right outside the castle grounds is Nakamachi-dori, a historical merchant district line with well-preserved old buildings, including some storehouses characterized by their thick, white-painted walls.

Overnight in Matsumoto

5

Matsumoto, Optional Day Trip

Matsumoto Station to Yudanaka Station: 2 h 50 minYudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen Bus Stop: 15 minBus stop to Jigokudani Park: 30 min (on foot Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station: 30 min Shin-Shimashima Station to Taisho-ike Bus Stop: 1 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary (1):

This morning, travel to Yamanouchi and visit Jigokudani Park for the famous Snow Monkeys, which live in large social groups and are particularly numerous during the colder months (December-April and less likely to be spotted in autumn).

It requires a bit of walking from the bus stop to the park, so it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes.

Notes:

  • Roundtrip train tickets from Matsumoto to Yudanaka can be added in the package (advance booking and supplementary charges required).
  • Bus tickets to and from the park can only be purchased on spot.
  • Distance and journey time (approximation):
  • Matsumoto Station to Yudanaka Station: 2 h 50 min
  • Yudanaka Station to Kanbayashi Onsen Bus Stop: 15 min
  • Bus stop to Jigokudani Park: 30 min (on foot)

 Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary (2):

Make an early start and travel to Kamikochi, a popular nature trail in the valleys of Matsumoto. It is known for the pristine Azusa-gawa River and the surrounding Japan Alps.

Start from Taisho-ike Pond, with its mirror-like waters reflecting the Hotaka Mountain Range and Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano that stands at 2,455 meters above sea level.

Continue walking towards the bus terminal, passing by Tashiro Marsh, to secure a seat on the departing bus. Restrooms and food stalls are available for a quick break.

Just nearby is Kappa-bashi Bridge, one of the places in Kamikochi that offers the most picturesque views of the area.

From this point, another hour of trekking heads to Myojin-bashi Bridge, the gateway to Hotaka-jinja Shrine and Myojin-ike Pond. There is a small dining place here called Kamonji-goya that serves grilled freshwater fish and soba.

The trail from Myojin area back to the opposite side of Kappa-bashi is another hour of nature trekking that heads through the serene woods of this well-protected national park.

Notes:

  • This is an easy-to-moderate course that can be accomplished in around 4 hours, including short restroom and meal breaks.
  • Roundtrip tickets from Matsumoto to Kamikochi can be added in the package (advance booking and supplementary charges required).
  • Kamikochi is only open from mid-April to mid-November, when the roads are not closed due to heavy snow.

Distance and journey time (approximation):

Matsumoto Station to Shin-Shimashima Station: 30 min

Shin-Shimashima Station to Taisho-ike Bus Stop: 1 h

Overnight in Matsumoto

6

Matsumoto - Takayama

Matsumoto Bus Terminal to Takayama Bus Terminal: 2.5 h

Today is a self-guided day.

Get ready for the journey to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture.

The bus ride from Matsumoto to Takayama takes around 2.5 hours and passes through mountains and a few hot spring resorts.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls.

In Takayama, experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring.

7

Takayama - Shirakawago

Takayama Bus Terminal to Shirakawago Bus Stop: 50 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Optional Tour: Food & Culture Walk

Explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the town’s colorful history and familiarizing your taste buds with some of the local delicacies. Your walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller, a rakugan shop (traditional Japanese candies), and even a sake brewery (some stores may close in certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included.

Make your way to the designated meeting place, which will also be the disband point after the tour.

Time:

Start: 09:30

Duration: 2.5 h

Around noon, travel by bus to Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer,” which is represented through the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs. This architectural style developed over many generations – the roofs were constructed without any nails but are intricately designed to withstand large amounts of snow.

These houses are private homes of the locals but some are open to the public, such as Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family who used to be the richest family and village leader in Ogimachi.

While in Shirakawago, experience a stay in a minshuku, the traditional Japanese-style inn usually owned and run by families. The amenities are basic but the experience is sure to be one of a kind.

Overnight in Shirakawago

8

Shirakawago - Kyoto, Day Trip in Kanazawa

Shirakawago Bus Stop to Kanazawa Eki-mae Bus Terminal: 75 min Kanazawa Station to Kyoto Station: 2 h and 15 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Start early and get on the bus to Kanazawa, the castle town that thrived as the center for culture and the arts in the 17th century.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Start with the pristine Kenroku-en Garden, which is ranked as one of Japan’s top three gardens. The garden is also home to the oldest water fountain in the country, a couple of teahouses, and a large villa that used to be the retirement home of one of the richest clans in Kanazawa.

Adjacent to the garden is Kanazawa Castle, easily accessed through the Ishikawa-mon Gate, a designated Important National Cultural Asset.

If time allows, have lunch in one of the local restaurants in Omicho Market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi.

In the afternoon, travel by limited express train to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital and home to around 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Overnight in Kyoto

9

Kyoto

Start: 09:15 Duration: 8 h Journey: approx. 20 km

Start the day off by heading towards the designated meeting point in Kyoto to meet up with the guide and to pick up the bicycles for the tour. Start with a visit to Nishi Honga-ji Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in the city just nearby the main train station.

Cycle towards Nijo Castle, one of the few remaining original castles in Japan well-known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors.

After a quick lunch, continue onwards to Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa of a shogun, it was later reopened as a Zen Buddhist temple.

Right next to Kinkaku-ji is another Zen Buddhist temple called Ryoan-ji, which is famous for its amazing rock garden.

Finish the tour in the scenic Arashiyama, well-visited for its serene bamboo forest, massive temples, and vibrant dining and shopping alleys.

Overnight in Kyoto

10

Kyoto - Hakone/Mt Fuji

Kyoto Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station: 2 h 40 min

Today is a self-guided day.

Travel by train to Hakone, a popular hot spring destination from Tokyo frequented by most tourists who wish to get a sight of Mt. Fuji.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary (1):

Spend the rest of the day exploring Hakone with the included transport pass, which serves as a ticket to the numerous forms of transportation in the area.

Take the Hakone Tozan switchback train that zigzags through the mountains and offers views of the surrounding valleys. Afterwards, ride the Guinness World Record-holder ropeway all the way up to Mt. Owakudani, passing over sulfurous fumes and hot springs.

From the mountain, take the ropeway bound for Togendai and board a replica of a pirate ship that cruises along Ashinoko, a body of water that was formed after a volcanic eruption that occurred more than 3,000 years ago.

Note: The ropeway that goes to Mt. Owakudani has resumed operations but for safety reasons, hiking on the mountain is still prohibited.

Suggested Alternative Itinerary (2):

Head to Togendai to board the aforementioned boat replica to head across Ashinoko, a lake that was formed after a volcanic eruption that took place more than 3,000 years ago.

Disembark at Hakone-machi and walk towards Hakone Shrine, one of the most photographed spots in Hakone for its iconic “floating” torii gate. The approach to the main shrine buildings is via a set of ninety-or-so stairs that go through the forested mountain.

In Hakone, experience another stay in a ryokan, a classic Japanese-style accommodation furnished with futon beds, tatami flooring, paper sliding doors, and hot spring baths.

Enjoy a traditional multi-course meal for dinner, which usually includes small servings of sushi, sashimi, and tempura.

Overnight in Hakone

11

Hakone - Tokyo

Today is a self-guided day.

Take one last soak in the onsen before returning to Tokyo.

The rest of the day is at leisure: choose to further explore Tokyo, engage in a cultural experience or do some last-minute shopping in Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku or in Ginza.

Optional Tour: Tokyo Street Food Tour

This evening tour will begin at 17:00. Be sure to bring an appetite: This is one Tokyo street food tour that is sure to please the taste buds! Meet with a local, food-loving guide at the train station and set off into the streets for a Japan-style food crawl.

Veer off into the maze of laneways that fill the capital, passing street carts selling exotic snacks and diners perched on small metal stools. Stop to sample some of the items on offer, from barbequed meats to sweet desserts. Then enter an izakaya for a distinctly Japanese experience. These small, Japanese-style pubs are popular gathering places for friends and colleagues to gather after work for a beer. The food on offer is meant to be shared and is thus served almost like tapas. The guide will order up a few traditional izakaya favourites such as fried chicken wings or cold edamame. Sample the dishes and wash them down with a cold, local beer alongside the locals.

While dining, learn more about Japan’s culinary culture by observing the lively surroundings and hearing the guide’s personal stories. During the evening, stop at four or five venues, each with a distinctive style. These venues do not take reservations so the exact routing may change but the guide will ensure there is plenty to eat!

Following an evening of culinary and cultural indulgence, return to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Time:

Start: 17:00

Duration (approximation): 3 h

Note: Activities and tours are subject to availability and must be booked in advance (supplementary charges apply).

Overnight in Tokyo

12

Departure from Tokyo

The rest of the day is at leisure until the scheduled transfer by train or shared shuttle back to Tokyo Airport.

Important Information

Our Services Include:

  • Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast (for ryokan, minshuku, and other traditional accommodation, rooms are Japanese-style with futon and meals are half board)
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
  • English meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • PASMO Transport Pass for local transportation in Tokyo with 1,500 JPY worth of credits

(Note: Additional credits will be charged by our guides to cover transportation during guided days. Clients are free to further charge their card should they wish to make use of it during self-guided days).

  • 7-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class, activated on Day 4
  • Bus tickets on Days 6 (Matsumoto to Takayama), 7 (Takayama to Shirakawago), and 8 (Shirakawago to Kanazawa)
  • 2-Day Hakone Free Pass from Day 10
  • One-way limited express train ticket from Hakone-Yumoto Station to Shinjuku Station on Day 11
  • English-speaking guide for tour on Day 2 (supplementary charges apply for other languages)
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on Day 2
  • Cycling tour in Kyoto on Day 9
  • Information pack

Our Services Do Not Include:

  • International and domestic flights (quoted separately)
  • Some local transport
  • Meals other than mentioned above
  • Personal expenses (e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone, and other expenditures of a personal nature)
  • Travel insurance (please see below)
  • Other services not clearly indicated in the package inclusions above

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    Please fill in the appropriate information below regarding any travel plans or enquiries. Our team of travel experts will get back to you shortly.

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    We’re experts who take pride in tailor-made itineraries that suit any need. Please fill in the form below and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

    Please fill in the appropriate information below regarding any travel plans or enquiries. Our team of travel experts will get back to you shortly.

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