- Unique hotels and traditional ryokans
- Classic pedestrian markets
- Ancient villages
- Sake breweries
- Beautiful Japanese gardens
DAY 1: ARRIVAL TO TOKYO
PARK HOTEL, ARTIST ROOM
Your flight arrives at Narita International Airport. After clearing immigration, you’ll be met and driven to your hotel in Tokyo (approximately 1.5 hours).
Spend the remainder of the day resting after your long flight.
DAY 2: TOKYO
PARK HOTEL, ARTIST ROOM
You will be met at the lobby of your hotel for your Tokyo orientation session this morning. After orientation, your guide will meet you for a half-day private tour of some of Tokyo’s modern and traditional highlights.
Check out Meiji-Jingu, Tokyo’s Shinto Shrine, where you can write wishes on an Ema, and purify yourself with a ritual cleansing at the Temizuya fountain. Stroll through the renowned Inner Gardens.
Then, step into modernity in the trendy districts of Harajuku, Omotesando, and Shibuya.
This afternoon, you’ll be free to site-see on your own, using maps and advice provided by your guide.
DAY 3: TOKYO – MATSUMOTO
BUENA VISTA HOTEL, MATSUMOTO
After breakfast, check out and take a local train to Shinjuku Station for the connecting express train to Matsumoto (travel time approximately 3 hours).
Visit the beautiful “Crow Castle” – Japan’s oldest still standing, and an excellent example of a plains castle, or hira-jiro. The nearby Folklore Museum, included in the entrance to the castle, is highly recommended.
Time permitting, continue on to the old-fashioned streets and picturesque wooden buildings of Nawate-dōri and Nakamachi-dōri. They contain an eclectic mix of old and new.
DAY 4: MATSUMOTO – TSUMAGO
FUJIOTO, JAPANESE-STYLE ROOM
After breakfast, you’ll head on to the beautiful Kiso Valley to explore the old post towns along the ancient Nakansedo ‘highway’ connecting Kyoto and Edo (present-day Tokyo).
Take the train to Nagiso (approximately 1.5 hours). From here, you can take a bus to Tsumago, or instead take a scenic walk (approx. walking distance: 4 km).
Wander Tsumago’s cobbled streets and explore the old buildings and museums. We highly recommend a visit to the Honjin and Waki Honjin. Here you’ll find several nice cafes, though don’t expect cake with your coffee, as the local specialty is gohei-mochi, a slightly sweet rice dumpling.
DAY 5: TSUMAGO – MAGOME
TAJIMAYA, JAPANESE-STYLE ROOM
Today, you will hike to Magome – another of the quaint post-town on the Nakasendo route. Hiking along the old, cobbled path, which has changed little since the Edo period, takes about 3 hours.
Once in Magome, explore the post town at leisure before settling down in your lodgings.
DAY 6: MAGOME – TAKAYAMA
HONJIN HIRANOYA KACHOAN, JAPANESE-STYLE ROOM
Take the 09:45 bus to Nakatsugawa station this morning (560 yen, 25 minutes) and continue on to Takayama (approximately 3.5 hours by express train). You will be reunited with your luggage once you check in to your hotel.
Start the afternoon at Takayama Jinya, before visiting the San-machi Suji area of wooden merchant houses, many of which are now museums. The old town is full of sake breweries, which can be identified by the cedar balls hanging outside.
DAY 7: TAKAYAMA – SHIRAKAWA-GO – KANAZAWA
ANA CROWNE PLAZA
Your guide and driver will meet you after breakfast and you will be driven to the historic town of Kanazawa, stopping en route at the beautifully preserved area of Shirakawa-gō. You’ll start by visiting Takayama’s famous morning markets before heading west.
Most famous for its steeply thatched gasshō-zukuri houses, Shirakawa-gō’s largest village in the area is Ogimachi. Many of the houses are open to the public as museums.
DAY 8: KANAZAWA – KYOTO
After breakfast, visit Kenroku-en. This is one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, full of blossoming flowers, ancient trees, and impressive landscaping. We highly recommend visiting the elegant Seison-kaku Villa in the park while you are there.
Next stop is the Kanazawa Castle Park, where you can explore the recently reconstructed buildings of what was one of Japan’s largest castles.
On to Kyoto this afternoon (approximately 2 hours by express train). You will be staying in a quiet neighborhood where you will feel like one of the locals.
DAY 9: KYOTO
You will be met by a guide after breakfast and set off on a full day of private site seeing.
Start the day in Gion, where you should be able to glimpse some of Kyoto’s apprentice geisha on their way to lessons. From there, head on to Yasaka-jinja Shrine and into Maruyama Park, where the path will lead you past Kōdai-ji Temple and on to Kiyomizu Temple, which looks out over the city from the hillside. There is plenty to explore!
DAY 10: KYOTO
Spend your final day in Japan exploring Kyoto at leisure.
Our suggestions: in the morning, start with a visit to the famous Golden Pavilion, which has a lovely strolling garden, and then to Ryōan-ji for Japan’s most famous Zen garden. Time permitting, head to the nearby Ninnaji Temple, which houses one of Kyoto’s loveliest gardens.
Arashiyama is most famous for its bamboo groves and river bridge. While walking is an excellent option, you can also hire bicycles and explore further afield – Sagano is particularly delightful.
DAY 11: DEPARTURE
You will be transferred to Kansai Airport by private car in good time for your flight home.