All Japan Tours 337 N.Vineyard Ave Suite 215, Ontario, CA 91764
Toll Free: 1-855-325-2726 (US/CANADA) Tel: 1-909-988-8885
Fax: 1-909-349-1736 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Land cost: from USD $5300.00 (Limit to 13 guests)
Single supplement: USD $650.00
Tour duration: 14 days 13 nights
Tokyo / Obuse / Yudanaka Onsen / Matsumoto / Narai / Tsumago / Magome / Takayama / Shirakawa-go / Kyoto / Nara / Mt Koya
Tour cost includes:
• 13 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan, Minshuku and Shukubo)
• All transportation between tour locations
• Forwarding of one item of luggage on 3 occasions
• Comprehensive escorted with AJT professional English speaking tour guide
• Breakfast everyday
• 8 dinners
Admission fees and activities
• All entry fees to sites, activities listed in the itinerary
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All prices are per person, based on twin (double on request) or triple occupancy.
International flights are not included on our tours - this allows you the flexibility to choose your own departure and get the best value for your money!
We can arrange international flights for US customers if needed, please ask for details.
Welcome to Tokyo! In the evening, meet your tour guide and the rest of the group members at the hotel in Central Tokyo. We will then enjoy a marvelous welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Our first full day in Japan will be spent doing a walking tour of Tokyo. We will begin at the Hama-Rikyu gardens, located just by the mouth of the Sumida- gawa river. There you will notice a remarkable contrast between the gardens and the lustrous towers of the new Shiodome business area just beyond. Afterwards we will visit Nihonbashi, known as ‘Japan Bridge’ in Japanese, which served as a focal point for all of Japan’s main roads. From there we will then head towards the extravagant shopping district of Ginza and continue towards to Grand Meiji Shrine located just by Harajuku, an area famous for its very flamboyant and avant-garde fashion and architecture. The grand shrine was completed in 1920, eight years after the passing of the first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji.
This morning, we will leave Tokyo and travel to Nagano Prefecture and visit Obuse located just next to Nagano city. Obuse, a quaint little town, was where the artist Hokusai, famous for paintings such as ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’ and ‘Find Wind, Clear Morning’, lived towards the end of his life. There, we will visit the Hokusai-kan, a museum where many of his works are on display. We will also visit Masuichi- Ichimura Sake Brewery, which has been in operation since the Edo Period. This brewery is one of a few sake breweries that take on women and non- Japanese people looking to learn the art of sake making. Afterwards, we will make a short journey towards Yudanaka Onsen hot spring where we can spot the famous “snow monkeys” enjoying the natural hot spring baths just like humans. The Japanese macaques originally came here to warm themselves in this outdoor hot spring bath during the cold winters, but now come all year round.
Today we will first travel to Matsumoto city to see the beautiful Matsumoto castle, built in the late 16th century. Matsumoto Castle is one of twelve original castles in Japan that has not been destroyed by fire, war, or disasters. After lunch we will continue towards the Kiso valley and into the small atmospheric post- town of Narai, located on the ancient Nakasendo route. This post-town served as the halfway mark between Kyoto and Tokyo (also known as Edo during the feudal era). Here you will find many well-preserved houses and former inns, as well as several small local shops.
After breakfast, you will have leisure time to wander around the charming streets of Narai. This is a great place to buy lacquerware and woodcrafts. From there we will take short train and bus ride to the village of Tsumago, another post-town on the former Nakasendo trail. Only a few decades ago, Tsumago was neglected and falling apart, however, thanks to the efforts of the local residents, it has been saved and restored. Today, cars are not allowed on the main road and power lines are hidden, making visitors feel as if they have gone back in time. Many people see Tsumago as a living museum; one which is still inhabited by local residents. Explore the area by tasting gohei-mochi skewered balls of pounded sticky rice covered in a sweet miso paste, along with sesame and walnuts. From here, we will continue our way on the trail towards Magome Pass, just approximately over 8 kilometers, or 5 miles, to Magome’s neighboring town. On our way, we will have the opportunity to walk through beautiful forests and the countryside, passing farms, rice fields, traditional houses, and beautiful gardens. We will arrive in the afternoon, then check in to our Minshuku, a charming family-run inn.
In the morning, we will stroll through Magome, exploring the small craft stores and stands before we head off to Takayama. Takayama has kept much of its traditional architecture and is very well-known for its crafts such as yew-wood carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery, and furniture. After we arrive at our inn, there may be time to explore the other areas nearby and relax in a refreshing hot spring bath before dinner. In the evening, we will have the opportunity to dine on the local Hida beef with a possibility to try some locally brewed sake. Hida Beef is the name given to beef from a black-haired Japanese cattle breed, that has been raised in the Gifu Prefecture for at least 14 months.
Today we will be able to enjoy a full day in Takayama beginning with a visit to the morning market. Enjoy the atmosphere as you walk by the small stands selling seasonal vegetables, pickled produce, or even small crafts and souvenirs. From there we will visit a precious wooden structure known as the Yoshijima Heritage House with a famously refined architectural interior. Next, we will explore the San-machi area with its rows of old merchant houses, some of which are open as museums. This lovely area is considered the heart of Takayama. After lunch, we will enjoy some leisure time to explore the city even further. You can hunt for small treasures and souvenirs to take home, or try the local cuisine such as the popular Takayama Ramen.
Before heading out, we will have a few more hours of leisure time to explore Takayama and maybe visit museums, such as the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall. This museum displays the huge and beautiful floats that are used for the Takayama Festival, known as one of the three most beautiful festivals of Japan. After lunch, we will travel north- west of Takayama and travel to Ogimachi village in the Shirakawa-go area. This village has a large number of gassho-zukuri houses and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. The term gassho- zukuri refers to the shape of the praying hands created by the roof. These large wooden houses have steep thatched roofs specifically designed to withstand the heavy snowfall. After exploring the area for a bit, we will then check into our guesthouse for the night.
Travelling by bus, we will first head towards Kanazawa, where we will then leave the mountainous area and take the train to Kyoto. Upon arrival, we will head towards our hotel located in the center of the city. Later in the evening, we will stroll around the Gion district known for its many ryotei (exclusively private restaurants) and geiko (full-fledged geisha) or even maiko (apprentice geisha). If you are lucky, you may be able to spot a geiko or maiko briefly, as they head towards their next appointments. We will also visit the Sanjo-ohashi Bridge, located on the western end of the Nakasendo Trail and built during the 16th Century.
We will expereince the city of Kyoto with a half-day walking tour. Once the capital of Japan, the ancient city holds national treasures and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We will first visit Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, known as such due to the top two floors of the temple being covered with 18-karat gold leaf. This three-story structure was originally built by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397. From there, we will visit Ryoan-ji Temple, which is the site of the most famous rock garden in Japan with its raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders. One unique feature of the garden's design is that from any viewpoint, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer. In the afternoon, you will have free time to explore the area even further and shop for crafts and other goods.
The ancient city of Nara, which was formerly Japan’s capital from 710 to 784, is located one hour south of Kyoto by train. Once we arrive, we will visit one of Japan’s most famous temples and a landmark of Nara, Todaiji Temple. The temple is one of the largest wooden structures in the world and includes a tall bronze statue of Buddha within the main hall. After exploring the Todaiji Temple, we will traverse the old merchant district of Nara-machi with its narrow streets, shops, cafes, and restaurants. Another choice is to walk along the back road from Todaii-ji to Kasuga Taisha Shrine, where you can find hundreds of stone lanterns lining the pathway. In the evening we will return to our hotel in Kyoto.
Today, we will begin our day by traveling to Osaka by local train, then travel to Mount Koya along the panoramic Nankai Railway Line. Mt. Koya is a valley which lies in Wakayama and is surrounded with beautiful Japanese Cedar Trees high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Mt. Koya has been a place of religious devotion and ceremony since the 9th century and is the center of Shingon Buddhism. Today, you can find more than 100 monasteries here, many of which have Shukubo, or Pilgrim lodging. We will have the opportunity to stay in one of the marvelous temples and feast on shojin-ryori, Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. We will also walk through the enormous Okuno-in cemetery, where thousands of graves and memorials tfor feudal lords and other past dignitaries can be found.
If you are prepared to wake up early at 6:00 AM this morning, we will have the opportunity to join in on a Buddhist service at the temple. This is a unique chance to participate in morning prayer with the monks and meditate, reflecting back on your journey through Japan. After breakfast we will travel by shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo from Osaka. We will then enjoy a farewell dinner in Tokyo, celebrating our final night together.
After breakfast, our tour officially ends. Your guide will be happy to provide advice for traveling to the airport if you are returning home, or advice for continuing your travels.