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adventure travel trip to Japan
The cherry blossoms erupt in early April. Each season in Japan has unique charms.
  • Oct 9-20, 2014
  • Nov 9-20, 2014
  • Privately on Request
  • View all trip dates
  • Duration 12 days
    Group Size 2-9
    Land Cost $4,350-$6,395 Details
    Single Supplement $1,000
    Lodging 3 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Classic and Festive Japan

    Tokyo, Kyoto, Nikko, Mount Fuji, traditional villages, hot springs, and seasonal festivals

    Day 1      Arrive Tokyo

    Welcome to Tokyo! Arriving late in the day on your flight from the U.S., you will be met at either the Narita or Haneda Airport and transferred to your comfortable, centrally-located hotel in Tokyo, your base for four nights.

    Meals: None
    Lodging: Shiba Park Hotel or similar

    Tokyo park in autumn
    Day 2      Tokyo Temples and Views

    Get to know this vibrant city as you spend the morning exploring cosmopolitan, yet historic, Tokyo and its many diverse neighborhoods*.  After breakfast, your guide will meet you at the hotel with the vehicle as you head out to the Asakusa district, an interesting and compact neighborhood filled with shrines and temples. Visit Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest and most significant Buddhist temple complex. Afterwards, visit the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest building in Japan, for panoramic views over Tokyo. Return to your hotel where you have the rest of the day free to relax or do some of your own exploration.


    *Optional early morning visit to the Tsukiji Tuna Auction (leave hotel by 3:30 am; additional cost with guide ranges from $75 to $200 per person, depending on the size of the group.)

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Shiba Park Hotel or similar

    Get a bird's eye view of Tokyo from the Skytree
    Day 3      Tokyo Shrines and Pop Cultures

    This morning's Tokyo exploration includes the neighborhoods of Shibuya and Harajuku. You'll explore by public transportation in oder to learn how to get around the city on your own. First stop is Meiji Jingu, a famous Shinto shrine in a large forested area. You then walk over to Harajuku, a cosmopolitan area of the city known for shopping, sightseeing and street entertainment. Afterwards, your guide will assist with getting you back to your hotel, or spend more time exploring the Harajuku area on your own.

    If you're traveling in October, it may be possible to attend the  Oeshiki Festival, which commemorates the anniversary of the death of Saint Nichiren, the founder of the Buddhist Nichiren sect. Or, if you're traveling in early to mid-November, you'll be there for the day of Shichi Go San, a rite-of-passage festival for young girls and boys.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Shiba Park Hotel or similar

    If you're lucky, witness a traditional wedding at the Meiji Shrine
    Day 4      Tokyo Free Day

    There is much to see and do in and around Tokyo and you'll have the day free to explore as you like. Tokyo is full of museums, parks, Japanese gardens, and upscale shops.

    Optionally, visit the sacred Nikko or the big Buddha at Kamakura (approx. $75-$150 per person with a guide, depending on group size.)  At Nikko, see the Toshogu Shrine and Rinno-ji Temple, an eight century Buddhist temple complex.  Kamakura was the political center of Japan in the 12th century and contains a number of temples, shrines and historical monuments including the famous Great Buddha, a large, bronze statue cast in 1252. 

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Shiba Park Hotel or similar

    Explore lovely Nikko on a day trip from Tokyo
    Day 5      Lake Kawaguchi

    After breakfast, check out of the hotel, and drive to Lake Kawaguchi, where the best views of Mt. Fuji can be enjoyed. During the cherry blossom season, the seaside promenade near the Music Forest is particularly beautiful. In autumn, the display of colorful leaves are magnificent. Mt. Fuji, looming above, is one of Japan's best-known images, visible from Tokyo on a clear day, and towering over the area at close to 12,500 feet. From the Mt. Fuji Visitor Center, you will have excellent views of the mountain. Afterwards, visit the 5th station at the base of Mt. Fuji from where there are good views of the Fuji Five Lakes (visit to the 5th station and views are weather permitting.) From here, stop and visit Wind Cave, a lava cave formed by Mt. Fuji eruptions. Next, visit the Sengen shrine, dedicated to Princess Konohanasukuya, the Shinto diety associated with Mt. Fuji. Before checking in to your ryokan hotel, visit the local farmer's market.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Royal Hotel Kawaguchi or similar

    Visit picturesque Lake Kawaguchi
    Day 6      Matsumoto / Hida Takayama City

    Today you'll make the two-hour drive to the laid-back town of Matsumoto City. Visit the amazing Matsumoto-jo (Matsumoto Castle), Japan's oldest wooden castle and one of four designated as National Treasures.  The drive then continues for about another hour and a half to the Shinhodaka Ropeway (cable car), which affords superb views of Japan's Alps. After a short break and a chance to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery, continue to Hida Takayama City, a modern cith that still retains its traditional charms. Here you will find traditional Japanese style homes, inns, and shops as well as sake breweries producing the best sake in the world.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Asunaro Ryokan or similar

    Marvel at Japan's oldest wooden castle, Matsumoto-jo
    Day 7      Hida Takayama

    Start the day with a visit to the morning market, a great place to see all the local products and enjoy the local scene. Visit Jinya's 16th century town administrative center, with its lovely and extensive grounds, and  explore the Festival Cart Museum which displays the carts used in Hida Festival, one of Japan's largest.  While in Hida, be sure to sample Hida beef, well known for its high quality and delicious flavor, as well as Houba miso, another local favorite. 


    The Hida Takayama Spring Festival takes place in Mid-April allowing the opportunity to see the colorful floats (carts) and puppets that are paraded through the town.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Asunaro Ryokan or similar

    Explore atmospheric Hida Takayama's traditional shops
    Day 8      Shirakawa-go and Kyoto

    You'll have some free time in Hida Takayama after breakfast and check-out, to explore on your own and to see the morning market again. Then drive about 45 minutes, into a dramatic and remote mountainous area, to Shirakawa village, famous for its UNESCO-designated historic old houses. Spend some time exploring the village, then transfer to the Gifuhashima station where you board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto.  Your local guide will meet you at the train station in Kyoto and assist you to your hotel, which is just a short walk from the station.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Century Hotel or similar

    See a UNESCO-designated home in Shirakawa
    Day 9      Kyoto

    Kyoto is rich in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Buddhist temples and shrines, and many other culturally-rich sights and you'll spend the day exploring with your guide, visiting a few of the city's fantastic sights as time permits. The Kiyomizu Temple is historic eighth century Buddhist temple. The structure was built entirely without the use of nails and offers impressive views overlooking the city. To get to the temple, you'll walk through Ninenzaka, a preserved historical district of Kyoto. Next, visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, the famous shrine dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, where thousands of torii shrine gates make a labyrinth of bright red tunnels along the mountain paths. If time permits and if you like, visit the Kyoto National Museum, a large and historic museum that focuses on pre-modern Japanese and Asian art.  Before returning to your hotel, your guide will take you on a walking tour through Gion neighborhood where you can get some insight into the lives of the Geisha.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Century Hotel or similar

    Meet geishas in Kyoto's old Gion entertainment district
    Day 10-11      Kyoto

    You'll have these days free to explore Kyoto as you like. Some of Kyoto's other important temples include Kinkaku-ji Temple (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), a Zen Buddhist temple complex and garden that is a National Special Historic Site as well as a National Special Landscape and Ryoan-ji Temple (Temple of the Dragon at Peace), another Zen temple and garden containing a massive gate and a 15th century rock garden.


    Alternatively, and for an additional cost, your guide can take you to Arashiyama, or Mt. Hiei (approx. $50-100 per person, depending on group size) on Day 10.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: Century Hotel or similar

    Kinkaku temple in the fall
    Day 12      Depart or Extend

    After breakfast, depart for Osaka by train in time to check-in for your onward flight back home (bullet train back to Tokyo will be an additional cost.)

    Or, if your schedule permits, consider extending your adventure to Nara and Mt. Koya or Hiroshima for a few days.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None

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