For a true insider’s experience, join us on this once in a life time journey to Japan during the stunning winter season. This tour incorporates some of the best winter destinations along with bespoke cultural experiences such as staying in traditional ryokan style accommodation and enjoying an authentic Japanese banquet. Experience all that this fascinating country has to offer – including buzzing Tokyo, majestic Mt. Fuji, world-famous snow monkeys, the charming village of Takayama and the cultural heart of Kyoto.
The tour starts in Tokyo, one of the world’s truly mesmerising cities. Our local insider guide will ensure that you not only see the ultra-modern city buzzing with technology; but that you also catch a glimpse of the ancient city known as Edo which remains steeped in timeless traditions. We’ll take in districts known for their local artisans and cultural curiosities as well as visit some of Tokyo’s most significant Shinto shrines.
We will then journey to Hakone – famed for its hot springs and stunning winter views of Mt. Fuji. We will spend a night in Shibu Onsen where we can get up close to some of Japan’s most famous residents – the hot spring loving snow monkeys! In Takayama we will stay in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) and enjoy soaking up the winter scenery.
We will finish in historical Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan and home to some of the country’s best-preserved cultural practices and traditions. ‘The City of Ten Thousand Shrines’ certainly lives up to the hype: Kyoto truly dazzles with its temples, shrines, gardens and tea houses. Enjoy immersing yourself in Japanese culture as we walk amongst Geisha, Maiko, and Zen Buddhist monks while exploring everything from nature to night markets
|18 – 26 Feb, 2020|
|To be announced|
|9 days, 8 nights|
|Tokyo – Hakone – Mt Fuji – Shibu Onsen – Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Monkey Park) – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa – Kyoto – Tokyo|
18 Feb 2020
Konnichiwa and welcome to Tokyo! A representative will meet you at the arrivals gate and transfer you to the hotel. No activities are planned but perhaps you’d like to soak up some of Tokyo’s vibrant night life and enjoy some traditional Japanese cuisine at an Izakaya (Japanese style pub) before retiring for the night. Depending on what time you arrive you might also like to visit the nearby Tokyo Tower, which offers spectacular views of the city.
Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo
19 Feb 2020
After breakfast, we will set off to see the sights of Tokyo with our local guide. Our first stop will be Asakusa Kannon, the most famous temple in Tokyo and home to the largest red paper lantern in Japan. We will also explore the Nakamise Market, which leads up to the main entrance of the temple. Enjoy shopping for traditional snacks and souvenirs in this Edo (old Tokyo) style shopping street.
After lunch we will visit the current residence of Japan’s Imperial Family and the former grounds of Edo Castle – the Imperial Palace. It is surrounded by moats and stone fortifications, located right in the heart of Tokyo.
We will then explore several of Tokyo’s unique districts – Akihabara, Japan’s pop culture centre full of anime and comic figure shops; Ameyoko market, a casual shopping area known for its local ambience; as well as the residential area of Yanaka, which has retained its old Japanese style atmosphere. Finally, we will visit the Shinjuku and Harajuku districts, which include Kabukicho – the biggest downtown area as well as busy Takesita street filled with teenagers in Lolita fashion. This evening we will enjoy our welcome dinner in one of Tokyo’s many fantastic restaurants.
Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo
20 Feb 2020
After breakfast we will leave Tokyo and head for Hakone by train (1 and a half hours). Hakone is one of the most popular mountain resorts in Japan due to the hot springs and stunning mountain views that can be found there. Hakone consists of seven central cones within double calderas and the circular ridge surrounding this caldera is an old somma (a somma volcano is a volcanic caldera that has been partially filled by a new central cone).
Once there you can enjoy the view as you take the ropeway ride from Togendai to Owakudani. Owakudani is an active volcanic zone and is an ideal spot to enjoy Japan’s famed hot springs and bubbling pools. Whilst there you might like to sample one of the local delicacies – boiled hot black eggs.
In the afternoon we will take a cruise on Lake Ashi, and if we are lucky we will enjoy a spectacular glimpse of Mt. Fuji. In the late afternoon we will return to Tokyo by train. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Overnight: Hotel, Tokyo
21 Feb 2020
After breakfast we will take the shinkansen to Nagano city before transferring onto a local train to Shibu Onsen. On arrival we will check into our accommodation. Shibu is a hot spring resort that has a rich history dating back 1300 years. In this quaint town you will find cobblestone lanes surrounded by traditional wooden ryokan (Japanese Inns). Soak up the atmosphere of this very Japanese onsen village while strolling the streets in your yukata (light cotton kimono) as you decide which of the 9 hot spring baths to visit.
In the afternoon we will walk to Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Monkey Park). This must-see destination is famous for the wild snow monkeys that bathe in the hot springs. The monkeys in the park are onsen lovers and like to bathe in any season. It is about 2.5 km away so bring your walking shoes.
In the late afternoon we will return to our traditional ryokan accommodation. You may wish to enjoy the optional extra of an authentic Japanese banquet.
Overnight: Ryokan, Shibu Onsen
22 Feb 2020
This morning we will transfer back to Nanago by train and head to the Japanese Alps. The charming town of Takayama has well very preserved historical structures and a unique traditional atmosphere, due to its remote position in the mountains. The town is also famous for its sake breweries, so you may enjoy the opportunity to sample some of the local flavours.
We will arrive around lunch time and check into our hotel. Spend the afternoon wandering the beautiful cobbled streets of old Takayama with its unique houses and friendly atmosphere. You can easily spend hours strolling and wandering these streets as you explore galleries, museums and local markets.
This evening we will share a banquet of local cuisine (including famous Hida beef).
Overnight: Ryokan, Takayama
23 Feb 2020
After breakfast we will visit the local markets before heading to the rural area of Shirakawa-go. Explore this UNESCO designated destination and take in the stunning views high in the mountains as we wander the streets of this quaint village.
In the afternoon we will arrive in Kanazawa. This remains an important city in its region and boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. The town’s unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens” and considered by many to be the most beautiful of them all.
Whilst being known as an old castle town, it is also home to the Nagamachi samurai district and chaya entertainment district, both of which have survived many generations. The rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Overnight: Hotel, Kanazawa
24 Feb 2020
After a relaxing morning we will enjoy the comfort and speed of the bullet train and travel to Kyoto. After we arrive, we will check into our hotel and explore Kyoto – Japan’s former capital and cultural centre.
This ancient Japanese city, home to countless temples and centuries of religious practice, is the perfect setting for an excursion to check out the historic neighbourhood of Gion. We will visit the Yasaka Shrine and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu-dera Temple, learning about the symbols and practices of Japanese religions along the way. The highlight of this walk are the many magnificent shrines and temples and the stories surrounding them. This area is also the city’s famous geisha district, where you can catch a fascinating glimpse into their lives. We will spend the early evening exploring the streets as this is the perfect time to see geisha and maiko as they head out for the night.
Overnight: Hotel, Kyoto
25 Feb 2020
We will spend the day exploring everything that Kyoto has to offer. We will visit Arashiyama, take in a traditional Zen garden at Tenryuji Temple and enjoying a stroll through the Sagano Bamboo Forest.
We’ll meet our guide then take a train together to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, world famous for the Senbon Torii, or thousand torii gates that stretch for 4km. This spectacular setting was also featured in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”. The temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Kyoto, and it’s not hard to see why. The shrine is part of a bamboo wilderness that also includes mountains, streams, and scenic ponds.
When we return you have the option of enjoying an authentic green tea ceremony at a traditional Japanese-style tea house in the Gion district. The tea ceremony is one of Japan’s main cultural practices; and involves learning about, preparing and tasting delicious powdered green tea.
This evening we will meet for a farewell dinner and sample Kyoto’s fine cuisine.
Overnight: Hotel, Kyoto
26 Feb 2020
If time is permitting, we will take an early morning visit to the Philosopher’s Walk. This pedestrianised path follows a beautiful tree lined canal which passes by several temples and shrines and is an excellent place to wander around and soak up the unique atmosphere of this traditional city.
In the afternoon we will travel by Shinkansen back to Tokyo (2.5 hours) and transfer to Narita or Haneda Airport for your flight back home.
If you would like to stay longer in Japan, please contact us to book hotel accommodation and transportation. We also offer an exciting range of extensions that can be added to your tour.
6 nights’ Western style and 2 night’s Japanese style accommodation
Meet and greet upon arrival at Narita or Haneda Airport
Airport transfers on arrival and departure
Train travel between destinations as per the itinerary
Luggage transfers when required
English speaking guide for the duration of the tour
All breakfasts and 3 dinner included
Admission fees and activities as per the itinerary
Each tour member also receives an electronic copy of our tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts and ryokan customs.
Admission fees to any destinations and activities not listed in the itinerary
Personal expenses (laundry, drinks, shopping)
Meals unless otherwise specified in the itinerary
Passport & visa costs
Travel insurance (compulsory)
Tips & gratuities
- Tokyo Tower
- Traditional dinner at Shibu Onsen
- Traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto
- Massages can be arranged at any point of the tour