13 Days, 12 Nights
1-13 November 2024, 1-13 November 2025

Travel with Ekno’s expert guide, Sharon Thrupp, and experience the ancient sights of Japan against the stunning colours of autumn. Explore the ancient cities of the Edo era, which remain steeped in timeless traditions. In Tokyo we’ll take in the districts known for their local artisans and cultural curiosities as we visit some of Japan’s most significant Buddhist and Shinto shrines. No visit to Japan is complete without a visit to Kyoto, a city where ancient culture is preserved and combined alongside the modernity that Japan is known for. In Kyoto we’ll take part in a traditional tea ceremony and marvel its many ancient shrines and temples.

We’ll also experience the natural landscape awash with the beautiful colours of autumn as we visit Mount Fuji, Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, and Kanazawa.

For a unique experience, we’ll journey to significant Buddhist sites, including Nara with its famous Deer Park and Toda-ji Temple, and Mount Koya, a temple town nestled amongst the mountains, where we’ll stay in an ancient shukubo (temple) and experience Shingon Buddhism firsthand. We’ll finish the tour in Osaka, where we’ll explore ancient castles and bustling streets.

As with all our experiences, we select our accommodation and locations with an eye on combining comfort and simplicity into one unique experience. We’ll stay in traditional ryokans with onsens (hot baths) in Kanazawa and Takayama and simple but delightful hotels in the other locations.

Come along and experience the colour of autumn and get a taste for the highlights of ancient Japan.




1-13 November, 2024/2025


$6,250 per person, twin share,

$8,250 per person, single supplement


13 days, 12 nights


  • Experience the contrasting modernity and ancient traditions of Tokyo against a stunning autumnal backdrop
  • Soar high above Lake Ashi and catch a glimpse of glorious Mount Fuji with a ride on the Hakone ropeway
  • Explore ancient Japanese culture in Edo-period Takayama
  • Marvel at the fairytale-like Shirakawa-go folk village, famous for its traditional architecture
  • Wander the streets of Kanazawa, a city of rich traditions and beautiful gardens
  • Discover the heritage-listed temples of Kyoto during the spectacular autumn season and experience a traditional tea ceremony
  • Travel to Nara Deer Park and explore the culturally significant temples and shrines
  • Stay at a shukubo (temple lodging) and witness the rituals of monastic life in Mount Koya
  • Visit the ancient castles of Himeji and Osaka


Tokyo – Mount Fuji – Takayama – Shirakawa-go – Kanazawa – Kyoto – Nara – Mount Koya – Osaka



TOUR LEADER – Sharon Thrupp

Sharon-ThruppSharon’s first introduction to Japan was as a child when she had a pen pal from Japan, however she didn’t travel to Japan until 2003 when she worked in northern Honshu as an English teacher. That year gave her a taste of what Japan has to offer, and she has since returned many times.
Since 2018 she has been leading tours, mainly Buddhist pilgrimages. She has an interest in Japanese culture, as well as nature and its ties to Buddhism.
Sharon started Ekno Travels in 2006 and has led many tours throughout India and the subcontinent. She continues to share her love of travel as an insider guide and as Ekno’s business manager.
‘One of the things about being an insider is that it creates lifelong memories of the people you meet along the way and the places you bond with. These are the experiences that help you delve deeper into another destination and create the memories that will last for a lifetime.’

Day 1

1 November 2024


Tokyo-01Arrive in Tokyo and check in at the hotel. No activities are planned for the rest of the day, but perhaps you’d like to soak up some of Tokyo’s vibrant sights and enjoy some traditional Japanese cuisine.

Overnight: Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, Tokyo

Day 2

2 November 2024


This morning we’ll visit some of Tokyo’s ancient temples and shrines. We’ll start in Asakusa, a historic district home to the Senso-ji Temple, the city’s oldest and most popular Buddhist sanctuary. We’ll also visit the Asakusa-jinja Shrine, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo. This area is also famous for the uniquely Japanese souvenir stalls that line the street leading to the temple.

Tokyo-03Next, we’ll check out the popular Zenkoku-ji Temple, before heading to the Yasukuni-jinja Shrine. This controversial Shinto shrine honours those killed in service to their country. We will also visit the adjoining Yushukan Museum, which presents a Japanese nationalist view of history. In the evening we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner in a Japanese restaurant.

Overnight: Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, Tokyo

Meals: breakfast

Transport: Train

Activities: English-speaking guide, entrance fees

Day 3

3 November 2024

Mount Fuji and Hakone day trip

Mount-Fuji-03Today we’ll travel on the Fuji Express to one of the natural wonders of Japan, the majestic Mount Fuji. As the tallest peak in the country, Mount Fuji holds special significance in Japan, and is especially stunning during the autumn months.

We’ll visit Gotemba Peace Park to take in the beautiful autumn foliage and spectacular views of Mount Fuji, before boarding a pirate ship to cruise on Lake Ashi. We’ll then travel on the Hakone Ropeway, which offers breathtaking views of Owakudani, Lake Ashi and Mount Fuji. We’ll also travel to the famous 5th Station of Mount Fuji, where you can admire the spectacular views of the magnificent mountain. We’ll return to Tokyo late in the afternoon.

Overnight: Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu, Tokyo

Meals: breakfast

Transport: cable car, train, boat

Activities: entrance fees

Day 4

4 November 2024

Tokyo to Takayama

Takayama-02We’ll leave Tokyo in the early morning, travelling by fast train to Takayama. Takayama is a charming Edo-period town located in the Japanese alps, famous for its traditional inns, sake breweries and the Hida Folk Village.

After checking in to our accommodation, we’ll spend the afternoon wandering through the quaint streets filled with traditional thatched roof buildings and merchant homes.

Overnight: Oyadokoto No Yume, Takayama

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train

Activities: entrance fees

Day 5

5 November 2024

Takayama to Kanazawa via Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go-01In the morning we’ll visit Shirakawa-go, a charming historical village and UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fairytale-like village is known for its unique style of architecture, Gassho-zukuri, where houses are constructed without nails and metal. Located at the foot of Mount Hakusan, one of Japan’s holy mountains, the setting is especially stunning during the autumn months.

In the afternoon we’ll take the train to Kanazawa, arriving in the late afternoon. We’ll be staying in a ryokan, a traditional inn that offers the opportunity to experience Japanese culture and hospitality.

Overnight: Nakayasu Ryokan/Onyado Nono, Kanazawa

Meals: breakfast

Transport: bus, train

Activities: entrance fees

Day 6

6 November 2024


Kanazawa-01We’ll spend the day exploring the many ancient sights of Kanazawa. This city is known for its Edo-era districts, historical attractions, bustling markets and modern art museums. We’ll start by visiting the 17th century Kenrokuen Garden, famous for its classic designs incorporating ponds and streams, and considered by many to be the most beautiful landscaped garden in Japan. Following this we’ll visit Kanazawa Castle, built in the 1580s after the defeat of the Peasant’s Kingdom, Japan’s only Buddhist fiefdom.

In the afternoon we’ll head to the historic Nagamachi samurai district, where we’ll explore the narrow streets and former residencies of samurai. In the evening we’ll travel to the famous geisha district and wander the peaceful laneways lined with traditional tea rooms.

Overnight: Nakayasu Ryokan/Onyado Nono, Kanazawa

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train

Activities: entrance fees

Day 7

7 November 2024

Kanazawa to Kyoto

Kyoto-01After breakfast we’ll leave Kanazawa and travel to Kyoto by train. This ancient Japanese city, home to countless temples and centuries of religious practice, is the perfect setting for soaking up Japan’s ancient culture. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This ceremonial way of preparing and drinking green tea is typically held in a traditional tearoom with a tatami floor. Beyond just serving and receiving tea, one of the main purposes of the tea ceremony is for the guests to enjoy the hospitality of the host in an atmosphere distinct from the fast pace of everyday life. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.

Overnight: Mercure, Kyoto Station

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train

Activities: entrance fees, tea ceremony

Day 8

8 November 2024


Kyoto-03Today we’ll experience the beautiful colours of autumn whilst taking in the stunning sights of Kyoto. We’ll visit the famous red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine and marvel at the towering bamboo of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. We’ll 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. We’ll also explore some of Kyoto’s hidden gems, including Ninna-ji Temple, a World Heritage site with a long history, and Jojakko-ji Temple, which stands at the foot of Mount Ogura. We’ll stop for lunch at a Japanese restaurant where you can sample Japanese dishes like Kyoto-style ramen and curry rice. If you like, you can also visit a long-standing and popular izakaya (Japanese-style tavern) near Fushimi Inari Shrine after the tour.

Overnight: Mercure, Kyoto Station

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train

Activities: English-speaking guide, entrance fees

Day 9

9 November 2024

Nara day trip

Nara-02Leaving in the early morning, we’ll take a train to Nara, where we’ll enjoy a heritage walking tour of Nara Park, popularly known as ‘Deer Park’ due to the many free-roaming deer. Along the way we’ll visit Todai-ji Temple’s Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall), which houses a 16-metre-tall image of the Rushana Buddha in bronze and gold, and is the largest wooden building in the world. We’ll also visit the Shinto shrine of Kasuga, which features a collection of more than 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns.

After a late lunch, we’ll stroll through Nara’s ancient laneways before returning by train to Kyoto.

Overnight Mercure, Kyoto Station

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train

Activities: English-speaking guide, entrance fees

Day 10

10 November 2024

Kyoto to Mount Koya  

Mount-Koya-02This morning we’ll bid farewell to Kyoto and travel by train and cable car to Mount Koya, also known as Koyasan. Koyasan is Shingon Buddhism’s holiest site and is home to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Buddhist sect.

Upon arrival, we’ll check in to our shukubo (temple lodgings) before taking in some of the many beautiful temples of Mount Koya, including Kongobuji Temple, the head monastery of the Shingon sect.

After an early dinner at our shukubo, you may wish to take a relaxing bath for the perfect end to a spectacular day.

Take an overnight bag with you as your main luggage will be transferred to Osaka.

Overnight: Muryoko-in Shukubo, Mount Koya

Meals: breakfast, dinner

Transport: train and cable car

Activities: entrance fees 

Day 11

11 November 2024

Mount Koya to Osaka

Osaka-02This morning we’ll rise early for the Buddhist goma taki fire ritual which takes place in the main worship hall. The goma taki fire ritual is the daily lighting and consecration of the sacrificial fire, which involves invoking divinities and making offerings of prayers on wooden tablets. The rich colours, intoxicating scents and rhythmical chants of the monks are enchanting, and you will be invited to make offerings of incense, allowing for an immersive experience.

After breakfast we’ll take a walk through the Okunoin cemetery where Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum is located.

We’ll transfer back to Gokurakubashi by cable car, admiring the spectacular views along the way. In the afternoon we’ll take a train to Osaka. Upon arrival we’ll check in to our accommodation before visiting some of the local sights, including Osaka Castle and the Dotonbori entertainment district for dinner.

Overnight: Hotel New Hankyu, Osaka

Meals: breakfast

Transport: train and cable car

Activities: entrance fees

Day 12

12 November 2024

Himeji day trip

Today we’ll take a day trip to visit Japan’s most impressive samurai castle at Himeji, travelling by shinkansen. The building, which has survived earthquakes and war since the mid-16th century, was restored to its full glory in 2015. The moats, baileys, towers and walled alleyways were ingeniously designed to trick attackers, perhaps so intimidatingly that they were never in fact tested. Explore the castle that was once home to over 10,000 samurai families and look out over the castle grounds and the city below from the seventh floor.

In the afternoon we’ll return to Osaka for our farewell dinner.

Overnight: Hotel New Hankyu, Osaka

Meals: breakfast, farewell dinner

Transport: train and cable car

Activities: entrance fees  

Day 13

13 November 2024

Depart Osaka

Today out tour ends. After breakfast the day is free up until it is time to transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Meals: breakfast


Fully escorted from Tokyo to Osaka by Sharon Thrupp

English-speaking local guides and tours on days 2, 8 and 9

12 nights’ twin share accommodation with breakfast (8 nights in hotels, 3 nights in ryokans, 1 night in a shukubo temple lodging)

All transfers and transportation from Tokyo to Osaka as per the itinerary (transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility)

Entrance fees to all sights and monuments as per the itinerary

Traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto

Three dinners (welcome, shukubo, and farewell)

Luggage transfer from Kyoto to Osaka

Information pack (including packing list)


Return airfares to Japan

Travel insurance (compulsory)

Occasional optional activities and transport not identified in itinerary description

Lunch and dinner (unless otherwise specified in the itinerary)

Personal expenditure such as drinks (including bottled water), laundry service and souvenirs

Admission fees to the destinations and activities not listed in the itinerary

Camera and video entry charges at local sights and monuments

Tips (not required in Japan)

Donations to temples


The transport that has been included are local trains, buses and ferries.

Please keep luggage around 15kgs in a small to medium sized suitcase (with wheels) as there are many stairs, buses and trains to navigate.  Also bring a small backpack for our overnight trip to Mount Koya.

Pilgrimage to Japan 2023