8 Days , 3 Cities
Welcome to Imperial Tokyo, Japan
Welcome to the Imperial city of Tokyo! your transfer assistant pick you up from the airport and transfer you to your hotel where you’ll be spending two nights here
Check-in at your hotel, which is in a brilliant central location within walking distance of Shinjuku Station. You will be treated to a well-deserved welcome dinner here tonight.
Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of shopping, entertainment, culture, and dining. The city’s history can be admired in districts such as Asakusa and many excellent museums, historic temples, and gardens. Tokyo also offers several attractive green spaces in the city center and within relatively short train rides on its outskirts.
Tokyo - Explore the city
After hotel breakfast, your English-speaking tour guide will meet you in the hotel lobby and escort you into a private car for a sightseeing trip. Tokyo is one of the busiest and most densely populated capital cities in the world, but amid the bustle and all those high-rises, it has some of Japan’s most beautiful historic and religious sites.
The first stop is Senso-Ji Temple in Asakusa, which is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. This is right next to the historic Nakamise shopping arcade, which is a great place to pick up trinkets and souvenirs. Then it’s towards the Imperial Palace, the sumptuous residence of the emperors of Japan, and Nijubashi Bridge, which leads up to the palace gates.
Dinner cruise down the Sumida River, which flows right through the city and into Tokyo Bay, dining in style on a traditional Yakatabune boat – which includes as much as you can drink!
Monkey Magic - Board the bullet train to Nagano and observe to the bathing monkeys’ natural habitat
After breakfast, your guide will take you to Tokyo station by private car, where you’ll then board the Bullet Train heading for Nagano on a 90-minute journey.
The first stop is Zenko-Ji Temple, one of the oldest and most important Buddhist sites in all Japan. It owns the first Buddhist statue ever brought into the country, dating back to the sixth century when Buddhism first arrived, but the statue is so fragile that the public may only see a copy – which is itself brought out for just a few weeks every six years! Lunch will be at a local restaurant before you visit the monkey park, which is a 30-minute hike away, up a gently sloping forest path – so we recommend you wear comfortable shoes. Once you get there, you’ll be free to explore the area on your own and observe the wild macaques going about in their daily lives.
Japanese Macaques – better known as bathing monkeys – are one of the natural treasures of Japan. With their white-gray fur and deep-red faces, they’re a common sight at the Yudanaka Onsen in Nagano, where they love to keep warm with long soaks in naturally occurring hot springs.
You’re in for a real treat today, with a visit to the monkeys’ natural habitat: the forests of the Jigokudani Valley. “Jigokudani” literally means “hell’s valley” because it’s constantly wreathed in clouds of steam and the faint tang of sulfur from the geothermal springs and that bubble up from the earth. These are claimed by troupes of monkeys enjoying the warmth, and you’ll have the rare opportunity to watch them while away the day.
Takaoka - Admire a spectacular winding journey through the magnificent Alpine Route
After breakfast at the hotel, your guide will accompany you to Ogizawa by private car, where your journey will begin with a short electric bus ride to Lake Kurobe and the astonishing Kurobe Dam, which is at 186m (610 ft) is Japan’s tallest dam. You’ll have some time to explore Kurobe before boarding an enclosed cable car up to Kurobedaira, which offers superb views of the surrounding mountains.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route connects Nagano and Toyama in a spectacular winding journey through the magnificent Tateyama Mountain Range, using many different means of transport.
The next leg of the journey is the Tateyama Ropeway. This mile-long cable car has no support towers between its top and bottom stations, making it Japan’s longest single-span ropeway – a seven-minute journey with incredible birds-eye views of the dam and the mountains that surround it. There are more great vistas of the lake from Daikanbo at the top, best viewed from an observation deck known as Unjo Terrace (which means “terrace in the clouds”). There’s a trolleybus up to Murodo, which is a volcanic plateau about 2,450m above sea level. This is a popular base camp for a variety of hiking and mountain-climbing trails, and it’s a fiercely beautiful place to explore. We recommend a walk to the picturesque Ikurigaike, a heart-shaped pond that mirrors the looming Mt Tateyama in its cobalt-blue surface. The area is home to many rare mountain animals and plants; watch out for the white-flecked Raicho birds (meaning “thunderbird”) hiding in the bushes. Above the pond is the Emmadai observation deck, which looks out over a steaming hot spring. The sight is so fearsome that it’s named for the chamber where Emma-o, the Buddhist warden of the underworld, judges men’s souls before they enter the afterlife!
The afternoon is a bus journey between Murodo and Bijodaira. There are a few stops along the way, including the Midagahara Wetlands. In the spring (mid-April to mid-June), there’s so much snow that the bus drives through a carved snow corridor with walls that can reach up to 65 feet. We’ll have a quick photo from the roof of Bijodaira Station, before a cable-car journey to Tateyama itself. You’ll then drive for another 90 minutes to your hotel in Takaoka. Dinner will be served at your hotel.
Kanazawa and visit the Samurai House
After breakfast, the guide will meet you at the hotel lobby and will escort you to Kanazawa. Today you’ll see the historic highlights of this wonderfully preserved medieval city, including the Nomura-Ke residence, an Edo period villa that once belonged to a high-ranking samurai family, and its stunning garden and beautifully preserved artifacts.
You’ll then visit the Kenrokuen Gardens on the grounds of Kanazawa Castle, which are counted as one of the three most beautiful classical landscape gardens in Japan. Designed according to the six ancient principles of Chinese landscape gardening, they’re filled with hidden nooks including ponds, teahouses, and carefully prepared viewing stations. Also found in the castle park is Seison-Kaku, one of the finest Edo period samurai villas in the whole country.
You’ll have lunch at Omicho Market, which with around 200 shops and stalls is the city’s largest fresh food market. You’ll be eating kaisendon at Sashimiya, tasty cuts of high-quality sashimi served on a bowl of freshly cooked rice.
After lunch, we’ve arranged a lesson in Kanazawa’s most famous local craft: decorative gold leaf. This art form has more than 400 years of pedigree here, and to this day Kanazawa produces almost all the gold leaf in Japan. You will learn to decorate items of your choice,
including small plates and chopsticks.
Hakujukan - Discover The Sacred Heart of Zen Buddhism in Fukui
After breakfast in the hotel, you meet your guide to starting a full day of sightseeing around Fukui by private car. The first stop is Tojinbo, a half-mile stretch of rugged basalt cliffs on the Sea of Japan, dramatic chasms and bluffs which soar up to 30 m. above the crashing waves below. There are only three places on Earth where hexagonal and pentagonal rocky pillars have formed in such a way, and you embark on a cruise boat for the best view.
Lunch will be provided at Otaku, a fine local seafood restaurant with a magnificent view of the cliffs. You’ll then jump back in the car heading for Eihei-Ji, the Temple of Eternal Peace.
Located deep in the mountains, this is the headquarters of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. It’s a huge temple complex with more than 70 buildings all connected by covered overhead walkways which protect the monks from heavy winter snows. Eihei-Ji was founded in 1244 and still hosts a thriving community of practicing monks. You’ll find opportunities here for quiet contemplation, and we can even arrange for you to spend a few extra days to experience authentic monastic life. Temple-trained Zen concierges will be available throughout your stay to guide guests on the Zen experience, and day-trippers are invited to try Zazen meditation at Kichijokaku, the large meditation hall. Uniquely Japanese, Zen practice sees participants sitting for long periods of quiet to explore the meaning of existence and achieve inner peace. It’s a privilege to be able to take part in this space, which is so sacred to the Zen tradition. With your mind cleared, you’ll have the chance to wander the temple grounds and visit the Jakukou-en (which means “quiet and peaceful light”), a calming outdoor space where you can ring a sacred bell to rid yourself of stresses and anxieties.
You’ll stay in Hakujukan tonight, one of seven guest dormitories of the temple grounds. It features open-air baths and showers and will serve classic Buddhist temple cuisine – simple yet tasty vegetarian cooking. After dinner, you will get the chance to copy some sutras – another sacred Zen tradition.
Kyoto - The Historic and Imperial Capital of Japan
You’ll wake before dawn this morning and attend the morning service. There are more than 100 monks living and practicing at Eihei-Ji, and it’s a moving, spiritual experience to witness them recite the sutras in dramatic unison as the sacred scent of incense wafts through the temple complex. You’ll eat breakfast at the inn before a short tour of a few more of Eihei-Ji’s precincts and treasures. You’ll then hop back in the car headed for Kyoto, the one-time imperial capital of Japan, where your first stop will be a well-deserved lunch at a local restaurant! As befits this grand old city, Kyoto is full of beautifully preserved historic architecture. You’ll start your sightseeing tour by private car, visiting Arashiyama, a stunning district on the outskirts of the city which has been welcoming tourists since the Heian Period (794-1185). It’s home to Tenryu-Ji Temple, which is noted for its serene landscaped garden and pond, and many lush green bamboo groves.
Back in Kyoto, you’ll visit Kinkaku-Ji Temple, which is known as the golden pavilion for reasons that will become apparent!
Your guide will then escort you to a fantastic local restaurant for dinner.
You’ll have a full day to explore Kyoto at your speed today, after a hotel breakfast as usual. You’ll prepare an overnight bag before you head out, leaving your main suitcases at reception, which will be sent on to your next hotel in Hiroshima.
If you’d prefer a more structured day, we can arrange a one-day bus tour of the best local sites, including the world-famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has hundreds of bright red torii gates running up the hillside. You’ll also stop off at Nara, an even older capital of Japan (710-794), which has much of the best-preserved historic architecture in the whole country, including Todai-Ji Temple, which houses the largest bronze Buddha in Japan, and the Kasuga Grand Shrine, which is one of the holiest sites in Japan’s indigenous Shinto religion. Lunch will be included if you opt for this tour.
White Heron Castle - Himeji - Hiroshima
After breakfast, the guide picks you up from the hotel and walks with you to Kyoto Station, where you’ll board the Bullet Train to Himeji Castle. Your luggage will be sent straight to Hiroshima, so please bring anything that you need with you. Known as the White Heron Castle, Himeji is the best of Japan’s surviving medieval castles. It was recently restored, and there’s never been a better time to visit the historic seat of some of Japan’s most powerful clans. You’ll also visit the nearby Kokoen Gardens, which showcase nine classical styles of gardening.
After your tour, you’ll tuck into lunch in a local restaurant before transferring to Hiroshima, again by Bullet Train. Hiroshima is best seen by private car, and you’ll be visiting many solemn sights including the Peace Memorial Museum and Park, the Origami Crane Tower, and the Atomic Bomb Dome – a ruined structure that partially survived the devastating end of World War 2, and which stands now as a monument to international cooperation.
Tonight you check into your hotel. Your guide will take you out on the town for an evening meal at a local restaurant.
Itsukushima - Admire picturesque Miyajima Island and Board to Ropeway to Mt. Misen
After breakfast, your guide will take you to the ferry terminus, where you’ll board a passenger boat to Miyajima, a picturesque island that’s home to the Itsukushima Shrine, another supremely important Shinto site. You may well recognize its famous giant tori gate that stands out in the sea.
Lunch will be at a nearby restaurant, and you’ll then board the Miyajima Ropeway, a 15-minute cable-car journey to the top of the highest peak on the island, Mt. Misen. At 500 meters (1640 feet) above sea level, there are spectacular views of the Seto Inland Sea – and on clear days you can see Hiroshima far away in the distance. Your guide will take you out on the town one last time, to enjoy your final meal in Japan (this time, at least!)
Hiroshima - Departure
The breakfast will either be served at the hotel or as a takeaway box if you have an early flight. You’ll drive to Hiroshima Airport by private car and catch your flight home. We hope you’ve had a brilliant time.
Starting from $7,423 per person
Price per person minimum 2 guests.
The rate is based on 4-star accommodation
Price excluding international and domestic flights
This trip is customizable for your private travel.
Please inquire to request a quote for your custom trip!
Request a quote for a trip fully customized to your preferences.
- Board: 10 nights at three- or four-star hotels
- Meals: Nine hotel breakfasts, one packed breakfast, six lunches, eight dinners
- Bullet Train tickets: Three journeys in reserve second-class seats (Tokyo to Nagano, Kyoto to Himeji, Himeji to Hiroshima)
- English-speaking guide: Per itinerary (including tip and allowance)
- Entrance and activity fees: Per itinerary (excluding Kinkaku-Ji Temple)
- Local transport: bus, ferry, private car, ropeway, cable car, and train all per itinerary
- Luggage delivery
Sightseeing Highlights Included
- Tokyo, explore the city
- Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple
- Board the bullet train to Nagano and observe to the bathing monkeys’ natural habitat
- Visit monkeys’ natural habitat
- Admire a spectacular winding journey through the magnificent Alpine Route
- Visit the Samurai House
- Discover The Sacred Heart of Zen Buddhism in Fukui
- The Historic and Imperial Capital of Japan, Kyoto
- White Heron Castle
- Bullet Train to Himeji Castle
- Visit Kokoen Gardens
- Admire picturesque Miyajima Island
- Board to Ropeway to Mt. Misen
- Explore the city of Hiroshima
12 Days , 6 Cities