North Central Exploration - 13 days

Explore Northern Honshu

After exploring famous sites in the bustling city of Tokyo, the route extends north, where the countryside is mountainous and picturesque. You will stay in one of Japan’s most scenic regions, relax in the quiet atmosphere of secluded hot springs, and experience the vibrancy of one community’s cultural revival. Throughout the tour visits to historical towns offer glimpses into earlier times, and an overnight stay near Mt. Fuji provides an opportunity to see for yourself this breathtaking symbol of Japan.

Our North Central Exploration Tour is a 13 day independent tour that will give you a chance to see Tokyo and visit beautiful mountainous destinations on the main island of Honshu. Since this is an independent tour you will not have to worry about visiting places you have no interest in or sightseeing at a pace that is not right for you.

Sample Accommodations (may vary but will be of similar quality)
Tokyo: Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premium (Hotel)
Kakunodate: Tamachi Bukeyashiki Hotel (Ryokan)
Matsushima: Hotel Ubudo (Ryokan)
Hoshi Onsen: Chojukan (Ryokan)
Obuse: Masuichi Kyakuden (Boutique Inn)
Matsumoto: Hotel Buena Vista (Hotel)
Mt Fuji Area: Onsenji Yumedono (Ryokan)

As with all of our Independent tours, changes can be made to this tour depending on your requirements.

Independent tour
Open - Independent Tour
12 nights, 13 days
Minimum 2, Maximum 14 participants
Per Person prices starting at US$ 4,260~ double occupancy for two travelers. Please contact us for exact prices.

This trip can be customized.
Breakfasts: 12 Dinners: 6
You will be met at Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport by a member of our staff who will take you to your first destination and hotel. Detailed materials as well as support from our experts in Japan will be available for this independent tour. No tour leader will be supplied.
Old and modern sights in Tokyo, the former castle town of Kakunodate, Matsushima Bay, Hoshi Onsen, the artistic city of Obuse, Matsumoto with its original castle, the former post town of Tsumago,and Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain.
Age restrictions: Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Day 1 - Tokyo - (Western Hotel)

You will be met at Narita International Airport or Hanade Airport (assuming your flight arrives after 8:00am and before 21:30) and taken to your hotel in Tokyo by public transportation. They will hand you all your transportation tickets including an IC Card with an initial credit of 2000 yen. They will also hand you a pocket internet device and give you an orientation. When you arrive at your hotel they will check you in and show you where you can find some food and the like. The train from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station will take approximately 1 hour.

Tokyo is home to approximately 12 million people and can be a bit overwhelming. Beneath this surface lies a city of contradictions: ancient temples and shrines beside high-tech department stores; traditional festivals held in modern neighborhoods; peaceful Japanese gardens below intelligent skyscrapers. For its size and sprawl, Tokyo is an incredibly safe, efficient city with a low crime rate, the trains running on time. Tokyo is a vibrant metropolis overflowing with many fascinating sights, sounds, and experiences for you to enjoy.

Meals: No Meals

Day 2 - Tokyo - (Western Hotel)

Today you will have time to explore Tokyo on your own. We recommend visiting Rikugien, an 18th century landscape garden, arguably the most beautiful Japanese garden in Tokyo. Next you will visit the Meiji Imperial Shrine, where you can relax in the forested setting and enjoy the traditional Shinto architecture of this oasis nestled within one of the world's busiest modern metropolises. Just next to Meiji Shrine you will find Harajuku which is one of the most fashionable parts of Tokyo. Finally, you will end your day in Ginza, the upscale downtown district with huge department stores, fancy restaurants, the Sony Building where you can look at the company's newest cutting-edge gadgets, and more. Your tour organizer will have other recommendations and includes an internet map to make getting around easy. We can also arrange a private guide to meet you at your hotel and show you Tokyo.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 3 - Kakunodate - (Ryokan)

Kakunodate is a former castle and samurai town. Though the castle no longer remains, its samurai and merchant districts are relatively unchanged from its founding in 1620. Well preserved former residences that now serve as museums offer a glimpse into the samurai lifestyle. The Aoyagi House, with its thatched roof, is one of the most interesting. The Ishiguro House has a collection of samurai armor and clothing on display. The bullet train from Tokyo Station to Kakunodate will take a little over 3 hours.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 4 - Kakunodate - (Ryokan - Japanese Inn)

With its hundreds of cherry trees, Kakunodate is one of the region's most popular places to enjoy spring blossoms. The industry of cherry-bark veneer handicrafts, called kabazaiku, thrives here and visitors can purchase locally crafted items as souvenirs. Kabazaiku demonstrations are given in the Denshokan Museum, where these and other regional crafts are on display.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 5 - Matsushima - (Ryokan - Japanese Inn)

Today you will travel to Matsushima, a group of about 260 shima, small islands, covered in matsu, pine trees. Along with Miyajima and Amanohashidate, Matsushima Bay is considered one of the most scenic places in Japan. The islands can be viewed from various lookout points, or by taking a local cruise. Please let us know if you wish to take a bay cruise and we will add this to your trip. Godaido temple, located next to Matsushima Pier, is interesting, for its outer walls are decorated with carvings. Zuigan-ji temple is well known for its caves carved into the rock which are used for memorial services. An art museum on Zuigan-ji's temple grounds displays calligraphy, fusuma paintings, tea cups and portraits. Oshima Island, close to Matsushima Pier, can be reached on foot by crossing a bridge. The island has caves which were used by monks to pray and meditate in. Overlooking Matsushima Bay, Karantei is the largest Momoyama-style tea house in Japan. Originally built in Kyoto, it was moved to Matsushima in 1645. Behind Karantei the Matsushima Museum has tools, armor and weapons on display. The trains from Kakunodate to Matsushima will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 6 - Hoshi Onsen - (Ryokan - Japanese Inn)

You will travel to Hoshi Onsen and stay at a family-owned ryokan that was built in the 1870's and is managed by fifth generation family members. Considered one of the best in Japan, this onsen (hot spring) site is located in the mountains of Minakami and situated directly at the source, where water flows up through a filter and into the ryokan,s hot spring baths. The trains from Matsushima to Jomokogen will take about 3 hours and then it is a 40 minute to Sarugakyo Onsen and then a 15 minute taxi ride. This is a long day but the ryokan make it worth it.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 7 - Hoshi Onsen - (Ryokan - Japanese Inn)

Minakami is best known for its hot springs and outdoor activities, but if you'd like to explore the area there are some interesting sites. The Takumi no Sato Craft Village, made up of 27 houses, offers a variety of Japanese crafts that visitors can learn to create onsite.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 8 - Obuse - (Boutique Inn - Western Room)

Obuse (oh - boo - say) is a lively city of culture and the arts, where good food, sake, and the company of friends are appreciated. Katsushika Hokusai, internationally renowned ukiyo-e (woodblock printing) artist, lived in Obuse during his later years. His huge ceiling painting of a Chinese Phoenix, done in 1848 when he was 89 years old, can be seen in Gansho-in Temple. Many of the artist's paintings are on display at the Hokusai Museum. Joko-ji Temple, built in the early Muromachi period (1392 - 1573), stands at the foot of Mt. Karida. The temple's forested setting provides a quiet atmosphere. The Japanese Lamp Museum has a collection of almost 1,000 antique lanterns, lamps, and candle stands used through 1926. The fertile countryside surrounding Obuse abounds with orchards. The trains and bus from Hoshi Onsen to Obuse will take about 3 hours.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 9 - Matsumoto - (Western Hotel)

Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's original castles, was built in 1504 and used until 1868 when the Meiji Emporor regained control of Japan from the Edo Shogunate. Located near the castle is the Nakamachi District, where some of its well preserved buildings have been converted into shops and restaurants. The trains from Obuse to Matsumoto will take about 2 hours.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 10 - Tsumago - (Minshuku Family Inn)

Tsumago is a former post town along the Nakasendo Trail which connected Edo (modern Tokyo) with Kyoto. With its historical sites and structures, Tsumago has been designated an Architectural Preservation Site. Rurisan Kotoku-ji Temple was founded in 1500. Its Nightingale floors chirp when walked upon, and the weeping cherry tree out front is about 500 years old. Part of the original Nakasendo trail from Tsumago to Magome, which had been the next post town, has been preserved and provides a quiet, scenic walk through forests. The train from Matsumoto to Nagiso near Tsumago will take a little over 1 hour.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 11 - Mount Fuji - (Ryokan - Japanese Inn)

Mt. Fuji is the largest mountain in Japan. Long worshiped as sacred, Mt. Fuji is one of Japan's “Three Holy Mountains.” Its almost perfectly symmetrical shape attracts artists and photographers, although it's rare to get a clear picture since clouds often block the view. A popular destination for climbers and hikers, Mt. Fuji is also enjoyed by visitors who simply want to experience the region's natural beauty. With its unobstructed views, Lake Kawaguchiko is a popular location to photograph Mt. Fuji. Mt. Tenjo Ropeway is an aerial lift that extends from Lake Kawaguchiko to the observatory on Mt. Kachi Kachi. From here visitors can view the Aokigahara forest and Mt. Fuji. The trains from Nagiso to Kawaguchino near Mt Fuji will take a little over 4 hours.

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 12 - Tokyo - (Western Hotel)

Today you will head back to Tokyo. The train from Kawaguchiko near Mt Fuji to Tokyo will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 13 - - (Tour Ends)

Today will be your last day in Japan and your last chance for sightseeing and shopping. Please make sure you arrive at Narita Airport or Haneda Airport at least 2 hours before your scheduled flight. The trip to either airport will take about 1 hour.

Meals: Breakfast