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Sample Itinerary

The tours featured throughout our website are intended to give you ideas for what's possible when you travel with us. Treat them simply as inspiration, because your trip will be created individually by one of our specialists to match your tastes and budget.

Meet your guide and other group members at the tour hotel in central Tokyo in the evening. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

Our first full day in Japan is a walking tour of Tokyo. We start at the Hama-Rikyu Gardens, located near the mouth of the Sumidagawa river. There is a striking contrast between the gardens and the gleaming towers of the new Shiodome business area beyond. Next, we visit Nihonbashi (the ‘Japan Bridge’) considered to be the ‘center of Japan’ and the zero marker point for all Japan’s main roads since the Edo period. We then head to the elegant Ginza shopping district and continue to the Grand Meiji Shrine near Harajuku, an area famous for its avant-garde fashion and architecture.

We travel this morning to Obuse in Nagano Prefecture north-west of Tokyo. The small, attractive town of Obuse was where the artist Hokusai lived towards the end of his life. We visit the Hokusai-kan, a museum where many of his works are on display. We will also visit Masuichi-Ichimura Saké Brewery. Afterward, we make the short journey to Yudanaka Onsen, a hot spring village famous for its ‘snow monkeys’. The Japanese macaques originally came here to warm themselves in the outdoor hot spring bath during the cold winters, and now come all year round.

We travel first to the city of Matsumoto to see its beautiful castle, built in the 16th century. After lunch we continue to the Kiso valley and the small town of Narai, an atmospheric example of a post-town on the ancient Nakasendo way between Kyoto and Tokyo (or Edo as the city was known in the feudal period). There are many well-preserved houses and former inns.

After breakfast, there will be time to wander the beautiful streets of Narai. The village is a good place to buy lacquerware and woodcrafts. Short train and bus journeys bring us to the village of Tsumago. Another of the post-towns on the former Nakasendo trail, Tsumago has been beautifully preserved – a living museum, which is still inhabited by the local residents. Wander the streets, taste gohei-mochi, skewered balls of pounded sticky rice covered in a sweet paste of miso, sesame, and walnuts and visit the folk museum.

From here, the trail winds its way over the Magome Pass for just over 8 kilometers/ 5 miles to the neighboring town of Magome. You will have the opportunity to walk this lovely section of the trail through forest and countryside, past farms, rice fields, traditional houses, and pretty gardens. A local bus provides an alternative. We will arrive in time to check in to our Minshuku, a lovely family-run inn.

Please note that from summer 2019 onwards our Shoguns and Samurai tour will no longer include this option to walk on the Nakasendo Trail from Tsumago to Magome on Day 5.

After breakfast, we stroll through Magome and then travel to Takayama. Takayama has retained much of its traditional architecture and is well-known for its crafts, particularly yew-wood carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery, and furniture. After arriving at our inn, there may be time to explore the surrounding areas and relax in a hot-spring bath before dinner. In the evening we will try the local Hida beef and perhaps some locally-brewed saké.

Today we have a full day in Takayama, starting with a visit to the morning market, with stalls of vegetables, crafts, pickles, and souvenirs. We see the Yoshijima Heritage House, a precious wooden structure with a famously refined architectural interior. We wander the San-machi area with its rows of old merchant houses, some open as museums. After lunch, there will be free time for you to explore the city further and hunt for special treasures to bring home.

In the morning, you have a few more hours free to stroll and perhaps visit some museums, such as the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, which displays some of the huge, elaborate floats used for the Takayama Festival, famous as one of the three most beautiful festivals of Japan. After lunch, we travel to the village of Ogimachi in the Shirakawa-go area north-west of Takayama. The village is home to a large number of gassho-zukuri houses, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. These large wooden houses have steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snow, and the term gassho-zukuri refers to the shape of praying hands formed by the roofs.

We leave the mountains today, traveling first by bus to Kanazawa and then by train to Kyoto and our hotel in the center of the city. In the evening we take a walk through the Gion district famous for its many ryotei (exclusive private restaurants) and the geiko (full-fledged geisha) or maiko (apprentice geisha). We also visit the Sanjo-ohashi Bridge, the western end of the Nakasendo Trail.

We have a half-day walking tour this morning. We visit the famous Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun in the 14th century as a place of contemplation and rest. From there, we will visit Ryoan-ji, with its famous rock garden of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders. You have free time in the afternoon so you can explore the area further or shop for crafts.

The ancient city of Nara, which preceded Kyoto as Japan’s capital from 710 to 784, is one hour south of Kyoto by train. We will visit Todai-ji temple, with its bronze statue of Buddha. The temple is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Next, we will visit the old merchant district of Nara-machi with its narrow streets, shops, cafes, and restaurants, or we may instead walk along the back road from Todai-ji to Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Return to Kyoto in the evening.

We travel first to Osaka by local train, then along the scenic Nankai Railway Line to Mount Koya, a bowl-shaped valley filled with cedars high in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Since the 9th century, Mount Koya has been a place of religious devotion and ceremony. Today there are more than 100 monasteries, many of which have Shukubo (Pilgrims lodging). We stay in one of the elegant temples and dine on shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). We walk through the vast Okuno-in cemetery, with thousands of graves and memorials to feudal lords and other past luminaries.

This morning you will have the opportunity to get up early (6am!) to join in the Buddhist service at the temple. After breakfast we will return to Tokyo via Osaka, traveling by Shinkansen Bullet Train for the latter part of the journey. In Tokyo, there will be a Farewell Dinner in the evening.

The tour ends today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for traveling to the airport if you have homeward flights, or onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.

What Our Customers Have To Say

The tours featured throughout our website are intended to give you ideas for what's possible when you travel with us. Treat them simply as inspiration, because your trip will be created individually by one of our specialists to match your tastes and budget.

John Moawad

Classical Japan Tour

It was our first trip to Japan. Working with Jeff was a pleasure. His knowledge of the country and local contacts were very helpful. Choice...

Marina Boyer

North Central Exploration

Working with Jeff at Rediscover Tours was a wonderful experience. He helped me plan a 10 day trip of a lifetime to Japan with my mother...

Edan Ecker

Shoguns and Samurai

I would like to take this opportunity to commend and thank you for the marvelous vacation we recently enjoyed in Japan. The entire experience exceeded...

Our Team Of Local Experts

Years after years we have selected the best specialists about Japan. They have at least lived a minimum of 10 years in the country. They are here to answer all your questions and to make your tour just the way you want it.

Jeff Aasgaard

Tour Sales Director

Jeff was born in a south suburb of Chicago named South Holland and lived in Japan for 14 years. He now lives in Commerce Township, Michigan with his wife Yoshimi, son Shota, and daughter Mina. He enjoys playing with his kids, volunteering with his daughter’s marching band, cycling and training & teaching Aikido.

Michiyo Kakiuchi

Tour Arrangement Manager

Michiyo was born in Noboribetsu, Hokkaido Prefecture though currently lives in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture. Her main passions in life is traveling all around the world and enjoying their cultures.

Noriko

Tour Arrangement team

Noriko was born in Nagoya. During her childhood she moved around Japan following her father’s office transfer. She especially liked her time in Shizuoka, facing Mt Fuji. She now lives in Minoo (in the suburb of Osaka). Noriko graduated from Hiroshima university. She’s been to Malaysia, Thailand and Europe (Germany and Bulgaria). Her hobbies are hiking, reading and surfing.

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We handle your specific requests. We will inform accommodations, guides and partners of any meal requirements, allergies or disabilities you may have.

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We know the hidden treasures of Japan.


Because most of our staff live in Japan we are always aware of what’s happening in Japan. Throughout our network of partners we get first-hand information that will benefit your trip.


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Your guide will listen to you, give you suggestions and show you sights you want. They are also very flexible and can make on the fly changes to fit your style, mood, weather and crowds.


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Rediscover Tours has been organizing travel to Japan since 2000.


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