Immerse in the Japanese Alps
- Duration12 Nights
- StylePrivate Tour
- When to GoFeb-May & Sep-Nov
- Price GuideFrom $5,814 Per Person
At a Glance
- Private airport transfer from Haneda or Narita airport
- Full-day private city tour including Yanaka-Ginza, Senso-ji, Omotesando, and Harajuku
- Free day for self-guided exploration or side trips to Yokohama, Kamakura, or Nikko
- High-speed train to Matsumoto
- Self-guided exploration of the Crow Castle and Soba bars
- Day trip to Kamikochi for Taisho Pond, Kappa Bridge, and Myojin Bridge hike
- Scenic train journey into the Kiso Valley
- Explore the idyllic village of Narai-juku en route
- Hike the Nakasendo from Tsumago to Magome
- Transfer to Takayama by train
- Walking tour of Takayama focusing on regional food and culture
- Visit the UNESCO Heritage gasshō-zukuri houses of Shirakawago
- Transfer to Kyoto by high-speed train
- Full-day cycling tour of Kyoto including Nishi Hongan-ji, Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, and Arashiyama
- Final day at leisure to cover any missed shopping or sightseeing
- Transfer to Osaka Kansai Airport by express train or shuttle bus
Meet Our Expert
I am totally captivated by Asia. Having lived in Singapore, Nepal, South Korea and Hong Kong, travelled extensively across all of our destinations in Asia, and worked in luxury travel for many years, curating exceptional trips comes naturally to me.
- 8 nights in 4-star hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
- 4 nights in 4-star ryokan or ryokan accommodation with breakfast and dinner
- 1x additional lunch during Takayama food & culture walking tour
- Private arrival transfer from Tokyo Narita or Haneda Airport to Tokyo hotel
- Shuttle bus or train departure transfer to Osaka Kansai Airport
- Individual train tickets for all mentioned train travel in Ordinary Class
- All local bus and train tickets needed for hikes and exploration around Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Kiso Valley, Takayama, and Shirakawago
- Pre-loaded public transport cards
- Privately guided tours and experiences in Tokyo, Takayama, and Kyoto
- Comprehensive self-guide travel pack and app
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
- Flexible, personalized itinerary based on your interests
What's not Included
- International flights from your country of origin
- Tips or gratuities to guides, drivers, hotel staff
- Any meals, tours, or activities other than those specifically mentioned in itinerary
- Incidental local expenses - souvenirs, laundry, taxis, etc
- Travel insurance - we strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you have booked your trip.
Day by Day Itinerary
- Day 1
Tokyo: Private arrival transfer to your hotel
Welcome to Japan! On arrival in to Tokyo, you will be met in the arrivals hall by our local representative, who will welcome you to Japan and go through any immediate questions you might have. You will then be assisted to a private car in which you’ll enjoy a relaxed, hassle-free transfer to your downtown hotel. On arrival to your hotel you will be provided with your Welcome Suica transport cards. These are a metro card-plus: they can be used to cover transport on subways, local trains, and buses in all the areas you’re traveling and – should you wish – can also be used as a contactless payment card for taxis, vending machines, and convenience stores.
- Day 2
Tokyo: Guided city tour of Tokyo's old and new
Today you will discover Tokyo with a knowledgeable English-speaking guide, getting an in-depth orientation that will allow you to discover the best of this enthralling city. Your guide will meet you at your hotel and first give you a practical overview of your overall itinerary: addressing any queries you have on using getting around, using public transport and trains, redeeming railcards and activity vouchers, and so on. You will then head out together to explore.
Begin the day with a visit to Yanaka, one of Tokyo’s shitamachi (old town) and home to many local artists and craftsmen. Stop by the Asakura Museum of Sculpture, the atelier of one of Japan’s most famous sculptors, Fumio Asakura. Aside from his creations, there is also a serene indoor water garden. On the walk back to Yanaka Ginza, a narrow street lined with food stalls, specialty shops, and teahouses, feel free to check out some of the shops to buy some souvenirs or local snacks. Afterwards, travel by train to Asakusa, another shitamachi and known as the city’s oldest Geisha district and home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through.
In the afternoon, head across Tokyo to Omotesando, commonly referred to as Tokyo’s Champs-Elysee. This broad, tree-lined avenue boasts a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects, like the Prada store designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Continue walking towards Harajuku, the shopping haven for all fashionistas and a popular meeting place for teenagers who are usually in eccentric clothing. The landmark of Harajuku is Takeshita Street, a 400-meter long alley filled with fashion boutiques, shops, and cafés. Lastly, visit Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings.
- Day 3
Tokyo: Day at leisure to explore independently
Today is completely free to explore Tokyo at your leisure. Armed with your IC transport cards, and having had a thorough orientation with your guide the previous day, you should feel ready to dive and explore one of the world’s most enthralling capital cities. Tokyo is a city of neighborhoods, each of which has its own character and appeal. Shinjuku and Shibuya are the commercial heart of the city, packed with skyscrapers, shopping, and busy nightlife and dining districts.
In contrast, Asakusa is the historic heart of the city, where amongst the low-lying streets you’ll find the ancient Senso-ji temple, plus the highly attractive Sumida Park along the banks of the Sumida River. South of Asakusa is Akihabara, Tokyo’s ‘electric town’ packed with electrical superstores, arcades, and pachinko arcades, and a little further down the tracks is the Ginza, destination of choice for high fashion and luxury shopping.
For more a laidback side of the city visit Roppongi, which draws Tokyo’s expats to its numerous international restaurants and has a thriving contemporary art scene, or fashionable up-and-coming neighborhoods such as Daikanyama, Naka-Meguro, or Shimokita.
- Day 4
Matsumoto: Train transfer to Matsumoto & afternoon visit to the 'Crow Castle'
This morning you’ll use your transport cards to take the subway to Shinjuku station, from where you’ll board a Chuo Line Limited Express train out of the city and into the mountains of central Honshu. A direct train journey of around three hours brings you to Matsumoto, a pleasant city at the foot of the Japanese Alps.On arrival you will make your own way to your Matsumoto hotel.
On arrival we recommend a self-guided tour of Matsumoto’s stunning ‘Black Crow’ Castle, which dates back to the late 16th century, and is arguably the best-preserved in Japan. Also highly recommended is the city’s Ukiyoe (woodblock print) museum which houses a fine collection of traditional Japanese art as well as an excellent shop. Compared to Tokyo and Osaka, Matsumoto is a calm and walkable city with lots of good options for dinner and drinks in the evening. The local soba noodles are particularly good.
Hotel Buena VistaRead More
- Day 5
Matsumoto: Day hike in Kamikochi
Today is at leisure in Matsumoto. If you feel you’ve explored this small city in some depth already we highly recommend a self-guided day trip to Kamikochi: an incredibly scenic hiking area falling either side of the glacier-blue Azusa-Ogawa River and backed by the soaring Japanese Alps. An easy train and bus journey of around 90 minutes takes you around 1000m higher into the Alps, arriving at a trailhead on the mirror-like Taisho-ike Pond. From here an easy-to-moderate trail takes you through gentle forested scenery along to the famed Kappa-bashi bridge, along the way enjoy rich views of the Hotaka Mountain Range and Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano that stands at 2,455 meters above sea level.
From Kappa-bashi a further hour on the trail brings you to Myojin-bashi Bridge: the gateway to Hotaka-jinja Shrine and Myojin-ike Pond. Reward your endeavors with a meal at the small restaurant here specializing in grilled freshwater fish and soba noodles, before completing the trail and heading back to Kanazawa by bus and train. Total hiking time is around 4 hours; allowing for transport time and stops along the way, this will be a full 8-hour day out of Matsumoto. Roundtrip transport tickets and full self-guiding notes will be provided.
- Day 6
Kiso Valley: Train journey to Kiso, visiting Narai-juku en route
This morning you’ll make your own way back to Matsumoto Station, then travel by scenic mountain train to Nagiso, in the heart of the stunning Kiso Valley. This journey will take around two hours, and is covered by your Japan Rail Pass. On arrival in Nagiso you’ll take a free hotel shuttle bus up to your rural ryokan.
Nestled within the heart of Japan’s Chubu region lies the enchanting Kiso Valley, a place where time seems to slow amidst serene natural beauty and rich historical heritage. This picturesque valley, flanked by towering peaks of the Japanese Alps, exudes a tranquil ambiance that beckons travelers seeking respite from the bustling urban life. Steeped in samurai history, the Kiso Valley was once a vital stretch of the Nakasendo, an ancient Edo-era highway connecting Kyoto and Edo (modern-day Tokyo).
Alight the train a few stops early at Narai-juku. This small post town is the end point of the ancient trail between Yabuhara-juku and Narai-juku, which used to be the most dangerous section of the Nakasendo. The old post town of Narai is also referred to as the “Narai of a Thousand Houses” for the many well-restored old buildings that now serve as souvenir shops or local restaurants. Visitors can also find many restaurants in Narai that serve local delicacies such as gohei-mochi (sticky-rice cakes) and soba (buckwheat noodles).
Hotel Fuki no MoriRead More
- Day 7
Kiso Valley: Hike the Nakasendo from Tsumago to Magome
You have a full day to explore the charming Kiso Valley. The valley houses several small and beautifully preserved villages – Narai, Kiso, Tsumago, Magome – which are linked by the Nakasendo Highway, an ancient samurai path which was once the main route between Kyoto and Edo, modern-day Tokyo. The section that passes through the Kiso Valley is arguably the most scenic: rising and falling through dramatic ridges and verdant forests as it meanders from village to village. Our favorite hike is the three-hour stretch between Tsumago and Magome. To hike this leg, leave the ryokan after breakfast and take the train to Nakatsugawa and later, a bus to Magome, the start of the Nakasendo Trail.
The walk to Tsumago is then well-signposted, and alternates between well-preserved old towns, farmland, and peaceful forest. This trail can be completed in around 3 hours, including breaks for rest, refreshment, and photography along the way. After concluding the trail, ride the bus back to Nagiso, arriving back in time for a quick soak in the onsen before dinner.
- Day 8
Takayama: Scenic train through the Alps to Takayama
After an early breakfast you will take the hotel shuttle back to Nagiso station, then embark on a lengthy but scenic train transfer through several Alpine passes to Takayama. Changing trains via Tajimi and Mino-Ota, total transfer time will be around 4hr30. On arrival in Takayama you can take a taxi (payable locally) or the complimentary hotel shuttle on to your ryokan just outside town.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to explore Takayama independently. An easy side trip from can be taken to Hida-no-Sato, just south of the city, an open-air museum featuring more than 30 buildings built in the Edo period and relocated from their original location in Shirakawa-go. The buildings once served a variety of purposes, such as logging huts, storehouses, and farmhouses. They are all open to the public displaying items and tools used in the Edo period giving visitors an idea of what life was like more than 100 years ago in Japan. The village of Hida Furakawa, a short local train to the north, is also a charming place to explore and an especially enticing base for gentle bike rides (hire available locally) around the surrounding low Alpine countryside.
Hidatei Hanaougi, TakayamaRead More
- Day 9
Takayama: Morning walking tour, then afternoon visit to Shirakawago
This morning you’ll meet a private guide for an exploratory walking tour of Takayama, focusing on its excellent food and unique culture. Situated high in the mountains, this once isolated town has retained its own distinctive traits which are best discovered in the old town. Walk the streets of the old town where Alpine architecture and traditional houses can be found at every turn. Learn about the history of the shops, each one having its own link to the city’s history and culture. A large part of Takayama’s heritage lies in its food. While walking through the town and its market, stop at some of the most popular local shops to sample regional delicacies. Savor items such as miso soup, rice dumplings, and homemade sweets. There is also a chance to taste sake produced in one of the town’s breweries.
In the afternoon we have included return bus tickets to the UNESCO World Heritage village of Shirakawago, located around an hour deeper into the Alps, and famed for its ‘gassho-zukuri’ farmhouses. Gassho-zukuri translates roughly as “constructed like hands in prayer”, which explains the houses’ distinct steep thatched roofs. The intricately-designed roofs are an engineering marvel, containing no nails and able to withstand the heavy snows of winter. Around 180 houses stand in the village, most of which are over 200 years old. Wada-ke-House – once home of the wealthiest family in the village – has been converted into a small museum and provides a great insight into the centuries-old traditions of the village. A 20-minute walk up from the village also brings you to an excellent viewpoint, offering great photo opportunities of the village and mountain panorama beyond.
- Day 10
Kyoto: Transfer to Kyoto by train
Depart Takayama this morning and make your way down to Kyoto by train. You’ll begin with a scenic local train down to Nagoya, then transfer onto a rapid shinkansen bullet train from Nagoya into Kyoto. Both journeys are covered by your Japan Rail Pass, with full instructions included in your pack. On arrival in Kyoto make your own way to your hotel, which by public transport will take around 20 minutes, or by taxi just 10. A complete door-to-door journey should take no longer than 4 hours.
On arrival in Kyoto you will have the afternoon to settle in and explore independently. The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is the country’s cultural and historical heart, home to over 2,000 shrines and temples, four geisha districts, an Imperial palace and castle, magnificent gardens, famous bamboo groves, and a multitude of cultural activities. It is also one of Japan’s most enchanting cities with everything from spectacular gardens and shrines to ancient temples, geishas, castles, and traditional teahouses. It’s famous for its food too, a great place to sample all the main classics and sublime kaiseki cuisine.
- Day 11
Kyoto: Full day cycling tour
Today you’ll embark on a full-day privately guided exploration of Japan’s cultural capital, all conducted on two wheels. Make your own way to the tour meeting point in central Kyoto (full instructions will be provided) then set off to explore!
A short ride brings you to your first stop at Nishi Hongan-ji Temple, a sprawling complex that stands as one of the city’s largest temples. From there, the route leads to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nijo Castle, where you’ll explore the expansive grounds, pausing to appreciate its meticulously adorned sliding doors and the unique “chirping” floors.
Take a break for a quick lunch before returning to the bikes for a ride to Kinkaku-ji Temple. This beautiful structure was built as a retirement village of a shogun but, after his death, was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. The top two floors are covered in gold leaf, creating a resplendent image that is reflected in the temple’s tranquil pond. Adjacent to Kinkaku-ji is another Zen Buddhist temple called Ryoan-ji. Ryoan-ji is home to one of Japan’s most famous rock gardens. Gaze upon this tranquil site while the guide explains the various legends associated with its origin.
Return to the bikes for one last visit. Pedal to scenic Arashiyama, an area famous for its bamboo forest, massive temples and vibrant alleyways. Spend time exploring this colourful neighbourhood before returning to central Kyoto where the tour concludes.
- Day 12
Kyoto: Day at leisure to explore independently
Today is your chance to explore Kyoto as you wish. There is so much here, from stunning gardens and ancient temples to winding alleyways. Perhaps head out early to shop in Nishiki Market, gathering up local goodies for a later picnic in the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Away from the city center, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in western Kyoto is a magical wonderland of soaring bamboo trees, some of which tower more than 65 feet. When the sun filters through the darkness, walking in feels like walking into a dream.
You can also continue to the Tenryuji Temple and Okouchi Sanso Garden, or Nijo Castle with its spectacular gardens and famous nightingale floors, an anti-ninja security measure designed to make chirping sounds when walked upon.
- Day 13
Kyoto: Departure transfer to Osaka Kansai Airport
Sadly it is time to say ‘sayonara’ to Japan. At the appropriate time today you will join a shuttle transfer from your hotel direct to Osaka Kansai International Airport for your return flight home. The transfer will take around 45 minutes and will be booked to time in with your intended check in time.
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