ESCORTED GROUP TOUR: See Japan in 2023! Springtime is possibly one of the best times to visit Japan, when cherry blossom trees come out in full bloom across the nation. Take in the highlights, visit some of the country’s most beautiful gardens, witness the famous Spring Geisha Dances in Kyoto, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and sample the crop (if you dare) at Japan's oldest Wasabi Farm.
Welcome to Japan
Upon arrival in Tokyo (Narita or Haneda Airport) you will be met by our transfer representative who will give you your Tokyo Transport Card (referred to as an IC Card) which will allow you to move freely around the city on the subways and train systems and assist you to transfer to your hotel in Shinjuku, one of the most modern districts in the city. A flight arriving to Tokyo before 16:00 would be ideal if you intend to join our Welcome Meeting commencing this evening at 18:30.
Today we embark on a full day tour of the city by public transport. We start with a cruise down the Sumida River, followed by a walk through Hamarikyu tei-en, a tranquil garden that is just a few minutes’ walk from the lively Ginza Shopping District, where we will be able to see cherry blossom trees. Later, we visit the revered Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined.
The last stop of the day is the Shibuya Crossing - regarded as one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world. It is said that up to a 1000 people converge onto the intersection with every light change. Known as 'the scramble' we'll give it a go then you can purchase a coffee at the second floor Starbucks located directly above and leisurely take in the spectacle from our vantage point. The remainder of the afternoon offers free time for you to further discover this exciting city independently, before our group welcome dinner at a local restaurant this evening.
Overnight: Tokyo | Breakfast, Dinner
Tokyo – Matsumoto. This morning we drive to Matsumoto, and upon arrival visit the incredibly beautiful Matsumoto Castle, which is one of the original and most complete of the handful of medieval castles that exist in Japan today. The towering black and white structure holds some 400 years of history, is a National Treasure (1 of only 4 castles) and is the most iconic landmark in the city. The reward for climbing the narrow stairs to the top are the stunning views of the Japanese Alps, Matsumoto City and the swans circling in the moat below, that can be seen from the slim wooden windows (used for archers and gunmen). This evening offers free time where you might wish to try the local specialty – soba noodles.
Overnight: Matsumoto | Breakfast
Matsumoto – Takayama. From Matsumoto we drive to Takayama, a charming town in the heart of the Hida Mountains. Established in the 16th century as the castle town of the Kanamori family, the town is famous throughout Japan for its old town area of narrow streets filled with well-preserved inns, tea houses, shops and merchants houses with latticed windows and overhanging roofs that are characteristic of the Edo period.
On our way to Takayama we will stop at the picturesque Daio Wasabi Farm, one of Japan’s largest wasabi farms. There is free time to take in the beautiful gardens and fields. The shop on site offers many different options to try of this unique product - wasabi chocolate, wasabi beer, wasabi ice-cream, wasabi juice and much more. Upon arrival to Takayama and we’ll drive to the outskirts of the town to visit the fascinating Hida Folk Village, an outdoor museum comprising 30 or so traditional farm houses from around the Hida region, re-built here on the hillside overlooking the town. Tonight, we enjoy a classic Japanese ryokan meal at the inn where we are staying.
Overnight: Takayama | Breakfast, Dinner
This morning we will explore the town's market stalls, overflowing with fresh produce brought in daily from the surrounding fields. Later, we explore Takayama’s Old Quarter, where you can enjoy free time to wander around the shops and perhaps visit a sake distillery to sample the town’s famous sake. Here you can also enjoy the 'onsen' or public hot springs, well known for their therapeutic benefits to body and mind!
Tonight, we recommend you head out for dinner to sample some of Takayama’s delicious Hida beef at one of the many restaurants or beef burger cafes.
Overnight: Takayama | Breakfast
Takayama – Kanazawa. Today we travel to Kanazawa, home to one of Japan’s most impressive gardens, Kenroku-en, located opposite Kanazawa Castle. Once part of the feudal lord's garden, Kenroku-en is regarded as one of the best places to see the country's famous cherry blossoms - hopefully in full bloom. In Kanazawa the cherry blossom trees are due to bloom in late March/early April. When in bloom, these delicate soft pink flowers can be seen lining the streets and filling the parks and gardens all over the city.
We then head to Nagamachi District located at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle – known for its old samurai houses. Upon arrival we will visit the Nomura Family Samurai House. And after lunch, we explore the lively Omicho Ichiba Market, a food market and restaurant area. Our last stop of the day is Kenroku-en, here we enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and free time to sit, relax and admire the beautiful blossoms as the sun sets.
Overnight: Kanazawa | Breakfast
Kanazawa – Kyoto. A morning express train takes us to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient and cultural capital, where we will spend the next three nights. As one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over 1,600 Buddhist Temples and 400 Shinto Shrines.
Upon arrival we tour Sanjusagen-do Temple, famous for its statues of Kannon. The one thousand life-size statues of Kannon are made of Japanese cypress and are completely covered in gold-leaf. Standing in rows of 10 and each hand carved, so that no two are alike. Our last stop today is the enchanted Fushimi Inari Shrine with its torii gates and picturesque tunnels.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast
Kyoto - Hiroshima - Kyoto. This morning we depart for a full day sightseeing excursion to Hiroshima, taking one of the fastest trains in Japan (the Nozomi Shinkansen) which reaches speeds of up to 300km on the route. Arriving to Hiroshima we visit the iconic A-Bomb Dome - one of the very few buildings left standing after the blast, the Peace Park and Peace Park Museum, which are a sobering reminder of Hiroshima’s devastating past.
We return to Kyoto just after sundown.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast
This morning we visit the stunning Zen Buddhist Temple of Kinkaku-ji, known as the Golden Temple which forms part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto's World Heritage Site. The top floor of the two-story structure is completely covered in gold and sits beside a small lake where its beauty is reflected in the calm waters. After, we embark on a guided walking tour of UNESCO Listed Nijo Castle, which was built by the first Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, the exquisite castle is a wonderful example of Momoyama architecture. The later part of the afternoon offers free time for you to explore more of Kyoto's beautiful sites.
Later today we make our way to Gion for a guided walk through the famed Geisha District. This evening, we have tickets to witness the Miyako Odari geisha dances at the Minami-za Theatre. Dinner tonight is at SODOH Higashiyama - keep a look out, as it's very possible to see Maiko (apprentice Geisha) dressed in beautiful kimono walking to and from their lessons.
Overnight: Kyoto | Breakfast, Dinner
Kyoto - Hakone National Park. Today a bullet train takes us to Fuji Hakone National Park, at the foot of iconic Mount Fuji, where we will spend the next two days exploring the local area. Arrival to our hotel after lunch and this afternoon is at leisure.
During our stay, we have access to unlimited travel on nearly all the local modes of transport thanks to our Hakone Freepass Card - from mountain buses, trams and switchback rail, to lofty cable cars. We'll also take a cruise across picturesque Lake Ashi to Moto-Hakone to visit the Shinto Shrine of Hakone-jinja, where we are rewarded with the best views of Mt Fuji, Lake Ashi and the Red Torii Gate of Hakone. Here we can also enjoy the relaxing experience of more hot springs.
Overnight: Hakone | Breakfast x 2, Dinner x 2
Hakone - Tokyo. Heading back to Tokyo, rather than staying in modern Shinjuku, this time we will be staying in old-town Akakusa, a pretty district famous for its historic Sensoji Buddhist Temple and its abundance of interesting souvenir and craft stalls. After a guided visit of Senso-ji Temple, the rest of the afternoon offers the opportunity to do any last minute sightseeing or shopping. You may also wish to head up to the Tokyo Sky Tree for some final dazzling views of the city.
Overnight: Tokyo | Breakfast
Today our holiday concludes. We offer post-tour accommodation for those interested in staying in Tokyo a little longer, please enquire. Included transfer to Narita or Haneda International Airports by shared shuttle bus.
Prices & Dates
Departure dates marked with a 'G' are guaranteed to operate. All other departures are guaranteed with a minimum of 4 persons. 'Twin Share' prices are per person when there are 2 people sharing a room. 'Single Room' prices are applicable to those who don’t have anyone to share a room with or anyone wanting the privacy of a single room.
The hotels listed below are ones which we frequently use on this tour. We reserve the right to substitute these hotels to ones of a similar standard.
Shinjuku Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Situated in the centre of Kabukicho, one of Tokyo's most famous entertainment districts, this hotel not only offers quick access to other major areas of the city, but some of the best shopping and restaurants. Fitted with flat-screen TVs, a fridge and safe, its guestrooms are comfortable and feature contemporary decor. There's also free WiFi and an excellent array of dining options. Choose between the casual Station Café and the delicious buffet on offer in the Prince Marche. Or head up to the 25th floor and savour creative Japanese cuisine over panoramic views of the city.
Asakusa View Hotel, Tokyo
Set in an Art Deco style, the Asakusa View Hotel offers modern accommodation in an ideal location. Guest rooms are brightly lit and feature impressive floor to ceiling windows. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available and for a surcharge guests can use the pool. The hotel also has a number of good dining options including Cafe de Kapitein on the ground floor and Karuta on the 6th – offering a great selection of Japanese cuisine. The hotel is also directly connected to Asakusa Station – so getting to and from here couldn’t be easier!
Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu, Matsumoto
Newly renovated, the Hotel Kagetsu dates back to the late 19th century and is Matsumoto's oldest hotel. This favourite amongst visitors features classic furnishings in a neutral palette alongside modern conveniences including free WiFi. Guests can also enjoy the public bath and bicycles that are free to use. The property is just five minutes away from the Matsumoto Castle and the main train station.
Nishikinoyu Jimotoya, Matsumoto
Nishikinoyu Jimotoya is a tradional Japanese Inn known as a ryokan located in the Asama Onsen area near Matsumoto. The property features indoor and outdoor hot spring baths and Japanese-style rooms which are equipped with tatami (woven-straw) floor and traditional futton mattresses as well as a private bathroom and seating area. There is a bar lounge on site as well as a Japanese garden to enjoy during your stay.
Tokyu Stay Hida-Takayama Musubi no Yu, Takayama
Tokyo Stay Hide-Takayama Musubi-no-yu is located just 2 minutes on foot from the JR Takayama station and only about 10 minutes away from the historical street making it an ideal place to stay. Guest rooms are both modern and classic with furnishings from Hida woodcrafters unique to this location. Complete with private bathroom and air-conditioning. Why not enjoy a relaxing soak in the large garden-like hot-spring bath located on the second floor during your stay.
Hotel Around Takayama, Takayama
Hotel around Takayama is situated just 700m from the JR Takayama station making it an ideal location for exploring the city, with Fuji Folk Museum a 13 minute walk away and Hida Minzoku Mura Folk Village approx 2.9km away. Guest rooms are calm in design and provide air conditioning and private bathrooms. Hotel around Takayama also features a hot spring bath, a 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property.
Mystays Premieru Kanazawa, Kanazawa
With a short walk to Kanazawa Station, large comfortable rooms, well-equipped gym and complimentary Wifi, this hotel provides an enjoyable stay after a day of sightseeing Kanazawa's many sites. Included in your rooms are tea and coffee making facilities, a small fridge, private bathroom, air-conditioning, heating and a large flat screen TV. The hotel has an onsite café that offers both Japanese and western meals and a restaurant that offers tasty Hokuriku cuisine.
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto-Hachijoguchi , Kyoto
The Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto-Hachijoguchi is in located just 4 minutes away from the JR Kyoto Station. The interior of the property designed in a traditional Kyoto-style to provide you with an authentic atmosphere. Guest rooms are comfortable and feature a private bathroom and air-conditioning. A Japanese/western breakfast buffet is offered at the ground-floor Roynet Cafe.
Hotel Keihan Kyoto Hachijoguchi, Kyoto
Opened in 2018 and just 5 minutes walk from Kyoto Station and 3 minute walk from Kujo Station. This hotel offers a large public bath, amenity bar, coin-operated laundry, vending machine, sightseeing information corner and buffet style breakfast. All rooms feature standard amenities such as luxury Simmons bedding, flat screen TV, complimentary Wi-fi, safes and humidified air cleaner.
Susukinohara Ichinoyu Main, Hakone
Susukinohara Ichinoyu Main is a traditional Japanese Inn situated in Hakone, around 13km from Hakone-Yumoto Station. The ryokan has a restaurant and free wifi throughout. Guest rooms are modern with traditional charm and provide air conditioning as well as a private bathroom. An Asian breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation.
Hotel Marroad Hakone, Hakone
Hotel Marroad Hakone is in a good location just a 5 minute drive to Gora park and Lake Ashinoko near by. The hotel offers relaxing indoor and outdoor hot-spring baths and a sauna room. Guest rooms are comfortable with air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. Why not sit back on the terrace and enjoy a drink from the tea lounge.
Great tour, saw everything stated on allotted itinerary, guide Mewa was very good, helpful and enjoyed her history narratives whilst travelling.”
'Happy' (her name in Japanese means happy) our tour guide was incredible. She made this trip interactive, personal and enjoyable. Excellent execution of knowledge and skills. Thank you.”
We did this tour for our honeymoon and it was fantastic! I'd recommend this trip to everyone. Our tour guide made Japan extra special. She went above and beyond to find information and recommendations for anything not included on the tour. She was polite, accomodating, very informative and was one of the main reasons our experience was so very special. We look forward to visiting Japan again and would love to have 'Happy' as our host again. ”
Our guide 'Happy' was a very organised, helpful, caring and joyful guide for our group. She helped structure our days and gave us advance planning of the following day. She worked out routes to avoid the crowds and also best places to eat etc. She made our tour a success. ”
After the mix-up with my arrival transportation to my hotel, everything was wonderful. 'Happy' was there for my welcome meeting and had everything under control from then on. I would do any tour in a heartbeat if I knew she was my tour guide!”
Our guide Mari was excellent, nothing was too much trouble.”
Overall, the holiday was fantastic with a packed itinerary and plenty of options. Hotels were excellent and the places we visited superb. The group were great too.”
Thank you so much! It was a very memorable and positive experience for us (and my 60th birthday!). Our guide Mark was fantastic and we had some great conversations with him about Japan and he was able to tell us so much. We enjoyed his company for the whole tour. Mark was very accommodating and helped us with any queries we had. He explained timing, being ready in the mornings, meeting times, dinner arrangements etc very clearly. The 14 days was well paced and we did 4 to 5 hours of walking nearly every day (either with Mark or on our own).
Just some feedback for you. Timing for the Cherry Blossoms everywhere we went was spot on! Absolutely phenomenal! By the time we returned to Tokyo on Day 13, there weren't many left flowering so glad we were there when we did.
Shinjuku Hotel - 3 nights. great location, lovely modern room, nice breakfast options. Lovely first night dinner with the rest of the group to get to meet them.
Sending our big luggage on is a great idea (we've experienced this before), however a couple of people on our tour didn't quite understand the concept of having overnight bags (while being away from the main suitcase) and they were not well prepared.
Matsumoto was fantastic. Hotel room was only just okay. Clean but dated
Takayama Ryokan was awesome! Dinner was fabulous. Also the breakfast
Just a suggestion here though. 1 x traditional dinner in the ryokan is enough. 2nd included dinner was a repeat, we would have liked to have experienced a local restaurant.
Kanazawa hotel - location was excellent however, the hotel rooms were not up to the standard.
Kyoto and Gion district - lovely. The Miyako Odori was amazing. Included dinner at Mimiu was awesome. Hakone & the Fujiya Hotel!! What a fantastic time we had there with all the history! And the private onsen was a highlight.
We didn't get to see Mt Fuji while in Hakone because it was so misty but from our View Hotel in Tokyo we were very fortunate to see her on a clear day!
Also another suggestion - include a tour to the Skytree Tower. We did that on our last morning and had lunch there with so many choices. The food hall area was amazing.
Many highlights I haven't mentioned but the whole tour was fantastic! Mark was absolutely a delight and nothing was any trouble for him. Hoping to do another trip to Japan. We hear that November is an ideal time to go.
Jo & Warren Naseby”
Mark Fujishige was fantastic and we had some great conversations with him about Japan and he was able to tell us so much. We enjoyed his company for the whole tour. Tour was well paced & loved the hotels. ”
The tour was, in a word - Fantastic. Great hotels and in great locations. Also the nights stayed in each hotel was well thought out.
Tour content was excellent. Pace was fast but that is how we like it. Cant complain about anything. ”
Extra Tour Info
Great tour, saw everything stated on allotted itinerary, guide Mewa was very good, helpful and enjoyed her history narratives whilst travelling.”