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Japan Unmasked is a tour that offers modest accommodation and minimal inclusions, allowing travelers the flexibility to choose how they spend their time and money in Japan. The tour starts in Tokyo, the vibrant heart of Japan, where participants will embark on the shinkansen bullet train to explore central Japan's mountainous region. Here, they will stay at a shukubo temple lodging, try vegetarian Buddhist cuisine, and explore the underground tunnels of Zenko-ji temple. They will also have the opportunity to observe snow monkeys soaking in hot spring pools in Yudanaka and visit Matsumoto's historic samurai castle. Traveling deeper into the mountains, participants will experience warm Japanese hospitality at a traditional ryokan inn in Takayama, where they can explore sake breweries, craft shops, and morning markets. In Kyoto and Kanazawa, travelers will get a glimpse of traditional Japan, with Kyoto boasting 17 World Heritage Sites and Kanazawa offering beautifully preserved streets and gardens. In Kyoto's Gion district, there is a chance to spot a geisha. The tour also includes a visit to Hiroshima, where the Peace Memorial Park serves as a poignant reminder of Japan's history. Despite its past, Hiroshima is a vibrant city filled with optimism. Participants are encouraged to try the region's popular savory pancake, okonomiyaki. The tour concludes with a visit to Kurashiki, a hidden gem with a beautiful merchant canal district, excellent museums, and picturesque countryside ideal for a bike ride.

Inclusions
Itinerary
Prices & Dates

Trip Highlights

Included

Full-time services of your InsideJapan tour leader
Breakfast every day and one evening meal
Arrival transfer by shared shuttle bus
Highway Bus from Matsumoto to Takayama
Entrance to Zenko-ji Temple in Nagano
Geisha district walking tour
Shared portable Wi-Fi access throughout trip
13 nights' accommodation
All transport between destinations in Japan
IC transport card with 2,500 yen credit for city transport
Transfer from Takayama to Kanazawa by private coach
Entrance to Jigokudani Monkey Park (2024) or Obuse Hokusai Museum (2025)
Luggage Forwarding Tokyo to Matsumoto
Your InsideJapan Info-Pack

Not Included

International flights
Any local transportation unless covered by the included pass
Entrance fees (including those for temples, shrines and museums) unless otherwise specified
Baggage handling and luggage forwarding unless otherwise specified

Itinerary

Days 1-2

Tokyo

Explore the diverse facets of Tokyo, renowned as one of the world's most remarkable cities. Upon your arrival in Japan, you will be greeted at the airport by a driver and transported via a shared shuttle bus to your accommodation in Asakusa, a neighborhood known for its traditional charm. Later that evening, you will convene with your tour leader for a welcome meeting. Afterward, you have the option to dine with your fellow travelers at a nearby restaurant, where you can experience Japan's exceptional cuisine and dining customs. The following day, you will embark on a comprehensive walking tour of Tokyo alongside your tour leader, utilizing the city's efficient public transportation system. Your journey will take you through a variety of attractions, ranging from the serene Meiji Shrine to the vibrant Harajuku shopping district, and from the historic Asakusa neighborhood to the modern skyscrapers of Shinjuku. This day offers a glimpse into what sets Tokyo apart as one of the world's foremost urban centers. If you wish to explore independently, your tour leader will be available to assist you in crafting your itinerary.

Day 3

Nagano

Spend the night at a traditional Buddhist temple lodging at Zenko-ji, the most important Zen temple in Japan. Nagano, located in the mountains and known for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, is home to Zenko-ji. Enjoy exploring the city this afternoon and join your tour leader for a meal of local specialty soba noodles before relaxing at the hot spring baths. Accommodations for the night will be in simple Japanese-style rooms at one of Zenko-ji's affiliated shukubo lodgings, complete with tatami mats, sliding screen doors, and comfortable futon mattresses.

Day 4

Matsumoto

Experience Buddhist morning prayers in Nagano, explore the snow monkeys of Yudanaka, and discover Matsumoto's iconic "Black Crow" castle. Start day four with an early rise for Zenko-ji's morning prayers, followed by a delicious breakfast of shojin ryori. Then, choose between visiting the snow monkeys in Yudanaka or exploring Obuse and the Hokusai Museum with its impressive collection of ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Days 5-6

Takayama

Discover the charm of Takayama, an alpine town known for its craft shops, sake breweries, morning markets, and museums. Day five of your journey through the Japanese Alps will bring you to Takayama, where traditional crafts are highly esteemed. The town offers a variety of activities, from exploring the festival float museum and old town streets to visiting the world headquarters of the Sukyo Mahikari cult and browsing the many craft shops. Your accommodations for the night will be at a family-run inn, complete with Japanese-style rooms, onsen hot spring baths, and a delectable kaiseki dinner. On day 6, start your morning at the vibrant morning market before visiting the Hida no Sato folk village, an outdoor museum showcasing traditional thatched-roof farmhouses. End the day with a sake tasting at local breweries in the old town. Dinner is not provided, so be sure to try the local delicacy, Hida beef, for a delightful culinary experience.

Day 7

Kanazawa

Explore the well-preserved traditional districts of Kanazawa, which is home to one of Japan's top three landscape gardens. Situated on the Japan Sea coast, Kanazawa is renowned for its historical significance and architectural beauty. Similar to Kyoto, the city's historical landmarks were spared from air raids during World War II, allowing visitors to experience the charm of pre-war Japan in its old town areas. During your visit, make sure to stroll through the Nagamachi samurai quarter, explore the Chaya geisha district, and indulge in some fresh sushi from the Omicho fish market. A must-see attraction in Kanazawa is Kenrokuen, a breathtaking landscape garden that is ranked among Japan's top three. Don't miss the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of Kenrokuen during your visit to Kanazawa.

Days 8-9

Hiroshima

Spend two days in Hiroshima exploring the city and visiting the Peace Park and Museum, which commemorate the tragedy of 1945. In addition to these historical sites, Hiroshima offers world-class art galleries, a manga library, a restored castle, and the Mazda Museum for visitors to enjoy. On day 9, take a ferry to Miyajima, a beautiful island in the Seto Inland Sea known for its traditional community, friendly deer population, and iconic Itsukushima Shrine with its "floating" torii gate. Before leaving, be sure to try Hiroshima's local specialty, okonomiyaki, a delicious and affordable cabbage- or noodle-based pancake cooked at your table.

Day 10

Kurashiki

Explore the well-preserved canal district of Kurashiki and enjoy a scenic bicycle ride through rice paddies and villages across the Kibi plains. Kurashiki, often overlooked on typical Japan itineraries, is a charming town with a rich history. The canal district serves as the heart of the town, featuring traditional shops, cafes, and museums housed in ancient storehouses from the Edo era. The Ohara Museum, a standout among the local museums, showcases the first permanent collection of Western art ever exhibited in Japan. For those looking for a more active adventure, consider embarking on a cycling excursion through the Kibi plains. This picturesque route offers a glimpse of Japan's natural beauty and historical sites, including rice fields, burial mounds, temples, and Buddhist cemeteries.

Days 11-12

Kyoto

Kyoto, an ancient imperial capital, is considered Japan's most significant repository of culture and history. It served as Japan's capital for over a thousand years and boasts an impressive 17 World Heritage Sites, including temples, shrines, and exquisite gardens. Your tour leader will take you to one of these sites and then guide you through the traditional Gion geisha district, where you might catch a glimpse of a geisha as evening approaches. On the second day in Kyoto, your tour leader will lead you on a personalized tour of the city's hidden gems based on the group's interests, the season, and the weather. Alternatively, you can explore these gems on your own. Whether it's the Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji, the red gates of Fushimi Inari, the Nishiki food market, or Gion's teahouses, Kyoto offers a multitude of attractions that will leave you spoiled for choice.

Days 13-14

Tokyo

Come back to Tokyo for some sightseeing, last-minute shopping, and a memorable final night in the capital. Today, you will travel back to Tokyo on the shinkansen bullet train, with a chance to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji if you're lucky. Take this opportunity to do some last-minute souvenir shopping and visit any sights you may have missed before. Consider visiting the Skytree, the tallest tower in the world at 634 meters (2,080 feet), or renting a karaoke booth in Shinjuku to sing your heart out with your new friends. Although dinner is not included tonight, we recommend joining your group for a farewell meal at one of the tour leader's favorite restaurants in the city to celebrate the end of a fantastic trip. On the morning of day 14, it will be time to bid farewell to Japan and take the airport limousine bus to catch your departure flight. Wishing you a safe journey home.

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.

At a Glance

Range
Trip Type
Starts
Tokyo
Ends
Tokyo
Group Size
Min 4 / Max 14
Hotel Rating
 
Tour Guide
0
Meals
None Provided
Countries
Minimum Age
15 yrs, accompanied by an adult
Arr. Transfer
Yes
Dep. Transfer
No
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