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Are you seeking a deeper cultural experience, away from typical tourist attractions? This tour offers just that, freeing you from the pressure of checking off popular destinations and guiding you towards off-the-beaten-path experiences. Beginning and ending in Kyoto, Japan's alternative capital, this tour allows you to explore the country's lesser-known south-central regions. In Kyoto, you'll have the opportunity to meet a trainee geisha and explore hidden temples and gardens. A visit to Mount Koya offers the chance to stay in a shukubo temple lodging and participate in morning prayers with the monks. Crossing the Seto Inland Sea to Shikoku, you'll enjoy the views from Mount Bizan in Tokushima and experience a traditional dance festival. In Takamatsu, catch a Bunraku puppet show and wander through the beautiful Ritsurin Gardens. A ferry ride to Naoshima Island unveils world-class art with a local guide, as well as a visit to the famous Konpira-san shrine and an overnight stay in a ryokan inn in Kotohira. Explore the lush Iya Valley and cross vine bridges before visiting Matsuyama, known for its historic bathhouse and samurai castle. Returning to the mainland, visit the Peace Park in Hiroshima and the iconic "floating" torii gate on Miyajima Island. On the way back to Kyoto, stop in the historic town of Joge for a glimpse into rural life. Throughout the journey, your dedicated tour leader will assist in navigating these unique destinations, offering insights into their history and customs.

Prices & Dates

Trip Highlights


Full-time services of your InsideJapan tour leader
Breakfast every day, three lunches and six evening meals
Full-day private guide in Mount Koya including lunch & entrance fees
Afternoon tea with a maiko in Kyoto
Airport transfers by shared taxi
Full-day private guide service in Naoshima including lunch at the Benesse House Museum
Hiroshima Peace Museum & Park
Visit to Miyajima Island including entrance fees.
Shared portable Wi-Fi access throughout trip
12 nights' accommodation
Your InsideJapan Info-Pack
Selected entrance fees & local transport in Kyoto
All transport between destinations
Tickets to Awa Odori Kaikan Museum, Mount Bizan Ropeway, Awa Jurobe Yashiki Puppet Theatre & Ritsurin Gardens in Takamatsu
Iya Valley sightseeing including entrance fees & lunch
Okonomiyaki dinner in Hiroshima
Luggage forwarding from Kyoto to Tokushima and from Kotohira to Hiroshima

Not Included

International flights
Any entrance fees (including temples, shrines and museums) unless otherwise specified
Any local transport unless covered by the included transport passes
Baggage handling and luggage forwarding unless otherwise specified - you will be expected to carry your own luggage


Days 1-2


Explore Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for over a millennium, boasting an impressive 17 World Heritage Sites. Upon arrival at Kansai or Itami International Airport, you will be greeted by a representative who will arrange for a shared taxi transfer to your hotel in Kyoto. Your tour leader will be waiting in the lobby to welcome you, and later you will gather with your group for a welcome meeting followed by a delicious meal at a local restaurant.

On day 2, your tour leader will guide you through Kyoto using public transportation, showcasing the city's rich history and culture. Known as the "City of Ten Thousand Temples," Kyoto offers a variety of stunning attractions. Entrance fees to selected sites will be included in the itinerary, allowing you to visit highlights such as the Philosophers' Path, the Silver Pavilion of Ginkakuji, and the lively Nishiki Food Market. In the afternoon, you will have the unique opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea with a maiko (apprentice geisha) in the traditional Gion district.

Day 3

Mount Koya

Explore the serene and sacred Mount Koya, a mountaintop temple community known as the spiritual home of Shingon Buddhism. Located in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, Mount Koya is home to ancient temples, shrines, and pagodas, including Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan. Surrounded by towering cryptomeria trees, this atmospheric graveyard stretches into the misty morning. With the services of a local guide to provide insight into the history and significance of these sites, your visit will include lunch and entrance fees. Tonight, you will stay at a traditional Buddhist temple lodging, where you can experience shojin ryori, a vegetarian Buddhist cuisine.

Day 4


Participate in morning prayers at a traditional Buddhist temple lodging and then take a ferry to Shikoku, which is the smallest of Japan's four main islands. Rise early to witness the ancient rituals during the morning prayers at the temple lodging before enjoying a traditional Buddhist breakfast. Afterward, take a private bus to Wakayama Port to board a ferry to Tokushima on Shikoku Island. Tokushima is well-known for hosting the Awa Odori dance festival, the largest dance festival in Japan. Upon arrival, visit the Awa Odori Kaikan Museum to learn more about the festival and take a cable car ride to the top of Mount Bizan for stunning views of the city.

Days 5-6


Experience traditional Japanese puppet theatre at the Awa Jurobe Yashiki puppet theatre on day five of your trip. Afterward, visit Takamatsu and explore the beautiful Ritsurin Gardens. On day 6, take a day trip to Naoshima, known as Japan's famous "Art Island", where you will be guided through world-class art installations amidst stunning natural landscapes. Enjoy a local island caf? for lunch and visit Benesse House and Chichu Art museums to see works by renowned artists like Yayoi Kusama and Claude Monet. Return to Takamatsu in the evening.

Days 7-8


Hike up the 1,368 steps to reach the top of Shikoku's most important shrine, Konpira-san, and then embark on a boat ride through the picturesque gorges of the Iya Valley.

On day 7, you will take a scenic train journey from Takamatsu to Kotohira, a town renowned for housing Shikoku's largest shrine complex, Konpira-san. Your accommodations for the night will be at a luxurious ryokan inn with its own hot spring baths and traditional Japanese-style evening meals included throughout your stay.

During the afternoon of day 7, you will have the opportunity to climb the 1,368 steps to reach the inner shrine of Konpira-san, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding area. You will also have time to visit a local sake brewery and sample some rice wine.

On day 8, a private bus will take you to the Iya Valley, a pristine and unspoiled natural area known for its vine bridges. You will walk across one of these bridges, enjoy a delicious lunch, and take a boat ride through one of the valley's gorges. Additionally, you will have the chance to explore a historic samurai residence before returning to Kotohira for another night of hot spring baths and culinary delights.

Day 9


Visit Matsuyama on day 9 of your trip to explore Japan's oldest hot spring baths at Dogo Onsen and one of the best original samurai castles in the country. Dogo Onsen has been in existence for over 3,000 years and is currently undergoing a 7-year restoration project to ensure it can be enjoyed by future generations. There are baths reserved for the royal family, but there are also separate baths available to the public. After visiting the castle and its grounds, you'll have the afternoon to explore Matsuyama at your own pace.

Days 10-11


Pay your respects at Hiroshima's Peace Park and explore Miyajima Island, known for its friendly deer population. On day 10, take a ferry from Matsuyama to Hiroshima on Japan's main island. Visit the Peace Park and Museum to learn about the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverside and try Hiroshima's famous dish, okonomiyaki. Day 11 includes a ferry ride to Miyajima Island, where you can visit Itsukushima Shrine and hike to the top of Mount Misen for stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea.

Days 12-13


Return to the "City of Ten Thousand Temples" for some final shopping, sightseeing, and your last night in Japan.

Today, you will visit Joge, a small historic town that perfectly fits our "Hidden Japan" concept. Not well-known to foreign tourists, Joge is famous for its original Meiji & Taisho era architecture. Walking down Joge's main street gives you a sense of stepping back in time. You will enjoy a full day of cultural activities with local guides, interacting with the community.

In the late afternoon, you will return to Kyoto on a super-fast Nozomi shinkansen bullet train. After freshening up, you can join your tour leader and group for a farewell meal at a local izakaya. Consider ending the tour with karaoke for a memorable night.

On day 13, bid farewell and take a shared taxi back to the airport for your flight home. We look forward to your next visit!

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

Trip Type
Group Size
Min 4 / Max 14
Hotel Rating
Tour Guide
None Provided
Minimum Age
15 yrs, accompanied by an adult
Arr. Transfer
Dep. Transfer
OTG002970Japan Hidden Gems & Highlights - 13 daysFar EastHandpickedFar EastfalseJapan