Japan Alps Explorer

Summary

Head to the hills for a Japan adventure like none other. Visit the ‘alps’ of Japan to discover pristine alpine towns filled with history and culture. Hike along a former trading route, take a scenic train journey and soak in mountain-side onsens whilst enjoying breath-taking landscapes at every turn.

Tour Includes:

  • Economy flights from London Heathrow
  • Hotel accommodation in twin room with daily breakfast
  • English meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • PASMO Transport Pass for local transportation in Tokyo with 1,500 JPY worth of credits
  • 7-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class, activated on Day 4
  • English-speaking guide for tour on Day 3
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary (day 3)
  • Cycling tour in Kyoto

  Duration

10 Days

Price

From $4,924.26 per person based on 2 people sharing [Guide Price*]

Best time to go

The ski season is Japan is from December to April so this would be the best time to go and make the most of the powdery snow in Hakuba.

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the Matsumoto’s castles
  • Trek historic Nakasendo
  • Take a scenic train ride
  • Soak in Takayama’s onsens
  • Discover Tokyo and Kyoto

Day 1: Depart the UK

Depart London Heathrow on an overnight flight to Tokyo, Haneda International Airport.

Day 2: Arrival in Tokyo

Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport, you will be met & given assistance in either boarding the appropriate train or the hotel shuttle bus. After checking in to the hotel, the remainder of the day is free for you to relax post flight or browse the city.

Overnight: Palace Hotel [Breakfast]

Japan 10 day alps explorer itinerary

Day 3: Tokyo

Meet up with a local guide this morning at the hotel and head for Hamarikyu, a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its wide collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo, however, another of its most famous attractions is its tea house, Nakajima-no-Ochaya. Take a break here and enjoy a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about chado (tea ceremony). From the park, take a scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also 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.

The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings. The shrine is also home to around 120,000 trees, making it easy to forget that just outside its grounds are two of the city’s popular shopping districts, Harajuku and Omotesando.

Overnight: Palace Hotel

Day 4: Tokyo – Matsumoto

Today is a self-guided day. Travel to Matsumoto, a small castle town surrounded by rice fields, vineyards, wasabi farms and the great Japan Alps.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Spend the afternoon strolling around the city. Visit Matsumoto Castle, one of the only twelve remaining original castles in Japan. It is well-distinguished for its black exterior, red arch bridge and a view of Japan’s Alps in the background. Right outside the castle grounds is Nakamachi-dori, a historical merchant district line with well-preserved old buildings, including some storehouses characterized by their thick, white-painted walls.

Overnight: Hotel Buena Vista [Breakfast]

Hotel Buena Vista in Japan

Day 5: Matsumoto, Optional Day Trip

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

Make an early start and travel to Kamikochi, a popular nature trail in the valleys of Matsumoto. It is known for the pristine Azusa-gawa River and the surrounding Japanese Alps. Start from Taisho-ike Pond, with its mirror-like waters reflecting the Hotaka Mountain Range and Mt. Yakedake, an active volcano that stands at 2,455 meters above sea level. Continue walking towards the bus terminal, passing by Tashiro Marsh, to secure seats on the bus.

Just nearby is Kappabashi Bridge, one of the places in Kamikochi that offers the most picturesque views of the area. From this point, another hour of trekking heads to Myojin-Bashi Bridge, the gateway to Hotaka-jinja Shrine and Myojin-ike Pond. There is a small dining place here called Kamonjigoya that serves grilled freshwater fish and soba. The trail from Myojin area back to the opposite side of Kappabashi is another hour of nature trekking that wanders through the serene woods of this well-protected national park.

Notes:

  • This is an easy-to-moderate course that can be accomplished in around 4 hours, including short restroom and meal breaks.
  • Roundtrip tickets from Matsumoto to Kamikochi can be added in the package (advance booking and supplementary charges required).
  • Kamikochi is only open from mid-April to mid-November when the roads are not closed due to heavy snow.
  • Overnight in Matsumoto at the Hotel Buena Vista in a Standard Room on a bed and breakfast basis.

Day 6: Matsumoto – Kiso Valley

Today is a self-guided day.

Start the journey through Nakasendo in Kiso Valley, one of the “Five Routes” that branched off the capital Edo. Upon arriving in Magome, small carry-on bags can be delivered to any accommodation in Tsumago through the tourist information centre (08:30-11:30, from 21st March to 30th November).

The trail that runs from Magome to Tsumago is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo. Exit Nakatsugawa Station and catch the local bus to Magome, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo Period. From Magome Bus Stop to Tsumago, the ancient trail can be completed in about 3 hours, including some quick breaks (i.e. restroom, tea/coffee).

Around 2 hours in, emerge to the well-preserved post town of Tsumago. Just like Magome, Tsumago was in its Golden Era during the time when merchants and other noble and prominent people frequently passed through for trade and other formal appointments.

In the latter part of 1970, this small town was classified as a National Designated Architectural Preservation Site, thanks to the collective effort of its locals to preserve most of the remaining historical buildings.

Overnight: Onyado Daikichi in a Japanese-Style Room [Breakfast]

Onyado Daikichi Japan Alps explorer itinerary

Day 7: Kiso Valley – Takayama

Today is a self-guided day. After an early breakfast, head out to Takayama, a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi, where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls. While in Takayama, experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring.

Overnight: Hidatei Hanaougi in a Japanese-Style Room [Breakfast]

Day 8: Takayama, Optional Day Trip

Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

You can take the bus to Shirakawago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses. Gassho-zukuri means "constructed like hands in prayer," which is represented through the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs. This architectural style developed over many generations – the roofs were constructed without any nails and are intricately designed to withstand large amounts of snow. These houses are private homes of the locals but some are open to the public, such as Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family who used to be the richest family and village leader in Ogimachi.

Overnight: Hidatei Hanaougi in a Japanese-Style Room [Breakfast basis]

Hidatei Hanaougi ryokan spa

Day 9: Takayama – Kyoto

Today is a self-guided day.

Take one last soak in the onsen before starting the journey to Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto. Kyoto is home to around 2,000 shrines and temples, including 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The rest of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Kyoto [Breakfast]

10 days japan alps explorer itinerary

Day 10: Kyoto

After breakfast, head towards the designated meeting point in Kyoto to meet up with a local guide and collect the bicycles for the tour. Start with a visit to Nishi Hongan-ji Temple, one of the largest temple complexes in the city just nearby the main train station. Cycle towards Nijo Castle, one of the few remaining original castles in Japan well-known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors.

After a quick lunch, continue onwards to Kinkaku-Ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion. Originally built as a retirement villa of a shogun, it was later reopened as a Zen Buddhist temple. Right next to Kinkaku-Ji is another Zen Buddhist temple called Ryoan-ji, which is famous for its amazing rock garden. Finish the tour in the scenic Arashiyama, famous for its serene bamboo forest, massive temples and vibrant dining and shopping alleys.

Overnight: Hyatt Regency Kyoto [Breakfast]

Day 11: Departure from Kyoto

The rest of the day is free at leisure until the scheduled transfer by shared shuttle to Kansai International Airport. Depart on a daylight flight via Tokyo to London Heathrow.

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These itineraries are just samples of what we have already done for our guests. Speak to one of our travel experts to create your perfect holiday based on your travel requirements.

* This is a guide price, based on travel in low season


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