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Kenroku Garden

Deep Japan

By Tristan Fleming-Froy
Asia travel expert for Alfred& Asia

Build on your experience of Japan on an adventure that goes beyond the headlines of Tokyo and Kyoto into the country’s most scenic and unspoiled regions. Here you’ll find breathtaking echoes of the past in picturesque alpine towns and coastal fishing villages, on ancient walking routes and in long-established hot-spring resorts once patronised by poets.

Places

Length
14 days
Best months to go
March, April, October & November
Guide price range
£10,889 - £12,339pp
excluding international flights.

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

Kyoto

The pretty-as-a-picture fishing village

In unspoiled villages such as Ine, outside Kyoto, you can experience a way of life that has barely changed in hundreds of years...

Matsumoto

The hands-on noodle-making experience

Noodles are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and learning how to make them helps you appreciate the work that goes into even simple dishes...

Yudanaka Onsen

Getting into hot water in a Yudanaka inn

The best places to stay nourish your body and your soul, and that’s certainly the case at Biyu no Yado...

Day by day
Itinerary in details

1

Arrive in Tokyo

On your arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be met at the airport for a shared transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day will be at leisure. Overnight in a City Queen Room at the Park Hotel.

Things to do:

2

Tokyo

You’ll spend the day exploring the Japanese capital with a local guide, starting in one of its most atmospheric districts, Asakusa, which retains the feel of an older Tokyo. Its main sight is Sensoji, an ancient Buddhist temple dating from the seventh century. From here, you’ll hop on the Tokyo Water Bus, a memorable way to reach Hamarikyu Garden, an oasis of calm in the midst of gleaming skyscrapers, for matcha and sweets in its charming teahouse. After lunch, your day continues with a tour of Meiji Shrine, followed by window shopping on glitzy Omotesando avenue on the way back to your hotel. Overnight in a City Queen Room at the Park Hotel.

Things to do:

3

Kawaguchiko & Mount Fuji

Today you’ll head out of Tokyo by private car, with a guide, to the picturesque lakeside town of Kawaguchiko, known for its panoramic views – weather permitting – of Mount Fuji. First you’ll travel up the Kachi Kachi ropeway on Mount Tenjo, from where there are wonderful views across Lake Kawaguchi. After that, the next stop is Arakura Sengen shrine, home to the spectacular – and much photographed – Chureito pagoda. After lunch, you’ll visit a museum devoted to the traditional art of Tsujigahana silk-dyeing, where you can admire the intricate designs on an array of kimonos. The final call of the day before the return trip to Tokyo is Mount Fuji’s fifth station, where the road runs out and from where the views are impressive. Overnight in a City Queen Room at the Park Hotel.

Things to do:

4

Tokyo & Kiso-Fukushima

Using your included Japan Rail Pass, you’ll leave Tokyo and make your way via Nagano to Kiso-Fukushima, gateway to the ancient Nakasendo Way, which takes around three-and-a-half hours in total. In the afternoon you’ll be able to use the included combined entry ticket to visit three worthwhile sights in Kiso-Fukushima: a museum showcasing upper-class life in the past, a temple that’s home to a spectacular Zen rock garden, and a 270-year-old immigration office that provides a fascinating insight into how people travelled in the Edo period. Overnight in a Western Style Room at Urara Tsutaya.

5

Nakasendo Way

This morning, you’ll use your Japan Rail Pass for the short journey to Nakatsugawa, from where you can pick up the bus to Magome, a former post town with buildings faithfully reconstructed in a traditional style. You’ll have a little time to explore the town and enjoy lunch here before beginning the scenic five-mile walk along the Nakasendo Way to picture-perfect Tsumago, which looks much as it did 200 years ago. A private transfer will be waiting to whisk you back to your ryokan in Kiso-Fukushima. Overnight in a Western Style Room at Urara Tsutaya.

6

Kiso-Fukushima & Matsumoto

The appealing town of Matsumoto in the foothills of the Japan Alps is a 30-minute train ride from Kiso-Fukushima, giving you almost a full day to enjoy its varied cultural attractions. Its dramatic castle is more than 400-years-old and is one of the country’s best preserved and most impressive, while its clutch of galleries includes one with a colourful collection of works by home-grown art superstar Yayoi Kusama, known for her psychedelic polka dots. Matsumoto is also known for its superb soba noodles, which you can learn to make in the kitchens of a local restaurant under the watchful eye of a master. Overnight in a Standard Room at Hotel Buena Vista Matsumoto.

Things to do:

7

Matsumoto & Yudanaka Onsen

Today you will head deeper into the mountains in two stages. First, you’ll travel to Nagano by limited express train, where you’ll have the opportunity to check out Zenkoji, one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Japan, and pick up some local speciality snacks for your onward journey. From here, you’ll use your included ticket to catch a Nagano Electric Railway limited express to Yudanaka, where you’ll be spending the night. Once you’ve checked in, you’ll have time to relax in the fabulous hot-spring baths at your ryokan, Biyu no Yado, before a gourmet Japanese-style dinner.

Things to do:

8

Yudanaka Onsen

Your day is free for exploring the local area, and it’s the perfect opportunity to make your way to Jigokudani Yaen Koen reserve to see the famous ‘snow monkeys’. This local troop of Japanese macaques is the only one in the country to have discovered the joy of sitting around in the thermal pools that abound in the area and it’s a thrill to be able to get close enough to these wild creatures to observe how they behave among themselves. After that, you could check out some of the traditional public bathhouses for which Yudanaka Onsen is known or take advantage of your Nagaden Free Ticket to visit the nearby town of Obuse, famous for chestnuts and sake. Overnight Biyu no Yado.

Things to do:

9

Yudanaka Onsen & Kanazawa

Today you will make the two- to three-hour train journey via Nagano to Kanazawa, famed for its stunning gardens and well-preserved old town district. Once you’ve checked in, the rest of the day is free for you to soak up the atmosphere in the quiet historical streets of the city justly nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’. Overnight in a Comfort Room at Nikko Hotel Kanazawa.

Things to do:

10

Kanazawa

Enjoy a full and fascinating day in Kanazawa with a local guide, starting in the ravishingly beautiful Kenroku-en garden, one of the country’s best. You’ll also visit the imposing Kanazawa castle, located next to the garden, and a small cultural centre where you can see a demonstration of a centuries-old silk-painting technique. From here, you’ll head to the Nagamachi Samurai district, where you can see inside a traditional Japanese home with tea-ceremony room, an interior courtyard garden and artefacts from the Edo period. Kanazawa has three geisha districts, of which Higashi is the largest and most interesting. Its central street is lined with intriguing shops, cafés and teahouses, in one of which you’ll stop for a cup of green tea to round off the visit. Overnight in a Comfort Room at Nikko Hotel Kanazawa.

Things to do:

11

Kanazawa & Kyoto

Today you will use your Japan Rail Pass for the two-hour journey to Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan. Once you arrive in Kyoto, your day is at leisure until later in the evening when you will join a group for a shared Kyoto-style kaiseki meal prepared with seasonal ingredients, accompanied by a performance of traditional dance by an apprentice geisha. She will then play traditional Japanese-style games with a few participants as part of the show. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

12

Kyoto

You’ll be collected at your hotel in the morning for a visit to some of Kyoto’s most famous outdoor attractions. The first is Ryoanji Zen temple, the home of Japan’s most famous rock garden, a harmonious design of rocks, pebbles and moss. From here you’ll head for the grounds of the Imperial Palace, where the imperial family lived until 1868. In the afternoon, your steps will take you to the Philosopher’s Path, a pleasant canalside walkway lined by cherry trees through the northern part of Higashiyama, one of the city’s best preserved historic districts. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

13

Kyoto & Ine

Take a day trip out of the city to the north, where you’ll find quaint seaside villages that will give you a glimpse of a different side of Japanese life. One of the most picturesque of these is Ine, known for its unique traditional houses called funaya, which have a space for a fishing boat at water level and living quarters on the floor above. There are over 200 of them arranged around a small bay, and the effect is striking, especially when seen from the sea. You’ll have a tour with a local guide who will explain more about the houses and the way of life of the fishermen and their families. At the end of the tour, you’ll be driven back to Kyoto to enjoy your final evening in Japan. Overnight in a Standard Room at Kyoto Tokyu Hotel.

Things to do:

14

Kyoto & Departure

Your day is free until your scheduled shared transfer to Kansai International Airport in time for your return flight. If you are departing from Tokyo, you can use the Japan Rail Pass to take the bullet train to Shinagawa station and there pick up the Narita Express bound for Narita International Airport.

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

4 Jan – 28 Feb, 21 May – 30 Jun & 21 Nov – 10 Dec

£10,889

Mid Season

1 Mar – 19 Mar, 7 May – 20 May, 1 Jul - 22 Jul, 11 Aug – 30 Sep & 11 Dec – 28 Dec

£11,559

High Season

20 Mar – 19 Apr & 1 Oct – 20 Nov

£12,339

Alfred & Tristan Fleming-Froy

Tristan is passionate about the Asian way of life and has spent the last 6 years studying Japan and East Asia, learning Japanese and researching international politics, even co-founding a new student organisation at university to promote learning about Asia and Asian culture. In between studying, he has spent much of his time travelling independently across East and Southeast Asia, including 5 months travelling solo around the Southeast Asian peninsula. Tristan also spent a year living in Japan, during which he explored many of Japan’s hidden gems, from tiny bars to forested islands, and summited Mt. Fuji alongside an international group of friends.

Alfred & our Japan holiday experts

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