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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Japan Alps

By Malcolm Holcroft
Japan Travel Expert for Alfred&

Combine the highlights of Tokyo and Kyoto with an inspiring detour into the Japan Alps region where you’ll find not just spectacular mountain scenery but also ancient off-the-beaten-track towns such as Matsumoto and Takayama, before finishing in Hakone with its views – weather permitting – of the country’s most famous peak of all: Mount Fuji.

Places

Length
11 days
Best months to go
March, April, October & November
Guide price range
£4,690 - £5,675pp
including international flights.

Top Experiences
Itinerary Highlights

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...

Experiencing the gentler pace of mountain life in Takayama
Takayama

Experiencing the gentler pace of mountain life in Takayama

Walking and cycling through some of Japan’s most glorious landscapes provides an insight into a more traditional way of life....

Hakone

Susukinohara Ichinoyu, a hot-spring hideaway in Hakone

If you want a relaxing introduction to Japanese bathing culture in a beautiful setting, Susukinohara Ichinoyu is the place to come...

Day by day
Itinerary in detail

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 at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

2

Tokyo

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 at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

3

Tokyo & Matsumoto

Start the day by catching the express train from Shinjuku station to Matsumoto, three hours from Tokyo, using your Japan Rail Pass. The views of the Japan Alps when you arrive are impressive and there’s something about the air that puts a spring in your step. Spend the rest of the day exploring this friendly town, visiting its famous 16th-century castle, galleries devoted to Japanese woodblock prints or colourful contemporary art, or just enjoying the cafés and shops of its trendy Nakamachi district. Overnight at Buena Vista Matsumoto.

4

Matsumoto

The region around Matsumoto is known for growing the best buckwheat, which is used to make soba noodles, and it’s fascinating and fun to learn how they’re made. Today you’ll make your way to a long-established soba restaurant in the centre of Matsumoto to learn how to knead the dough and cut the perfect shaped noodles – not as easy as it sounds – before they’re cooked for you by the chef in traditional regional style. The experience takes less than two hours, so you’ll have plenty of time before or afterwards to check out the sights you missed yesterday. Overnight at Buena Vista Matsumoto.

Things to do:

5

Matsumoto & Takayama

The day begins with a scenic coach journey of around two-and-a-half hours to Takayama, high in the Hida alpine region. You’ll feel as if you’ve made a trip into the past as well when you arrive in this atmospheric mountain town’s well-preserved old quarter, which has barely changed in three centuries. It’s a memorable place to just wander, stopping off in small museums or family-run inns, or you could visit one of Takayama’s celebrated sake breweries to learn about how the national drink is made. Tonight you’ll stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan. Overnight at Hidatei Hanaougi.

Things to do:

6

Takayama

Today is free to explore Takayama, which thanks to its remoteness has developed a distinctive food culture. A great option is to explore the local area on foot, starting at the Takayama Jinja government building which dates from the Edo period. You can visit tofu sellers, Japanese sweet shops, a sake brewery and other small businesses, with plenty of opportunities for tastings along the way. An excellent option for the afternoon is to jump on a local bus to World Heritage-listed Shirakawa-go village (50 minutes each way), which is famous for its traditional farmhouses with distinctive steep thatched roofs that look like the hands of praying monks. Overnight at Hidatei Hanaougi.

Things to do:

7

Takayama & Kyoto

This morning you travel by train to Kyoto using your Japan Rail Pass (3 hours), arriving in time for an afternoon cookery class that will give you a fascinating insight into Japanese dining culture. At the cooking studio in central Kyoto, you’ll prepare and then eat two or three dishes that are typically eaten in Japanese homes and local restaurants called izakaya, before repeating the process. After the class, you’re at leisure; you may want to spend the remaining daylight hours strolling through one of the city’s stunning historical areas working off all that food. Overnight at Kyoto Tokyu.

Things to do:

8

Kyoto

The former imperial capital has such a wealth of impressive sites that it helps to have a local guide to steer you toward the highlights. One of those is the world-famous Fushimi Inari shrine, a visually stunning experience where thousands of bright red torii gates line a mountain trail to the shrine. Next stop is Kiyomizu-dera temple, a celebrated UNESCO site that is older than Kyoto itself. It is famous for its massive platform stage, the Kiyomizu Butai, constructed entirely from wood and joints without the use of nails. In the afternoon you’ll visit Kinkaku-ji temple, covered in real gold leaf and set into the northern hills this photogenic jewel is one of the most visited sites in Japan. Last stop is the remarkable Kitano-Temanngu shrine, built to appease the spirit of an angry ghost. After a fire in 1444, a large section of the temple was rebuilt and the remaining timber was used to construct 7 tea houses that became Kyoto’s first Geisha district - Kamishichiken. It’s a full day, so if you want to treat yourself it’s worth doing the trip by private car rather than public transport. Overnight at Kyoto Tokyu.

Things to do:

9

Kyoto & Hakone

Today you’ll use your Japan Rail Pass to take the bullet train from Kyoto to Hakone, which takes two hours. Hakone is known for mountains, lakes and hot springs, and on clear days there are superb views of Mount Fuji as well. Explore at your own pace armed with a Hakone Free Pass that covers the area’s varied transport network – from cable cars to pirate ships – before checking in to a traditional inn such as Susukinohara Ichinoyu, where you can enjoy a restorative soak in a thermal bath and an authentic Japanese evening meal. Overnight at Susukinohara Ichinoyu.

Things to do:

10

Hakone & Tokyo

Take the aptly named Romance Car train back to Tokyo, which takes one-and-a-half hours. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you choose, whether that’s exploring by yourself or rounding off your stay with a hands-on cultural experience with a local expert. Overnight at the Park Hotel Tokyo.

Things to do:

11

Tokyo & Departure

Enjoy a final few hours at leisure in Tokyo until your scheduled shared transfer to Narita International Airport in time for your return flight.

Holiday Budget
Guide price information

Low Season

1 Jan – 28 Feb, 1 Jun – 30 Jun & 1 Dec – 31 Dec

£4,690

Mid Season

1 May - 31 May, 1 Aug - 31 Aug & 1 Sep - 30 Sep

£4,960

High Season

1 Mar - 30 Apr, 1 Jul - 31 Jul & 1 Oct – 30 Nov

£5,675

Alfred & Malcolm Holcroft

Seasoned Far East traveller Malcolm Holcroft is fascinated by Japan’s distinctive culture, its full-on neon-lit megacities and its less intense corners. Among the latter, he fell for Nara, the history-laden former capital where ancient temples and shrines are dotted around a deer park – and where they make some of the best sake in the country.

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Malcolm, who's travelled extensively in Japan. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the tea devotee who'll introduce you to the ceremony surrounding Japan's national drink, the noodle guru who'll teach you how to make the perfect bowl of soba and the ryokan owner who'll tutor you in the relaxing art of the onsen.

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