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Japan Alps

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

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
£3,729 - £4,679pp
excluding 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...

Getting a flavour of alpine life in Takayama
Takayama

Getting a flavour of alpine life in Takayama

This tour offers a superb insight into Japanese cuisine and culture that everyone can appreciate, not just foodies....

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 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

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

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 in a Standard Room 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 in a Standard Room 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. For a special experience, add to the back-in-time feeling by upgrading your accommodation to a traditional Japanese ryokan complete with a hot-spring bath. Overnight in a Western Room at Hidatei Hanaougi.

Things to do:

6

Takayama

Thanks to its remoteness, Takayama developed a distinctive food culture that you’ll spend the morning learning about with a local guide. From the meeting point at Takayama Jinja, which dates from the Edo period, you’ll explore the local area on foot, visiting tofu sellers, Japanese sweet shops, a sake brewery and other small businesses, with plenty of opportunities for tastings along the way. After the end of the tour, you have the whole afternoon free. One excellent option 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 in a Western Room 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 in a Standard Room 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 Kinkaku-ji temple, whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf – it’s quite a sight, even on a cloudy day. Another must-see is 400-year-old Nijo-jo, one of the best-preserved castles from this era, which is surrounded by beautiful Japanese-style gardens. For a complete change of pace, you then head to lively Nishiki market, where you’ll discover local foodie specialities, before rounding off the day with a choice of temples. 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 in a Standard Room 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 in a Japanese Style Room 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 in a City Queen Room at the Park Hotel.

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

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

£3,729

Mid Season

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

£4,005

High Season

20 Mar – 19 Apr & 1 Oct – 20 Nov

£4,679

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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