Adventurous & Spiritual Central & Western Honshu
featuring Tokyo, Shirakawa-go, Koyasan & more
11 Days/12 Nights
This tour combines exploring the major Japanese metropolises with stops in some of the most gorgeous and traditional towns, which radiate history and spirituality even in the modern day.
Tokyo → Noto Peninsula → Shirakawa-go → Takayama→ Kyoto → Nara → Osaka → Arima Onsen → Koyasan
Day 1: Tokyo
Your luxurious 12 day Central to Western Honshu tour begins in Tokyo.
Upon arriving at Haneda or Narita International Airports, you will be met by your personal tour guide, expediently escorted to your private car, and transferred to a five-star hotel in the heart of Tokyo.
We provision only hotels that are not only superlative in their nature, but which are also conveniently located nearby the Imperial Palace Garden, or in central Tokyo (including the Ginza) areas.
After check-in, allowing for good weather, you are invited to enjoy a peaceful stroll around the Imperial Palace Garden and the nearby, more modern areas of Tokyo and Ginza at your leisure.
Upon your request, it would be our pleasure to make dinner arrangements at a nearby fine restaurant.
Examples of hotels selections in Tokyo:
The Peninsula, Palace Hotel, Imperial Hotel
Day 2: Modern and Historical Tokyo
Your tour guide will be at the ready in your hotel’s lobby at the agreed upon time.
Together, you will explore both historical and modern parts of Tokyo by private car, including but not limited to:
- a visit to the world famous Toyosu Fish Market
- a stroll about the glitzy Ginza district
- an historical cultural immersion at Senso-ji temple
- a spiritual stroll through the forests of and into the Meiji Shrine
- a sensory blast in Harajuku, where you can see the latest in youthful fashion
- and finally to Omotesando, where the streets are lined with luxury shops
It’s a lot to see, but rest assured we won’t overload your day!
We’ll make sure you are only as busy as you want to be.
Day 3: Tokyo to Kanazawa and Noto Peninsula
This morning, upon meeting your hotel guide in the lobby, you will depart Tokyo and head for Kanazawa, which is located on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu Island. We will go via the newly opened Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train). Total travel time: 150 minutes.
An enjoyable afternoon will be had as we tour Kanazawa by private car. You will visit what is perhaps Japan’s best known traditional garden, Kenroku-en, which was originally a castle garden from the 17th century.
We will also explore the Higashichaya district, Myoryuji Temple (Ninja-dera), Nagamachi Samurai House, Oyama Shrine, Chirihama Beach Driveway, and the Gold Leaf Museum, all by private car.
Tonight you will stay in a ryokan, a luxurious and traditional Japanese inn, in Wakura Onsen Town, whose hot springs are famed for restoring vitality. Get ready to feel rejuvenated!
Examples of ryokan selections in Wakura Onsen, Kanazawa:
Tadaya Ryokan, Togetsuan
Day 4: Kanazawa to World Heritage Shirakawa-go Village
After having breakfast, you and your guide will leave Kanazawa and head to Shirakawa-go by private car (travel time: 80 min).
Shirakawa-go is a Gassho-zukuri Village, as you can see in the photos on the right, and is listed as a World Heritage Site. The rest of the day will be enjoyed exploring this peaceful village.
Staying overnight at one of the area’s famous farmhouses is recommended, as it is a great way to experience a traditional Japanese family home and also a fantastic way to get a more intimate understanding of Gassho-zukuri buildings.
However, should you prefer a traditional, luxury ryokan in Shirakawa-go, that can also easily be arranged.
Day 5: Shirakawago to Takayama in Gifu Prefecture
Your personal tour guide will be by your side as we depart Shirakawa-go and travel the 70 minutes to Hida Takayama by private car.
Takayama is a pristinely preserved historic Japanese town with narrow little streets. Traditional old houses and rickshaws are still in use. Here you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy an afternoon walking or bicycle tour with a local guide.
Tonight’s lodging will be at a ryokan in Okuhida Onsen Town.
Suggested ryokans: Hidatei Hanaougi, Wanosato, Hidaji, Choza
Day 6: Takayama to Kyoto
Today you depart Takayama and head to Kyoto with your private tour guide via a combination of JR Express Train and Bullet Train travel. Our door to door travel time will be about 210 minutes, but lovely sights will be yours for the taking as we traverse the mountains to reach the other side of Honshu.
Kyoto is one of the world’s most culturally rich cities with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines.
After arriving in Kyoto, you will get your first taste of the city by means of an afternoon tour with a local Kyoto Guide. You will visit the ancient temple Kiyomizu-dera, Sanjusangen-do, Kyoto’s famed Golden Pavilion Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, with its picturesque, 4 km hill-climbing pathway lined with thousands of red torii, and Saiho-ji with its garden renown for lush, rolling mossy landscapes.
Examples of ryokan selections in Kyoto: Yoshikawa Ryokan, Tawaraya Ryokan, Hiragiya Ryokans, Yoshinoya Ryokan, Sumiya Ryokan, Kikusui, Ioshinoya
Examples of hotel selections in Kyoto: The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, Chorakukan
Day 7: Kyoto
On your second day in Kyoto, you will explore the Arashiyama and Sagano districts.
You will head to Arashiyama first and experience “Hozu-gawa-Kudari” (Hozu River rafting through the Hozu Gorge).
For over one thousand years, the Hozu River has been home to a bustling and thriving water transport culture. This boat trip not only paints you a picture of that culture, but also invites you into an awe-inspiring and healing world, a place of tranquility.
Regardless of the time of year you visit, you are always surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Next, you will visit Tenryu-ji temple, where the main attraction is their 14th century Zen garden.
Just outside the north gate of the temple, you will step into a different world as you are enveloped and then entranced by a large thicket of bamboo that rolls out into the distance. This is the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Your next stop will bring you to Okochi-sanso. This villa was the home of Okochi Denjiro (1898-1962), an actor in samurai films. Okochi-sanso is now open to the public, allowing us all to enjoy the garden and the views over Kyoto.
Finally, you’ll return to your hotel or ryokan in downtown Kyoto.
Day 8: Nara – First permanent capital of Japan
Nara was the first permanent capital of Japan, and remains a great asset amongst the nation’s cultural legacies.
The centerpiece is the Daibutsu, or “Great Buddha,” which is said to be Japan’s single most impressive sight, housed right here in Todai-ji Temple.
You’ll then visit Nara Park, a splendid green space home to about 1200 deer.
In pre-Buddhist times, deer were considered messengers of the gods and today enjoy the status of National Treasures. You can feed the deer “shika senbei” (deer biscuits) that are available for purchase from vendors in the park. Some may even bow politely to request their snack (others have fewer manners).
After getting your fill of Nara’s bounty, we will return to your lodging in nearby Kyoto.
Day 9: Osaka, Japan's bustling culinary capital
You will visit Osaka as a day trip from Kyoto, as the cities are not very far apart in distance—though they are worlds apart in culture!
First, we’ll visit Osaka Castle, built as a display of power by Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi after he achieved his goal of unifying Japan in 1583.
No visit to Osaka would be complete without also visiting vibrant Dotonbori Riverwalk in Osaka’s Minami (“South”) district, the city’s number one sightseeing spot. With a Japanese guide by your side, plan on culturally enriching chats while sampling the country’s best street food.
Just south of Dotonbori is Hozenji, a tiny temple hidden down a narrow street, built around a moss-covered statue of a deity.
Next door is atmospheric Hozenji Yokocho, a cobblestone alley lined with traditional restaurants and bars.
After enjoying this lively and atmospheric walk — and stopping to enjoy some of Osaka’s famed food and hospitality — you’ll return to your hotel or ryokan in Kyoto.
Day 10: Himeji Castle, Kobe and Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture
After checking out of your lodging in Kyoto, you’ll get on the bullet train to Hyogo Prefecture, home of the nation’s most beloved castle, Himeji-jo (Travel time: approx. 1.5 hrs).
Today’s highlights will be the newly restored Himeji-jo, the finest castle in all of Japan, followed by a visit to Shoshazan Engyo-ji. This temple complex is often used as a location for shooting films and television programs such as The Last Samurai.
Stay overnight in Kinosaki Onsen, where the star attractions are seven hot spring facilities scattered about the small town.
Guests staying in town usually take part in the traditional stroll along the canal from bath to bath, all the while wearing a yukata (light cotton kimono) and geta (wooden sandals).
Examples of ryokan selections in Kinosaki Onsen:
Day 11: Arima to World Heritage site, Koyasan
Today you will head to your last destination, Koyasan (Mt. Koya), spending the night there as well.
Koyasan is the center of Shingon Buddhism, which is an important Buddhist sect introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), one of Japan’s most significant religious figures, with 110 temples attributed to his school.
Koyasan is one of the best places to experience an overnight stay at a shukubo temple lodging. You will be immersed in the monk life style, eating Shojin Ryori, which is vegetarian monk’s cuisine, and also attending the morning prayers.
While staying overnight at Shukubo in Koyasan is a highly recommended experience, for those wish a more opulent experiences, we will gladly arrange lodging at a well appointed ryokan.
Day 12: Departure
Today is the final day of your luxurious 12 day tour of Central and Western Honshu, Japan.
Leaving Koyasan, we will head for Kansai International Airport for your returning international flight, or to your next destination.
Travel With Kids
We offer exciting tours that can be enjoyed along with your children.
We can also arrange for child care, as well as a doctor or nurse should the unfortunate need arise.
The total tour cost will be based on the hotel rooms you have selected, and include transfers, a private vehicle with driver, an English-speaking private tour escort, specialized field guides, travel insurance, activities and entrance fees, and breakfast at the hotel. (Room prices at ryokans typically include breakfast and dinner in the room, or in some cases in the hotel’s dining room.)
Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately.
Some personal expenses, including lunches, dinners, alcoholic beverages, and spa treatments will need to be directly paid at the time of consumption.
Prices may vary depending on the season and chosen level of accommodation.
The approximate price of this tour: JPY 2,150,000 (USD 19,679) and up for two people.
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