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Across the Roof of Japan

13 days from £4630 per person

The spectacular mountain ranges and highlands of the Japanese Alps are a world away from the bustling neon-lit coastal metropolises. For many this mountainous region is quintessential Japan and its location in central Honshu makes it easily accessible from the rest of the main island. Starting in Tokyo, travel by train to the castle town of Matsumoto – one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan – visit Jigokudani Park and the ‘snow’ monkeys then drive to Takayama with its beautifully preserved old town. End this largely self-guided tour in the fascinating and historic city of Kyoto.

Route: Tokyo – Matsumoto – Takayama – Kyoto – Hakone – Tokyo

Itinerary Highlights

Matsumoto is delightfully set amongst the mountains of the Japanese Alps. Nakamachi Street with old merchant houses leads up to the 16th century, black-walled Crow Castle.

Every spring and autumn there are festivals in Takayama with ornate gilded floats. The historic buildings of the old town and superb backdrop of snowy mountains enhance these events.

A world of geishas and zen gardens, mystery and beauty; Kyoto has an intoxicating allure to it which is even more appealing in the spring when cherry blossom is in full bloom.

Itinerary: Across the Roof of Japan

Today depart the UK on the British Airways flight non-stop to Tokyo. (N)
On arrival in Tokyo you will be met by a representative and taken to the airport shuttle bus which will provide your transfer to your accommodation. One of Asia’s great cities, over the decades Tokyo has cemented its position as a global economic powerhouse. With its futuristic skyline, dazzling neon advertisements and surging crowds, it is easy to forget that Tokyo started life as a small 16th century fishing village named Edo. Reminders of this ancient past remain which, when coupled with the surrounding modern city, give Tokyo a unique, forward-thinking identity but one in touch with its past. (N)
Accommodation in Tokyo: The Park Hotel (or similar)
Joining your guide, this morning visit to the Meiji Shrine. Dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji, this atmospheric shrine is surrounded by a vast forested park. From here continue on foot to Omotesando, a broad tree-lined avenue, and then take the metro to Ginza – Tokyo’s entertainment district. Adjoining Ginza is the Imperial Palace and, after a walk through the East gardens, visit Asakusa – part of Tokyo’s old town – home to the Sensoji Temple and Geisha district. End the day with a cruise on the Sumida Gawa River to Hamarikyu Teien – a stunning landscaped garden surrounded by a sea of skyscrapers. (B)
Accommodation in Tokyo: The Park Hotel (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. You may wish to make an early start to visit the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market, to visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover Tokyo’s world class museums and art galleries. Alternatively, it is possible to travel outside of Tokyo to the delightful seaside town of Kamakura. One of Japan’s former capitals, Kamakura is a home to many ancient temples and the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha. Alternatively, another option would be to visit the Toshogu Shrine complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which sits high in the mountains of Nikko National Park. (B)
Accommodation in Tokyo: The Park Hotel (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. Today leave Tokyo and travel by train to Matsumoto. Winding through the mountains of the Japanese Alps, this is one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan. This ancient castle town with its pretty streets and relaxed atmosphere is surrounded by 3,000 meter peaks, known locally as the ‘roof of Japan’, and, unsurprisingly, the views are spectacular. Later visit the 16th century Matsumoto Castle – one of the most complete and beautiful citadels in Japan. (B)
Accommodation in Matsumoto: Buena Vista Hotel (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. Spend the day in Matsumoto or explore the region surrounding the town. Take a train to Nagano, location of the 1998 Winter Olympics, then head to Jigokudani Park, home to the famous ‘snow’ monkeys. Translated, Jigokudani means ‘hell’s valley’ and the geothermic hot springs are popular with visitors and the Japanese macaques alike. Whilst the monkeys are most numerous during the colder months from December to February, they reside here the year round. (B)
Accommodation in Matsumoto: Buena Vista Hotel (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. This morning leave Matsumoto and travel by bus to the charming town of Takayama. The route today winds through the Japanese Alps with fabulous views throughout the journey. With its beautifully preserved old town, Takayama’s inaccessibility from the rest of Japan allowed it to develop its own unique culture. Later visit the town’s many sake breweries. (B/D)
Accommodation in Takayama: Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. Following breakfast, travel outside of Takayama to an area named Shirakawa-go spending the day in the villages of Ogimachi, Suganuma and Ainokura. All three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are best known for their thatched farmhouses known as ‘gassho-zukuri’. These picturesque villages allow a chance to experience a traditional rural life found in few other parts of Japan. Later return to Takayama and spend the rest of the day wandering through the beautifully preserved old town. (B/D)
Accommodation in Takayama: Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. This morning take the Limited Express Hida Wideview to Japan’s cultural capital Kyoto. This afternoon visit a restored wooden house and take part in a ‘Tea Ceremony’ – a quintessential part of Japanese culture. Home to an astonishing 2,000 shrines and temples, including seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sights, Kyoto became capital of Japan in 794 AD remaining so until 1868. A highlight of any visit to Japan, roughly one out of four of the country’s national treasures can be found in the city. (B)
Accommodation in Kyoto: Granvia Hotel (or similar)
Following breakfast explore Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites with a local guide. Start the morning with a visit to Nijo Castle, which was completed in 1603 and famous for its Momoyama architecture and stunning gardens, then continue to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. From here visit the 15th century Daitoku-ji Zen temple complex, home to one of Japan’s best Zen rock gardens, then the beautiful Kiyomizu Temple for fabulous views over the city. End the day exploring the old wooden buildings and atmospheric lanes of Kyoto’s historic Higashiyama district. (B)
Accommodation in Kyoto: Granvia Hotel (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. Make your way to Kyoto Station and take the train to Hakone, gateway to Mount Fuji and the surrounding national park. On your arrival stay for one night at the Yugiriso Ryokan. This modern Ryokan, complete with tatami mats, shoji rice paper sliding doors and onsen baths, is located close to Lake Ashi. Quintessential Japan, should the weather be clear the mountain views from Hakone, crowned by Mt Fuji, are spectacular. Later you may wish to visit the Hakone Open Air Museum with its large collection of Henry Moore sculptures. (B/D)
Accommodation in Hakone: Yugiriso Ryokan (or similar)
Today is a self-guided day. Later explore Hakone National Park and, armed with the included Transport Pass, take advantage of the numerous forms of transport on offer throughout the park. Ride the world’s second longest cable car up Mount Owakudanin for a birds-eye view of Mount Fuji, take a boat cruise on Lake Ashi or ride the Hakone Tozan ‘switchback train’ which zigzags through the mountain giving magnificent views of the surrounding valleys. In the afternoon take the Romance Car train back to Tokyo. (B)
Accommodation in Tokyo: The Park Hotel (or similar)
This morning take the airport shuttle bus back to the airport to catch the British Airways flight non-stop to the UK. (B)
**KEY: N = No meals, B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

What To Do Next?

We design unique, tailor-made holiday itineraries to suit you, by combining your ideas with our knowledge and experience. Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, or if you require some advice, please call us or complete the enquiry form online for a quotation.

What's included

  • International flights from the UK
  • Train travel as specified
  • Hotel accommodation and taxes

What's not included

  • Cost of visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Expenses of a personal nature

Guide to Price

The above price is based on two people travelling together and sharing accommodation in low season. The price is only a guide and can vary according to selected airlines, hotels and date of travel. If you wish to travel with your family, friends or on your own we will be very happy to assist you with your arrangements.

Japan Holiday Review

Our whole holiday ran smoothly, each day perfectly organised.  At our first hotel the Sunroute Plaza in Tokyo, we found the room to be small with no wardrobe or storage, however the staff were very friendly and the breakfast tasty.  Our day with our Guide, Mutsuko was invaluable.  She was a lovely lady, who gave us the confidence to navigate the vast railway system.  The highlights of our day were the beautiful gardens at the Imperial Palace and visiting Asakusa.

On to Kanazawa, our favourite place, the gardens of Kenroken, although popular were very tranquil and peaceful. We had a lovely day visiting the places as advised on 'Our Perfect Day'.  

Shirakawago was a picture postcard village.  Takayama was certainly an experience, typical Japanese, where our shoes were left in lockers and we went around the hotel in bare or stocking feet.  We even had Japanese clothing to wear around the hotel if you were brave enough to use it.

Our hotel in Kyoto was right in the heart of the station, but you would never have known.  Again we had an excellent Guide in Reiko. We had an energetic day visiting the Bamboo forest, and climbing the mountain to feed the monkeys at Arashiyama, as well as Nijo-jo Castle and the Golden Temple.

We really enjoyed our Tea Ceremony, it was a wonderful experience. All  in all we have had the most amazing holiday. From travelling on the most extraordinary trains, to staying in lovely hotels and experiencing the wonderful hospitality of the Japanese people. We could not believe how clean everywhere was.  No litter, no graffiti and no smoking in the street,  We were impressed by the smartness of all levels of the workers.

So again 'Arigato gozaimasu'  to all concerned for making this a truly remarkable and memorable holiday.

P & R - Japan - July 2018

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