Immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty, amazing history, and enchanting culture of Japan on this unforgettable small group experience. Chill with snow monkeys, walk through a bamboo forest, visit a sake brewery, go bar-hopping in the world’s biggest city with your new best friends and more on this amazing Japanese adventure.
Start your adventure with check-in into your Tokyo accommodation and an orientation meeting on Day 1. Tour the city on Days 2&3 with all the highlights topped off by a fire ceremony in a temple followed by a night of bar-hopping in this unparalleled metropolis. Continue to Nagano by express bus on Day 4, where you will visit the home of the famous snow monkeys and end your day in Shibu Onsen. Begin Day 5 by travelling to Takayama, where you'll stay overnight in a Buddhist temple. Visit the local market and a sake brewery on Day 6 before taking a bus to Kyoto on Day 7. Discover the gems of Japan’s cultural capital with a full-day tour on Day 8 and discover incredible Nara on Day 9. End your adventure on Day 10 as you check out from your accommodation.
Day by Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Tokyo Accommodation Check-In & Orientation Meeting
Konnichiwa and welcome to Japan! Today you will arrive in Tokyo and make your own way to your accommodation for check-in. Meet your group and Chief Happiness Leader in the lobby for an orientation meeting at 7pm.
In the evening head out to celebrate your first night in Tokyo in style either by yourself or with your fellow travellers! Overnight in Tokyo.
Day 2: Tokyo City Tour - Nighttime Bar Hopping (B)
Today we will begin to discover some of the endless gems of this amazing city. After visiting the beautiful Meiji Shrine to discover some of Tokyo's spiritual and historical legacy, it’s time for a little pop culture with a trip to eclectic Harajuku, a trendy and colourful area full of young people and cute little shops. Today we will also see the mind-blowing Shibuya crossing, the world's biggest pedestrian intersection, flowing with a rush of people at all hours of the day.
Tonight head into the maze-like streets of Shinjuku's Golden Gai, packed with hundreds if not thousands of tiny bars and pubs for a drink (at your own expense) and a nightlife experience you can only get in Tokyo. Overnight in Tokyo.
Day 3: Buddhist Temple Fire Ceremony - Tokyo Day Tour (B)
No trip to Tokyo would be complete without our first stop of the day, the world-famous Tsukji Outer Fish Market, where you can buy some of the world's freshest seafood.
After that we will visit a Buddhist temple founded in 1703, located in an old and historically-rich part of Tokyo. Explore the inside of the temple before getting up-close views of a fire-filled purification ceremony. The ceremony features powerful drumming, chanting, and even a bonfire. Next, we will visit the Sensoji temple, where locals come to get blessings and pray for the health and welfare of their families.
After visiting some of the city's most traditional areas, we will finish off the tour in the electro-pop universe of Akihabara.
Today, instead, you can also talk to your tour leader about setting up a tour to Hakone near Mt. Fuji or the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nikko, if you prefer one of these options over the Tokyo tour we have planned. Overnight in Tokyo.
Day 4: Bus to Nagano - Snow Monkey Visit - Transfer to Shibu Onsen (B)
Today we have an early start from Shinjuku, where we will catch our express bus to travel around 4-5 hours to Nagano. After a short break for lunch, you will take the train to Yudanaka Onsen. This onsen is one of Japan’s most renowned hot springs, where you may be lucky enough share the park with some very special bathers--Japanese Macaques, otherwise known as the world-famous snow monkeys. The monkeys here are famous for their love of lounging in the local hot springs, and at the Jigokudani Monkey Park you can observe this amazing and adorable phenomenon during the winter months when the monkeys need a little warm-up. During warmer seasons the monkeys don’t soak in the springs but you can often still see the playful animals running around.
Spend some time observing these amazing creatures before seeing the local village of Shibu Onsen, famous locally for onsen hopping, where Japanese people will visit a series of hot-springs, each known for a specific therapeutic quality. This town provides an insight into Japanese culture and local life, with very few foreigners to be seen.
Next, you'll transfer to your accommodation for the night - a traditional Japanese style guesthouse. Before calling it a night we will make a trip to a nearby hot spring (Onsen) where you can relax in beautiful indoor and outdoor pools. Overnight in Shibu Onsen.
*Note: The Japanese Macaques are wild animals, and therefore we can't guarantee that they will be around when we are in the area, but the park is still a worthwhile stop just for it's natural beauty and unique atmosphere.
Day 5: Bus to Matsumoto - Bus to Takayama - Buddhist Temple Stay (B)
Today, we will travel by train to Matsumoto through beautiful countryside full of tiny farming villages of less than 100 houses. Upon arrival, enjoy some free time to explore on your own or visit the stunning Matsumoto Castle, one of the last of its kind full of incredible history and intricate architecture. In the afternoon, we will continue two hours by bus down amazing mountain roads throught the Japanese Alps to Takayama in the pristine and quiet Gifu prefecture, famous for its peaceful nature and traditional small-town life far away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Upon arrival we will take a walk to the downtown, full of charming traditional buildings. Not many shops are open at night in the sleepy countryside, but the view of all of the old-fashioned houses lit up can be enchanting. This area is famous for high-quality hida beef, and we will have the opportunity to try it for dinner at a local restaurant (at your own expense) before having the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience of staying overnight in a Buddhist temple. Overnight in Takayama.
Day 6: Takayama Market & Sake Tour (B)
This morning we will enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast at the temple and have the option to participate in the morning ceremony. Next, we will take a walk to visit the Takayama market to see the locals doing their grocery shopping get a taste of the culture in the Japanese countryside. Discover vegetables and fruits unique to Japan, grown in surrounding towns, at this market that has been a local mainstay for generations. Today you can also take an optional visit to the Hida folk village, a living, open-air museum.
This afternoon we will visit a sake brewery to see how this traditional Japanese spirit is made, walking through the whole fermentation and distillation process with a small tasting at the end. Overnight in a buddhist temple in Takayama.
Day 7: Bus to Kyoto (B)
Today we will take a bus for about 3-4 hours winding out of the mountains and through lovely forested areas to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. Get checked into your hotel before heading out with your group for a walk through the Nishiki market where you can see the local produce and people doing their grocery shopping. If time permits the tour leader may give you some free time for shopping in the nearby shopping district. Then continue to the enchanting Gion area, where you will feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. Walk through small lanes with traditional wooden houses in this cultural stronghold. If we are lucky you may witness a Geisha walking around the neighborhood, a truly stunning sight. This centuries-old Japanese tradition is still kept alive in this amazing city, unlike anywhere else in the world. Overnight in Kyoto.
Day 8: Kyoto Day Tour
Utilizing Kyoto’s efficient public transport and a knowledgeable tour leader, we start today’s tour with the grand Kyoto Imperial Palace. Although the Emperor has moved to Tokyo, the Palace is still used whenever the Emperor visits Kyoto. We then visit the stunning Kinkaku-ji, a temple completely coated in gold.
Next, we will transfer to Sagano to take a walk through its breathtaking bamboo grove and the lovely Nonomiya shrine. Finish your walk by crossing over the famous Togetsukyo Bridge, and admiring the amazing views of the mountains and imposing valleys along the Oi river. Overnight in Kyoto.
Day 9: Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine Visit - Nara Day Trip
Today, start the morning with a visit to the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine with its thousands of red gates, settled at the base of the Inari mountain. Then, you will join your tour leader on a day trip to incredible Nara.
Nara was the 8th century capital city of Japan, ruling for more than 70 years. Numerous Buddhist temples and shrines were built, many of which remain intact today. Visit the highlights of the city such as the Todai-ji Temple. The Todai-ji Temple dates from the 8th century and was once the most important Buddhist temple in Japan. It remains the largest wooden building in the world. Next we’ll walk around Kasuga Taisha, Nara's most celebrated shinto shrine famous for its thousands of extremely friendly deer.
Enjoy the last night with the group with an optional farewell karaoke party!
Overnight in Kyoto.
Day 10: Kyoto Accommodation Check-Out
All good things must end. Today you will bid farewell to your new friends after checking out from your accommodation. We wish you a safe journey onward!
***Please note that this trip requires a minimum of 6 travellers for a guaranteed departure. While we accept individual bookings, there is a chance that this number will not be reached. In this case you will be notified of cancellation 6 weeks prior to trip departure. In case of cancellation, we offer two solutions:1) An independent trip with the same duration and similar itinerary, plus the price difference to be paid or refunded
- Bus Tokyo - Nagano
- Train Nagano - Matsumoto
- Express Bus Matsumoto - Takayama
- Express Bus Takayama - Kyoto
9 Nights Accommodation:
- 3N Tokyo Guesthouse
- 1N Shibu Onsen Japanese-Style Inn
- 2N Takayama Buddhist Temple Stay
- 3N Kyoto Japanese-Style Inn
Meals: 6 Breakfasts
English-Speaking Tour Leader Throughout Itinerary
- Nighttime Bar-Hopping Tour
- 2-Day Tokyo City Tour with Fire Ceremony
- Nagano Snow Monkey Visit (Entry Fee Included)
- Onsen Hot Springs Experience
- Takayama Market & Sake Tour
- Kyoto Day Tour
- Nara Day Tour
Tokyo Airport Pick-Up
Kyoto/Osaka Airport Drop-Off
Other Optional Activities
Some Entrance Fees
International and Domestic Flights