13 Nights (from US $3,114)
Start: Tokyo - End: Tokyo | Budget Class
As of the winter of 2017 I have had to temporarily discontinue my prearranged and economical Small Group Tours & Day Trips because of the popularity of my Private Custom Tours. In the future I may offer the prearranged Small Group Tours & Day Trips but for now I can offer only Private Custom Tours. If you would like to start a conversation about a Private Custom Tour to Japan please submit my Inquiry Form. Feel free to inquire about any desires you may have and want to experience in Japan.
Tokyo - Nagano - Matsumoto - Takayama - Kanazawa - Hiroshima - Kurashiki - Kyoto - Tokyo
- Visit some of the most exciting places of Tokyo and the most historical areas of Kyoto.
- Stay at a traditional Japanese Inn and at a Buddhist Lodging complex while enjoying a long hot dip in their hot springs and tubs.
- Explore Japan's most famous Castle, "The Black Crow" and have a chance to see the "Snow Monkey" bathing in hot springs.
- Experience the quaint and famous town of Takayama and a nearby folk village of old and traditional Japanese Style farmhouses.
- Visit one of Japan's most famous Japanese Gardens and another beautiful Castle next to it.
- Go to the location of the exact spot where the Atomic Bomb struck Hiroshima and experience the devastation it caused and how Hiroshima has bounced back to a modern and incredible city.
"Best of Japan" is a tour with "Budget" class of accommodations (2 and 3 star) and mostly gives you an option of whether or not to visit attractions. Although most attractions we optionaly include on this tour do not cost much, we give you the freedom to choose where you spend your time and money. In 14 days this tour hits many of the "hotspots" of Japan and we will be moving around quite a bit. You'll be visiting shrines, castles and famous destinations you see in magazines and on TV.
From USD Per Person, Double Occupancy.
From USD $3,548 Single.
Please read our important page on "Japanese Accommodations"
The displayed "Price" is a close estimate of the actual tour cost. We update our currency exchange rates and tour costs on a regular bases but the displayed price may vary (up or down) from what is shown. Final pricing for the tour will be calculated based on the exchange rate and tour costs at the time of tour booking.
Singles: Single rooms are available at Western-style hotels, but at Japanese Inns they do not have "single" rooms and you will either need to share with a member of the same sex (if possible) or pay for a "Double" room.
Budget - Click here for detailed information.
Min/Max Group Size
Min Group Size: 2
This number is the Minimum amount of people that are required to book this Japan Tour.
Max Group Size: 12
Budget - Generally your own room but shared bathroom facilities.
Note: Accommodations listed in the itinerary below can, in the case of unavailability, be substituted by an equivalent class hotel.
No matter what the "Accommodation Class" all accommodations in Japan are very clean. Shoestring, Budget & Standard class accommodation rooms tend to be smaller than a comparable American class hotel's room. Superior & Luxury 5 Star accommodation rooms are large and tend to be the same size as any high class room around the world.
- All costs for transportation, accommodation, meals, activities and entrance fees for items listed in the itinerary below (including taxes); Except those items which have the sign in front of them (explanation of why some items not included).
- Native English Speaking or Licensed English Speaking Guide.
- Please review inclusions/exclusions depending on the Tour Class also. This tour is a "Budget Class" package.
What's NOT Included
Simply stated: whatever is not shown in the itinerary below is not included in the tour's price.
- Airfare (To and From Japan) is NOT included.
- Extra drinks, deserts, etc. that are not included with the meals in the itinerary. Some meals may provide a drink and or a desert but some may not.
- Any additional meals, drinks, snacks, entrance tickets, etc. outside the ones shown in the itinerary.
- Any additional transport (subways, taxis, buses, etc.) outside the itinerary below unless covered by an included pass.
- Any Personal expenses.
- Baggage handling, depends on the Tour Class; This tour is a "Budget Class" package.
- Any "Free Travel" ("Breaking Free" of the group or "Doing you own thing"), detailed information here.
- Travel insurance.
Welcome to Japan! You arrive at Narita Airport (the International Airport near Tokyo) and ride a Limited Express Train into Tokyo. Once you reach Tokyo Station you will transfer to other line(s) which will take you to your hotel.
Travel by Train
Narita Airport Terminal 1 > Tokyo
Limited Express (Reserved)
On your first full day in Tokyo you will visit Asakusa with its famous Kaminari Mon Gate, temples and shrines, the Super Chic and High End shopping district of "The Ginza" and finally famous and nostalgic "Tokyo Tower" (attacked many times by Godzilla).
Tokyo Tower Note: We will visit Tokyo Tower and you may choose to ride up to one of the observations decks. The "Main Observatory" (lower deck) at 150 meters is 900 yen while the "Special Observatory" (upper deck) at 250 meters is a total of 2,500 yen (The "Upper Deck" will be closed till the summer of 2017).
Asakusa (Area): The Asakusa area is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo. The area has famous temples and shrines as well as a huge souvenir shopping street and delicious food stalls.
Ginza (Area): World Famous "Ginza"! Some non-Japanese people call it "The Ginza" but the Japanese themselves just call it "Ginza". Ginza today is basically an upscale shopping district filled with high-end department stores, boutiques and resturaunts.
Tokyo Tower (Scenic Ride): Tokyo Tower was the "Modern Symbol" of Tokyo since Tokyo was rebuilt after WW2 until just recently when Tokyo Skytree was completed. Tokyo Tower is still "Romaticized" and looked upon with great nostalgia to this day. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 900 Yen Per Person ($9) will be needed to experience this attraction.
After your morning breakfast we will head over to Tokyo Station and catch a Bullet Train (Shinkansen) for Nagano. Once we reach Nagano we will check in at our "Temple Lodgings", have some time for lunch and then visit Zenkoji Temple, one of the most famous Buddhist Temples in Japan.
Travel by Train
Tokyo > Nagano
Shinkansen (Bullet Train, Reserved)
Nagano (Area): Nagano City is the capital of Nagano Prefecture, Japan. The city grew around the temple Zenko-ji, one of Japan's most important and popular temples. In 1998 the Olympic Winter Games were held in Nagano.
Zenko-ji (Temple): Zenko-ji is one of Japan's most important Buddhist temples because it stores the FIRST Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan.
This morning you will be rising early and experience morning prayers at Zenko-ji. After the ceremony return to your lodgings for a "monks breakfast" and then have the opportunity to make a visit to the famous hot spring-bathing snow monkeys of Yudanaka.
After lunch we board the train and head out to Matsumoto city, which is famous for it's incredible samurai castle nicknamed the "Black Crow". In the afternoon you can visit the castle, it's nearby museum, or venture out to the "Ukiyo-e woodblock print museum" in the suburbs.
Jigokudani Monkey Park (Park): Jigokudani Monkey Park is a world wide famous place where Japanese Macaque monkeys soak in a hot springs. Images of these monkeys have even been printed in the National Geographic Magazine. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 1,220 Yen Per Person ($12) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Travel by Train
Nagano > Matsumoto
Limited Express (Reserved)
Matsumoto Castle (Castle): Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's premier castles. "Premier" means that it is one of only three "Original" castles still standing in Japan, the other two being Himeji and Kumamoto. The "Main Keep" maintains its original wood and external stonework. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 610 Yen Per Person ($6) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Ukiyo-e Museum (Museum): Established in 1982 by the family "Sakai", the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a privately owned Japanese art museum in Matsumoto City. The museum specializes in Japanese woodblock prints and is well known internationally as "The" museum for wood block art. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 1,340 Yen Per Person ($13) will be needed to experience this attraction.
After breakfast we will board a Limousine Bus and ride it to Takayama through the Japanese Alps. Once we arrive in Takayama we will leave our luggage at the Japanese Inn we will be staying at and then take a stroll through the "Old Town" of Takayama. "Old Town" is filled with many different kinds of interesting shops but known for it's Sake Breweries which we will be visiting also. If there is time, you may also want to visit Takayama's "Float Exhibition Hall" where they store Japanese Style Floats they use during Takayama's two popular festivals, one in the spring and one in the Autumn.
Travel by Bus
Matsumoto > Takayama
Ride through the Japan Alps from Matsumoto to Takayama
Takayama (Area): Takayama is a town in the "heart" of the Japanese Alps known for its "Old Town", "Traditional Japanese" style feel and famed for the high quality of its traditional crafts. The remoteness of the town allowed it to develop it's own unique culture.
Harada Sake Brewery (Museum): One of the more famous sake breweries in Takayama, Harada Sake Brewery offers an excellent "Sake Tasting" opportunity for only 200 yen! Sit down, relax and enjoy the sake in this traditional brewery. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 200 Yen Per Person ($2) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall (Museum): The Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall is a "Hall" at the Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine that stores four of the eleven Japanese Festival Floats that are used in the Takayama Spring and Autumn Festivals. The Floats are around 3 stories high.
A full day in Takayama with many attractions to experience. Before your tour guide escorts the group to Hida No Sato Folk Village you may want to get up a little early and visit the morning market where they sell crafts and locally grown fruits and veggies. At Hida No Sato you can see the famous steeply shaped roofs of the Takayama traditional farmhouse. After the Hida No Sato visit you are free to visit the Sukyo Mahikari Temple (quite a site!) or take a nice walk through Takayama's sub-burbs along the Higashiyama Walking Course.
Hida Folk Village (Theme Park): The Hida Folk Village is an "Open-Air Museum" in Takayama Japan that contains around 25 old farmhouses in the traditional architectural style of the mountainous regions of Japan. The farmhouses have "steeply" thatched roofs making them very picturesque. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 1,120 Yen Per Person ($11) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Sukyo Mahikari (Shrine): Sukyo Mahikari is a religion (not well know but has over a million followers), founded in 1959 by Kotama Okada, a Japanese national. This Sukyo Mahikari "Temple" is their huge and gorgeos "Main Branch" building in Takamatsu.
Higashiyama Walking Course (Area): A 3.5 kilometer long walk through the sub-burbs of Takayama which passes by more than a dozen temples and shrines, the ruins of Takayama Castle and ordinary scenes or rural Japanese life.
Today we we will travel to Kanazawa and have a busy day visiting a variety of attractions. After leaving our bags (or checking in, depending on arrival time) at the hotel your guide will lead you on a course to the Nagamachi Samurai District where the "Samurai" of Kanazawa's Daimyo lived, then over to the Higashi Chaya District which was/is a popular tea drinking and entertainment district. Finally we will visit the beautifully re-constructed Kanzawa Castle and the famous Kenrokuen Garden next to the castle.
Travel by Train
Takayama > Kanazawa
Limited Express (Reserved)
Nagamachi Samurai District (Area): Nagamachi Samurai District was a Samurai district near the former Kanazawa Castle. Samurai of the time were given massive amounts of land where they, their families and retainers could live. These residences still exist to this day in this area.
Higashi Chaya District (Area): Higashi Chaya District is an area in Kanazawa Japan and is famous for Tea Houses (in Japanese "Chaya"). This area, the Higashi Chaya District, has been a popular eat, drink and entertainment district since the Edo period (1603-1868).
Kanazawa Castle (Castle): The beautifully re-constructed structures of Kanazawa Castle make it a "Must See" destination if your in Kanazawa. The "Main Keep" is missing but walls, towers and grounds make it a facinating attraction. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 760 Yen Per Person ($7) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Kenrokuen Garden (Garden): Kenrokuen is a famous, private old Japanese Garden in Kanazawa Japan. Kenrokuen is one of the "Three Great Gardens of Japan", along with Kairaku-en and Koraku-en and used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 760 Yen Per Person ($7) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Lodging: Hotel ( Standard ) "Garden Hotel Kanazawa"
Garden Hotel Kanazawa is right across the station from JR Kanazawa Station. Although slightly dated, the Garden Hotel Kanazawa is a clean, "no frills", 3 star hotel with generally positive reviews and offers comfortable rooms in a convenient location.
We are on the move again this morning, leaving a little early on a train ride to Hiroshima. We will arrive in Hiroshima in the afternoon and after checking in (or leaving luggage at hotel, depending on arrival time) we will make our way to the "Peace Park", the epicenter of where the Atomic Bomb detonated. Its a very sad yet infamous part of history we should respect and remember. After spending some time at the "Peace Park" we will take a short walk over to Hiroshima Castle wich also has been beautifully re-constructed. Hiroshima Castle contains a magnificant "Main Keep" which is sure to impress you!
Travel by Train
Kanazawa > Hiroshima
Limited Express and Shinkansen (Reserved)
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Museum): Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a "Memorial Park" that is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to be a target of a nuclear attack. The park was built in the open space the explosion of the bomb created. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 600 Yen Per Person ($6) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Hiroshima Castle (Castle): Hiroshima Castle was originally built in the 1590s by Mori Terumoto, a powerful feudal lord at the time. The original castle was destroyed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima but the current re-construction is a "semi-faithul" replica of the original. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 800 Yen Per Person ($8) will be needed to experience this attraction.
This day will be a "Free Day". There will be no group tour plans guided by your tour leader but you are of course free to visit many interesting sights in Hiroshima. We highly suggest making your way to Miyajima where the Itsukushima Shrine is. Miyajima is very close (you can get there in about an hour... hour and a half) and can be reached completely by using the JR Pass. Itsukushima Shrine is one of the top five most famous sights in Japan and is an incredible sight... especially when the tide is right and the shrine "looks as if" it is floating on water. After Miyajima you will have plenty of time in the evening to adventure around Hiroshima or even visit the Mazda Museum which always gets great reviews by people who visit it.
Itsukushima Shrine (Shrine): Itsukushima Shrine is one of the top 5 most well known sights in Japan. The absulutely gorgeous Torii sits out in a bay as if it is "floating" on water (at high tide). Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 500 Yen Per Person ($5) will be needed to experience this attraction.
Hiroshima (Area): Hiroshima is most well knows as being the target of a nuclear bomb but many other features of this great city such as it's castle, nearby Miyajima, it's food (Hiroshima Okonomiyaki and Fried Osters), nearby Iwakuni and more make it a facinating place!
On our way to Kyoto today we will be making a stop at the city of Kurashiki (we will have shipped your main suitcase on ahead to Kyoto the previous day so you don't have to carry it). Kurashiki is usually not included on first-time itineraries to Japan but it is definately worth making a stop here to see the preserved "Canal District" in the center of the town. The Canal District's streets are lined with cafes, traditional shops and museums which are built in the traditional Japanese style of black-tiled storehouses from the Edo era.
Travel by Train
Hiroshima > Kyoto
Kurashiki (Area): Kurashiki is a city in Okayama Prefecture Japan. It has a preserved, and popular "Canal Area" that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the city served as an important rice distribution center and white-walled, black-tiled warehouses.
A full day in Kyoto, one of the top destination cities in the world! On this full day in Kyoto you will visit one of the most famous places in Japan and most well known historical structures in the world, Kinkaku-ji "The Golden Temple". Then we will walk a bit through Kyoto and arrive at Ryoan-ji which is well known for it's beautiful Japanese Garden. Finally we will head over to the western side of town to walk through a bamboo forest and then visit Tenryu-ji which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kinkaku-ji (Temple): Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is one of the most well known places about Japan around the world. It is a UN World Heritage Site, putting it up there with the Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of Liberty, and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.
Ryoan-ji (Temple): Ryoanji, which means "The Temple of the Dragon at Peace" in English, is "The" most famous Rock Garden in Japan... and therefore the world as Japan is "The" Rock Garden king. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tenryu-ji (Temple): Tenryu-ji ranked #1 among the Kyoto's five Zen Buddhist temples (these five temples are called the so-called "Five Mountains") and is a "UNESCO World Heritage Site". Tenryu Ji is the "head temple" of the Tenryu school (or branch) of Rinzai Zen Buddhism.
There is lots to see in Kyoto and on this day we will visit three famous sights. However, if you like, you can use your included Bullet Train pass and visit another city such as Osaka, Hiroshima, etc. on your own. If you stay with the guide we will be visiting Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizudera (which has a great "over-look" of Kyoto) and Ginkaku-ji (the "Sister" temple to Kinkaku-ji we visited the previous day).
Fushimi Inari Shrine (Shrine): The Fushimi Inari Shrine or the Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most important Shinto Shrines in Japan and is located in Kyoto. It is also quite famous in the Western World for its bright red Torii gates.
Kiyomizudera (Temple): One of the most well known and famous temples in Kyoto, The Kiyomizu-dera temple is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is located at the Otowa Mountain at Eastern Kyoto where it was established in 778.
Ginkaku-ji (Temple): Ginkaku-ji (which means in English, "Temple of the Silver Pavilion") is a Zen temple in Eastern foothills of Kyoto, Japan. Ginkaku-ji was originally built in 1482 as a place of rest and solitude during retirement for the Shogun of the time. Note: This attraction is NOT included in the Tour Price (further explanation). Approximately 900 Yen Per Person ($9) will be needed to experience this attraction.
After breakfast your guide will escort you back Kyoto station and board the Bullet Train back to Tokyo, perhaps catching a glimpse of Mount Fuji on your way past (depending on weather conditions of course). After checking in (or leaving bags... depending on arrival time) at the hotel your guide will say goodbye and you are free to do some last-minute souvenir shopping or visit any sites may have missed the first time around. The final night of your tour you will spend in Shinjuku, the high-rise district in Tokyo known for its glaring neon, vibrant nightlife and thousands of restaurants.
Travel by Train
Kyoto > Tokyo
Shinkansen (Bullet Train, Reserved)
Shinjuku (Area): Shinjuku is the biggest city in Tokyo. This is where most the tall sky-scrapers are and Shinjuku Station see's more than 3 million people pass through it in one day. People, Neon, Eating, Shopping and Drinking are just some of the wild sights to see.
Lodging: Hotel ( Standard ) "Hotel ibis Tokyo Shinjuku"
This is a "small room", very clean and efficient business hotel for the budget traveler. It is in the "heart" of Shinjuku (the largest city in Tokyo) and Just 500 feet from Shinjuku Nishi-guchi subway station and a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku Station.
Today its time to go home... it was wonderful having you! Once again you will board train(s) and make your way back to the International Airport. We hope you have a nice flight home and hope to see you again!
Travel by Train
Tokyo > Narita
Limited Express (Reserved)