Small group, countryside tours of Japan


Samurai Trail

small group guided tours of Japan

click here for map of central Japan     click here for map of Japan
datevisits of interestaccommodation
Day 1 Kyoto, Gion Geisha quarters Kyoto / Hotel
Day 2 Golden Pavillion, Nishiki Food Market, Kiyomizu Temple Kyoto / Hotel
Day 3 Nara Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple( Great Buddha), Nara Park Kyoto / Hotel
Day 4 Takamatsu Ritsurin Park, Setouchi Inland Sea Kojima / Hotel
Day 5 Himeji Castle Himeji / Hotel
Day 6 Kokoan Japanese Garden Himeji / Hotel
Day 7 Tsumago Post Town Kiso Valley / onsen ryokan
Day 8 Matsumoto Castle, Nawate Dori Street Matsumoto / Hotel
Day 9 Snow monkeys, Yudanaka Onsen Snow Monkeys / onsen ryokan
Day 10 Tokyo Tokyo / Hotel
Day 11 Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine Tokyo / hotel
Day 12 Tour Ends  

Note : The tour starts in Kyoto and ends in Tokyo and the proximate int'l airport to Kyoto is Kansai International Airport.

It is best if you can fly into Japan via Kansai (Osaka) airport and then depart via Tokyo airport.
Using this route (or the reverse) will save you half a day of travel and potentially significant savings on train or air fair.

Day by Day Tour Itinerary

Day 1

Arrival day in Japan.
You will be met by our staff at the Kansai Int'l Airport and escorted to the hotel.
After getting freshened up, you will be assisted by our guide in finding a restaurant for dinner in the vicinity of your hotel.

Day 2

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for almost 1,000 years. Although there were a series of civil wars fought in and around this city, it came out unscathed in the second world war. For this reason, Kyoto is often referred to as the Grand Repository of Japanese Culture.

In the morning, we explore the western part of Kyoto including Golden Pavilion, famed for its magnifiscent archtectural finesse.

In the afternoon we explore the downtown Kyoto. The main attraction is Nishiki-cho food market, which is a 400m narrow lane lined with stores selling all kinds of food items for dinner.
In the evening we explore the Higashiyama district, including kiyomizu Temple with a huge veranda jutting out over a cliff. This area comes alive particularly in the enining when papaer lanterns are lit up. We take a stroll in this lovely neighborhood.

Day 3

Nara was the old capital of Japan in the 8th century when Japanese Buddhism was in full swing. The city boasts a host of cultural properties and some of them are designated as World Heritage Sites. We take a leisurely walk to Todaiji temple, watching deer roaming freely around Nara Park. Todaiji Temple is actually made up of many subsidiary-temples in vast tracts of land and the statue of Great Budda is housed in the main temple. This hall is the largest wooden structure in existence today in the world. Just relaxing in this serene and lovely city can be an unforgettable memory for all of us.

Day 4

By express train, we head for Takamatsu, a prefectural capital of Kagawa prefecture. The town looks out on the Inland Sea. The castle remains is an iconic landmark of the city. There still stands a turret (watch tower), and the reconsturction of the caslte tower is now under consideration. We visit Ritsurin Park, one of the three most sophisticated strroll-type gardens built in the early 1600s by the lord who governed this region.

Tonight's accommodation is at Kojima, looking out over the Indand Sea and the Great Bridge of Setouchi.

Day 5

In the morning we head off for Himeji, along the way we take in Korakuen Garden, one of the three most sophisticated Gardens in existence today in Japan. Then boarding a bullet train, we push onto Himeji, a regional city with a population of 560,000. The city boasts an invaluable cultural and historical asset, Himeji Castle.
Long been closed for a major renovation work, it reopened in March 2015. It is both a Unesco Cultural Heritage site and National Treasure. You are allowed to explore the inside of the castle and likely to marvel at the architectural finesse of the Japanese craftsmen in the early 1600s.

The castle presimses have been used for the filming of many movies, such as Ran, Kagemusha, just to name a few, by the late Akira Kurosawa.

small group guided tours of Japan

Day 6

In the morning, we visit Kokoen Garden, a typical stroll-type Japanese garden, laid out in 1992, adjacent to the castle. The garden has 9 subsidiary gardens inside, which are connected to each other so it is a good idea to wander back and forth on the paths savoring the lovely lanscape gardens.

Afternoon Free for your own activities.

Day 7

Today we head east by the bullet train and express train for Tsumago, whch is another of 69 post towns set up by the shogun on the trail linking between Tokyo and Kyoto.
We wander the main thoroughfare with time-honored houses on both sides, many of which are selling local products on roadside stalls.

The town is consciously preserving its historic townscape of samurai feudal period. It is like being transported back in time to "Edo Period", when Edo (present day Tokyo) was the seat of the shogun authorities and the Tokugawa shogun dynasty resided there.
There are about 200 houses passed on almost intact from those bygone days on both sides of the main thoroughfare.

Day 8

We head for Matsumoto today. Matsumoto is a regional town in the central part of the Prefecture, nestled in a basin and hemmed in by the Japan Alps and other lofty mountains. The town is affiliated as a sister city with Salt Lake city, Utah. The town is cozy with clean, crisp air coming down from the Japan Alps. Matsumoto Castle stands in the middle of the city with its sublime, imposing architectural finness. In fact, the castle is one of the four castles designated by the government as National Treasure. We go up to the top floor of the main keep, which looks out over the city of Matsumoto and Japan Alps on the horizon. There is also a floor displaying firearms of bygone days. Our accommodation is in the walking distance from the castle and it is surely rewarding to go back to see the castle lit up at night. There is a lovely laneway called Nawate Street, close to the hotel with a hive of shops selling antique items, and others.

Day 9

In early afternoon, we get on board an express train bound for Nagano, the site in 1998, wbere tbe Winter Olympic Games were held.

We push on to Yutanaka, a small town nestled deep in a valley, with a cluster of hot spring spas. We first visit the Monkey Park, perched on a hilltop, where approximately 160 Japanese macaque monkeys inhabit. The park goes back to the early 1960s when a female monkey found a hot spring pond to her liking and took a dip and other monkeys followed. They are now endangered species.

We walk on a mountain trail alongside a ravine, surrounded by thick forests with cedar, cypress, pine trees. The ambience is serene and pristine, no sound coming from nowhere. A half hour later, we come to the end of the trail, and the beginning of a hot spring village, Yudanaka Onsen. There are several onsen ryokans (hot spring Japanese inns) dotted in this hamlet. The atmosphere is intrinsically quaint. You enjoy Japanese accommodation tonight with an authentic Japanese cuisine after soaking away all the fatigue in the hot spring baths, indoor and outdoor. You sleep on futon mattresses spread on the tatami floor.

Day 10

By bullet train we transfer to Tokyo.

Day 11

Half day city tour of Tokyo, which includes Sensoji Temple, located in the downtown area with a marvelous laneway called Nakamise, lined with a hundred shops selling all kinds of traditional Japanese items.
We also explore one of the most trendy districts in Tokyo called Omotesando. There is a shrine revered by Many Japanese, Meiji Jingu, which is dedicated to Emperor Meiji, who was credited with bringing this country into the forefront of the world powers in the latter half of the 19th century.

Day 12

Looking forward to seeing you again in the near future!

small group guided tours of Japan

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