This 11-day classic tour will take you into the country's picturesque mountain area, where tradition is maintained in streets, houses, gardens, and crafts the region produces skilled woodwork and gold-leaf items.
Surrounded by mountains, Takayama is home to Edo-period (1603-1868) streets lined with tiny shops, merchant's houses, taverns, museums and eating places, many of which have been preserved unspoiled, in nearly the same state as 200 or 300 years ago.
The small village of Shirakawa-go is known for its gashho-zukuri thatched houses, shaped like praying hands. Exploring slowly on foot, visitors will have enough time to soak in the traditional rural lifestyles.
Also visit Kanazawa, Kyoto and Tokyo, three cities with strong cultural identities and vibrant views.
Enjoy steaming matcha on a small island in the lake at Hamarikyu Garden.
Gain insights on the Japanese enthusiasm for food at a local home.
Meander around the beautifully preserved old town of Takayama.
Explore Shirakawa-go with its renowned 'praying hands' houses and learn about architectural details.
Enjoy the breathtaking views in Kenroku-en garden, one of the top three gardens in Japan.
Walk around Higashi District and see a variety of gold-leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa.
Experience hands-on in Kyoto a few crafts such as pot-making and Yuzen-dying.
Take a walk through Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves and visit a great Zen temple, Tenryuji temple, one of Kyoto's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Knead and dry tea leaves in Uji, sample tea and sweets from local shops.
98.8% Positive Customer reviews among 10,000+
Sharon has been very helpful since the…
Sharon has been very helpful since the beginning coordinating our itinerary in order to accommodate everything we want to see, it been great working with herMore
May, Jul 2023
When I first book I was scared of what…
When I first book I was scared of what to expect, but oh my God! What an amazing experience this has been, from Sharon to all the guides Shawn and Mr. Ho, such amazing people! Their work is excellentMore
Saul Velez, Jul 2023
Albee was very helpful and responsive…
Albee was very helpful and responsive in helping me make plans for their 10 day Japanese tour.More
Bhavini Patel, Jul 2023
Alisa was a perfect tour consultant
Alisa responded to my numerous questions with efficiency and accuracy. She was constantly suggesting options to make the trip more enjoyableMore
Matha Goram, Jul 2023
I highly Recommend Asia Highlights
For our first guide Jun, he was amazing. Very accommodating. Kept in good communication & kept us on time for our activities. Reached out to me the night before to confirm meet times and locations. Our driver for this time was also so kind & driver was always on time. For our second Guide , Ho. He went above and beyond. He stayed in great communication. Stayed later with us on one of the days because we were worried about riding the train back alone but wanted to visit at the shopping center a littler longer, so he stayed with us and made sure we got off on the right stop! During our time with him he took pictures of us and sent them to us! He was very knowledgeable about every place we visited. He was kind and patient with our large group. He made our trip easy & memorable. The driver we had for this timeframe was also kind & always on time! We felt a bond with both guides given to us! If you want an easy going, stress free trip book with “Asia Highlights”!!!More
Jessalynn Flores, Jul 2023
Working to put together a custom trip…
Working to put together a custom trip with Alissa has been a great experienceMore
Marc, Jul 2023
Wonderful Service from Sharon!
Sharon at Asia Highlights has been a HUGE help in planning our trip to Japan later this year. From her initial contact to finalization of the plan, she has been very responsive, professional, patient, and knowledgeable. She was able to quickly propose an amazing itinerary and helped us customize it for our interests. She also made many great recommendations and gave us tips for the trip. I wasn’t familiar with Asia Highlights before I reached out, but after Sharon’s wonderful service, I have full confidence in them. I can’t wait for the trip and I hope it’s as awesome as Sharon’s service!!!More
Ali Tahir, Jul 2023
We had a wonderful time in Japan with guides Moni and Kazuko and with Jan in Singapore. Will always remember this trip!More
Happy Customer, Jun 2023
Just got to say
Just got to say, Monica was great in every way! So sweet and helpful with planning, itineraries, answering questions… would love to meet her in person! Thank you Monica!More
Teri, Jun 2023
Monica is fantastic
Monica is fantastic. She understood our needs, was very responsive and planned a perfect vacation for us. Highly recommend.More
Philip Sheldon, Jun 2023
Me and my son are traveling to Japan
Me and my son are traveling to Japan. Albee is magnificent. Extremely efficient, helpful, trustworthy. I am very happy she is helping us with my son's dreaming trip.More
Ana Letícia Urbanin, Jun 2023
A great way to plan a dream vacation
Due to circumstances, we had to delay our trip to Japan so this review is only about the process of designing the trip. Albee was always available, responsive to our goals, and competent. Based on how involved he was with our family trip, we know we will be back next year and resuming the plan he built. Really impressed with the quality and extent of resources we found through Albee and KimKim.More
KC, May 2023
Yeliz - Asia Highlights
Yeliz was extremely helpful and patient during our Japan trip planning and answered all my various questions. Really looking forward to our upcoming trip to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka!More
Cyndie, May 2023
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful…
Sharon’s was very patient and helpful when navigating me through the trip planning process. She helped me plan a very exciting and extravagant trip.More
Jonny Abad, May 2023
Wonderful 10 day trip in Japan!!!
Well planned trip by Alisa . Everything was well scheduled, guides and drivers were excellent!! The cars were extremely comfortable and the hotel she chose for us was beautiful!! Enjoyed planning with her she was very professional and always offered other choices.More
Lianne Stone, May 2023
11 days trip to Japan
I am planning my trip to Japan in November with Sharon's help and she has provided amazing customer service.She is very responsive and put together very quickly an incredible plan for 11 days in Japan. She provided recommendations and made changes based on our interests and budget. She also provided information about visa restrictions and the best way to get tickets for transportation services. Thanks so much Sharon, looking forward to this trip!More
LE, May 2023
Hi Cathy! I just want to thank you for making our Japan trip so much fun & memorable! We loved everything that you had scheduled for us! All the guides and drivers were great & punctual! We love Japan so much that we’re planning to go back next year to different part of Japan! We’ll definitely contact Asia Highlights for our trip again! SereneMore
Serene Storslett, May 2023
Quick, easy and detailed service
Alisa was our advisor from Asia highlights and she prepared for us a wonderful 28 day trip to Japan, taking into consideration our needs and desire not to be traveling everyday and to have a mixture of slow and busy days. We've not yet taken our trip, but very much looking forward to it Thank you Alisa for the quick response and wonderful itineraryMore
Lynette Whittle, Apr 2023
Sharon Huang did an excellent job in planningour 15 day Cherry Blossom Japan tour. Shewas available during our trip to answer our questions and readily agreed to the itinerary changes.Everything was arranged - accommodation,breakfast, guide, car, entrance fees and train tickets. The guides were knowledgeable, and managed the tour very efficiently. The drivers were punctual and very patient. We visited must see places in and near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We also got to experience Japanese Tea ceremony, Sushi making, Sake tasting, shopping etc.We highly recommend Asia Highlights for your travel needs.More
Madhu, Apr 2023
I organized a trip to Japan for my
I organized a trip to Japan for my parents who don’t speak English and Alisa was so amazing helping make an itinerary for them. They needed a Spanish guide and she coordinated everything so they wouldn’t have any trouble when they got there. She was so patient changing and adjusting the itinerary to their needs and wants, it’s been a total pleasure working with her and she always responds promptly to any question I have. I definitely recommend this company and if you can ask to work with Alisa.More
Luisa, Apr 2023
Itinerary in Detail
We arrange plenty of hands-on experiences to help you understand local culture.
These include learning to wrap up and roll sushi at a local home; visiting a region that specializes in pottery and making a pot by yourself; visiting a Yuzen Gallery and trying out Yuzen dying, for dying kimonos; and learning how to knead and dry tea leaves and how to brew tea with boiling water.
Also, you will have plenty of opportunities to help you feel more connected with Japan.
These will include enjoying a cup of steaming matcha on a small island in a lake; visiting local markets with a colorful range of food stalls, selling fresh and prepared food; having a cup of sake at a sake brewery and learning how to judge sake on five distinct qualities; and walking around the old district with well-preserved Edo-period merchant's houses, specialty shops and tea houses.
Welcome to Tokyo, one of the world's most exciting and energizing cities, where Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, reminders of a more contemplative time, stand next to skyscrapers.
You will be met on arrival at Narita International Airport and share a transfer to your accommodation. The rest of the day is free for you to spend at your leisure.
A late-afternoon stroll as the neon starts to light up will take in both sides of this fascinating, bustling area. Shinjuku has several huge department stores, music stores, and electronics stores, along with hundreds of bars and restaurants catering to every taste.
Enjoy a day-tour of this fascinating city, with a local guide.
The day begins with a visit to Meiji Shrine, the most important Shinto shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to the deified spirit of Emperor Meiji. During the New Year holidays, it is the most heavily visited place in Japan, with crowds of people worshiping here and buying good-luck charms for the year ahead.
Walk along Omotesando shopping street, a wide tree-shaded sidewalk, home to dozens of boutiques showcasing top fashion brands.
Head across town to Asakusa and visit Tokyo's most sacred temple, Sensoji Temple. Watch worshipers burning incense and paying respects by throwing coins, lighting candles, and worshipping.
Wander down Nakamise, a shopping alley providing a variety of traditional wares, including obi sashes, fans and hair combs. All make good souvenirs.
End your day by enjoying a cup of steaming matcha and Japanese sweets in a tea house, on a small island in the lake at Hamarikyu garden.
Receive Your JR Pass
Turn in your Exchange Order (with your passport) to receive your Japan Rail Pass at a Japan Rail Pass exchange office in a major JR station. Your guide will help you validate your rail pass and make any necessary seat reservations.
The tour starts in the early morning.
Take your time as you explore the lively outer market, where you will see many unusual varieties of freshly caught fish, and some of the freshest sushi and seafood. Shops and stalls lining the streets and alleys sell everything from raw fish slices to fresh wasabi plants.
You will then visit a typical Japanese home. Your guide will answer all your questions about Japanese culture and everyday life in Tokyo during the transfer by public transport.
In someone's home, learn to prepare maki sushi (rolled sushi), gunkan maki (sushi rice wrapped with a strip of seaweed and topped with soft ingredients), and nigiri sushi (sushi rice topped with a slice of raw fish).
Enjoy your homemade sushi for lunch. The tour ends in central Tokyo.
Recommended Free Time Activities
The tour ends at the closest station to your Japanese host's home. Save the rest of the day for casual exploring, since Tokyo's dazzling streets and prosperous commercial centers are attractions in themselves.
If you are looking for an unrivaled shopping experience, go to Ginza and Nihonbashi, which offer a mix of huge department stores and affluent side-street boutiques; or Akihabara, for discount electronics and software.
To get a glimpse of the Imperial Palace, go to the Kokyo Gaien, the large plaza in front of the palace, where you can see the Nijubashi, a double-arched stone bridge, the most famous landmark there.
This morning, make your way to Shinjuku station. Use your JR pass together with your reserved seat ticket to board the shinkansen (fast train) to Takayama. Bring a light bag for the next three days in Takayama and Kanazawa, as your other luggage will be delivered to Tokyo directly via Japan's luggage porter system.
A five-hour journey is enhanced by the softly changing landscape of Japan's countryside. On arrival at Takayama station, make your own way to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to spend at your leisure.
Stay in the Heart of Takayama
Just a 5-minute walk from Takayama Station, Hida Hotel Plaza features a rooftop spa with mountain views, a heated swimming pool and various dining options
Treat yourself to a hot-spring bath and a selection of well-prepared dishes.
Today you will take a guided tour with a local guide to the beautifully preserved old town of Takayama and the UNESCO site, Shirakawa-go village.
Start the day with a visit to the local Miyagawa Market along Miyagawa River in the old town. Most stands sell local crafts, or farm products such as vegetables, pickles and flowers.
Take a walk in the San-machi Suji district, the traditional home of Takayama merchants and sake brewers, which has been preserved in nearly the same state as 200 or 300 years ago. It is home to inns, shops and taverns, which trace their history back many generations.
Visit the Takayama Jinya. In 1692, because of its valuable timber resources, the Hida Region around Takayama was put under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Takayama Jinya served as the local government office, headed by officials dispatched from Edo.
The present building complex includes rooms for administrative purposes, offices, kitchens, toilets, bathrooms, residential space, a court room and storehouses. It was in official use until 1969, and is now open to the public as a museum.
End the morning by stopping at a sake brewery, where you can enjoy sampling Japan's national brew. Takayama's sake is renowned nation-wide, thanks to the clear water in the surroundings.
By afternoon, reach the Shirakawa-go region. Your guide will show you around the village, famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.
Gassho-zukuri translates as 'praying hands', as the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer, and are designed to withstand the heavy snows which fall in the region.
After the visit, you will separate from your guide and continue on your own to Kanazawa (transport is included, but you will be unaccompanied). On arrival at Kanazawa, make your own way from Kanazawa station bus stop to your hotel.
Stay in the Heart of Kanazawa
Located near the tourist area, Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel provides easy access to most attractions, which are within walking distance. Nagamachi Samurai District is just a 2-minute walk from the hotel, while Kenroku-en Garden is less than a 10-minute walk. JR Kanazawa Station is 10-minutes away by bus and 6-minutes away by taxi.
Today you will take a tour with a local guide to explore Kanazawa.
The highlight of any visit to Kanazawa is Kenroku-en garden. Ranked one of the top three gardens in Japan, its breathtaking beauty shines through in any season.
You will also visit the imposing Kanazawa castle, next to the garden. Nearby Kagayuzen Kaikan offers demonstrations of the centuries-old Yuzen silk painting technique.
Head on to visit the Nagamachi Samurai district, where you can enter Nomura Samurai House, a traditional Japanese home with a tea-ceremony room, an interior courtyard garden and artifacts from the Edo period (1603-1868).
The Higashi Chaya District is the largest and by far the most interesting of Kanazawa's Geisha Districts. Many of the buildings along the central street now house cafes and shops.
One of the shops, Hakuza, sells gold-leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa, and displays a kura warehouse-style room which is completely covered in gold leaf; you will also have an opportunity to visit the Shima teahouse, a functional tea house, which opens its doors to the public. To finish the day, you can enjoy a cup of green tea there.
This morning, make your way to Kanazawa station, and use your JR pass together with your reserved seat ticket to board the shinkansen to Kyoto.
On arrival at Kyoto station, make your own way to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to spend at leisure.
Hotels in Kyoto
We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.
For experiencing traditional Kyoto, we recommend boutique hotels, located in the heart of the Gion district, with amenities providing the best of Kyoto atmosphere and allowing guests to visit conveniently the city's best-known geisha quarter.
For those wishing to travel the city by public transport or to be just a short walk away from some famous sites, we recommend hotels near subway stations or near the Kawaramachi area.
For easy access to all city attractions as well as to Nara, Osaka and beyond, we recommend business hotels conveniently located right in front of Kyoto Station, a major hub in Kyoto where the bullet trains stop.
On this fascinating one-day tour in Kyoto, you will experience hands-on a few of the crafts that make the city famous.
First, journey to the eastern part of Kyoto, which is a famous pottery district. Here you will have an opportunity to make a pot by yourself. The pottery laboratory will then bake it and send it directly to your home in your country!
Next, visit a Yuzen gallery. Yuzen is the method for dying kimonos. At the gallery, you will be able to try your hand at Yuzen dying as well, and keep your work of art as a souvenir.
After a traditional lunch, you will visit Nijo Castle, a 17th century ornamental castle built for a shogun, and currently a UNESCO World Heritage site.
To conclude the day, you will walk through Nishiki Food Market, which will mesmerize you with many stands for traditional ingredients of Japanese food.
Finally, visit Gion, the famous geisha district, where if lucky you will be able to see geisha as they hurry to their first appointment of the evening.
Arashiyama is a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting.
Okochi Mountain Villa is the former villa of the popular samurai film star Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), and consists of several beautiful gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and a Zen meditation hall. Here you will enjoy some matcha green tea with a snack.
Next, take a walk through Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves, which are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used for centuries in local workshops to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats.
Nonomiya shrine is a Shinto shrine where in ancient times, unmarried imperial princesses stayed for a year or more to purify themselves.
Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. Founded in 1339 at the beginning of the Muromachi period (1338-1573), the temple is one of Kyoto's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to its temple buildings, it has attractive gardens with walking paths.
In a traditional building inside the temple grounds overlooking the beautifully landscaped garden, enjoy a beautiful vegetarian shojin-ryori (traditional Buddhist cuisine) lunch built around yuba, tofu and seasonal vegetables.
Recommended Free Time Activities
The tour ends in the Arashiyama area. You may spend the rest of the day exploring Arashiyama by yourself.
Take a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railway. This is a sightseeing railway line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Its charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven-kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery.
Enjoy a half-day tour to Uji, a traditional town near Kyoto famous for its superior quality green tea. While Kozanji Temple in Kyoto is believed to be the original site of tea cultivation in Japan, in the 1100s Uji's tea became better known for its superior quality.
After a 20-minute train ride taking you directly from Kyoto into Uji, you will first have your tea-making experience.
In a group of no more than 5 people, your guide will translate so you can learn from local Uji residents about the kneading and drying of tea leaves in this 1.5-hour experience.
Afterwards, stroll through the picturesque town sampling tea from local store sellers. You need not feel under any pressure to purchase, but if you like green tea, this would be a great place for you to purchase some while you are in Japan.
Recommended Free Time Activities
The tour ends at Kyoto Station.
You may walk around the station the rest of the day, as the station itself offers a vast array of shopping and dining options. Isetan Department Store occupies 10 stories on the west side, selling clothing, local souvenirs, stationery and fresh food. The Cube Shopping More, in the basement of the station building, offers a variety of local souvenirs, cosmetics, fashion accessories and restaurants.
If you would like to visit the Fushimi Inarai Shrine, the most famous of the many thousands of shrines, ask your guide to help you buy a ticket. Boarding the train, continue on your own to Fushimi. You will arrive within 10 minutes.
If you feel like walking the Philosopher's Path, a pleasant stone path through the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district, ask your guide to take you to the right bus stop, where you can board a public sightseeing bus. After a 40-minute ride, you will arrive at Ginkakuji, the starting point of the path.
We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.
Hotel in Tokyo with great location
Ryokan close to the JR station in Takayama
Hotel with excellent location in Kanazawa
Quiet hotel with fine location in Kyoto
Our Service Includes:
- Public transport and personal English-speaking tour guide
- All guided sightseeing as detailed in the itinerary
- Hotel accommodation mentioned in the itinerary
- Breakfasts at hotels
- Governmental taxes
Tour code: ah-33
Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)
- Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
- Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
- Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.
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