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JapanCulture and legends of Japan's mountain villages

  • Highlights
Trip highlights
  • Arts and crafts
    Arts and crafts
  • Local cuisine
    Local cuisine
  • Learning activities
    Learning activities
  • Mountain
  • Countryside

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Day 1: Welcome to Tokyo!

Welcome to Tokyo!  We can arrange for someone to collect you from the airport and take you to your accommodations. You will also meet your Kichi Japan representative who will orientate you to your trip as well as organize any train passes and tickets you may need for the duration of your time in Japan. Did you know that with over 9 million residents, Tokyo is classified as the largest city in the world? And that's not even counting the neighboring  cities in the Greater Tokyo region, bringing the  number to a whopping 36 million! Depending on what time you arrive, we can arrange for a couple of activities to start your trip off with a bang:

- Get an idea of just how big the city is with a visit to Tokyo Skytree. At 634m it is the the world's tallest tower and has quite a few things going on! Besides being the primary broadcasting site for the Kanto region, it also offers spectacular views of Tokyo with its 360 degree observation desk, and give visitors the opportunity to enjoy the view at it stellar sky-high restaurant. On a clear day you may even glimpse Mt Fuji in the distance!

- Take a walk through the grounds of  the city's oldest and most historically significant temple, Sensoji. Said to have started when two brothers fished a statue of the goddess Kannon out of the Sumida river, this is a great way to learn about the Buddhist culture in Japan. It's neighboring Asakusa shrine also highlights the stark differences between Shinto and Buddhist belief systems. 

- Head to Shibuya for your pick of restaurants and try out some of the city's best cuisine. We can arrange dinner reservations for you for any one of the city's highly-rated restaurants!

- Finish off the evening with a trip to a Japanese izakaya/bar to get a taste of all of the different kinds of shochu, sake and umeshu the country has to offer. 


Days 2 to 4: The samurai town of Aizuwakamatsu

A visit to the castle town of Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima is like stepping into the past. It's streets are rich with the history of samurai battles fought hundreds of years ago, and it is the perfect place to get a glimpse of what life was like in Edo-era Japan.

Tsuruga castle is one of these rich historical spots. During the last few years of the Edo period, a fierce battle raged at the castle for an entire month, and 20 of the Byakkotai (a group of teenage samurai) famously committed seppuku. The battle absolutely decimated the castle, but this was rebuilt in the Showa period which restored it to the beautiful structure it was before. The castle grounds also house a teahouse, small garden, and expansive park which is a sight to behold in any season.

The sake in Fukushima is particularly famous due to the clean water and rich soil used to cultivate the rice. There are tons of breweries in Aizuwakamatsu which you can visit to get a taste of this delicious brew, and we recommend one of its largest and oldest. Suehiro was founded in 1850 and has numerous domestic and international awards under its belt. Its sake is made using the traditional yamahai process which gives it a strong yet clean and fresh flavor.

It also supplies all the sake for the spiritually significant Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. Tours are held daily for those wanting to learn a bit more about this popular sake.

A short train ride will take you to the village of Ouchijuku. All of the houses here have been maintained in the Edo-style of architecture and so represent a precious era in Japanese history. Ouchijuku also offers the very interesting meal of Negi-soba (a bowl of soba noodles with a long leek stick instead of chopsticks). The leek represents a prayer to ‘live long enough that one’s hair turns white, like the color of a leek’.  This celebratory dish is only available in this area and very much worth the journey.

Your time in Aizuwakamatsu will also be spent taking in its history with visits to a samurai mansion, and day trips to Enzoji temple and Higashiyama onsen. Enzoji temple's main structures date back to the Edo period and actually consists of a number of temple buildings making the grounds the largest in Fukushima. In Higashiyama you will find many kinds of onsen, footbaths and hotels, some of which come with stunning views of the nearby river.

Aizuwakamatsu, with its atmosphere reminiscent of the Edo-period, is an experience outside of the conventional touristy hotspots, and most definitely a recommendation in our books. You will have a guide provided for two of the days you're here. 

TokyoFukushima-ken, , Aizu-Wakamatsu

Days 5 to 7: Experience the quiet Japanese countryside in Nagano

Your home for the next few days will be a small and quaint onsen hotspring town by the name of Nozawa Onsen nestled in the mountains of Nagano. This area is very popular in winter as it boasts some of the best skiing slopes in the country, but it is equally beautiful in the warmer months. The town has 13 onsen hostpring baths which have been kept by the local residents for over a hundred years, all the way back into the Edo-era. These baths are mainly used for bathing, but you will find one exclusively utilized for cooking and making crafts by the locals as the water runs at a very high 90 degrees celcius!

Explore the town's shrines and temples, visit all 13 onsen (or try at least!), or witness the locals cooking vegetable in an outdoor onsen. Your time spent here will show you what life is really like in the Japanese countryside.

A journey to Lake Nojiri makes a magnificent day trip. This lake is the second largest in the prefecture and is the a popular spot in summer for water sports and stunning walking trails. Its nearby village is also great to for meeting friendly locals and enjoying fresh food. Its small-town Japan in a nutshell!

Your time here will also be the perfect place to experience traditional Japanese ryokan lodgings. You will also have a guide during your time here..

Fukushima-ken, Nagano

Days 8 to 9: The old town of Takayama

Takayama is a great way to experience some really deep aspects of Japanese culture. This secluded mountain town is extremely picturesque and well-preserved. You'll want to keep your eyes open while here as Takayama was known for its amazing carpenters, and their beautiful woodwork craftsmanship. You can learn about this history at the Takayama Jinya museum. Takayama Old Town, would also be an excellent way for everyone in the group to get a glimpse of what living in the Edo period of Japan was like, since the buildings there have been around since the 1600's.  You will experience and see all of this with a guided tour of the city.

Although you won't be here during the jaw-dropping Takayama festival, a visit to the local museum which houses some of the amazing floats that are used would be another excellent addition to this itinerary.

Hida Folk village is a really great place that is nestled into the Japan Alps, where you can get a really great view of what life was like in a farm village back centuries ago. The houses in this village were deconstructed from different spots in this region and then reconstructed on this spot. The village will make be a great addition to your stay as you will be able to try your hand at a handful of interesting traditional crafts.

Nagano, Takayama

Days 10 to 12: Gokayama - a traditional mountain village

The slanted thatch-roof houses of Shirakawa-go have become a one of Japan's most famous sites, especially in winter, but not many people know about a similar town a mere 45min away. Gokayama is a tiny mountain village whose houses have been standing for more than a hundred years. Surrounded by stone walls and green farmland, it is really is one of the most beautiful small communities in the country.

One of its main attractions are its houses. Built in the gassho style of architecture, visitors gain a valuable insight the skills locals possessed to build lasting houses which were able to stand against the harsh winter elements. You will experience this first-hand as you actually stay in one of its traditional inns, some of which are over 150 years old! You'll also learn about the village's industrial production of natural minerals, silk and paper during the Edo-era - the latter of which you can experience yourself in a traditional washi paper-making class. The village also offers soba noodle and tofu making classes - both of which are classic Japanese foods.

Another one of the highlights of Gokayama is the bountiful fresh food served using local mountain vegetables, homemade tofu and fish caught from its nearby streams. You will also find the ever-present onsen which are great to relax in at the end of a long day!

We will provide a guide for 2 of the days you are here.


Day 13: Enjoy a Japanese festival!

Kamogawa Odori is one of the city's most anticipated celebrations! It features both geisha and maiko (geisha in training) from the Pontocho area displaying their arts during a dance performance. This is an opportunity to appreciate Japanese stagecraft and experience yet another important aspect of the country's culture.

As the time to travel from Gokayama to Kyoto will take up a bit of time, this is the only activity we will plan for the day to allow you to settle in the city and perhaps spend the evening exploring the restaurants near your hotel.


Day 14: The ancient art of kimono painting and a food tour

One of the identifying features of Japan and its people are its colorful kimono. Invented in the mid-17th century, the technique responsible for the creation of these brilliant colors was named Kyo-yuzen. The art of painting dye directly onto cloth, Kyo-yuzen allowed artists the freedom to create a variety of effects including blurs and gradients, as well as magnificently fine lines which even stitchwork could not replicate.

Being such a complex process, sometimes with up to 26 stages before a product is completed; it was soon replaced by modern textile and pattern printing; however, there are still a few passionate people who practice this age-old tradition. Today you will learn from one of its masters as you create your own Kyo-yuzen products in a short workshop.

In the evening discover all there is to know about Kansai cuisine in a guided food tour of the Gion area (food included!). Gion is well known for being the city's geisha district and you many be lucky enough to see some of these poised and high-class ladies making their way through the streets to entertain their patrons. Contrary to popular belief, geisha do not offer any services of an illicit nature, and are at their core entertainers and master communicators who have been trained in a plethora of traditional arts from a young age to keep people engaged - much as a musician or an actor would do at a theatre.

, KyotoGion

Day 15: Farewell!

Today you will bid farewell to Japan and reflect on all the fantastic memories you've made during your trip!



Price details

This tour idea is fully customizable

The price reflects this specific itinerary and is designed to give you an idea of the budget required for this destination. Throughout the trip-planning process, our local agency will tailor your itinerary around your budget.

SeasonPrice Per Adult
Average trip price
All year round $5,380

Included in the price:

  • Accommodation
  • Breakfast
  • In-trip ground transportation
  • Activities according to your customized trip
  • Airport transfers
  • 24/7 local agency support
  • Trip creation with an expert local agent

Not included in the price:

  • Arrival and departure flights
  • Meals and beverages not indicated
  • Personal expenses
  • Service gratuities
  • Visa fees
  • Travel insurance
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