Central Japan Self-Guided Tour
12 Days/10 Nights
- Introduction •
- Itinerary •
- Map •
- Inclusions •
- Download Tour PDF •
- Optional Cultural Activities
Central Japan - Self-Guided Tour Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Travel to Japan
Depart Home for Tokyo's Narita Airport.
Day 2: Arrive in Japan
You lose a day flying to Japan due to crossing the International Dateline, and gain the day back when you fly home. You will be welcomed at Tokyo's Narita airport by a Samurai Tours representative who will help you find the correct transportation to your accommodations. They can also help you with the exchange of your rail pass if you would like, and even help you with getting your tickets for the tour.
Day 3: Tokyo
After breakfast, you will meet with the licensed, English-speaking guide who will escort you around Tokyo. There is no pre-defined itinerary. The guide will adjust the itinerary based on your preferences and interests. You can start the day at Roppongi Hills Building. Here you can take an elevator to the 53rd floor where you will get a bird's eye view of Tokyo. From here, you will get an idea of just how big Tokyo really is. Next, you can take a subway to Sensoji Buddhist Temple. This temple, created in the seventh century, is the oldest and busiest temple in Tokyo. Here you can learn about Buddhism and Shinto religions, the rituals of each religion and how the two are used in Japanese culture today. You can have some time to shop along the Nakamise-dori, a narrow street lined with souvenir shops leading to Senso-ji Temple. Next, you can take a relaxing cruise down the Sumida River, and then a subway to the famous Ginza district. It is said the Ginza is the most expensive real estate in the world. From here, you can attend a Kabuki play, explore the outer Tsukiji Fish Market, visit the Sony Building or just browse through the department stores and boutiques.
Day 4: Tokyo
The day is free to explore Tokyo on your own. Go shopping for that perfect souvenir, visit the Meiji Shrine dedicated to the Japanese emperor of the 19th century, or wander through the trendy Shibuya or Harajuku districts where you will more than likely see interesting and far-out fashions. In the evening, you can visit the Kabuki-cho entertainment district to see how the Japanese businessmen let off steam.
Day 5: Hakone
You will travel by train to Hakone, where, weather-permitting, you will get a chance to see famous Mt. Fuji. You can travel around the Hakone area by many different methods including train, funicular, tramway, boat, and bus. You can also have time to stop briefly at the Owaku-dani, which is a reminder that Japan is a chain of volcanic islands. Here you will find boiling mud pots and vents spewing sulfurous steam. Be sure to try the "black" eggs that have been boiled in the natural hot mineral water. You will stay overnight at a ryokan in the Hakone Yumoto Onsen.
Day 6: Takayama
After checking out of the ryokan, your will travel by bullet train and express train to Takayama. Takayama, in the middle of the Japan Alps, with its traditional inns, shops, and sake breweries, has managed to retain its traditional charm. After checking into the ryokan, you can tour the Sanmachi-suji district, consisting of merchant homes dating back to the 16th century.
Day 7: Takayama
In the morning you can stroll through the farmer's market, sampling the numerous options from vegetable stands and stalls selling herbs, pickles, and souvenirs. After that, tour the Takayama-jinya, which was the governing office of Takayama and the surrounding area since the early 17th century. In the afternoon, you can visit the many temples, shrines and museums, rummage through antique shops, or relax at one of the sake breweries.
Day 8: Shirakwa-go, Kanazawa
After breakfast, you will take a highway bus to the valley of Shirakawa-go. Shirakawa-go is the home of many Gassho-zukuri (Praying Hand) style homes, which have been moved here from the surrounding area. These homes were first used as far back as the 18th century and are still being used today. Tour the open-air museum where you can explore 25 of these traditional farmhouses. Or just enjoy the small-village atmosphere of Shirakawa-go. In the afternoon you will take another bus to the city of Kanazawa. Kanazawa, located on the northern coast of Japan, was once controlled by one of the wealthiest families in Japan, the Maeda Clan. They were admirers and sponsors of many traditional arts, and these arts flourished under their sponsorship. Many of these arts are still being practiced today in Kanazawa.
Day 9: Kanazawa, Travel to Kyoto
You can begin the day by touring the Kenrokuen Garden. This garden is considered to be one of the three best gardens in Japan and was initially constructed in the 17th century. After enjoying the garden, you can tour the Kanazawa Handicrafts Museum to learn how the local Kanazawa handicrafts are made. Or you can visit the Kutani Pottery Kiln, where you can watch artisans making the local Kutani pottery, noted for its vibrant color-schemes. Tour the Naga-machi District. This area of Kanazawa was the former living quarters of the samurai that served the local warlord in Kanazawa as far back as the 17th century. Visit the Saihitsuan Yuzen Silk Center, where you can observe demonstrations of Yuzen silk painting, a centuries-old technique used for decorating kimonos. Or visit the Higashi-no-Kuruwa pleasure quarter, an active geisha district. Later in the afternoon you will trave by train to Kyoto. Steeped in history and tradition, Kyoto has in many ways been the cradle of Japanese culture. A stroll through Kyoto today is a walk through 11 centuries of Japanese history. Kyoto is endowed with an almost overwhelming legacy of ancient Buddhist temples, majestic palaces, and gardens of every size and description. For many, just the name of Kyoto conjures up the classic images of Japan: streets of traditional wooden houses, the click-clack of geta (wooden sandals) on the paving stones, geisha in a flourish of brightly colored silks, and a tea master deliberately warming water and making tea.
Day 10: Kyoto
Visit the famous Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple), or walk along the Philosopher's Walk and enjoy one of the many tea shops along the way. Visit the Kyoto Train Station, which has won numerous design awards. Or visit the city of Fushimi, a famous sake-producing area. Fushimi is also home to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, which contains tunnels of vermillion-colored Torii kilometers long. The choices are endless in Kyoto.
Day 11: Kyoto
Today is a free day.
Day 12: Return Home
It's time to say "sayonara" (goodbye). You will take the express train on your own to the Kansai International Airport, just outside Osaka, or return to Narita Airport by Shinkansen and Narita express train on your own for your flight back home. (If you are flying out of Narita Airport, be sure to schedule a flight in the late-afternoon or evening.)