Stay in enchanting ryokans as you journey from Tokyo to the Japanese Alps and taste the delights of Kyoto and Nara on a 2 week tour.


14 Days, 13 Nights     FROM JPY 365,066 PER PERS

This in-depth Japanese journey takes you to the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, as well as the less-visited areas of the Kiso Valley and Japan’s smallest main island, Shikoku. Ancient castle towns and shrines await you in the mountainous Japanese Alps and the old capital of Nara, while modern Japanese history can be glimpsed at the deeply moving Peace Monument Park and Museum in Hiroshima. It’s a journey of discovery that immerses you in local culture as you travel over 2 weeks by land and by sea.

In Tokyo, gain a different perspective on this world-class metropolis on a boat cruise down the Sumida Gawa River. And, in the heart of the city, get acquainted with Japanese tradition and culture at a short tea ceremony.

You’ll leave the bustle of Tokyo for the stunning Kiso Valley region, also called the “Japanese Alps,” and stay in a traditional Japanese minshuku and ryokan in the beautifully preserved, historical mountain towns of Tsumago, Takayama and Kanazawa. After hiking through the countryside on the ancient Nakasendo trade route, you’ll enjoy another train ride through beautiful scenery to Hiroshima. Be welcomed by the friendly people here and tour the vibrant city with a thriving arts scene, as well as historical memorials for the victims of World War II. A short ferry ride over the Inland Sea will bring you face to face with the remarkable Floating Torii Gate of Miyajima Island, one of Japan’s three most beautiful structures.

In Kyoto, you’ll be immersed in the beauty and elegance of the cultural capital of Japan. You’ll have the chance to join a cooking class in a traditional wooden townhouse, called machiya. Before heading home, you’ll also journey to the 8th-century capital of Japan, Nara, and stroll amidst tame deer to see some of the oldest and most astounding shrines and buildings of this fascinating nation.


“Japan has historically rich, beautifully preserved towns and sites that many tourists don’t even know about. We’ll show you these hidden spots as well as the most famous attractions on this tour.”

Joy Vienravee, Backyard Travel Japan Specialist


Visit an Edo Period (1603–1867) mountain town in the stunning Kiso Valley
Tour the mile-long Nishiki Market in Kyoto and take a cooking class in a traditional machiya
Stay at a charming minshuku set in a unique gassho-zukuri building in the Japanese Alps
Cross the Inland Sea from Hiroshima and explore the sacred island of Miyajima

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo

    Welcome to your cultural 2 week Japan tour! Upon arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be welcomed by our representative who will help transfer you either by train or limousine bus to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure.

    Overnight in Tokyo

    No meals included in this day

  • Day 2: Tokyo

    Today after breakfast, you’ll embark on a full-day tour of Tokyo’s many highlights. Your expert guide will meet you at your hotel and lead you on a journey of discovery using the city’s hyper-efficient train system.

    Start the day with a visit to Hamarikyu-teien, a delightful oasis surrounded by a sea of skyscrapers. This former private garden of an Edo-period lord houses a lake with a teahouse located on a tiny island. Here, you’ll witness a short tea ceremony and try a taste of matcha, Japanese green powder tea.

    Next, you’ll see Tokyo from a different perspective on a boat cruise down the Sumida River.

    Asakusa, the city’s oldest Geisha quarters, will be your next stop. This atmospheric neighborhood is a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi (or “old town”), and is also home to Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo. The narrow streets and alleys around Senso-ji are full of little shops that sell traditional Japanese handicrafts and souvenirs.

    In the afternoon, take a walk down “Tokyo’s Champs-Elysees,” Omotesando. This broad, tree-lined avenue is filled with flagship designer shops and boutiques. Then, to wrap up your city tour, go on an exploration of Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine. Dedicated to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji, the shrine is a popular site for Japanese weddings and, if you’re lucky, you may see a happy couple here dressed in traditional Shinto wedding garments.

    Please note: The order of activities in this itinerary may change depending on the location of your hotel.

    Overnight in Tokyo

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    2Shibuya Crossing in Downtown Tokyo, Japan.
  • Day 3: Tokyo – Nikko Day Trip

    Today after breakfast, your 2 week Japan tour brings you to Nikko, the mountainous home of 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    It’s 2 hours by train on the JR line to JR Nikko Station, where your local guide will meet you. Then head out on your privately guided tour of Nikko National Park, home to the Toshogu-shrine complex. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed as a mausoleum for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan for more than 250 years. It comprises more than a dozen Buddhist and Shinto buildings ornately decorated and set in a beautiful forest.

    Continue to Tamazowa Imperial Villa, the imperial family’s summer house before World War II. You’ll marvel at the intricate interior design of the house, some parts of which were transported all the way from Tokyo. You’ll also have the chance to stroll through the meticulously kept gardens and view the villa from the outside.

    Your guide will then lead you back to the train station, where you can catch the train to return to Tokyo.

    Please note: Since 2007, Toshogu Shrine has been undergoing renovations; however, the shrine’s many buildings and carvings are still worth a visit. Renovations are expected to be completed in March 2019.

    Overnight in Tokyo

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    Japanese Jizos
  • Day 4: Tokyo-Kiso Valley

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Luggage Delivery Service
    For more convenient travel through Kiso Valley, you can send your luggage ahead of you through the Magome Tourist Office to your accommodation in Tsumago. Alternatively, you might pack a small overnight bag and send your luggage all the way to Takayama. (Luggage forwarding is at own expense; please speak to a Travel Specialist for details.)

    Today, your 2 week Japan tour takes you far from the city and into the forested castle towns of Kiso Valley. For the first leg of your trip, you’ll travel aboard the famous shinkansen, also known as the “bullet train,” which can travel at up to 270 kilometers per hour. For the second leg, you’ll take the limited express train “Wide View,” which is one of Japan’s most scenic train journeys.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    When you arrive at JR Nakatsugawa Station, catch the bus departing from Nakatsugawa bus stop for the town of Magome. (Pay for a ticket on the spot; roughly a 25-minute ride.) Magome is one of the first post towns along the ancient trade route of Nakasendo, and it makes for a convenient starting point for trekking this historic and beautiful trail. It’s roughly 8 kilometers from Magome to Tsumago, which can be traveled on foot at a leisurely pace in about 3 hours. This well-maintained section of the trail leads through the countryside and passes alongside charming local houses and fields.

    Arrive in the beautifully preserved town of Tsumago. Harkening back to its times as a post town on the trade route between Kyoto and Tokyo, Tsumago still retains its Edo Period charm (1603–1867).

    Tonight you will stay in a traditional Japanese minshuku. This delightful, family-run accommodation includes a beautiful garden, tatami mat floors and traditional roll-out futon, as well as an onsen, or hot spring bath.

    In the evening, indulge in Japanese style with kaiseki, a beautifully presented meal consisting of many small, seasonal courses. Relax in your yukata (cotton robe) and enjoy an after-dinner soak in your onsen.

    Overnight in Tsumago

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 5: Kiso Valley-Takayama

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Enjoy a healthy Japanese-style breakfast at your minshuku before heading out on the JR line for Takayama, a remote, beautifully preserved mountain village with a distinct culture. Catch the train from JR Nagiso Station and ride for approximately 4 hours to the JR Takayama Station.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Take a stroll through Takayama’s atmospheric “old town,” known as shitamachi. Here, the streets are lined with old merchants’ homes, sake breweries and charming local stores. The sake of this area is especially prized due to the purity of the water used to make it. Stop in at a brewery to sample some of the local spirits. Dine at a restaurant that offers Hida beef sushi, or while away the afternoon at one of the town’s many cafés.

    There’s also a fascinating Festival Floats Museum in Takayama exhibiting the fabulously colorful floats used in Takayama’s famous spring and fall festivals. Visiting this museum offers a unique perspective at Japanese and regional Takayama culture.

    Tonight in Takayama you’ll stay in a ryokan, a more upscale version of a minshuku. Enjoy another kaiseki, and of course there’ll be ample time to soak and unwind in your onsen.

    Overnight in Takayama

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 6: Takayama – Shirakawago

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    After breakfast at your ryokan, head to the Miyagawa Morning Market where local handmade crafts and produce are on offer. (Depending on the season, the market may open as early as 6 a.m.). This is the perfect place to purchase souvenirs and mementos, such as chopsticks, ichii itto-bori (wood carvings), and the Sarubobo trinket that is iconic for this region.

    At noon, catch the bus bound for Shirakawago, a region famous for its UNESCO World Heritage gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Literally meaning “constructed like hands in prayer,” gassho-zukuri farmhouses are designed to withstand heavy snows. Their steeply pitched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks in prayer. Constructed without the use of nails, these roofs also provide spacious attics that were traditionally used for silkworm cultivation.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Stroll through central Shirakawago and visit some of the famous farmhouses, such as the Wada House. This building was the seat of the Wada family, one of the wealthiest families in Ogimachi. Their status as community leaders is well-represented by the size of their house, as it is the largest gassho-zukuri farmhouse in town. One fascinating fact about this house is that no nails were used in its construction. Only ropes were used to hold everything together. Inside the house you’ll discover a number of intriguing antiques, such as silk worm farms, hand looms an irori, the traditional earthen hearth.

    Tonight your accommodation will be a minshuku set in a gassho-zukuri building. Your authentic, Japanese multi-course dinner will be served around an irori—a truly unique experience.

    Overnight in Shirakawago

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 7: Shirakawago – Kanazawa

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Wake early today and embark on a bus journey through beautiful scenery to the 17th-century town of Kanazawa. This ancient castle town was once a cultural and artistic center of Japan, and its buildings and gardens have been beautifully preserved.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Start with a highlight of Kanazawa, the famed Kenroku-en garden. In a nation of breathtaking gardens, Kenroku-en is ranked as one of the top three most beautiful. Aside from the stunning landscaping, several charming teahouses and a large villa, you’ll also find the oldest functioning fountain in the country.

    Just next door, Kanazawa Castle is an interesting reminder of the town’s history. The Ishikawa-mon gate at the castle’s entrance is designated as an Important National Cultural Asset.

    From the castle, it’s an easy walk to Higashi Chaya District, one of Kanazawa’s three well-preserved “teahouse” districts in Japan. Teahouses, known as chaya in Japan, were where geisha entertained guests with drinks, food, song and dance. In Higashi Chaya, you’ll find Hakuza, a shop selling gold-leaf products, a specialty of Kanazawa. In fact, the shop’s tearoom is entirely covered in gold leaf!

    Overnight in Kanazawa

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    Japanese Red Umbrella/Janome
  • Day 8: Kanazawa-Hiroshima

    Today is a self-guided day.

    On day 8 of your 2-week Japan tour, you’ll embark on train journey to Hiroshima. You can catch the JR line train to Hiroshima Station from the JR Kanazawa Station. The journey will take approximately 4.5 hours. But, before your departure, you might choose to do a little more exploring in Kanazawa.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Head to the samurai village of Nagamachi and pay a visit to the Nomura House, a restored samurai house that displays artifacts from the golden era of the stoic Japanese warriors. Stop by the teahouse for refreshments of green tea and Japanese confectionery.

    En route to the town center, stop by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, which is known for its progressive architecture and thought-provoking exhibits. One of the permanent exhibits in the museum is “Swimming Pool” by Leandro Erlich, which plays with ideas of perception.

    Overnight in Hiroshima

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

  • Day 9: Hiroshima-Miyajima

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Today, your 2 week Japan tour will bring you face to face with a dark moment in modern Japanese history, the bombing of Hiroshima. However, you may be surprised to find that this city has bounced back to become a vibrant, interesting metropolis with friendly, welcoming people, a thriving arts scene and, of course, fantastic food.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Start the day with a visit to nearby Miyajima, a small, sacred island in Japan’s Inland Sea. Take the train to Miyajima-guchi and transfer to the ferry, which will bring you to Miyajima in just 10 minutes. Explore the island’s numerous shrines and temples, including Itsukushima Shrine, which is the home of the world-famous “Floating Torii Gate” that rises from the sea. If you’re feeling hungry, try some of the local delicacies of momiji manju (maple leaf-shaped cakes), anago (saltwater eel) and oysters.

    At noon, head back to Hiroshima for lunch and an afternoon of touring the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Built on ground zero and dedicated to all those killed in the atomic bomb attack, it can be a sobering, moving experience. Nearby you’ll also find the Children’s Peace Monument and the A-Bomb Dome.

    Overnight in Hiroshima

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

    Japan Hiroshima Shukkeien Gardens
  • Day 10: Hiroshima-Kotohira

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Today, travel to Japan’s smallest main island, Shikoku. The least-visited island by tourists, Shikoku has a hidden-gem vibe and some amazing scenery. From the JR Hiroshima Station, it’s a 2-hour train ride to the JR Kotohira Station.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    Kotohira is a small, atmospheric town that is home to Shikoku’s most popular shrine, Kompirasan. The shrine is dedicated to sailors and seafaring and is located on the slope of Mount Zozu. An impressive 758 stone steps lead up to the main hall. The shrine features a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist influences.

    Many visitors stop once they reach the main hall of Kompirasan, but you have the option of a further 45-minute walk to the inner shrine (Okusha) along a forested path, which is definitely worth the extra effort.

    Tonight, stay in a ryokan that includes dinner. Enjoy the fantastic views of Kompira from the onsen.

    Overnight in Kotohira

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 11: Kotohira-Kyoto

    Today, your 2 week Japan tour brings you to the cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto, which is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and countless photographic moments.

    After breakfast, take the train from the JR Kotohira Station to JR Kyoto Station, approximately a 2.5-hour ride.

    After lunch, meet your local guide at Nishiki Market at 14:30 for an afternoon of exploring the mile-long covered food market and learning how to cook Japanese cuisine. Your guide will show you all the interesting produce on display and help you pick out the right ingredients for your cooking class.

    After this, wander through the lanes and back streets of Kyoto to a former sake brewery, where you’ll receive a tour and try out the local brew. Next, head to a traditional wooden townhouse, or machiya, for your cooking class. You’ll learn how to make rolled sushi, salad and miso soup, with a dessert of seasonal fruits. After your class, you’ll be rewarded with the fruits of your labor and sit down to a shared meal with your instructor.

    The rest of the evening will be free to spend at your leisure.

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast and dinner

  • Day 12: Kyoto

    Discover Kyoto today with your knowledgeable guide, who will take you to the best sites using the city’s efficient subway and bus system.

    First, visit Nijo Castle, famous for its Momoyama architecture, decorated sliding doors, “chirping” nightingale floors and stunning gardens. The building was completed in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

    Next up is Ryoan-ji Temple, home to Japan’s most famous rock garden. Although the complex was originally built as a royal villa during the Heian Period, in 1450 it was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple.

    Continue to the “Golden Pavilion,” or Kinkakuji, which was originally constructed to be the shogun’s retirement villa. After his death it was turned into a Buddhist temple at his request. Today it is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto.

    Finally, pay a visit to the iconic Kiyomizu-dera, or “Pure Water” Temple. This beautiful, sacred site is located on the steep face of Mount Otowa. Its veranda offers famously magnificent views of Kyoto. The temple is also noted for the fact that the veranda, along with the main hall, was constructed entirely without the use of nails or joiners. (Please note: Some parts of Kiyomizu-dera are currently undergoing renovations.)

    We’ll end the day with a stroll through the little lanes of Higashiyama, where warrens of traditional shops sell such souvenirs as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, pickles and sweets.

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast
  • Day 13: Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary
    It’s a short train ride (roughly 45 minutes) to the ancient city of Nara, which was the capital of Japan for just 74 years in the 8th century. Nara retains many of the temples and shrines built around this time. Nara is a small, manageable town with most tourist attractions located in or near Nara Park. We recommend visiting Todaiji Temple, which is the world’s largest wooden building and houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan. You might also visit Kasuga Taisha, Nara’s most renowned shrine. As you stroll through Nara Park, or “Deer Park” as it is known colloquially, you’re likely to see the many tame deer that wander free in the park.

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included on this day: Breakfast

  • Day 14: Departure from Kyoto

    After breakfast, the rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure until your join-in transfer via shuttle to Kansai International Airport.

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Local vietnamese woman

Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room in luxury accommodation. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

icon Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

icon Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.

We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.

With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
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Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.