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Discovering Honshu - Central Japan by train

19 days from £11,395pp (excl. international flights)
Osaka  → Kyoto  → Tokyo  → Matsumoto  → Kanazawa  → Hakone

Private tour of central Japan by train and car

This 19-day luxury tour of Japan offers a perfect blend of modern cities and traditional countryside.

Begin in Osaka before traveling to Kyoto to wander peaceful temple grounds and soak in ancient culture. High-speed bullet train rides provide effortless transport to Tokyo to experience the neon energy. The trip contrasts urban sophistication with tranquil sites like bamboo forests and the Japanese Alps. Along the winding streets of old Edo-era towns like Takayama and Matsumoto, discover beautifully preserved architecture shaped by rich history. Excursions catered with private guides reveal hidden gems at temples and scenic nature destinations like Hakone’s volcanic mountains. With multi-night stays across Japan’s top destinations, immerse yourself at a relaxed pace interwoven with culinary and cultural activities. This trip encompasses Japan's diverse landscape, from the bright lights of Tokyo to the thatched roof farmhouses of Shirakawa-go, blending convenience and authenticity for an unforgettable journey.

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The itinerary…

Day 1: International departure

Head to your nearest international airport and board your flight bound for Osaka. Japan here we come!

Day 2: Arrive Japan

Dotonbori Osaka Japan min

A restaurant in Dontonbori, Osaka

Arrive at Kansai International Airport, where you will be met by your private driver and transferred to the Hotel Zentis, your accommodation for the next two nights. Spend the evening at your leisure, recovering from your long journey

Day 3: Travelling Osaka by train and ropeway

Himeji Castle Shin Osaka Japan

Himeji Castle

After breakfast, meet your English-speaking guide and take the bullet train to Himeji to visit the imposing Himeji Castle and wander through Kokoen Garden's nine separate gardens representing different eras and styles. Ride the ropeway up Mount Shosha to visit Engyoji Temple before returning to Osaka by bullet train in the afternoon. In the evening, embark on a food tour through Dotonbori and Osaka's secret alleys to sample kushikatsu, takoyaki, and other local delicacies paired with Japanese beers and sake. The day offers a blend of history, culture, and delicious cuisine unique to the Osaka region.

Day 4: Bullet train to Kyoto

Shinkansen Tokyo Japan

Shinkansen (bullet train)

After breakfast at the hotel, take a private car to Shin-Osaka Station and board another bullet train, this time bound for Kyoto. Meet your guide at Kyoto Station and embark on a tour of the city's top sites via a private minivan. Visit the historic Nijo Castle and wander the charming lanes of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka before experiencing the awe-inspiring Kiyomizudera Temple and its panoramic views over Kyoto. Pause for a peaceful Zen meditation session, then explore Yasaka Shrine and the atmospheric Gion district. Check into The Thousand Hotel Kyoto, where you will stay for the next three nights.

Day 5: Temples and Bamboo Groves

Gold Temple Buddha Buddhism Shinto Kinkakuji Temple Japan min 1

Kinakakuji Golden Pavilion

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your guide for a full day exploring Kyoto's top sights. Marvel at the Golden Pavilion's shining temple at Kinkakuji before wandering through the peaceful zen garden and buildings of Tenryuji Temple. Lose yourself in the ethereal beauty of the bamboo groves at Adashino Nenbutsuji. If time allows, take in the iconic rows of soaring bamboo stalks in Sagano Bamboo Forest and the charming area of Arashiyama. With visits to Kyoto's most atmospheric temples and natural wonders guided by an expert, it's a day of both culture and natural serenity before an evening free to enjoy the city.

Day 6: Free day in Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace Garden Kyoto Japan min

Imperial gardens Kyoto

After your hotel breakfast, you are free to explore Kyoto and its surroundings at your leisure.

Day 7: Time for Tokyo

Tokyo Tower long exposure nighttime Tokyo Japan

Tokyo Tower at night

After breakfast, pack an overnight bag and leave your main luggage with the staff at the Kyoto hotel to be transferred ahead to Tokyo. Take a short walk to Kyoto Station and board a bullet train to Tokyo with just your overnight bag. Upon arriving at Tokyo Station mid-morning, meet a private car for the transfer to your hotel. Check in to the Capital Hotel Tokyo, where you will stay for the next three nights. In the evening, meet your guide and taxi to the lively Shimbashi neighborhood for a 4-hour izakaya bar hopping food tour. Sample local bites and drinks as you immerse in Tokyo's nightlife.

Day 8: Tradition meets modernity in Tokyo

Shibuya crossing drone shot Tokyo Japan min

Shibuya Crossing

After breakfast, retrieve your luggage from the front desk before meeting your guide to tour Tokyo by private sedan. Visit the serene Meiji Shrine and explore the trendy Takeshita Street shopping area in Harajuku. Wander down upscale Omotesando then view the iconic Shibuya Crossing to see crowds crossing the world's busiest intersection. With your guide and private car, you'll experience Tokyo's blend of ancient traditions and futuristic city scenes. From peaceful shrines to neon-lit streets, it offers an overview of must-see spots before returning to your hotel in Tokyo's lively Shibuya district.

Day 9: Parks and Palaces of Tokyo

Sensoji Temple Asakusa Tokyo Japan

Sensoji Temple

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your guide for a private tour of Tokyo's top sites. Marvel at the Chidorigafuchi Moat's cherry blossom-lined banks before exploring the serene Imperial Palace East Garden. Visit bustling Asakusa to see the iconic Sensoji Temple and browse through the lively Nakamise Shopping Street. Wander through expansive Ueno Park, known for its museums and temples. With your guide and sedan, experience Tokyo's blend of tradition and modernity at these famous spots and scenic gardens before an evening free to enjoy the city on your own.

Day 10: To the Japanese Alps

Mountains in Japan

Mountains in Japan

After breakfast, pack an overnight bag and send your main luggage ahead to Matsumoto. Take a private car to Shinjuku Station and board a green class express train to Matsumoto, a scenic train ride from the big city to the Japanese Alps. Upon arriving, meet your guide and drive to a local soba noodle restaurant for lunch. With free time in the afternoon, options include sampling wines at Yamabe Winery or browsing the farmer's market. Check into your Matsumoto hotel in the afternoon before dinner on-site.

Day 11: Exploring Matsumoto

Matsumoto Castle Japan

Matsumoto Castle

After breakfast, your main luggage will be available at the hotel front desk. It's then time to embark on a private tour of Matsumoto's top sites including the majestic Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's most beautiful original castles. Wander through charming Nawate Street with its traditional Edo-era storehouses and lively Nakamachi Street. If the timing coincides with cherry blossom season, stop at Koboyama Park to see its treasured "weeping" pink cherry trees. The evening is yours to spend as you please.

Day 12: Heading to Takayama

Takayama Gorge Japan

Takayama river

After breakfast, depart Matsumoto by express train, soaking in views of the Japanese Alps from your comfortable green car seat. Upon arriving in Takayama, wander the beautifully preserved old town of Sanmachi Suji with its traditional wooden merchants' houses, cafes, sake breweries, and museums. Enjoy Hida beef at a local BBQ restaurant. With free time in the afternoon, browse the morning markets and winding alleyways filled with shops. Check into your ryokan in the late afternoon to relax amid lush mountain scenery before indulging in a traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner showcasing seasonal ingredients.

Day 13: Takayama Day tour

Takayama town Japan

Takayama in winter

Enjoy your breakfast then meet your guide and set off on a walking tour of Takayama's charming sights. Wander through the bustling morning markets to see vendors hawk regional crafts and farm-fresh produce. Step back in time at Takayama Jinya, the only surviving government outpost from the Edo period. Explore Takayama's beautifully preserved old town, with its traditional wooden buildings housing cafes, sake breweries, and craft shops. Spend the evening at your leisure.

Day 14: Traditional country Japan

Gokayama Village Japan

Gokayama Village

After breakfast, meet your guide and depart Takayama by private car for scenic sightseeing en route to Kanazawa. Stop to explore charming Gokayama Village, with its steep thatched roof cottages and strong cultural traditions. If time allows, also visit the fairytale-like Shirakawa-go Village. Arrive in Kanazawa mid-afternoon and visit the sprawling Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of Japan’s top three most beautiful landscape gardens. Check in to the Hyatt Centric where you will stay for two nights.

Day 15: Samurais and tea ceremonies

Nagamachi Samurai District Kanazawa Japan

Nagamachi Samurai District

After breakfast at the hotel, meet your guide for a private tour of Kanazawa. Wander through lively Omicho Market to see fresh seafood and regional produce before exploring the historic Nagamachi Samurai District, once home to powerful warrior families. In the afternoon get a firsthand samurai experience by visiting Shijimaya where descendents teach about armor creation and sword techniques - you may even get to wield a practice sword! End the day immersed in Higashichaya District's well-preserved teahouses and geisha culture.

Day 16: Off to Hakone

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Mt Fuji from Hakone by Anna Campbell

After breakfast, it's once again time to pack an overnight bag and send your main luggage ahead. Take a short walk to Kanazawa Station and board a green class bullet train to Tokyo. Transfer from Tokyo Station to another bullet train to Odawara, soaking in scenic views from your comfortable seat. Meet a private car at Odawara Station for the final leg to your Hakone accommodation, the Hyatt Regency, where you will stay for two nights. Arrive late morning with light luggage in tow. Spend the afternoon relaxing at the hotel with its scenic mountain setting and indulgent onsen.

Day 17: Exploring Hakone

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View from Owakudani by Anna Campbell

After breakfast, meet your guide at the hotel to privately tour Hakone's highlights. Walk a portion of the storied Old Tokaido Trail before a relaxing cruise on scenic Lake Ashi. Next is a ride up the Hakone Ropeway for spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including the hot springs and sulfurous vapors at volcanic Owakudani. Cap off the natural wonders by visiting Enoura Observatory for panoramic views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashinoko (Lake Ashi). With your guide revealing Hakone's natural bounty, enjoy a day immersed in some of Japan's most famous and picturesque landscapes.

Day 18: Departure day

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Garden in Tokyo

After a final breakfast in Japan, meet your private car for the transfer to Tokyo Haneda Airport. Arrive midday with time to relax in the lounge before checking in for your international departure flight.

Day 19: Arrive home

Land back in your home country with amazing memories made exploring Japan's culture, cuisine and natural wonders.

Duration: 18 nights

Location: Japan holidays, North Asia

Price: £11395pp

From £11,395 pp based on two people sharing, excluding international flights.

The trip includes all accommodations and activities specified above. Rooms and meals are as below:

  • 2 nights at Hotel Zentis, Osaka - studio room, breakfast included.
  • 3 nights at the Thousand Hotel, Kyoto - premier corner double, breakfast included.
  • 3 nights at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu, Tokyo - deluxe king room, breakfast included.
  • 2 nights at Myojinkan, Matsumoto - Seiryu-an twin room, half board.
  • 2 nights at Takayama Green Hotel, Takayama - Ourinkaku premium twin room, breakfast included.
  • 2 nights at the Hyatt Centric, Kanazawa - premium king room, breakfast included.
  • 2 nights at the Hyatt Regency Hakone - Mountain View twin room, half board.

Also includes

  • All transfers & guides specified as included.
  • Meals as specified in the above itinerary (drinks are not included).
  • Activities specified as included.

This trip excludes:

  • Single Supplements.
  • International flights to/from Japan.
  • Meals not mentioned as included.
  • Park fees not mentioned as included.
Tailor-made holidays
Make this trip your own

Tailor this trip around your preferred dates, your budget and your ideas.

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When to go to Japan

A month-by-month guide of when to visit Japan

  • Best
  • Good
  • Mixed
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec


January is ideal for winter sports in Hokkaido and northern regions, with plenty of snow. Tokyo and Kyoto remain chilly but offer clear skies for sightseeing. Explore Sapporo's Snow Festival and soak in an onsen for the ultimate winter experience.



February is the best time for skiing and snowboarding in Nagano and Hokkaido. The Sapporo Snow Festival is a major attraction, featuring stunning ice sculptures. Other areas are generally cold and dry and good for sightseeing.



March marks the beginning of spring, with cherry blossoms starting to bloom in southern regions like Kyoto and Tokyo. Enjoy hanami picnics under the pink blossoms. It's a great time for hiking and outdoor adventures.



April is the peak of cherry blossom season. Witness Tokyo's Ueno Park and Kyoto's Maruyama Park come alive with vibrant sakura. Golden Week, late April to early May, offers festive parades and events.



May offers pleasant weather for outdoor activities and hiking. Explore Tokyo's International Food Festival and enjoy the comfortable climate for sightseeing in Kyoto.



June is the start of the rainy season, known as tsuyu, lasting until mid-July. Although it's wet, explore Kyoto's temples and gardens amid light crowds. Festivals like the Sanno Matsuri in Tokyo showcase Japanese traditions.



July continues the rainy season, but the Tanabata Star Festival brightens the skies. Hokkaido hosts the Lavender Festival with fields of purple blooms. Kyoto's Gion Matsuri features grand floats.



August offers festivals and fireworks. The Obon Festival celebrates ancestors with lanterns and dances. Enjoy the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival in Tokyo. Hokkaido's summer flower festivals are perfect for nature enthusiasts.



September brings comfortable weather and the iconic Kunchi Festival in Nagasaki. Explore the Sapporo Autumn Festival in Hokkaido. It's a great time for sightseeing with fewer tourists.



October features stunning autumn foliage in Kyoto and Nikko. Visit Tokyo's Meiji Shrine during the Meiji Jingu Festival and enjoy Oktoberfest celebrations. Ideal for hiking and outdoor adventures.



November showcases autumn foliage, with Kyoto's temples and parks ablaze in red and orange. Yoyogi Park in Tokyo hosts the International Food Festival, and Kyushu's hot spring resorts offer relaxation.



December marks the onset of winter, with holiday illuminations in cities and festive lights. Explore Hokkaido's Sapporo Snow Festival with breathtaking ice sculptures. Ski resorts open for winter sports enthusiasts.


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