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Shoguns and Samurai

Map to Shoguns and Samurai Tour

Central Japan is a region of tall mountain ranges and fast-flowing rivers. It wasn’t until recently that roads reached the remoter villages, and today many remain remarkably well-preserved, and evocative of centuries past. Our journey takes us through Japanese history from modern Tokyo, known as Edo during Japan’s period of rule by the Shoguns, to end near Kyoto, Japan’s capital for 400 years and the repository of much of the countries cultural heritage. From Tokyo we head first to Yudanaka Onsen hot spring where the famous “snow monkeys” come to enjoy the natural hot spring baths just like humans. In feudal times people traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo would use the Nakasendo way – the road through the central mountains – one of a network of ancient highways. We will visit one of the best preserved sections in the Kiso Valley, where the lovely villages of Tsumago and Magome have been immaculately restored.

Itinerary Details:

Day 1 – Tokyo
Meet at Narita International Airport and transfer to Tokyo. In the evening there will be a welcome dinner at a city restaurant.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 2 – Tokyo
Our first full day in Japan will be spent on a walking tour of Tokyo, visiting the elegant Ginza shopping district and the grand Meiji shrine. In the evening your tour leader will be on hand to help you with ordering dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 3 – Obuse & Yudanaka Hot Spring
We will travel this morning to Obuse in Nagano Prefecture north-west of Tokyo. The small, attractive town of Obuse was where the artist Hokusai, famous for his ukiyo-e woodblock prints, lived towards the end of his life. We will visit the Hokusai-kan, a museum where many of his works are on display. We will also visit Masuichi-Ichimura Saké Brewery, where we will have the opportunity to eat their famous chestnut rice for lunch. Afterwards, we will make the short journey to Yudanaka Onsen, a hot spring village famous for its ‘snow monkeys’. The Japanese macaques originally came here to warm themselves in the outdoor hot spring bath during the cold winters, and now come all year round.

Day 4 Matsumoto & Narai Post Town
We will travel first to the city of Matsumoto to see its beautiful castle, built in the 16th century. After lunch we continue to the Kiso valley and the small town of Narai, an atmospheric example of a post-town on the ancient Nakasendo way between Kyoto and Tokyo. There are many well-preserved houses and former inns. Our accommodation will be an Edo-period house converted into a minshuku.
Accommodation: Minshuku (family run Japanese inn)

Day 5 Tsumago & Magome Post Towns
After breakfast, there will be time to wander the beautiful streets of Narai. The village is a good place to buy lacquer ware and woodcrafts, made from Japanese ‘hinoki’ (which resembles cypress) and zelkova. A train journey followed by a 10-minute bus ride will take us to the small town of Tsumago. Another of the post-towns on the former Nakasendo trail, Tsumago has been preserved by strict self-imposed rules that prohibit the sale, rental or destruction of the handsome houses. It’s a living museum, but one which is still inhabited by the local residents. We will wander the streets, tasting gohei-mochi, skewered balls of pounded sticky rice covered in a sweet paste of miso, sesame and walnuts. There will be time to visit the folk museum, with exhibits on the old Nakasendo trail and the village. From here, the trail winds its way over the Magome Pass to the neighbouring town of Magome. For those wishing to, there will be the opportunity for some lovely walking along the ancient trail. We will arrive in time to check in to our minshuku, family run Japanese inn.
Accommodation: Minshuku (family run Japanese inn)

Day 6 Transfer to Takayama
After breakfast, we will stroll through Magome and then transfer to Takayama. Takayama was formally an enclave for skilled carpenters working for the imperial courts in Kyoto and Nara. It has retained much of its traditional architecture and is well-known for its crafts, particularly yew-wood carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery and furniture. After arriving at the ryokan, there may be time to explore the surrounding areas. Relax in a hotspring bath before dinner. In the evening we will try the local Hida beef and perhaps some locally-brewed saké.
Accommodation: Ryokan (Japanese inn)

Day 7 Takayama
Today we will have a full day in Takayama. We will explore the San-machi area with its rows of old merchant houses, some open as museums. In the morning there will be an opportunity to visit the morning market. In the afternoon there will be free time to wander the old town and hunt for souvenirs or perhaps see some of the museums, such as the Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan (Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall), which displays some of the huge, elaborate floats used for the Takayama Festival, famous as one of the three most beautiful festivals of Japan. Admission also allows entrance to Sakurayama Nikko Kan, which houses a scale model of the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, built over a period of 15 years almost a century ago.
Accommodation: Ryokan (Japanese inn)

Day 8 Shirakawa-go
In the morning, we will visit Takayama Jinya, a local governor’s office during the Edo period. There once were more than 60 similar buildings in Japan, however Takayama Jinya is the only one left today. After lunch, we transfer to Shirakawa-go.

North-west of Takayama is the village of Ogimachi, within the Shirakawa-go area of the Sho-kawa valley. The village is home to a large number of gassho-zukuri houses, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. These large wooden houses have steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snow, and the term gassho-zukuri refers to the shape of praying hands formed by the roofs. Inside, the houses could accommodate large extended families of up to sixty people.
Accommodation: Minshuku (family run Japanese inn)

Day 9 Transfer to Kyoto
We will leave the mountains today, travelling by bus to Kanazawa and then by train to Kyoto. We will check into our accommodation, a comfortable modern hotel in central Kyoto. In the evening we will take a walk through the Gion district famous for its many ryotei (exclusive private restaurants) and the geiko (full-fledged geisha) or maiko (apprentice geisha). We will also visit the Sanjo-ohashi Bridge, the western end of the Nakasendo Trail. Luggage sent from Takayama will be waiting at the hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 10 – Kyoto
There will be a half-day walking tour this morning. We will visit the famous Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, originally built by the Ashikaga Shogun in the 14th century as a place of contemplation and rest. From there, we will visit Ryoan-ji, with its famous rock garden of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders. It is not possible to see all fifteen boulders at once from any place in the garden. It is said that if you can see all fifteen, you have achieved enlightenment. There will be free time in the afternoon so you can explore the area further or shop for crafts.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 11 - Nara - Day Trip from Kyoto
The ancient city of Nara, which preceded Kyoto as Japan’s capital from 710 to 784, is one hour south of Kyoto by train. We will visit Todai-ji temple, with its bronze statue of Buddha. The temple is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Next we will visit the old merchant district of Nara-machi with its narrow streets, shops, cafes and restaurants, or we may instead walk along the back road from Todai-ji to Kasuga Taisha Shrine. Return to Kyoto in the evening.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 12 - Mount Koya
We will transfer to Osaka by a local train then travel along the scenic Nankai Railway Line to Mount Koya, a bowl-shaped valley filled with stands of cedar trees 900 metres up in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula. Since the 9th century, when the priest Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi) founded the first temple and the shingon sect of Buddhism, Mount Koya has been a place of religious devotion and ceremony. Today there are more than 100 monasteries, many of which have shukubo (temple lodgings). We will stay in one of the elegant temples, run by the monks, and dine on shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine). There will be a guided walk through the vast Okuno-in cemetery, with thousands of graves and memorials to feudal lords and other past luminaries.
Accommodation: Shukubo (temple lodging)

Day 13 - Tokyo
This morning you will have the opportunity to get up early (6am!) to join in the Buddhist service at the temple. After breakfast we will check-out and return to Tokyo via Osaka. There will be a farewell dinner in the evening.
Accommodation: Hotel (4*)

Day 14 - Tour Ends
The tour will end today after breakfast. Your guide will be on hand to offer assistance and advice for travelling to the airport if you have homeward flights.

Tour Accommodation:
We have chosen each accommodation carefully for their comfort, service and personal service. On several nights we use Japanese-style accommodation with shared bathrooms and toilets. These generally have separate male and female bathing areas. Couples or those traveling together will have their own room, while single travelers may be asked to share with another member of the group (same gender only).

Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara : Western style hotels.
Obuse, Narai, Magome, Shirakawa-go Takayama: Japanese inns (ryokan and minshuku)
Mount Koya: Buddhist temple.

Please note that single rooms are normally only available in hotels – where a single room supplement may apply. Single travelers may be asked to share a room (same gender) in Obuse, Narai, Magome, Takayama and Mount Koya.

To make sure you get the most of your Japan experience, Japan Road tours offer a wide variety of Japanese cuisine to enjoy. You will have the chance to eat local specialties in small Japanese diners and sample some of the more 'refined' Japanese cuisine.

All breakfasts and 10 evening meals are included in the tour price.

Lunches and 3 evening meals in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara are not included for reasons of choice and convenience, but your tour leader will be available to help with recommendations and ordering.

Tour Guidance:
Full time services of a Japanese and English speaking tour leader.

This 14 day tour begins and ends in Japan.


If you have any questions or if you are ready
to make a reservation please Contact Us or call at +1-248-747-4048

American Society of Travel Agents MemberJapan Travel SpecialistJapan Endless Discovery

Tour schedules are subject to change.
If any changes should be made it will be done in the best interest of the travelers.
Japan Roads will at all times aim to offer you the most interesting tour possible.

Dates 2016
March 27 to April 9 (full)
May 8 to 21 (full)
July 17 to 30
October 16 to 29
November 6 to 19

The above dates are subject to change

Price 2016
per person.

Tour price includes all transportation between destinations, accommodation, entrance fees, full-time services of tour leader, all breakfasts and 10 evening meals. Single supplement is US$ 560.

14 days.
Full time services of Japanese/English speaking tour leader.
Kyoto, Nara, Obuse woodblock print museum, snow monkeys of Yudanaka hot spring, traditional merchants houses of Takayama, Shirakawa-go UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tokyo.
Mode of Travel
Train ('shinkansen' bullet train and local trains) and bus.
Group Size
Minimum 5, maximum 12 participants
Age Restrictions
Participants should be at least 12 years old. Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Guest Comments
"I believe the Shoguns and Samurai Tour was the best we went on after 5 previous Tour of Japan especially the Minshukus and Ryokans."
P. Fujimoto, Lanai City USA

"We want to commend Mari Ohara in the highest terms possible. She said "Yes, of course!" to every request anyone made and followed through. You couldn't possibly have come up with a better ambassador of Japanese culture than Mari. It was a terrific trip. The food, the variety of sites, the pace: everything was superb. Hats off to everyone involved, and, again, thanks especially to Mari-san for sharing her love of Japan with us."
D. Kirby, Tallahassee, USA

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