North Central Exploration
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Tokyo - Modern Japan with hidden gems of the past
Kakunodate - Former castle and samurai town
Matsushima - Matsushima Bay is considered one of the most beautiful places in Japan
Hoshi Onsen - These hot springs are in the mountains
Obuse - This artsy community has great museums, gardens, restaurants, and sake breweries
Matsumoto - Location of Matsumoto Castle
Tsumago (day trip) - A former post town which connected Edo (now Tokyo) with Kyoto
Mt. Fuji - The largest mountain in Japan, popular with hikers, climbers, photographers and artists. Mt. Fuji and the surrounding area is acclaimed for its natural beauty.
The North Central Exploration Tour will take you through some of the more remote areas of Japan. After exploring famous sites in the bustling city of Tokyo, the route extends north, where the countryside is mountainous and picturesque. You will stay in one of Japan’s most scenic regions, relax in the quiet atmosphere of secluded hot springs, and experience the vibrancy of one community’s cultural revival. Throughout the tour visits to historical towns offer glimpses into earlier times, and an overnight stay near Mt. Fuji provides an opportunity to see for yourself this breathtaking symbol of Japan.
Our North Central Exploration Tour is a 13 day independent tour that will give you a chance to see Tokyo and visit beautiful mountainous destinations on the main island of Honshu. Since this is an independent tour you will not have to worry about visiting places you have no interest in or sightseeing at a pace that is not right for you.
Day 1 – Tokyo - Western Hotel
You will be met by a member of Japan Roads staff at Narita International Airport and taken to your hotel in Tokyo by public transportation. Our staff member will validate your JR East Rail Pass Exchange Orders and make train seat reservations for you. They will also give you your cell phone and other transportation tickets.
Day 2 – Tokyo - Western Hotel
You will start your day with a visit to Rikugien, an 18th century landscape garden, arguably the most beautiful Japanese garden in Tokyo. Next you will visit the Meiji Imperial Shrine, where you can relax in the forested setting and enjoy the traditional Shinto architecture of this oasis nestled within one of the world's busiest modern metropolises. Finally, you will end your day in Ginza, the upscale downtown district with huge department stores, fancy restaurants, the Sony Building where you can look at the company's newest cutting-edge gadgets, and more.
Day 3 – Kakunodate - Ryokan - Japanese or Western Room
Kakunodate is a former castle and samurai town. Though the castle no longer remains, its samurai and merchant districts are relatively unchanged from its founding in 1620. Well preserved former residences that now serve as museums offer a glimpse into the samurai lifestyle.
The Aoyagi House, with its thatched roof, is one of the most interesting.
The Ishiguro House has a collection of samurai armor and clothing on display.
Day 4 – Kakunodate - Ryokan - Japanese or Western Room
With its hundreds of cherry trees, Kakunodate is one of the region's most popular places to enjoy spring blossoms. The industry of cherry-bark veneer handicrafts, called kabazaiku, thrives here and visitors can purchase locally crafted items as souvenirs. Kabazaiku demonstrations are given in the Denshokan Museum, where these and other regional crafts are on display.
Day 5 – Matsushima - Ryokan - Japanese Inn
Today you will travel to Matsushima, a group of about 260 shima, small islands, covered in matsu, pine trees. Along with Miyajima and Amanohashidate, Matsushima Bay is considered one of the most scenic places in Japan. The islands can be viewed from various lookout points, or by taking a local cruise.
Godaido temple, located next to Matsushima Pier, is interesting, for its outer walls are decorated with carvings. Zuigan-ji temple is well known for its caves carved into the rock which are used for memorial services. An art museum on Zuigan-ji's temple grounds displays calligraphy, fusuma paintings, tea cups and portraits. Oshima Island, close to Matsushima Pier, can be reached on foot by crossing a bridge. The island has caves which were used by monks to pray and meditate in. Overlooking Matsushima Bay, Karantei is the largest Momoyama-style tea house in Japan. Originally built in Kyoto, it was moved to Matsushima in 1645. Behind Karantei the Matsushima Museum has tools, armor and weapons on display.
Day 6 – Hoshi Onsen - Ryokan - Japanese Inn
You will travel to Hoshi Onsen and stay at a family-owned ryokan that was built in the 1870's and is managed by fifth generation family members. Considered one of the best in Japan, this onsen (hot spring) site is located in the mountains of Minakami and situated directly at the source, where water flows up through a filter.
Day 7 – Hoshi Onsen - Ryokan - Japanese Inn
Minakami is best known for its hot springs and outdoor activities, but if you'd like to explore the area there are some interesting sites. The Takumi no Sato Craft Village, made up of 27 houses, offers a variety of Japanese crafts that visitors can learn to create onsite.
Day 8 – Obuse - Boutique Inn - Western Room
Obuse (oh - boo - say) is a lively city of culture and the arts, where good food, sake, and the company of friends are appreciated. Katsushika Hokusai, internationally renowned ukiyo-e artist, lived in Obuse during his later years. His huge ceiling painting of a Chinese Phoenix, done in 1848 when he was 89 years old,can be seen in Gansho-in Temple. Many of the artist's paintings are on display at the Hokusai Museum.Joko-ji Temple, built in the early Muromachi period (1392 - 1573), stands at the foot of Mt. Karida.The temple's forested setting provides a quiet atmosphere. The Japanese Lamp Museum has a collection of almost 1,000 antique lanterns, lamps, and candle stands used through 1926. The fertile countryside surrounding Obuse abounds with orchards.
Day 9 – Matsumoto - Western Hotel
Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's original castles, was built in 1504 and was in use until 1868. Located near the castle is the Nakamachi District, where some of its well preserved buildings have been converted into shops and restaurants.
Day 10 – Day Trip to Tsumago - Western Hotel
- Day trip to Tsumago
- Rurisan Kotoku-ji Temple
- Nakasendo Trail
Tsumago is a former post town whose route connected Edo (modern Tokyo) with Kyoto. With its historical sites and structures, Tsumago has been designated an Architectural Preservation Site. The Rurisan Kotoku-ji Temple was founded in 1500. Its Nightingale floors chirp when walked upon, and the weeping cherry tree out front is 500 years old. Part of the original Nakasendo trail from Tsumago to Magome, which had been the next post town, has been preserved and provides a quiet, scenic walk through forests.
Day 11 – Mt. Fuji - Ryokan - Japanese Inn
Mt. Fuji is the largest mountain in Japan.
Long worshiped as sacred, Mt. Fuji is one of Japan's “Three Holy Mountains.”
Its almost perfectly symmetrical shape attracts artists and photographers, although it's rare to get a clear picture since clouds often block the view. A popular destination for climbers and hikers, Mt. Fuji is also enjoyed by visitors who simply want to experience the region's natural beauty.
With its unobstructed views, Kawaguchiko is a popular location to photograph Mt. Fuji.
Kawaguchiko Mt. Tenjo Ropeway is an aerial lift that extends from Lake Kawaguchiko to the observatory on Mt. Kachi Kachi. From here visitors can view the Aokigahara forest and Mt. Fuji.
Day 12 – Tokyo - Western Hotel - Western Room
Today you can either continue to explore the Mt. Fuji area before heading back to Tokyo, or return to the city early and spend your last full day there.
Day 13 – Return Home - Tour Ends
Today is the last day of the tour. You can either continue on to Narita International Airport to catch your homeward flight, or else continue on to other destinations you plan to visit.
Note: If you want to visit other destinations in Japan, you will be in a good position to do so, as Tokyo is a main hub for most Shinkansen ("bullet trains") in Japan. If you are interested in this option, we recommend you take the tour first and do other sightseeing afterwards. The Kyoto area is highly recommended for any first-time visitor to Japan, and is easily accessible by Shinkansen from Tokyo.
Throughout the tour, you will have the
chance to stay at Japanese inns, or ryokans, as well as modern, Western hotels. By choosing the best accommodations possible and offering both traditional and modern lodging experiences, Japan Roads aims to give you a
deeper insight into life in Japan and make you as comfortable as possible. In particular, the traditional accommodations
will allow you to have close personal contact with the Japanese owners
and staff of these places, thus deepening your cultural experience.
Sample Accommodations (may vary but will be of similar quality)
Tokyo: Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premium (Hotel)
Kakunodate: Tamachi Bukeyashiki Hotel (Ryokan)
Matsushima: Hotel Ubudo (Ryokan)
Hoshi Onsen: Chojukan (Ryokan)
Obuse: Masuichi Kyakuden (Boutique Inn)
Matsumoto: Hotel Buena Vista (Hotel)
Mt Fuji Area: Onsenji Yumedono (Ryokan)
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 dine on local specialties as well as traditional gourmet food offered in the ryokans.
About Independent Tours:
The tour gives you the materials necessary to get to your destinations and see the most interesting sights available, while allowing you the flexibility and freedom to enjoy things at your own pace. We provide you with the train tickets, lodging reservations made in advance, rail and walking maps, general cultural and etiquette tips, a suggested itinerary, explanations and history of the places you will visit, as well as other information you may need. Furthermore, a cell phone provided for the duration of the tour will enable you to contact our office in Japan if you need assistance. Please note that you are responsible for taxi expenses to and from your accommodations.
This 13 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
Tour schedules are subject to change without notice.
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.
Open - Independent Tour
US$ 4,580 per guest (based on double occupancy, 2 guest minimum)
12 nights, 13 days
You will be met at Narita International Airport by a member of our staff who will take you to your first destination and hotel. Detailed materials as well as support from our experts in Japan will be available for this independent tour. No tour leader will be supplied.
Old and modern sights in Tokyo, the former castle town of Kakunodate, Matsushima Bay, Hoshi Onsen, the artistic city of Obuse, Matsumoto with its original castle, the former post town of Tsumago,and Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest mountain.
|Mode of Travel
Train (Shinkansen bullet train, limited express and local trains), ropeway, and on foot.
Minimum 2, Maximum 14 participants
Everyone younger than 20 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.