2019 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan
Strolling at some of Japan’s iconic sites under gorgeous coloured autumn leaves is like a dream. This holiday is paced to give you the time to absorb the dream.
The 2019 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan is a 15-day tour and takes you on a wonderful journey through Japan to experience autumn at its best. It visits all the iconic destinations including Tokyo, Hakone, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima and Osaka in the comfort of 4 to 5 star western style accommodation and mix of public and private transport.
You will start by exploring Japan’s ever-vibrant capital Tokyo against the backdrop of autumn colours. An overnight visit to Hakone at the foot of Mt Fuji gives you a chance to experience Japanese style hospitality including hot springs spa and kaiseki dinner while in a comfort of western style bed.
Heading west, Kanazawa and its award-winning gardens and refined culture are next on the agenda. A day trip to the UNESCO listed farming hamlet of Shirakawa-go is a great opportunity to see rural parts of the county. Then it is time to see Kyoto, the must-visit ancient city of Japan. Here you will sample its history and elegance immersing yourself in the sublime beauty of temples and gardens in autumn.
Next stop is Hiroshima and Miyajima to discover their beauty and history. Your final destination is Osaka with its distinct culture, history and vibrant city life.
For those looking for a comprehensive tour of Japan’s diverse landscapes and culture, variety of experiences at a slower pace, and enjoy some comfort and ease in their daily itinerary, it is a perfect autumn tour of Japan.
Places visited: Tokyo, Hakone, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka
Group size: Maximum 8
Transport: Bullet and express trains between cities, private minivan for sightseeing
Accommodation: Premium-level (4 to 5-star) accommodation including Japanese-style hotels with western beds
Fitness level: Moderate
Tour type: Comfort
Discover the old and ultra-modern in Tokyo
Soak in a traditional onsen spa bath in Hakone
Explore the feudal castle city of Kanazawa
Visit the UNESCO-listed alpine village of Shirakawa-go
See Hiroshima and the Peace Park
Visit the picturesque sacred island of Miyajima
Experience exquisite autumn colours in Kyoto
Admire the magestic Osaka Castle stands even prouder with the autumn colours surrounding it
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by private transport. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2019 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan.
Day 2: Tokyo
After orientation with your guide, you begin your exploration of Tokyo. Japan’s capital is a vibrant city of soaring towers and sci-fi streetscapes. It is also steeped in great history and culture, making its mark as the seat of power in 1603 when the new shogun moved here.
Tokyo has many faces and today we begin our exploration of Tokyo in Marunouchi area between the expansive Imperial Palace Plaza and beautifully restored historical Tokyo Station. On this guided walking tour, your guide will point out many historical and significant buildings and sites including the Japan's Diet (equivalent of Parliament or Congress). We stop for lunch at the business district of Marunouchi.
After the lunch, you travel by private minivan to the old Tokyo neighbourhood of Asakusa, once home to the merchant class and artisans who rose to prominence as Edo (old Tokyo) developed. Asakusa is also home to Tokyo’s oldest temple, the ever-popular Sensoji with its distinctive red Kaminari-mon gate and bustling market stalls.
Hop back in the minivan to return to our hotel before gathering again for a welcome Japan dinner tonight.
Day 3: Toyko
This morning we travel by a private minivan to Meiji Shrine, located in the heart of Tokyo’s fashion district, Harajuku. Surrounded by a forest of evergreen trees and stroll gardens, this impressive Shinto shrine complex provides a peaceful oasis in an otherwise bustling city. From the shrine we walk on along the fashionable tree-lined boulevard of Omotesando. Here the world’s super-brands sit comfortably alongside edgy Japanese designers, avant-garde architecture, and Harajuku’s teen pop-culture.
After lunch, the minivan will bring you back to your hotel and the afternoon is free for you to explore Tokyo at satisfy your own interests. Our recommendations for this afternoons activity include a) a visit to one of the Tokyo's fantastic Japanese gardens to see the magnificent autumn display, b) shopping at nearby Ginza to find special Japanese art and craft or c) a visit to the Edo Tokyo Museum or the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno. Please ask Journey to the East for more information.
Day 4: Hakone
Today you travel by express train to Hakone, a scenic hot springs area located in the mountains near Mt Fuji and renowned for its natural beauty and world-class museums.
We take a walk through the Hakone Open-Air Museum with its amazing sculptures from the likes of Henry Moore and Rodin. The setting is against a spectacular backdrop of maple trees covered in autumn colour. A visit to Narukawa Art Museum is an opportunity for you to see modern-day Japanese paintings and experience the exquisite view of Mt Fuji from across Lake Ashi.
Tonight you will have your first chance to experience an authentic kaiseki-style banquet and a soak in a hot-spring onsen bath. Our guide will talk you through the ritual and etiquette of the Japanese bath and explain why a visit to an onsen remains one of the nation’s most popular pastimes.
Day 5: Hakone
After a leisurely morning enjoying Hakone’s relaxed ambience and nature, we travel back to Tokyo.
Day 6: Kanazawa
This morning, we board Japan’s impressive shinkansen (bullet-train) and head through the Japan Alps to our next destination, Kanazawa, located on the Sea of Japan coast.
With its historical lineage as a wealthy castle town steeped in samurai culture, Kanazawa offers an impressive range of architectural and cultural attractions and beautifully preserved streetscapes.
We visit Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden, a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and regarded as one of three great gardens of Japan. After touring this sublime garden we head to nearby Kanazawa Castle Park to view the remains of its castle buildings from the feudal era.
Wandering through the Higashi Geisha District along well-preserved area of atmospheric narrow streets we see where Kanazawa’s geisha once entertained wealthy patrons in slatted wooden tea houses.
This evening we try Kanazawa’s local cuisine called Kaga cuisine for dinner.
Day 7: Shirakawa-go
Today 's day-trip by private minivan is to an UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go. We spend the day exploring this charming rural village surrounded by mountains and autumn colours.
The village’s famous thatched-roof farm houses known as gassho-zukuri (meaning “hands clasped together in prayer”) are the main attraction. Their steeply-slanted roofs were built to withstand the region’s heavy snowfalls. You will hear about their fascinating history and construction.
Returning to Kanazawa, we visit a local restaurant tonight to sample more of the Kanazawa's food culture.
Day 8: Kanazawa
This morning we visit the samurai resident district and Omicho Market, a lively working market full of fishmongers, traders, and fresh food stalls.
There is a great variety of things to see in Kanazawa and this afternoon and evening have been set aside especially for you make your own selection. Kanazawa is well-known for its superb level of art and craft including pottery, lacquerware, silk and gold leaf. You can also participate in a cultural activity such as tea ceremony, cooking class or sake tasting. Please ask Journey to the East for more information.
Day 9: Kyoto
We leave Kanazawa this morning and limited Express 'Thunderbird' to Kyoto, that most iconic of cities. With 17 World Heritage listed sites, Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and the guardian of many of its ancient traditions. Originally made capital in 794, present-day Kyoto offers an endless range of traditional craft shops, refined restaurants, ancient temples and Shinto shrines. The contemplative gardens, tea-ceremony demonstrations, and other-worldly performances of noh and kabuki theatre are to be found in Kyoto.
You will be guided through atmospheric backstreets to discover the best of Japan’s ceramic and textile traditions. Your guide will show you around a couple of Kyoto’s finest temples and gardens for you to appreciate their Buddhist aesthetic and magnificent autumn displays. Perhaps you will pause at one of the delightful street-side cafes along the way.
Our dinner tonight is at a shabu shabu restaurant serving wagyu-beef. We will have a maiko (apprentice geisha) join us for a private performance. You have the unique opportunity to engage with her in person and learn more about this centuries-old art form and the life of a modern-day geisha.
Day 10: Arashiyama (Kyoto)
Arashiyama* and Sagano are at the foot of the mountains to Kyoto’s west. Here you visit superb examples of Japanese garden design in autumn’s peak and visit the bamboo grove of Arashiyama, famous for its extensive forest of thick bamboo.
We also hop onboard an authentic Kyoto rickshaw, a two-passenger wagon pulled by energetic young men in traditional garb. The rickshaw will make getting around the undulating hills that little bit easier. The chance to enjoy the dreamlike beauty of Japan’s autumn colours in this area of natural beauty is a real highlight.
A pause for lunch, to enjoy the classic Kyoto-style lunch of yudofu, freshly made from local tofu.
On the way back to the hotel, we stop at Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto’s famed Golden Pavilion) to see the stunning three-storied pavilion covered in dazzling gold leaf. We will have another group dinner back in Kyoto.
*Depending on the progress of the autumn colour (which fluctuates slightly each year), we may choose to replace Arashiyama with other destinations like Ohara, a tranquil rural region with some picturesque mountain temples.
Day 11: Kyoto
A minivan takes us to the southern part of Kyoto to visit one of Kyoto’s most famous Shinto shrines, Fushimi-Inari Taisha. A vast shrine complex, it’s best known for the thousands of vermillion-red torii gates that frame the pilgrim paths winding through the woods of Mt Inari.
We take in the traditional sake-making area at the foot of this sacred mountain, which originally developed due to the pristine quality of its spring waters. A tour of the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum will introduce you to sake production and the different sake varieties.
During the day we enjoy a yakitori lunch (fine skewered food grilled over hot coals).
The afternoon is free to explore Kyoto on your own. You may like to participate in a workshop in paper-making, silk-weaving or indigo-dying. Taking a cooking or sake-tasting class or explore Kyoto’s bustling food and textile markets are other options. Although, you may prefer to wander around Kyoto’s great range of craft shops and department stores for that something special to take home.
Day 12: Hiroshima
After a few days exploring Japan’s central regions, we board an express train and shinkansen bullet-train to whizz down to Japan’s western regions to visit the iconic sites of Hiroshima and Miyajima. We spend the next two days in this area.
At Hiroshima, we visit the Peace Memorial Park and its informative and sobering museum, contemplating the devastating impact of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in August 1945. Despite this history, present-day Hiroshima remains a very welcoming and vibrant city, characterized by wide boulevards and attractive leafy parks.
Dinner tonight is at our hotel.
Day 13: Miyajima
A short train and ferry ride take to the picturesque island of Miyajima, best known for the vermillion-red floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). After admiring the gate, we begin a tour of this unusual shrine.
Originally constructed in 593 when the island was designated a sacred island only to be inhabited by the gods, the shrine is also famous for its unique pier-like structure which sits above the tides. We will visit pretty Momijidani Park, to see its trademark maple trees ablaze in autumn colour. Miyajima is also home to several important Buddhist temples and pavilions, as well as a popular shopping street near the waterfront with its restaurants and souvenir shops.
In the afternoon we return to our hotel in Hiroshima and enjoy some local Hiroshima food for dinner.
Day 14: Osaka
This morning, you take bullet train to your final destination, Osaka, the bustling metropolis just south of Kyoto. Osaka’s history is as long as the nation’s itself, eventually becoming an important political base in the 16th century after the shogun unified Japan. This afternoon, we take a walking tour through Osaka’s lively entertainment district of Dotombori, famous for its historic canal, tasty street-food and night-time neon.
This evening, we come together one last time for a farewell dinner at a teppanyaki-style restaurant specializing in tender and tasty Wagu-beef.
Day 15: Osaka and Bon Voyage
This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2019 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan concludes.
You can depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, or travel by train or air to Tokyo to fly home, or perhaps linger in Japan a little longer. Ask Journey to the East to help you plan your personal tour extension.
Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.
All photographs on this web site are representative and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.
- 14 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Lunches and dinners as specified
- All public and private transport for the group itinerary
- SUICA transport IC card pre-loaded with starter credit
- Meet & greet and private transfer to hotel upon arrival
- Government qualified English speaking local guides
- Entry fees to the attractions included in the itinerary
- Luggage transfers(1 piece per person)
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
Had a fabulous time with a great group of people. I loved the country, the culture, the people and everything about the tour – hope to do another tour with JTTE – maybe Hokkaido or Kyushu next time
Vivien Hewitt, Western Australia
This was my first trip with JTTE and already I am looking at the program for next year thinking about another one. I liked the fact that it was a small group, the organisation was spot on and the food everywhere was outstanding.
Dee Mason – NSW Australia