2021 Cherry Blossom Tour Central Japan
Experience Japan's cherry blossoms on this breathtaking journey through Central Japan combining rustic alpine villages and a spectacular local festival with Japan's big iconic sights - a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
2021 Cherry Blossom Tour of Central Japan Including the famous Takayama Spring Festival, is one of our most popular tours. Focusing on the mountain region of Central Japan, this 14-day tour takes you on an exhilarating journey through rustic villages and snow-capped mountains as the region’s cherry blossom trees come to life.
You will visit centuries-old thatched-roof farmhouses in a UNESCO mountain village, explore one of Japan’s oldest castles in Matsumoto, soak in mineral hot springs while catching views of Mt Fuji, and participate in the colour and spectacle of Takayama’s Spring Festival. The tour also introduces you to the sublime grandeur of Kyoto’s Buddhist temples, the refined samurai culture of Kanazawa, and the modern-day vibrancy of Tokyo.
Suited to people who like exploring a destination by foot, this tour takes you to some spectacular parts to experience first-hand the stunning natural beauty of Japan at cherry-blossom time. This tour capped at just 8 participants also provides some free time for you to do some exploring of your own.
Places visited: Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama (Festival), Matsumoto and Kawaguchiko
Group size: Min 4, Max 8
Transport: Bullet train, public bus, taxi
Accommodation: 3.5 star hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Matsumoto, Japanese style inns (with futon bed) in Kawaguchiko and Takayama
Fitness level: Average (please refer to FAQ)
Tour Highlights of Central Japan in April 2021
Experience Kyoto - With its refined beauty at cherry-blossom time
Feel Takayama - The buzz at the famous Takayama Spring Festival
Walk in Shirakawa-go - UNESCO-listed mountain village
Admire Mt Fuji - Soaking in an onsen at a traditional inn
In Tokyo - Catch cherry blossoms in Japan’s vibrant capital
Visit Kanazawa - one of Japan’s top three Gardens, sublime Kenrokuen Garden
Explore Matsumoto - Japan’s oldest wooden castle is so picturesque
Enjoy Arashiyam -Take a traditional rickshaw ride through Arashiyama
2021 Cherry Blossom Tour of Central Japan Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to your 2021 Cherry Blossom Tour of Central 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 airport bus or train. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your tour!
Day 2: Tokyo
After orientation with your guide, you begin your exploration of Tokyo. A vibrant city of soaring towers and sci-fi streetscapes, Japan’s capital is also steeped in great history, making its mark as the seat of power in 1603 when the new shogun moved here.
The first visit is the Marunouchi area, the centre of Tokyo where the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station are located. The walking guided tour of the area will give you a great background for history and modern life of this mega city.
After lunch, we head to Shinjuku for cherry blossom viewing at Shinjuku Gyoen Park. The vast park is a popular site for Japanese to gather under the cherry blossoms. We wander through the park to participate in this spring-time ritual. We celebrate the first night of our tour with a welcome dinner near our hotel.
Day 3: Tokyo
In the morning we explore the area of Harajuku, where you’ll find the expansive shrine complex of Meiji-jingu surrounded by a peaceful wooded park. For contrast, we wander through the teen pop-culture neighbourhood of Takeshita-dori. A little further on we come to the elegant Omotesando boulevard, it is the home to some of Japan’s most fashionable designer brands.
In the afternoon, Tokyo is yours to explore by yourself. Let us know if you’d like us to arrange something specific, otherwise you could spend the afternoon visiting the city’s many museums, checking out the latest technology in Akihabara, enjoying the urban buzz of Shibuya, or exploring one of Japan’s mega-department stores and their impressive basement food halls. Talk to our guides to arm yourself with some handy maps and tailored recommendations.
Day 4: Kyoto
We leave Tokyo’s bustling capital today by Japan’s super-express shinkansen (bullet train) for Japan’s beautiful old capital of Kyoto. Originally made capital in 794, Kyoto remains the cultural heart of Japan and is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a wealth of craft shops, museums and delightful cafes.
On arrival, we stop to enjoy a healthy lunch of shojin ryori (traditional vegetarian Buddhist fare), typical of Kyoto. Then it’s on to visit the best places in this former capital to enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom against the backdrop of traditional buildings and gardens.
In the evening over dinner, you’ll have the chance to meet a maiko (a geisha-in-training) and learn more about the fascinating life of a modern-day geisha.
Day 5: Kyoto (Arashiyama)
We travel to the lush region of Arashiyama and Sagano today in the mountains to Kyoto’s west.
The area is known for its natural beauty – sublime gardens, traditional villas, rivers and ravines set against a stunning mountain backdrop.
Adding to the atmosphere, you’ll take a rickshaw ride (a two-passenger wagon pulled by young men in traditional dress) and travel through groves of thick bamboo.
Day 6: Kyoto (Free Day)
There is so much to see in Kyoto beyond its historical sites. Today is set aside for you to explore the things that interest you. Journey to the East is more than happy to help you sift through all the options and provide you with maps and recommendations.
You may like to participate in a tea-ceremony demonstration or indulge your inner-gourmet at a Japanese cooking classes or sake-tasting workshop. Alternatively, you may like to make a short trip to one of the neighbouring cities of Nara (Japan’s very first capital) or Osaka (a vibrant commercial hub).
Day 7: Kanazawa
Then, another very special location awaits us today as we head north to the Sea of Japan coast to Kanazawa. Kanazawa has historical lineage as a wealthy castle town steeped in samurai culture. It offers an impressive range of cultural attractions and beautifully preserved streetscapes.
Kanazawa is home to the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden. It is a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and regarded as one of three great gardens of Japan and a true highlight of any visit to Japan. We walk in this sublime garden and hope to top it off by catching some of the garden’s cherry trees in blossom.
Dinner is a delicious meal of wagyu-beef, cooked to perfection on a sizzling hot teppanyaki grill.
Day 8: Kanazawa
This morning we explore the former samurai district to inspect a typical samurai residence. Then it's on to the Higashi Geisha District, a well-preserved area of atmospheric narrow streets where Kanazawa’s geisha once entertained wealthy patrons in slatted wooden tea houses.
Kanazawa has plenty to see and this afternoon has been set aside so you can explore this very walkable city at your leisure. You may like to visit the popular Omicho Market (a lively working market full of fishmongers and fresh food stalls), the fascinating Myoryuji (or “Ninja Temple”) or the 21st Century Museum of Art with its impressive array of contemporary Japanese and foreign art. Or, perhaps you may just like to wander the scenic backstreets and explore its many galleries and craft shops selling fine kimono fabrics, gilded lacquerware and ceramics.
Day 9: Shirakawa-go and Takayama
Today your 2021 Cherry Blossom Tour Central Japan steps back in time, travelling by a private coach to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go. We spend this morning exploring this charming rural village surrounded by the Japan Alps.
The village’s famous thatched-roof farmhouses known as gassho-zukuri (meaning “hands clasped together in prayer”) with their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand the region’s heavy snowfalls are quite a site. We will learn about their construction and the way of life in the village.
In the afternoon, we arrive at central Japan's city of Takayama. Our visit to Takayama is timed to coincide with the famous Takayama Spring Festival. Colourful floats are paraded through the town’s old merchant quarter. This afternoon, you are off to see the spectacular Takayama Festival Parade and soak in the atmosphere of this boisterous and colourful local celebration. Read more about the Takayama Spring Festival.
Day 10: Takayama - The Festival
The day kicks off with a visit to the morning market, which is believed to have been running for more than 200 years.
Takayama is a historic playground and you will be transported back in time as we visit Takayama Jinya (once the prefectural office of the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times) and wander the impossibly photogenic streets of the old merchant district. Some of the original wooden buildings in Takayama have been converted into small museums or boutique sake breweries.
Again you have some free time today to explore Takayama's old streets and more of the Festival scenes.
Day 11: Matsumoto
Aboard a private minivan we head to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture, heartland of the Japan Alps. The city’s beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful clan during Japan’s warring period. On a way to Matsumoto, we visit nearby wasabi farm and enjoy rural setting and the contrast between green of wasabi and pink of cherry blossom.
Matsumoto's feudal past is best exemplified today by the magnificent castle that dominates the city’s skyline. This is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s four castles designated national treasures. We explore the castle’s wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret for panoramic views. The castle garden is home to a number of cherry trees and their blossoms. We also stroll the charming streets of the former merchant districts of Nakamichi and Nawate that lie at the foot of the castle along the Metoba River.
Day 12: Kawaguchiko & Mt Fuji
We travel eastward on a scenic train journey to the town of Kawaguchiko, located in the lakes district in the foothills of Mt Fuji. Kawaguchiko offers some breathtaking views of the majestic Mt Fuji, and its lakes and spring-time foliage only add to the natural beauty of the area.
Kawagughiko has another special treat at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. Here we will see some superb examples of kimono art using the centuries-old “shibori” tie-dyeing technique.
Tonight you stay at traditional Japanese inn, and have the chance to soak in a hot-spring onsen bath with dramatic views of Mt Fuji across the lake (weather permitting of course!). Dinner will be a multi-course Japanese kaiseki banquet and, fully relaxed after an onsen soak, you’ll nod off to sleep on your soft futon – the quintessential Japan experience!
Day 13: Tokyo
This morning you experience a traditional Japanese-style breakfast – a nutritious mix of grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles! You have a few more hours exploring Kawaguchiko’s lake and enjoying stunning views of Mt Fuji, before we return to our final destination – Tokyo.
You have time in the afternoon to do some final sightseeing or some last-minute shopping. We come together one last time for a farewell dinner of French-inspired Japanese cuisine in a Tokyo skyscraper with panoramic views of the iconic Tokyo Tower and the city’s night lights.
Day 14: Tokyo & Goodbye
This morning after breakfast and your 2021 Cherry Blossom Tour of Central Japan concludes. You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan.
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
(For those who have opted for post-trip extensions, we will liaise with you separately to plan your itinerary.)
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.
2021 Cherry Blossom Tour Central Japan Inclusions
- 13 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Lunches & dinners as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card for non JR travel in Tokyo and Kyoto
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (one suitcase per person)
Does not include:
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- 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)