2021 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West
This tour features Japan's dramatic natural landscapes from the highest mountains to the deepest gorge and the wildest coastline. Full of authentic cultural experiences including a night stay at a century-old thatched roofed farmhouse. Enjoy the remote part of Japan less visited by tourists.
The 2021 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West focuses on some of the most remote and rugged areas of Japan. This 14-day journey takes you away from the popular but crowded tourist centres to walk in Japan’s surprisingly pristine countryside.
In 2021 the tour is boosted by a couple of new locations; Toyama City and Fukui prefecture. In particular the magnificent Eihei-ji temple complex and Tojinbo Cliff are seriously off-the-beaten-path, often difficult to be accessed by cookie-cutter style tours. They are sure to capture the imagination of any Japan enthusiasts. This unique Japan tour is suited to people who love the outdoors and authentic experiences.
The tour starts in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto, and includes the walking guided tours in these cities specifically designed to show you the backstreets of everyday neighbourhoods that most tourists miss. However, we highly recommend you spend a few more days of your own at the beginning and/or the end of the group tour to discover endless attractions of Tokyo and Kyoto areas especially if you are the first-time visitors of Japan. Journey to the East will be delighted to plan your private itinerary and provide information to suit your interests.
Important - Although this tour is a Signature style tour, we recommend a good level of fitness so you can enjoy the walks in the remote areas. The walks are not 'mountain climbing' but do include some uneven terrain. Although the tour is more strenuous than our other signature tours we think you will love it.
Places visited: Tokyo, Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Tateyama, Gokayama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Kyoto
Group size: Minimum 4, Maximum 8
Transport: Extensive use of public transport (bullet train, express & commuter trains, subway, ferry and coach) and private transport (minibus and taxi)
Accommodation: Local boutique-style accommodation (similar to 3-4 star) including Japanese inns and minshuku (guest house)
Fitness level: Good (please refer to FAQ)
Tour type: Signature
Stand in awe at magnificent Eihei-ji temple complex in Fukui
Explore Japan’s oldest wooden castle in Matsumoto
Take a forest walk through pristine Kamikochi & Tateyama
Travel to the spectacular Japan Alps during autumn’s brilliance
Take a train trip across Kurobe, Japan’s deepest gorge
Stay in a thatched-roof house in UNESCO-listed Gokayama
Visit Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen, a sublime castle garden
Walk through the refined beauty of Kyoto
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. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2021 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West.
Day 2 Tokyo
Today our guide will focus on the back-streets of Tokyo neighbourhoods where you will find hidden gems which will only be discovered through walking. In the morning, you will visit Tokyo's Marunouchi area in between the beautifully restored 100 year old Tokyo Station and Imperial Palace Plaza.
After lunching at a restaurant among the Japanese office workers of Marunouchi, we will move to an old Tokyo suburb, Yanaka. Having survived the Great Kanto Earthquake and air-raids during WWII, Yanaka retains many traditional wooden houses and old charm of Japanese suburbs. It is also popular with artists and craftspeople, and is dotted with lovely tiny shops in every corner.
The welcome dinner tonight will be at Japanese restaurant high above Tokyo with views of the city and Tokyo bay.
Day 3: Matsumoto
Today you leave Tokyo by Japan’s impressive train system to Matsumoto. Matsumoto is situated in the heartland of the Japan Alps. Developed as a castle town from the 8th century, today the city is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, galleries, and stunning alpine setting. We explore the city with our guide this afternoon.
Matsumoto Castle is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated as National Treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you will have a chance to explore its wooden interior and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret. We walk back through Matsumoto's merchant district where streets are lined with nicely preserved old buildings from the Edo period.
Tonight you enjoy fine Italian style fusion cuisine for dinner, prepared from some of Matsumoto’s freshest local produce.
Day 4: Kamikochi
A train and bus ride takes you higher through a scenic mountain pass before arriving at Kamikochi. Kamikochi literally translated as “where the gods descend” and it is one of the highlights of this tour.
True to its name, the mountain ranges exceeding 3,000 metres above sea-level tower over the perfect Kamikochi alpine plateau. Here you take a most pleasurable walk along boardwalks, which criss-cross mossy ponds and streams that reflect the giant mountains that surround them. You will wind through virgin beech forests where the altitude makes them stunning in their coats of many colours.
Please make sure you pack warm clothes and wet gear on this day and the next few days as the weather in the mountains are quite different to that of the lower grounds.
Returning to Matsumoto, you are sure to be pleasantly tired after a wonderful day surrounded by natural autumn colour, mountain scenes and the fresh air in this pristine national park. The evening is yours to explore Matsumoto and its choice of many restaurant options, just waiting to complement your mood.
Day 5: Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route
Today you head in a westerly direction again, towards Toyama through the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. We travel across the mountains and valleys by a multi-modal combination of train, bus, cable car, rope-way and even a trolley bus!
Along the way we visit a sacred Shinto mountain, traverse a deep gorge, check out the impressive Kurobe Dam and circuit Japan’s largest non-active crater – the Tateyama caldera. You will have plenty of opportunity to get out and explore by foot, enjoy the autumn foliage, and take in the high snowy peaks of the mountains around you.
Tonight we stay at a hotel in the middle of the Alpine Route. Enjoy the great scenery, warm local hospitality and amazing display of stars at night.
Day 6: Tateyama
After breakfast, you will have more opportunities to enjoy highland strolls and forest walks with your guide. Coming down to the coastal Toyama, explore this attractive regional city and discover its hidden gems as this is one of the least visited city by tourists.
Tonight we stay at a modern hotel in the central part of the city and sample the city's claim to fame, Toyama sushi for dinner.
Day 7: Kurobe Gorge
The charming “Torokko Train” takes us across the mighty Kurobe Gorge, Japan’s deepest river valley. Originally the "Torokko Train" was used to transport the workers building the massive Kurobe Dam.
The Kurobe Gorge Railway now winds through the spectacular autumn-coloured mountain scenery. You will step out of the vintage carriages and take a walk along the gorge. Have your cameras ready for some stunning shots of mountains covered in their autumn leaves.
You will return to Toyama City for another night.
Day 8: Shogawa Valley and Gokayama
Today you leave Toyama City and make your way to another stunning valley, the Shogawa Valley. In the morning, we cruise the Shogawa River by boat to fully appreciate the enormity of the valley’s autumn foliage.
We then visit a wood-carving centre where you can watch artisans shape exquisite pieces of art and tableware, applying traditional practices that go back to the 17th century.
Next it is the charming rural village of UNESCO-listed Gokayama, where we stay in one of the village’s original thatched-roof farmhouses. Known as gassho-zukuri (meaning “hands clasped together in prayer”), these steeply-slanted roofed homes were built to withstand the region’s heavy snowfalls.
Tonight you will have the chance to experience your first night sleeping on futon bedding on tatami mat flooring in a typical Japanese-style room. Enjoy authentic home-style Japanese hospitality in a beautiful farmhouse, hand-built from wood fallen from the surrounding forests.
Day 9: Kanazawa
With a Japanese style breakfast this morning, we then head for Kanazawa, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. We walk through this city learning its historical lineage as a wealthy castle town steeped in samurai culture. This small city offers an impressive range of architectural and cultural attractions. Beautifully preserved and reasonably compact, it is best explored on foot.
Kanazawa is also home to Kenrokuen Garden, regarded as one of the best three gardens of Japan, it is a castle garden dating back to the 17th century. You explore this sublime garden in the afternoon.
Day 10: Kanazawa
We start by exploring the charming old streets of the Nagamachi District, where the region’s daimyo lords and their samurai once resided.
We walk through the Higashi Geisha District, a well-preserved area of narrow streets where Kanazawa’s geisha once entertained wealthy patrons, in slatted wooden tea houses.
The afternoon and evening have been set aside for you to take yourself exploring in this charming city. You may like to wander the scenic backstreets of Kanazawa or admire some of the many temples and fabulous galleries. You may choose to check out the craft shops selling Kaga-style kimono fabrics and gilded lacquerware or pause at a local sake brewery.
Day 11: Fukui
Heading further west on the Japan Sea coast, we reach Fukui Prefecture. One of the least populated areas of Japan, Fukui is well known for its rugged coastline and the magnificent Eihei-ji temple. We will walk along the dramatic cliff of Tojinbo, and explore the vast Eiheiji Temple complex made up of some 70 buildings. Tonight you will have another night of sleeping in a Japanese style room. You will also experience onsen, a mineral hot springs bath, and a fantastic way to relax. Dinner is a traditional multi-course kaiseki banquet with Fukui's specialty, Echizen crab. Japanese hospitality at its absolute best!
Day 12: Transfer to Kyoto
A journey by express train takes you to Kyoto, that most iconic of cities. With 17 UNESCO World Heritage 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.
Upon arrival in Kyoto, you will have a guided stroll around Gion area to feel the ambience in the traditional streets. Continue on to enjoy your free evening tonight.
Day 13: Kyoto
Today you have a guided walking tour of Kyoto. You will be guided through more of the Fascinating backstreets to discover the best of Japan’s ceramic and textile traditions as well as visit a small sample of Kyoto’s finest temples and gardens.
For lunch, you can sample modern Kyoto cuisine, fusion of old and new.
Our farewell dinner is at a shabu shabu restaurant, serving wagyu beef. A maiko (apprentice geisha) will join us for a private performance tonight. 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 14: Kyoto and Bon-Voyage
This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2021 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West in Autumn 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 and to show you another 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.
Please be aware 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.
- 13 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
- Government qualified English speaking local guides
- Entry fees to the attractions included in the group itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- 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 other than JR services and covered by SUICA (unless otherwise stated)
- 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