2021 Winter Tour of Japan
Japan's iconic sites have special feel in winter, especially in fresh white snow. Join the Winter Tour of Japan, perhaps combine it with a ski holiday?
The ancient temples, castles and farmhouses in their winter ‘white coats’ are breathtakingly beautiful. Winter offers unique experiences to visit Japan. The cities thrive on the winter culture and especially the winter food. It is packed with contrasts from the colour of the vivid red temples and bridges against the fresh white snow to the snow monkeys playing hot springs.
It is no wonder the Japanese people love winter and the hot springs, especially when enjoying the view of a snow-covered landscape.
This 2021 Winter Tour of Japan has been specially designed for you to experience life in the snowbound mountains with a wonderful range of selected winter cuisine and activities. This tour is an ideal introduction to the first-timers to Japan as well as repeat visitors who have been here in different seasons.
Places visited: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Osaka, Takayama, Shirakawago, Shibu Onsen (Snow Monkeys) and Nagano
Group size: Min 4, Max 8
Transport: Bullet train, express & commuter trains, ferry, minibus and taxi
Accommodation: Three to four star hotels and equivalent & Japanese style inns
Fitness level: Moderate (please refer to FAQ)
Join the lively atmosphere of Tokyo in the New Year
Stroll quieter Kyoto in winter
Visit historical Hiroshima & the sacred island of Miyajima
Be dazzled by neon signs of Osaka
Walk through the charming city of Takayama
Learn the traditional life of farming village in Shirakawago
Climb Matsumoto Castle for the magnificent views of Japan Alps
Meet the cute Snow Monkeys in hot springs
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to winter in 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 Winter Tour of Japan.
Day 2: Tokyo
After orientation of Tokyo by your guide, you head for guided tour at Asakusa. It is the oldest part of Tokyo and still retains the charms of Japan in a bygone era. It is a world away from the images of the advanced technology and modern cities. We visit Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, the oldest temple in Tokyo built in 628.
After a group lunch, your guide will take you to the modern commercial district of Tokyo to show you the fascinating contrast of old and new.
Japanese love fashion and the street of Tokyo in winter are like looking at a fashion runway!
In the evening, we will have a "welcome Japan" dinner.
Day 3: Kyoto
This morning you will hop on Japan's famous shinkansen bound for Kyoto. Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and has become the guardian of the cultural history of the Japanese people.
Here in Kyoto, you will have an afternoon guided tour and walk around a couple of iconic sites in Kyoto including Fushimi Inari shrine. You will also have an opportunity to strol the back streets packed with unique sites and specialties such as silk goods and pottery. Enjoy the twilight on a walking tour of Gion where you may spot a geisha or two.
Day 4: Kyoto
With your guide you will visit some of Japan’s ‘must see’ sites including Nishiki Market where all the locals come to shop for the freshest and best food.
Continue your own exploration of Kyoto in the afternoon. Consider visiting nearby Arashiyama for famous bamboo grove, go hunting Kyoto's quality pottery, art and antiques, or join a cooking class or other cultural workshops. Please talk to Journey to the East staff if you would like us to help arranging.
Day 5: Hiroshima
After a few days exploring Japan’s cultural heart, we take the shinkansen again to the bottom western part of the Japan's main land Honshu to visit the iconic sites of Hiroshima and Miyajima.
We visit the Peace Memorial Park and its informative and sobering museum, and contemplate 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. For lunch we sample Hiroshima’s trademark okonomiyaki savoury pancakes.
In the afternoon, we transfer to the island of Miyajima and stay at a traditional Japanese style accommodation on the island. Enjoy the quiet evening after the day-trippers have left and to perhaps capture a photo of the famous torii gate at sunset. Dinner is a kaiseki banquet at our ryokan.
Day 6: Miyajima
Miyajima is best known for the vermillion-red floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). We tour Itsukushima Shrine which was originally constructed in 593 when the island was designated a sacred island only to be inhabited by the gods. The shrine’s unique pier-like structure (which appears to float above the tides) was restored to its present state in 1168. Meet the island’s wild deer as you wander around the island. Miyajima is also home to several important Buddhist temples as well as a popular shopping street near the waterfront with restaurants and souvenir shops.
After some free time to enjoy the atmosphere of this special island, we will head to our next destination, Osaka by shinkansen.
Upon arrival at Osaka, your guide will take you on an evenig guided walk through the ever popular Dotonbori area, even more lively at this time of the year. Dinner tonight is at a fun and boisterous izakaya-pub in the area.
Day 7: Osaka
Today is a free day in Osaka.
Osaka has a movie theme park - Unversal Studio Japan, one of Japan's (and world's) best aquariums and of course, Osaka Castle. The central part of Osaka also has so much more to see including Umeda Sky Building's amazing ovservatory deck, foodies paradice Namba and one of the oldest temple in Japan - Shitennoji Temple.
Day 8: Takayama
We travel to Takayama by express train today. On the second half of the tour you will explore the snow country of Japan. At your first stop Takayama, you will feel the nostalgia while ambling through the streets of timber-clad old merchant houses. The city has many things to enjoy from a time long gone including the Takayama Jinya, the oldest remaining original Government branch office from the Edo period.
Takayama also has number of interesting old artisans shops, unusual art and sake breweries- an ideal place to wander around and take in the atmosphere. Winter is a wonderful time to get a feel for the life of the people in this area.
Day 9: Takayama and Shirkawago
First thing in the morning you will walk through Takayama’s famous morning market which is believed to have been running for over 200 years. The market has a wide variety of fresh foods some of which you may never have seen before.
The very best time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Shiakawago is winter. Shirakawago is an original farming village consisting of A-framed thatched roof houses. Your guide will walk you through this truly amazing site and give you some insight into the life of a snowbound winter. As you go into some of the thatched houses you will get a picture the daily life of the villages and the background to the unusual structure of their thatched homes.
You return to Takayama and have a free evening to choose your dinner from the wonderful selection of restaurants in Takayama. Your guide will help you with the selection.
Day 10: Matsumoto and Shibu Onsen
Today you will enjoy views of the snow white countryside on your scenic coach ride that takes you to the Nagano region. It is a region that boasts natural beauty as well as features of traditional rural lifestyle. The first stop is the city of Matsumoto, which is surrounded by the magnificent snow capped Japan Alps.
Matsumoto’s beginnings go back to the 8th century, later becoming an important castle town ruled by a powerful clan in the 1600s. Its feudal past is best exemplified today by the impressive castle that dominates the city’s skyline.
Our guide takes us on a tour of Matsumoto Castsle, Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated national treasures. To explore the castle’s wooden interior we climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret.
In the afternoon, we take trains further into snow country, Yudanaka via Nagano.
Tonight’s accommodation is in the atmospheric old onsen town of Shibu near the Snow Monkey reserve. A favourite pastime of the Japanese people is soaking in an onsen (mineral hot spring spa). Today, you too can enjoy soaking in a hot tub as you take in the beautiful 3,000 m class snow-capped mountains.
Day 11: Snow Monkey and Nagano
Nice and early this morning before day trippers smudge fresh snow, you will visit the reserve where the Snow Monkeys live. (Note: you need to walk for around 30 minutes to get to where monkeys are.) The cute snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs think they are in heaven.
While we are still in the snow country, we will take you on other snow activities such as snow mobile or snow shoe walk.
In the late afternoon, you will hop back on shinkansen one last time to return to Tokyo, where you will have the last night's farewell dinner with the group.
Day 12: Good-Bye
This morning after breakfast, the 2021 Winter Tour of Japan concludes. There are so much more to see and do in Tokyo and surrounds. Why not extend your trip to visit Tokyo Disneyland for example? Or perhaps you may like to add a skiing experience before or after the tour. Please talk to Journey to the East travel consultant. We are more than happy to arrange your personal extensions.
(For those who have opted for pre or 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.
- 11 nights accommodation (including 2 nights in traditional inns)
- 11 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 7 dinners
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Cultural activities and attraction entry fees included in itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- An electronic copy of Journey to the East Handbook
Does not include:
- International or domestic airfare
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)