2019 & 2020 Winter in Japan
Winter in Japan is a wonderland of its own and arguably the best time of the year to enjoy true aesthetic experience of Japan.
This tour is run as a private tour for two or more people.
The ancient temples and farmhouses in their ‘white coats’ are breathtakingly beautiful. Japanese people love the hot springs especially when enjoying the view of a snow-covered landscape. This 2019/2020 Winter in Japan (through to February 2020) has been specially designed for you to experience life in the snowbound mountains with a wonderful range of selected winter cuisine and activities. A plan for an optional extension of a night stay in a working Buddhist temple is also provided.
Tour dates: Your choice from the range above
Places visited: Tokyo, Yudanaka, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka
Group size: Minimum 2
Transport: Bullet train, local train, subway and public bus (and private vehicle if selected)
Accommodation: 4 star hotels and equivalent Japanese style inns (or alternative as selected)
Fitness level: Average (please refer to FAQ)
A World Heritage listed village - spectacular in winter
Enjoy lively atmosphere of Tokyo in winter
World famous snow monkeys in the hot springs
Food in winter is at its best - experience the difference
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & A-bomb museum
Overnight at Miyajima - quintessential Japan
Absorb the serenity in winter in Kyoto
Overnight in a working Buddhist Temple on sacred Mt Koya (Optional)
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to Japan in winter - a very special time of the year! Today you arrive at one of the airports in Tokyo and transfer to your hotel in Tokyo. A Journey to the East (JttE) escort will meet you at the airport to assist with your transfer. You can choose the transfer by public or private transport.
Note: Depending on your arrival time, you can take your guided tour of Tokyo on this day instead of the second day.
Day 2: Guided Tour of Tokyo
After a brief orientation by our Tokyo guide, you will begin the guided tour of Tokyo. We have a standard guided tour which includes some of the icons of Tokyo such as Asakusa and Ginza, however, the day is completely customisable to include your special interests, for example, food, art and architecture, gardens or pop culture. Tokyo is a great place to visit especially in December for gorgeous Christmas illuminations and bustling end-of-the-year atmosphere. We can also make suggestions (and bookings) for your lunches and dinners while you are in Japan.
Day 3: Free Day in Tokyo
This is a fun day for you to take Tokyo's fantastic trains and subway using Suica card (IC transport card included in the tour) and off for the great adventure. There is so much to see and do in Tokyo, and we will provide information and help you design the day in consultation. If you prefer, we can be provide a guide too.
Day 4: Yudanaka
This morning, you will take a bullet train and transfer to Nagano. For the next five days you will experience life of central Honshu and the snow bound magnificent Japanese Alps. From Nagano, you will head to the atmospheric hot spring town of Yudanaka and to view cute snow monkeys soaking in the hot springs. Tonight you will stay in a traditional Japanese inn or ryokan and can try an onsen, hot mineral spring spa, a favourite pastime of the Japanese people. Also a great place to enjoy character filled shops and many historical monuments in town. This day can be done with or without guide.
Day 5: Matsumoto and Takayama
Today, you will head to Takayama via Matsumoto. Matsumoto Castle is one of only five castles designated as a national treasure of Japan. You continue through an incredible mountain pass to Takayama, a historical playground of the central Japan. Enjoy Takayama’s nostalgic feeling of times gone by while you amble through the streets of timber clad old merchant houses. This day also can be done with or without guide.
Day 6: Guided Tour of Takayama and Shirakawago
This morning you head for Takayama’s famous morning market, which is believed to have started around 200 years ago. Your guided tour will continue taking you to visit a number of sites including Yatai Kaikan (Festival float museum) and Nikko-kan. In the afternoon, you will make a guided trip to the secluded mountain village of Shirakawa-go. Shirakawa-go was inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1995. The village retains its historic landscape with some 150 traditional farmhouses build in a style called Gassho-zukuri. Winter in Japan makes this fascinating village seem like a dream. As an option you could use private transport instead of public coach for this visit.
Day 7: Free Day in Takayama
Today is your self-guided day to wander around the handicraft and coffee shops housed in the old buildings, try a cooking class, walk along the Higashiyama temple streets or ride a bicycle among rice paddies and more. Also, don’t forget during your stay in Takayama, to drop-in on boutique sake breweries, which this area is famous for. Please ask Journey to the East staff for information to help you enjoy your interests. A guide can be provided if you prefer.
Day 8: Guided Tour of Kyoto
You will leave Takayama this morning by an express train and enjoy scenic views through remote valleys on a way to Kyoto. In Kyoto, you meet your Kyoto guide and then we suggest you pause for lunch of Kyoryori, a colourful Kyoto speciality. In the afternoon, your guide will take you to the ‘must-see’ places such as Kinkakuji temple (the Golden Pavilion) and the magnificent World Heritage listed Nijojo Castle. Alternatively, you might like to visit famous Fushimi Inari with hundreds of red gates, or perhaps the Gion district with unique Kyoto nightlife. Let us know what interests you, the day is completely customisable.
Day 9: Free Day in Kyoto
After breakfast, take your pick from the dozens of attractions in Kyoto. Suggestions and maps will be provided. A guide can be provided if you prefer.
Day 10: Guided Tour of Hiroshima
Today you will transfer from Kyoto to Hiroshima by bullet train. At the JR Hiroshima Station, you will meet your Hiroshima guide and visit the Peace Memorial Park and the A-bomb Museum. Tonight, why not enjoy lively nightlife of Hiroshima and try famous Hiroshima style okonomiyaki dinner?
Day 11: Miyajima
Spend the day on the sacred island of Miyajima, a short train and ferry ride from Hiroshima. Here you will visit another UNESCO World Heritage listed Itsukushima Shrine, take a photograph of iconic Otorii gate floating in the Seto inland sea. Miyajima has so many historically significant sites as well as charming back streets to stroll. You may also like to take the ropeway to the top of Mount Misen for the magnificent sea view. You can do this as a day trip from Hiroshima or we can arrange an overnight trip staying at a traditional Japanese style inn on the island, so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the island at dusk and overnight.
Day 12: Osaka
This morning you take bullet train and head for the vibrant city of Osaka. Osaka is an amazing city and the light-up at night is not to be missed especially at this time of the year. It is also a foodies capital, with markets, knives and kitchen utensils, and many street food outlets. You can have an afternoon guided tour or simply wonder the amazing streets by yourselves.
Day 13: Good-bye
After breakfast it is at your leisure until departure time. You can head to Osaka's Kansai International Airport or take bullet train back to Tokyo to exit from Tokyo. We will arrange your transfer and give you details on the itinerary.
Day 13: Mt Koya – Buddhist Monastery (Optional)
Mt Koya is a head temple of esoteric Buddhist sect, Shingon-mikkyo founded 1200 years ago. You can either make a facinating day trip from Osaka (about 2 hours one way) or stay overnight at a working temple and gain an insight into a stoic life of monks. This is a very unique experience with fascinating rituals, the exquisite dinner served by monks will certainly change your view of vegetarian food forever (be prepared if you stay, temples are very cold at this time of the year, but well worth it) . You will take a train up to the mountain, and your guide will take you to some of the significant sites on the mountain. The silence of snow highlights the sacredness of this mountain all the more sharply. If you are interested in adding this special extension to your winter tour, we will be very happy to discuss it with you.
Day 14: Mt Koya (Optional)
If you decide to stay overnight at Mt Koya, you have an option of attending a morning service at your temple, which we highly recommend. You will come down the mountain by train, stay another night in Osaka or head to your exiting airport. We will plan this for you, so it is an easy transition to your exit port.
- 12 nights accommodation (or 13 nights with Mt Koya option)
- Meals as specified
- All local transport (train and bus) including 14 day Japan Rail Pass
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
Does not include:
- International and domestic airfares
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Taxis or local transport
- Cultural activities and entry fees
- Luggage transfers (arrangements are included)
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