2023 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan
Stroll through Japan’s iconic sites under the gorgeous coloured autumn leaves. Japan in autumn is like a dream, and this tour is paced to give you the time to savour the dream.
The 2023 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan takes you to iconic destinations including Tokyo, Hakone, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima.
In particular, the tour visits many Japanese gardens renowned for their display of autumn leaves such as Rikugi-en Garden and Nezu Museum of Art in Tokyo, Hakone Museum, and one of Japan’s best gardens – Kenroku-en in Kanazawa. Selected gardens in Kyoto and Arashiyama will also be at the peak of their autumn colours at the time of your visit.
This 14-day tour includes the comfort of 4+ star western style accommodation and a mix of public (bullet train) and private transport.
Dates & Prices
2023 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan
Per person twin share:
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita or Haneda International Airport, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by private transport.
Today is an arrival day and no group program is scheduled. Your hotel is located right in the middle of Tokyo near glitzy Ginza. Why not take a stroll, relax and be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Autumn Leaves Tour of Japan.
*Many of our guests arrive a day or so early to settle in before the tour starts. We can arrange your additional nights accommodation in the same room as the tour.
Day 2: Tokyo
Start out with some orientation with your guide before you begin your exploration of Tokyo.
Tokyo has many faces and today we begin our exploration of Tokyo in Marunouchi area between the expansive Imperial Palace Plaza and the beautifully restored 100-year- old Tokyo Station. Marunouchi literally means inside wall or moat, and it was originally the inner sanctum of Edo Castle, now the Emperor's Palace. It is the oldest and elitist office area in Japan, where all the top Japanese companies have headquarters, and a great spot to see the blend of history and modernity. In Marunouchi you will see;
- Hibiya Park, which is one of the top autumn colours sites in Tokyo,
- The Imperial Palace Plaza with 2,000 impressive black pine trees, a whole world away from the business district of Marunouchi,
- Tree lined Marunouchi streets and old buildings which marked the modernization of Japan in the 19th century,
- The red-brick façade of Tokyo Station, one of the city’s most striking pieces of architecture, against the glass and steel of neighboring skyscrapers.
After the walking tour of Marunouchi, you will have lunch at a local restaurant rubbing shoulders with the Japanese office workers.
In the afternoon, you will visit Rikugi-en Japanese Garden, renowned for its autumn leaves display.
Your "welcome Japan" dinner tonight is back at your hotel.
Day 3: Tokyo
You start the day when you 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 of Japanese autumn leaves in an otherwise bustling city.
From the shrine you walk 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, you will visit Nezu Museum of Art for its sublime collection of Japanese and Asian art as well as its magnificent garden in the autumn colours. On a way back to your hotel, you will drop by the golden coloured avenue of Ginko Trees in Aoyama.
This evening you will try an 'Italian' restaurant in famous Ginza district near your hotel.
Day 4: Hakone
An overnight trip takes you to Hakone. Hakone is a scenic hot-springs holiday destination located in the mountains near Mt Fuji and renowned for its natural beauty and world-class art museums.
The garden at Hakone Museum is spectacular with its Japanese maple trees in red autumn leaves at this time of the year. 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 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. Your 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
This morning you try a traditional Japanese breakfast – a nutritious, protein-rich mix of grilled fish, miso soup, tofu, rice and pickles.
Walking through the Hakone Open-Air Museum you will come upon amazing sculptures from the likes of Henry Moore and Rodin.
After a leisurely morning relaxing in the Hakone's ambience and nature, you travel back to Tokyo by bullet train. Upon arrival back in Tokyo, the rest of the day is at your leisure. Why not venture out to shopping at nearby Ginza to find special piece of Japanese art and craft?
It is free evening for you to explore the centre of Japan at your own leisure.
Day 6: Kanazawa
You board Japan’s impressive shinkansen (bullet-train) and head to our next destination, Kanazawa, located on the Sea of Japan coast.
Kanazawa's historical lineage, as a wealthy castle town steeped in samurai culture, offers an impressive range of architectural and cultural attractions and beautifully preserved streetscapes. In Kanazawa, you visit;
- Kenrokuen Garden, a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and regarded as one of three best gardens of Japan,
- An authentic tea house and experience a Japanese style tea ceremony, and
- Higashi-chaya Geisha District, a well-preserved area of atmospheric narrow streets, where Kanazawa’s geisha once entertained wealthy patrons in slatted wooden tea houses.
For dinner tonight, enjoy premium Wagyu beef cooked in front of you at a Teppanyaki restaurant.
Day 7: Shirakawa-go
A day-trip by private minivan takes you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go. It is a charming rural village surrounded by mountains and blazing autumn coloured leaves.
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.
Your lunch today is a warm bowl of soba noodle, the local specialty, and dinner is back in Kanazawa.
Day 8: Kanazawa
This morning, you set out to explore the beautifully preserved Nagamachi samurai resident district and visit one of the former samurai houses which is now a museum. The museum-house showcases the great architecture and the might and wealth of samurais in this area during the heyday of the feudal era.
You then visit Omicho Market, a lively working market. You walk through the market with guide pointing out some unique products of west coast Japan. The market houses many little local restaurants, one of at which you have lunch today.
There is a great variety of things to see in Kanazawa and this afternoon and evening have been set aside especially for you to 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 culinary activity such as cooking class or sake tasting.
Please ask Journey to the East for more information.
Day 9: Hiroshima
After a few days exploring Japan’s central regions, you 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.
At Hiroshima, we visit the Peace Memorial Park and its informative and sobering Atomic Bomb 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.
After dinner at our hotel, you will have the opportunity to visit Shukkeien Garden where the coloured autumn leaves are illuminated and you feel like you're in fantasy land.
Day 10: Miyajima
A minivan and short ferry ride take you to the picturesque island of Miyajima, best known for the vermillion-red floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). After admiring the gate, you 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 Itsukushima Shrine is also famous for its unique pier-like structure which sits above the tides.
You will visit pretty Momijidani Park to see its trademark maple trees ablaze in autumn leaves. Miyajima is 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 you return to your hotel in Hiroshima and enjoy Hiroshima specialty food, Okonomiyaki for dinner.
Day 11: Kyoto
You leave Hiroshima this morning on the shinkansen 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. It will be a mass of autumn leaves at this time of the year.
Your first stop is lunch, contemporary Kyoto cuisine.
You will then, walk through a select gardens and temples such as;
- Eikando and Nanzenji, which display the best autumn colours at the time; and
- The UNESCO listed site of Kiyomizu Temple. The magnificent temple is especially gorgeous in autumn; however, the other attractions of this area are the surrounding small streets such as Nineizaka and Sannenzaka, lined with high quality pottery and other crafts.
Our dinner tonight is at a shabu shabu restaurant serving wagyu beef. A maiko (apprentice geisha) will 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 12: Arashiyama (Kyoto)
In Arashiyama at the foot of the mountains to Kyoto’s west, once again you will immerse yourself in magnificent autumn scenery against the backdrop of exemplary temples and gardens. Today, you will;
- Visit Tenryuji Temple, one of the best examples of formal and informal Japanese gardens,
- Take a Rickshaw ride to go through Arashiyama 's famous Bamboo Grove,
- Explore deeper into rural Sagano and fully experience the rustic simplicity and serenity of mountain temples away from the tourist crowds, and
- Sample Kyoto’s traditional tofu cuisine, a local specialty which has its roots in Kyoto’s Buddhist vegetarian past for lunch.
On the way back to the hotel, you stop at Kinkakuji Temple (Kyoto’s famed Golden Pavilion) to see the stunning three-storied pavilion covered in dazzling gold leaf. Your evening is free to explore Kyoto and sample its many restaurants.
Day 13: Kyoto
A minivan takes you 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.
You take in the traditional sake-making area at the foot of this sacred mountain, which originally developed to take advantage of 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 you enjoy a yakitori lunch (fine skewered food grilled over hot coals).
This afternoon you have some more free time to explore Kyoto. Why not explore Kyoto’s bustling food and textile markets? Or, you may prefer to wander around Kyoto’s great range of craft shops and department stores for that something special to take home.
Tonight, we will gather one more time for our "Farewell Japan" dinner.
Day 14: Bon Voyage
This morning after breakfast, your 2023 Autumn Leaves Tour of 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. Please see our Model Extension Itineraries for inspirations!
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.
Accommodation listed in itineraries at the time of publishing is an indicative choice only and we may select a similar alternative.
- 13 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- 13 Breakfasts, 9 lunches and 9 dinners
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by private transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- All cultural activities and entry fees included in 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 during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)