Autumn Private Tour of Japan Alps
The Japan Alps in autumn are simply stunning. You can walk through the forests, riverside path or tracks on open fields to enjoy the gorgeous autumn colours. You don’t need to be always active either. There are many open-air onsen (hot spring bath) spas where you can soak up the autumn air while taking in the views of the coloured mountains. What luxury!
This model itinerary for Autumn Private Tour of Japan Alps includes Nagano where you can have adventures with snow monkeys, ninja and ancient pilgrimage walking tracks, Matsumoto Castle, Kamikochi, and Takayama and Shirakawago. Along the way, you can stay at high-end ryokan, rustic mountain lodges, modern western style hotels just as you like.
Of course, these are just suggestions. You can add, remove or modify any part of the itinerary. And depending on your exact arrival time, we will advise our customers the best locations to see the autumn colours at each destination.
Important notes about our model itineraries:
Our model itineraries are developed to show viewers the ideas for an itinerary and price guide. The itineraries can be further customized, and the accommodation and guide time can be adjusted to suit you. The number of people in your group will affect the price, too. We will give you more firm quotation once we develop your personal itinerary.
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 by public transport. You may have visited Tokyo before, but Tokyo is huge and has many interesting little suburbs. If you like to spend a few days here at the beginning of your trip we are happy to organise it for you. Why not delve into a residential suburb and find your own treasures?
Day 2: Nagano
This Autumn Private Tour of Japan Alps model itinerary, leaves Tokyo aboard the shinkansen (bullet train) heading for Nagano. Nagano is in the center of Japan's main island, Honshu, and at the base of the Japan Alps. From here, you can access lots of activities including a visit to the magnificent Zenkoji temple, taste local specialties of soba noodle and apples. As this is one of the two main origins of ninja in Japan, we recommend a visit the ninja attractions Accommodation wise, you can stay at a modern western style hotel near Nagano Station, a family-run small B&B or a resort style hotel further afield.
Day 3: Nagano
Today we suggest you make a day trip to Togakushi area. Mt. Togakushi is one of Japan's sacred peaks; its forests and shrine are steeped in legend going back some 2,000 years. Quite inaccessible until modern times, and hundreds of years Mt. Togakushi was a haven of esoteric Buddhist practice. It was frequented by mountain ascetics. Today, Togakushi-jinja Shrine is famous as a power spot where visitors can absorb the earth's energy of old. Nearby Kagami Ike Pond is known as one of the best autumn scenery spots in Japan.
Day 4: Obuse
Today, you can take an overnight bag and venture further into the Japanese alp's pristine countryside. Stop at the small town of Obuse and visit the Hokusai Museum (Hokusai was one of the most accomplished ukiyoe style painters), some local sake breweries and craft shops, and perhaps enjoy a lunch here too. Then, continue travelling on a local train to tonight destination Shibu Onsen. Shibu Onsen is a quintessential Japanese onsen town where you can stroll in yukata and take a bath hopping between lovely local bath houses.
Day 5: Snow monkeys
This morning before the day trippers arrive, walk to Jigokudani Yaen Park where snow monkeys are enjoying their hot spring bath. The 30 -minute walk among the tall cedar trees is very fresh and invigorating. Then, you cannot stop taking photos once you see those cute monkeys come into view. In the afternoon, transfer by train to tonight destination, Matsumoto.
Day 6: Matsumoto
Matsumoto was developed as a castle town from the 8th century. Matsumoto Castle is Japan’s oldest wooden castle and one of the nation’s five castles designated as a National Treasure. 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. You can also stroll around the moat to view this magnificent castle from multiple angles. There are other areas you should explore in Matsumoto including its merchant district where streets are lined with nicely preserved black and white warehouses from the Edo period. The city is very modern and hosts many high-quality restaurants as well.
Day 7: Kamikochi
Local train and coach takes you to Kamikochi, literally translated as “where the gods descend”. True to its name, the Kamikochi alpine plateau is surrounded by mountain ranges exceeding 3,000 metres above sea-level. If you are a nature lover, Kamikochi could be the highlight of your Autumn Private Tour of Japan Alps. You can take a 4 km hike along boardwalks, which crisscross mossy ponds and streams, and then wind through virgin beech forests ablaze in stunning autumn colour. In the afternoon, you can simply relax and soak up the mountain atmosphere or take another hike into the mountains and walk under the autumn colours.
Day 8: Hirayu Onsen
After spending as much time as you like in Kamikochi today, you will transfer to the pretty mountain hamlet of Hirayu Onsen, a traditional natural hot springs town. After an exhilarating day in the fresh air, you can enjoy the open-air bath looking up to the mountains bursting with colours. A fantastic way to relax.
Day 9: Shin-Hotaka Ropeway
Today you head further into the heart of the Japan Alps by a local bus to the Mt Hotaka region. Here you take the Shin Hotaka Ropeway, the longest ropeway in Japan. When you reach the observation deck at the mountain’s peak, the panoramic views will take your breath away. If you still have some energy left, you can also explore Mt Norikura. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to walk amongst the autumn foliage and view the snowy peaks of the mountains around you.
Day 10: Takayama
Today you take a local coach to head for Takayama, heart of the rugged Hida Region. A compact, atmospheric town surrounded by mountains, Takayama is known for its beautifully preserved streets of timber merchant houses dating from the late 17th century. While you are in Takayama, check out Takayama’s morning market (with a heritage going back some 200+ years!) for its farm-fresh produce and handmade crafts. Takayama Jinya was once the prefectural office for the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal times. Wander around the photogenic narrow streets of the merchant district with their old timber buildings. This old district is probably more like what you thought Japan used to look like.
Day 11: Takayama & Shirakawago
Today you can visit the exquisite UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawago. Surrounded by mountains, these rural villages feature the traditional thatched-roof farm houses unique to Japan’s alpine regions. With their steeply-slanted roofs built to withstand heavy snowfalls, they resemble “hands clasped together in prayer” (hence their name, gassho-zukuri). Another night in Takayama and enjoy wide ranging restaurant offerings here.
Day 12: Tokyo (or Kyoto or Osaka)
From Takayama, you can take an express train back to Tokyo, or travel further on into Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima etc. It is all up to you and we are happy to arrange it for you.
Day 13: Transfer
After breakfast at your hotel, this itinerary for Autumn Private Tour of Japan Alps concludes. However, the area around Tokyo or Kyoto/Osaka has so much more to see and do. So, if you want to extend your stay please let us know. Whether you need to go to your exiting airport on this day, or would like to continue travelling we are happy to help you with the whole package. We have great extension itineraries on our Private Tours page to give you some ideas. Please have a look!
- 12 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- 14-Day Japan Rail Pass (Ordinary Class)
- Suica IC card with starter credit
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides where specified
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Entrance fees to attractions
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)