2023 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West
2023 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West focuses on the central and the Japan Sea side of Honshu Island. This 13-day journey takes you away from the popular but crowded tourist centers to walk in Japan’s surprisingly pristine countryside in the gorgeous alpine fall foliage around the Japan Alps.
In 2023 the Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West 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 so culturally significant yet 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.
2023 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West starts in Tokyo and ends in Kyoto. If you are the first-timer to Japan, we recommend you spend extra time before and/or after the tour and explore these most popular cities.
Dates & Prices
2023 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West
Per person twin share:
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita or Haneda Airport, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by an airport shuttle.
Today is an arrival day and no group program is scheduled. Your hotel is located in the middle of Shinjuku, a very popular Tokyo suburb. Why not take a stroll around Denkigai (electric appliance town) or Shinjuku Gyoen Park, relax and be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West.
*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
Today your guide will focus on the back-streets of Tokyo neighborhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya where you will find hidden gems by walking. This morning you will;
- See the bird's eye view of the Greater Tokyo from the viewing terrace of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building,
- Visit Meiji Jingu Shrine in the morning,
- Stroll along Omotesando avenue. It is arguably the most fashionable street in Japan with cutting-edge architecture and the top brand houses of the world, and
- Experience the famous Shibuya Crossing.
The welcome dinner tonight is at Japanese restaurant high above Tokyo with views of the city.
Day 3: Matsumoto
Aboard an express train, you head for Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture, in the heartland of the Japan Alps. During Japan’s feudal period, Matsumoto became an important castle town ruled by a powerful local clan. Today the city is popular for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, galleries, and stunning alpine setting. After arriving Matsumoto, you will;
- Walk through the well-preserved old merchant district, Nakamachi and Nawate-Dori, to see the Namako-walled homes,
- Browse through shops selling Japanese traditional crafts and food items such as pottery, timber ware and sake, and
- Dine at a small local Italian restaurant showcasing Nagano's fresh produce.
Day 4: Kamikochi
Transfer to Kamikochi this morning. 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 meters above sea-level tower over the perfect Kamikochi alpine plateau. Here you take a most pleasurable walk along boardwalks, which crisscross 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.
Day 5: Shinano Omachi
After the experience of pristine nature in Kamikochi, you have a somewhat relaxing, sightseeing day, today.
On a way to Shinano Omachi, the starting point of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route you stop at some vantage points to appreciate the great views of the area surrounded by the Japan Alps mountains. You will stay at a ryokan tonight and sleep on a futon bedding on tatami mat flooring in a traditional Japanese style room. Of course the stay comes with kaiseki dinner and onsen bath.
Day 6: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
An action packed day today. You travel along the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route 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 you 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 on foot, enjoy the autumn foliage, and take in the high snowy peaks of the mountains around you. This is where the true value of Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West lies.
Arriving at Toyama City at the other side of the Alpine Route, you have a dinner of Toyama sushi, made with the highly praised fresh seafood of the Japan Sea.
Day 7: Kurobe Gorge
The charming “Torokko Train” takes you 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 a free evening tonight.
Day 8: Shogawa
Today you leave Toyama City and make your way to another stunning valley, the Shogawa Valley.
In the morning, you cruise the Shogawa River to fully appreciate the enormity of the valley’s autumn foliage.
You then visit a wood-carving centre at Inami where you can watch artisans shape magnificent pieces, applying the traditional art forms that go back to the 17th century. Later on you witness the carving used in the architecture of local temple, Zuisenji Temple. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
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 sleeping in the historical building*. Enjoy authentic home-style Japanese hospitality.
*Note these houses have private rooms and a shared bathroom facility.
Day 9: Gokayama to Kanazawa
Having experienced a home-made Japanese style breakfast at minshuku, we transfer to a city of Kanazawa via White Road.
The White Road is a scenic toll road over Mt Hakusan, one of Japan's most sacred mountains. Here you will experience a series of impressive waterfalls and vibrant colours of autumn foliage.
Once you arrive at Kanazawa, on the west coast and on the Sea of Japan, you have a guided tour of 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. In Kanazawa you will visit;
- Kenrokuen Japanese Gardens, arguably the best Japanese gardens in Japan,
- the National Craft Museum - Kanazawa is a capital of Japan's traditional crafts including kimono fabric, lacquerware and ceramic.
For dinner tonight you will enjoy premium Wagyu beef cooked in front of you at a Teppanyaki restaurant.
Day 10: Kanazawa
Continue exploring culturally rich Kanazawa. Today you will visit;
- The Nagamachi District, where the region’s daimyo lords and their samurai once resided;
- Omicho Market and see myriads of local seafood and vegetables, foundation of rich local food culture, and
- 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. Alternatively, 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, you reach Fukui Prefecture, where you will witness another wild natural landscapes.
One of the least populated areas of Japan, Fukui is well known for its rugged coastline and the magnificent Eihei-ji Temple. Highlights today are;
- The dramatic cliff of Tojinbo, and
- The vast Eiheiji Temple complex made up of some 70 buildings.
Tonight, you will again sleep at a traditional Japanese ryokan. You will also experience an onsen, a mineral hot springs bath, and a fantastic way to relax.
Dinner is a multi-course kaiseki banquet with local specialty, crab. Japanese hospitality at its absolute best!
Day 12: Kyoto
This morning an express train will sweep you away to Kyoto, that most iconic of cities.
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. You may spot a geisha or two on a way to a private performance engagement, and
- Pontocho which is a most atmospheric street, comes alive in twilight.
Tonight, you have a farewell Japan dinner at an established restaurant, where you will have shabu shabu (wagyu beef hot pot) and a maiko (young geisha) join you for a private performance.
Day 13: Bon Voyage
This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2023 Autumn Tour of Japan's Wild West 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. 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.
- 12 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
12 breakfast, 3 lunches, 9 dinners
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- 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)