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2024 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West

2024 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West

See some of the most remote and rugged areas of Japan in the fall. Japanese National Parks, Japan Alps including pristine Kamikochi. A tour to experience the dramatic landscapes of Japan from its tallest mountains to the deepest gorge.
“Wild West Tour was wonderful. A lot of thoughts put into seeing so much diversity…”
– Jeff & Di Inglis

Duration

12 days

Group size

Min 4

Max 8
ようこそ
welcome

Top Tour Highlights

Matsumoto Castle and old merchant district

Climb up the tower of Matsumoto Castel. It is one of Japan's premier castles and is designated a national treasure.

Walks in pristine Kamikochi

Have guided walks of Kamikochi, a breathtakingly beautiful part of Chubu Sangaku National Park.

Tateyama

Travel through multi-modal transport to cross Japan Alps from Nagano to Toyama and view the mighty Kurobe Dam.

Gokayama

Visit UNESCO World Heritage listed farming village and stay overnight to feel the life of rural Japan.

Kenrokuen Japanese Garden in Kanazawa

Amble trough one of the best Japanese gardens in historical city of Kanazawa.

Meditation in Eiheiji

Eiheiji is one of the most significant Zen monasteries in Japan where hundreds of young monks train every year.

ようこそ
welcome

Tour Overview

2024 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West focuses on the central and the Japan Sea side of Honshu Island. This 12-day journey takes you away from the popular but crowded tourist centers to travel in Japan’s surprisingly pristine countryside in the gorgeous alpine fall foliage around the Japan Alps.

In 2024, 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 return visitors . This unique Japan tour is suited to people who love the outdoors and authentic experiences.

2024 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.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival

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 2024 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.

Tokyo (JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Shinjuku or similar)
No meals
Day 2: 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 visit Japan’s oldest wooden castle the impressive Matsumoto Castle. The castle is and one of the nation’s five castles designated as national treasures. Still in impeccable original condition, you will explore its wooden interiors and climb to the top of its distinctive black-and-white turret.

In the afternoon, you will transfer to the base of next couple of days, Kamikochi by private minivan.

Kamikochi (Kamikochi Alpine Hotel or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3: Kamikochi

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.

Stay another night in Kamikochi.

Kamikochi (Kamikochi Alpine Hotel or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4: 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. Today you will visit Shinano Omachi, a post town along the old highway back in the Edo Era. It is a sleepy town but with a lot of little gems to be discovered. You will have an afternoon guide tour of this town.

Tonight, you will stay at an alpine resort hotel with facilities such as indoor pool and onsen bath. Also enjoy the French style dinner using local ingredients at hotel tonight.

Shinano Omachi (ANA Holiday Inn Resort Shinano-omachi Kuroyon or similar)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: 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.

Toyama (JAL City Toyama or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6: 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.

Tonight you will stay at a traditional ryokan in Unazaki Onsen town, and enjoy kaiseki banquet and onsen bath.

Unazuki Onsen (Enraku or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7: Shogawa and Gokayama

You start out on a morning walk with your guide to capture the images of autumn sceneries like the main image of this tour looking at Yamabiko Bridge at Unazuki Onsen. After breakfast, you will make your way to another stunning valley, the Shogawa Valley. Upon arrival 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 you 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.

Gokayama (Nakaya and Goyomon or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8: Kanazawa

Having experienced a home-made Japanese style breakfast at minshuku, you transfer to a city of Kanazawa this morning.

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.

For dinner tonight you will enjoy premium wagyu beef cooked in front of you at a Teppanyaki restaurant.

Kanazawa (Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel or similar)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9: 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.

Kanazawa (Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel or similar)
Breakfast
Day 10: 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 of 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.

Yamanaka Onsen (Kissho Yamanaka or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11: 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;

  • Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, which display the best autumn colours at the time; and
  • Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion beautifully framed by autumn leaves

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.

Kyoto (Cross Hotel Kyoto or similar)
Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12: Bon Voyage

This morning you will check out of your hotel after breakfast and your 2024 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.

Breakfast

Dates & Prices

2024 Autumn Tour of Japan’s Wild West

Per person twin share:

Single supplement

Inclusions

Each guest is personally looked after with one-on-one interactions with our hand-picked, expert tour guides. As part of your investment, this tour includes:

  • First-class wisdom and higher standard of individual care and attention
  • 11 nights’ accommodation (including traditional Japanese inns)
  • All breakfasts
  • 2 lunches (8 free choice lunches)
  • 9 dinners (1 free choice dinners)
  • Exclusive activity access
  • Airport meet & greet on arrival in Tokyo
  • Hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
  • All local transport (train, bus and private minivans)
  • Pre-loaded Suica card
  • Expert English speaking tour guides (Locally licensed)
  • Cultural activities and entry fees included in itinerary
  • Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)

DISCLAIMER: Unless otherwise stated, this tour does not include the costs of international and domestic airfares, transfers on the last day, travel insurance, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, transport during free time, personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.) and Visa (if required).

Who this Japan tour is for...

This is a perfect tour for people who:

  • Want to see autumn colours against pristine nature and remote part of Japan
  • Enjoy visiting magnificent traditional architecture such as castle, temples, gardens and farm houses without mass of tourists
  • Wish to learn traditional and modern lifestyle of rural part of Japan
  • Be up-close and interact with locals through public transport and local boutique accommodation
  • Enjoy a variety in accommodation style from resort style hotel to traditional ryokan and rustic farm house
  • Like tours designed with physically and intellectually active 55+ travelers in mind

Reviews

If you want to experience Japan from a slightly different perspective than the more popular & crowded destinations, then definitely consider Journey to the East.

5/5
Trip date: October 2023

Garry O'Brien

Australia

The Wild West tour of Japan best holiday we have ever had. Excellent guided, itinerary , accommodation and food.

5/5
Trip date: 2018

Graham Titamarsh

Australia

Wild West Tour was wonderful. A lot of thoughts put into seeing so much diversity – from busy Tokyo to Walking in Snow, cooking fish in open fire in center of the room to magnificent gardens. I would recommend this tour to anyone.

5/5
Trip date: 2018

Jeff & Di Inglis

Australia

Have a question about this tour? Get in touch with our staff directly.