Autumn Rural Japan Private Tour
This 14-Day Autumn Rural Japan Private Tour is our ultimate off-the-beaten path itinerary. You will travel quieter parts of Japan, where the gorgeous autumn colours will accentuate your holiday. The tour takes you north of Tokyo, including UNESCO World Heritage listed Nikko and former feudal towns of Aizu-Wakamatsu as well as gorgeous Kakunodate. To enjoy the wonderful nature at this time of the year, Urabandai and Naruko Gorge should not be missed.
The rural tour also includes a luxurious traditional ryokan at Akiu Onsen. Along the way, you can take in many traditional cultures such as craft making and regional food. This itinerary is an ideal trip for those looking for something different and would love to dive into the deep end of authentic culture.
This model itinerary suggests a range of accommodation from luxury to rustic, and a lot of private guide escorts to help get the best from your remote rural adventure. These can be adjusted to suit your preference like all of our other model itineraries.
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, our escort will meet you and take you to your hotel in Tokyo.
Day 2: Morning guided tour of Tokyo
This morning you will meet your guide at your hotel lobby after breakfast and have a private guided tour of Tokyo. The day's program will be completely customised for your interests and preferences. You can visit old parts of Tokyo such as Asakusa, fashionable Shibuya and Omotesando, the political and commercial centre of Japan, Marunouchi, or anything in between. The afternoon is set aside for you to explore the city at your will. Lunch and dinner are not included but we will make recommendations if you require.
Day 3: Nikko
Today, you leave Tokyo with your guide and take a train to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nikko. Nikko Toshogu Shrine complex is as aesthetically magnificent as it is historically significant. You can visit the historical monuments and walk the beautiful grounds framed by autumn foliage. Tonight, we suggest you stay at a Japanese style accommodation, called ryokan and enjoy onsen bath and kaiseki dinner. Some properties have western style bedrooms, so let us know if you prefer a bed rather than sleeping on futon.
Day 4: Nikko
Nikko is well-known for its magnificent autumn scenery. Today, we suggest you take a bus or taxi to go even further into Oku-Nikko. It is a part of Nikko National Park, and has many impressive lakes, waterfalls and mountains. We will provide you with a list of places to see and things to enjoy today.
Day 5: Aizu Wakamatsu
This morning you will take a quaint local train and travel northward to Aizu Wakamatsu. The train ride is popular amongst railway fans and it goes through spectacular gorges ablaze with autumn colours. At Aizu Wakamatsu, you meet your guide for an afternoon guided tour. Aizu Wakamatsu is a former feudal town with Tsuruga Castle, samurai residences and Japanese gardens. Tonight you have a choice of staying at a western-style hotel (basic business hotel) or a ryokan.
Day 6: Aizu Wakamatsu and Urabandai
This morning you will continue the guided tour of Aizu Wakamatsu. Some streetscapes here are preserved for their historical value, and you can stroll the street and check out some traditional businesses such as a sake brewer. You then will take a local train from Aizu Wakamatsu to Urabandai. Your guide will travel with you to your hotel in Urabandai and assist you with the check-in. The guide will also explain the walking and cycling tracks, and help you to plan for the next day.
Day 7: Urabandai
Awesome Urabandai is a part of Bandai Asahi National Park, and is famous for its natural beauty, especially in autumn time. Today is a day to relax amidst pristine nature of Urabandai. A walking track along the Goshikinuma (literally translates to "five coloured lakes") is highly recommended where you can immerse yourself in the brilliant colours of the lakes and forest. The water colour of the lakes differs because of the minerals contained in the water. Enjoy the magic of pristine nature for the day. Rental bicycles are available at your hotel, too.
Day 8: Akiu Onsen
There are literally thousands of onsen towns in Japan, but Akiu Onsen is somewhat special. With records dating back 1500 years where emperors and samurais rejuvenated in its waters, the healing power of Akiu hot springs have long been recognized as a go-to spot for rest and relaxation. Today, you will travel from Urabandai to Akiu Onsen via Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. You will meet your guide at Sendai Station, travel with her/him in a private vehicle and have a guided tour of Akiu. One of the highlights of Akiu, apart from the onsen water, is an impressive 55 m high Akiu Otaki Waterfall. It is especially impressive against autumn foliage. Tonight you will stay at an exquisite Japanese style ryokan.
Day 9: Yamadera and Ginzan Onsen
Today is yet another highlight. After an impressive Japanese style breakfast at your ryokan, you will take a local train to Yamadera. Yamadera is a favourite spot of Journey to the East as it is so authentic and rural. Originally founded in 860 AD and reconstructed in 1543, Yamadera or Risshakuji temple has been a subject of worship for many centuries. Going up to the top pagoda (1070 steps!) is a fair effort but well worth it. And we recommend you take time and go up slowly as there are so many interesting monuments and natural landscape views to be enjoyed on the way. Tonight, you will stay at the gorgeous town of Ginzan Onsen. This is an ultimate "good old onsen town" for many Japanese people (the top picture of this tour is Ginzan Onsen).
Day 10: Naruko Gorge
Naruko Gorge is another sensational autumn spot. Today after breakfast, you will travel to Naruko by train. At Naruko Gorge there are some walking tracks and you can walk down to the bottom of the gorge through the Autumn colours. Naruko is also well-known for Japanese traditional kokeshi dolls. You can try painting your own kokeshi doll here. Tonight is another opportunity to try ryokan with onsen spa bath.
Day 11: Kakunodate
Kakunodate is another strong cultural town in Akita Prefecture. It is one of those places called "little Kyoto" as it possesses many traditional Japanese cultural elements. Flourishing as a castle town in the early 17th century, the samurai district homes in Kakunodate have been preserved in a marvelously unspoiled state. Stroll the streets in the old samurai quarter and see the best examples of Japanese residential architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries with your guide. Tonight you can try a regional cuisine of Akita Prefecture.
Day 12: Kakunodate
Today you can explore Kakunodate at your own pace. It is a compact town and you can walk around the town easily. How about walking around the merchant district today? Dating from 1620, Kakunodate's merchant district was separated from the samurai district, reflecting the division between the classes at the time. Stroll along the wide streets lined with historic buildings that remain largely unchanged. There are many stores selling traditional items such as miso and soy sauce. A famous craft of Kakunodate includes a timber ware made of cherry tree bark.
Day 13: Transfer back to Tokyo
This is the end of your exciting Autumn Private Tour of Rural Japan and you will take the shinkansen back to Tokyo. It is like a time travel, coming from the 17th century to the modern city onboard the super high tech bullet train. You will have time to relax and unwind or do some last minute shopping in Tokyo.
Day 14: Departure
Today you will transfer from your hotel to your exiting airport after breakfast. Tokyo has two international airports and we will arrange the transfer for you whichever you choose. And of course, you can extend your stay in Japan. Please browse our extension model itineraries on the Private tours page for ideas.
- 13 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All the train transport where indicated
- 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)