Our private 12-day Japan Cities, Mountains & Art trip offers the perfect combination of urban excitement, beautiful landscapes and unique cultural experiences. You’ll travel from Tokyo to the Japanese Alps, the art island of Naoshima to the ancient capital of Kyoto. Unlike typical Japan tours, our trip includes the perfect combination of essential highlights with unique, non-touristy once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
|12 days||Prices for a trip like this start at about US $950 per person per day and up (read more about pricing for our bespoke trips)||Based on your preferred travel dates|
- Tokyo, one of the world’s most exciting cities
- Kyoto, the ancient capital and home to world-class UNESCO sites
- Onsen (hot springs), skiing & snow monkeys in the Japanese Alps
- Naoshima’s art and architecture & the stunning Miho Museum
- Unique culinary and cultural experiences
- An impeccable mix of stylish hotels & traditional accommodations
- The chance to ride the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train)
- And more!
Trip Itinerary Details
Welcome to Japan!
On arrival in Tokyo, you’ll be met in the arrivals hall. Our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it, and you’ll be escorted to your private vehicle for the comfortable transfer to your accommodations.
You can fly into Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to begin in Osaka/Kyoto.
Enjoy your first night in Japan and get ready for your adventure ahead!
Your Hotel in Tokyo: Conrad Tokyo, Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, CLASKA, or similar (Including Breakfast)
Your trip will get off to an incredible start with a private tour of Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Market.
After the tour, your guide will show you around the nearby Ginza area before leaving you with free time to enjoy the rest of the day exploring Tokyo.
The Tokyo metropolis is composed of countless districts, each with its own history, character and highlights. While it’s not possible to see everything (whether you have a few days or even a few months!), we will recommend our favorite spots to ensure you get a great introduction to this incredible city.
Today you’ll have a full day to explore Tokyo, and you will need it!
Tokyo is one of the world’s most fascinating cities, and just wandering the streets of this megalopolis is a fascinating experience with new sights, sounds and tastes to be had around every corner.
You’ll find everything in Tokyo – history, food, art, architecture, gardens, fashion and more – which is what makes it endlessly fascinating to explore.
You’ll have one final morning to explore Tokyo before heading to the Japan Alps via Nagano city. First you will board the comfortable shinkansen (bullet train) bound for the city of Nagano.
At Nagano you will change to a local train, however we recommend leaving the station for a detour to visit the famous Zenkoji Temple. Zenkoji is one of Japan’s most important temples, with a history of 1,400 years. The city of Nagano developed around Zenkoji, and the streets leading up to the temple are filled with charming shops.
From Nagano you will take a local train 45 minutes deeper into the mountains, where you will be met and transferred to your accommodations.
You’ll spend a magical night in a lovely hot springs resort town located deep in the northern Japanese Alps. Famous for its proliferation of natural onsen (hot spring) baths, the region attracts visitors throughout the year.
The highlights of your stay here will be the rejuvenating hot springs bath and the multi-course kaiseki meal featuring local specialties and fresh local ingredients.
Your Ryokan in Nagano: Aburaya Tousen, Jinpyokaku, or similar (Including Breakfast & Dinner)
This morning you’ll visit the Snow Monkey Park in Jigokudani. Jigokudani literally means “Hell’s Valley” – so named for the steam and boiling water that bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground – and it is in the baths of this boiling water that the resident Japanese Macaques like to soak.
From the gate of the Snow Monkey Park it is about a 25-minute walk to the pools where the monkeys bathe. They live in large social groups, and it can be quite entertaining to watch their interactions. Accustomed to humans, they can be observed from very close and almost completely ignore their human guests.
Afterwards, your driver will meet you at your ryokan for the trip to the fantastic ski area of Hakuba, one of Japan’s finest ski towns, which offers a great mix of slopes and social life.
In Hakuba you’ll stay at Hakuba Sierra Resort Hotel, nestled amongst breathtaking natural surroundings. Hakuba Sierra Hotel boasts both indoor and outdoor hot springs baths, excellent access to the slopes, and remarkably friendly service.
Your Hotel in Hakuba: Hakuba Sierra Resort Hotel or similar (Including Breakfast)
Today you’ll have a full day to enjoy the slopes with your Hakuba Ski Pass.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, you can also partake in snowshoeing, nighttime ski walks, classic cross-country in the foothills of Hakuba – or simply enjoy Hakuba’s hot springs and nightlife.
Today you’ll travel to the ancient capital, Kyoto.
Today’s train trip takes a few hours, so to make the ride most enjoyable make sure to pick up an eki-ben (train station bento lunch box).
Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, and the world. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan.
Your Accommodations in Kyoto: Hotel Kanra Kyoto, Hyatt Regency Kyoto, a beautifully-restored machiya townhouse, or similar (Including Breakfast)
While it’s possible to enjoy Kyoto unguided, a local expert guide will undoubtedly enhance your experience in ways you would never imagine. Having a guide to peel away the layers and help you explore the hidden nooks of the city will make your short time in Kyoto much more powerful and meaningful.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
At first glance, Kyoto looks like almost any other Japanese city. But the discerning eye will soon pick out Kyoto’s treasures: sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time-honored teahouses nestled among modern businesses, and charming geiko scuttling down backstreets heading to evening appointments.
Kyoto’s charm lies in these details, and whether you’re here for three days or three years, the closer you look, the more you’ll discover.
Today you will visit the stunning Miho Museum.
An easy day trip from Kyoto – located in rural Shigaraki – the Miho Museum was designed by the renowned architect I.M. Pei.
An experience all its own, you’ll find awe-inspiring architecture and world-class artifacts from ancient civilizations. While there be sure to eat lunch at the cafe, the delicious meals are prepared using produce grown on the museum’s grounds.
Today you’ll make the journey by bullet train – followed by local train and ferry – to the famous art island of Naoshima.
Naoshima – a small island in the Seto Inland Sea – could easily be another pretty, but forgotten island scraping a living from fishing. However, a unique art project pioneered by the Benesse Corporation, has transformed Naoshima into a world-class art destination.
Today, Naoshima is home to a large collection of contemporary art museums, galleries, exhibits and installations, which offer a tour de force of architectural expression integrating art and the natural environment.
Two of the main museums – the Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House – were designed by the world-famous architect Tadao Ando, and feature works by Claude Monet, Walter de Maria, James Turrell, Andy Warhol, Richard Long and Bruce Nauman, among others.
Honmura, a small port town on Naoshima’s eastern coast, is home to the Art House Project, a collection of abandoned houses, workshops, as well as a temple and a shrine that have been converted into art installations and venues for contemporary art by artists and architects from Japan and abroad.
The art houses are scattered throughout town, and most of them are unassuming from the street, blending into the surrounding traditional Japanese neighborhood. The interior of each, however, has been given over to artists to convert into whatever suits their artistic vision.
Your Hotel in Naoshima: Benesse House (Including Breakfast)
You’ll have part of the morning to enjoy Naoshima, before it’s time to make the return journey to Tokyo.
Enjoy your final evening in Japan!
Your Hotel in Tokyo: Conrad Tokyo, Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel, CLASKA, or similar (Including Breakfast)
We hope you have had an amazing trip.
You’ll be free until departure, and depending on your flight schedule you may have time for some last-minute exploration (and eating)!
In good time for your flight, you’ll be picked up at your accommodations for your private transfer to the airport.
You can depart from Tokyo’s Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) airport; this itinerary can also be adjusted to end in Osaka/Kyoto.
Come back to Japan soon!
- Your tailor-made itinerary crafted on a bespoke basis, based on our in-depth Japan expertise, relationships & firsthand experience
- A Japan specialist to answer your questions & help you organize your thoughts
- Accommodations as outlined, in properties to match your taste
- Daily breakfast at your accommodations
- Deluxe multi-course kaiseki dinner at your ryokan
- Unique private tours & experiences, with a mix of freedom, support & structure to match your travel style
- Private tour of Tsukiji Market
- A chance to see the Japan Alps’ famous Snow Monkeys
- Hakuba Resort Ski Passes
- Private orientation tour of Kyoto
- Visit to the Miho Museum
- Visit to Naoshima Art Island
- Meet-and-greet on arrival in Tokyo, and airport transfer by private vehicle
- IC cards with 1,500 JPY (about US $15) of initial credit on each
- Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagano
- Local train from Nagano to Yudanaka Onsen
- Private transfer from Yudanaka Onsen to your ryokan
- Private transfer from Yudanaka Onsen to Hakuba via the Snow Monkey Park
- Travels from Hakuba to Kyoto by private transfer, train and shinkansen
- Travels from Kyoto to Naoshima by shinkansen, train and ferry
- Travels from Naoshima to Tokyo by ferry, train and shinkansen
- Departure airport transfer by private vehicle
- Expertly-planned transport & logistics for peace of mind & convenience
- Extensive Japan-specific pre-departure information, including advice on money, packing, etiquette, tipping, Wi-Fi, language, food, and much more
- Thoughtful customer service & 24/7 emergency assistance during your trip
- International flights
- Tours, experiences, meals, or any other services other than those specified
- Entrance fees or local transport at each destination, except as specified
- Visa fees and services
- Personal expenses and other incidentals such as baggage handling, pocket Wi-Fi, mobile phone, laundry, etc.
- Travel insurance (we provide recommendations)
- Any other services not specified
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is this a group tour?
No, this is a private travel experience for you and your fellow traveler(s).
Are the dates flexible?
Yes, we can typically plan around your ideal travel dates.
When is the best time of year to visit Japan?
We usually recommend taking advantage of any chance to visit, since each of Japan’s seasons is great in its own way.
For more on the seasons and weather, read our post, When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Japan?
What is it like to stay in a ryokan?
Staying in a ryokan is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture, but it’s not for everyone.
Take our virtual ryokan tour to see if it’s right for you! Even if not, in most parts of Japan there are non-ryokan hotel alternatives.
Are trip extensions possible?
Yes, this is a sample itinerary and we can customize it to best match your priorities and interests.
For example, you can extend your stay in Tokyo or Kyoto, replace these destinations with others, or add on additional places in Japan.
Is Japan good for families?
Yes, Japan is an amazing family destination.
For more about family travel in Japan, read Is Japan Good For Families?
What’s included in the cost?
Please see the list above for details of what’s included in the cost.
When do I have to pay?
In most cases, a 30% deposit is required at the time of booking, with the balance due 90 days before your trip.
If your trip is coming up within 90 days, full payment will be required to secure your bookings.
What should I pack (and what about Wi-Fi, train times, dietary restrictions, the time difference, passports, visas, etc.)?
Not to worry! We make sure all of our clients are prepared with extensive pre-departure information.