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Japan Snow Monkey Explorer

14 Days | 13 Nights

From $ 4,500

Japan
Tokyo - Yamanouchi - Matsumoto - Tsumago - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Miyajima Island - Osaka

Tour Highlights

Japan Snow Monkey Explorer
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Itinerary in detail

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Welcome to TOKYO! You will be met upon arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport and escorted by shuttle bus to your hotel in the city. Look out for some great views as you ride the elevated highways into town, and spend the rest of the day exploring the city at your own leisure.

Perhaps take a walk down Shinjuku’s Memory Lane. This crowded alley of busy restaurants and bar stalls started in the 1940s and quickly gained infamy as a black market drinking quarter. Today, it is still one of the best spots to try some of Tokyo’s famed ‘fast food’ dishes.

Overnight in Tokyo.
Good Morning Tokyo!! Today we explore this iconic city. Travelling by public transport, as Tokyoites do, you will get a real feel for city life and your guide will help you discover aspects of Tokyo that you would not be able to find on your own. First stop is Asakusa which is home to the ancient Buddhist temple and being built in the 7th century, Tokyo's oldest - Sensoji Temple. Nearby is the Nakamise Shopping Street famous for it's large variety of traditional souvenirs and interesting craft stalls which we have time to explore before lunch.

A short train journey from here can take you to Harajuku, the focal point for Tokyo's teen culture where you will find teenagers hanging out wearing quirky and extreme fashions. Take a snap next to the street sign and keep your eyes peeled for the 'best of the best' in young urban fashion before we head to the important Meiji Shrine where the emperor Meiji and his wife are enshrined. Enter via a massive Torii (gate) and the sights and sounds of the busy city are replaced by a tranquil forest. Approximately 100,000 trees were planted during the shrine's construction and were donated from regions across the entire country.

Our final stop is the buzzing Shibuya crossing perhaps the busiest intersections in the world. The famed intersection is a junction of no less than 7 pedestrian crossings and when the lights turn red, all 7 turn red simultaneously. The traffic stops completely and pedestrians surge into the intersection from all sides. Known as 'the scramble' its an amazing spectacle which we'll watch from the second floor Starbucks located directly opposite.

Overnight in Tokyo.
MEALS
Breakfast
Today you will leave Tokyo behind and journey by rail to NAGANO in the Japan Alps, in search of Japan's famous snow monkeys (approximately five hours). Nagano has a history stretching back to the Kamakura period (1185‐1333) when it was a temple town centred around Zenko‐ji Temple, a 7th-century temple in Nagano that stores the first Buddhist statue brought to Japan. The temple is still Nagano's main attraction with more than 4 million visitors a year.

Recently the city has gained international fame as the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Nagano makes a great base for day trips to Matsumoto Castle, as well as visiting the famous snow monkeys in Yudanaka Onsen.

Spend the night in a traditional Japanese ryoken, where the host will prepare a Japanese dinner with local ingredients. Kick back in your yukata (Japanese gown) or call it a night and get some sleep on the cosy futon beds laid out on tatami mats on the floor.

Overnight in Nagano.
MEALS
Breakfast, Dinner
Setting off straight to YAMANOUCHI after breakfast, then spend the day exploring the Yudanaka Onsen area. Take a thirty to forty-minute walk through the forest to the aptly named Jigokudani (Hell Valley), named for its steep cliffs from which fountains of hot water and steam emit.

The Jigokudani Monkey Park offers visitor the unique experience of seeing over 200 monkeys in the wild, bathing in natural hot springs. The park is inhabited by Japanese Macaques, known as snow monkeys, which live in large social groups and are highly entertaining to watch. Though the park is open throughout the year, these amazing creatures are particularly photogenic when the area is covered in snow from December to March.

Afterwards, warm up in a steaming-hot onsen (hot spring bath) in your ryokan. This is a highlight for many. Generally, onsens are communal bathing areas and you are not permitted to wear bathing suits. While this can seem somewhat intimidating at first, it's a quintessential Japanese experience that most visitors quickly become accustomed to. There is opportunity to further explore the park, indulge in a foot spa or visit a traditional Japanese village located nearby.

Overnight in Yamanouchi.
MEALS
Breakfast, Dinner
Today journey southwest of Nagano on a 3-hour train to the alpine city of MATSUMOTO, surrounded by the towering peaks of the Japan Alps. The city is most famous for its original castle which is only a short distance from the station.

The Matsumoto Castle is one of the only twelve original castles in Japan. Built in 1593, when covered in snow, this beautiful wooden structure allows us to imagine we have returned to the pre-modern world of the Samurai. It is well-distinguished for its black exterior, red arch bridge and a view of Japan’s Alps in the background.

Right outside the castle grounds is Nakamachi-dori, a historical merchant district line with well-preserved old buildings, including some storehouses characterized by their thick, white-painted walls. The city also boasts a number of sake breweries, hidden in the backstreets amongst the traditional buildings, a good museum of Ukiyoe woodblock prints, and is the home of the best Soba noodles in Japan, the local speciality which is particularly delicious.

You can also try some of the city's other local delicacy ‐ raw horse! The city has a really relaxed atmosphere and a cosmopolitan feel befitting of a city renowned for its musicians and authors. The famous violin teacher, Suzuki originated from Matsumoto and you will find a commemorative statue on the street opposite the station.

Overnight in Matsumoto.
MEALS
Breakfast
Today make your way to Tsumago, the jewel of the Kiso Valley, which was once a post town on the old Nakasendo highway linking the ancient capital of Kyoto with Matsumoto. After the breakfast at your hotel, embark on a 1.5-hour train from Matsumoto Station to Nakatsugawa Station.

Upon arrival, exit the Nakatsugawa station and catch the local 30-minute bus to MAGOME, one of the post towns that flourished in the Edo Period. The trail that runs from Magome to Tsumago is perhaps the most popular section of Nakasendo. From Magome Bus Stop to Tsumago, the ancient trail can be completed in about 3 hours, including some quick breaks (i.e. restroom, tea/coffee). Around 2 hours in, emerge to the well-preserved post town of Tsumago.

Just like Magome, TSUMAGO was in its Golden Era during the time when merchants and other noble and prominent people frequently passed through for trade and other formal appointments. In the latter part of 1970, this small town was classified as a National Designated Architectural Preservation Site, thanks to the collective effort of its locals to preserve most of the remaining historical buildings. Today, Tsumago is loved for the residents’ efforts to preserve the town’s Edo Period ambiance. Power lines are hidden away and cars banned from the main roads during the daytime so that the beautiful, traditional buildings and flag‐stone streets can be seen in their true glory.

A stay in Tsumago is to step back in time and experience old Japan; a world away from the robots, gadgets and gizmos that many associate with modern Japanese cities. The walk along the old samurai trail from the neighbouring village of Magome through Tsumago and on to Nagiso is highly recommended.

Overnight in Tsumago.
MEALS
Breakfast, Dinner
This morning you will travel by train to KYOTO, Japan’s ancient capital and the cultural centre of the nation. One of the most culturally rich cities in Asia, Kyoto is 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. Spend the rest of the day at your own leisure exploring the city.

Overnight in Kyoto.
MEALS
Breakfast
Today’s tour starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle that was originally built to serve as the private villa of a powerful feudal lord. The main building was completed in early 1600s and has since then been known for its Momoyama-style architecture, decorated sliding doors, and “chirping nightingale” floors. Next on the list is the serene Ryoan-ji Temple, which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and is home to the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Buddhist sect.

Just a short distance from the Ryoan-ji is the stunning golden pavilion collectively known as Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto's famous Golden Pavilion zen temple which is decorated with gold leaf and stands over a tranquil pond. From the Kikakuji Templt, in the north of the city you can then head to Kiyomizu Dera Temple in the east. This impressive wooden structure is perched on a hillside surrounded by woodland and looks out across the city.

The tour ends with a stroll along the busy streets of Higashiyama district, a collection of narrow alleyways lined with local stores, souvenir shops, small eateries, and even pottery centers.

Overnight in Kyoto.
MEALS
Breakfast
Today we soak up Kyoto’s stunning landscapes in traditional wooden rafts along the Hozugawa River, which was originally used to transport many of the supplies that built many of Osaka and Kyoto’s famous temples and castles. We then hike through a maze of bamboo paths in Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, until we reach monkey park where we have the opportunity to feed these amazing creatures from the safety of our own cage while they roam free in their natural environment.

Our afternoon finds us visiting the Tenryu-ji Temple, the most important of the city’s five zen temples. The buildings themselves were lost in fires and wars over centuries, whereas the gardens survived and have remained in pristine condition and in their original form. Take some time to walk around the central pond surrounded by the Arashiyama forest or visit the Dharma Hall and marvel at the dragon’s eyes on the ceiling that follow you everywhere.

The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to continue exploring Kyoto. You may be interested in heading to the Nishiki Market and stroll through ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’. It’s the perfect introduction to Kyoto's regional specialties – from pickled vegetables hidden beneath layers of fermented rice to delicious and ornate Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), and other local produce.

Overnight in Kyoto.
MEALS
Breakfast
This morning take the train to KINOSAKI ONSEN, renowned for its hot springs. The town boasts seven bathhouses which sit among pretty streets of traditional wooden buildings and narrow bridges. Visitors to Kinosaki Onsen enjoy a stay in a Japanese inn where sumptuous cuisine is served at low tables in tatami rooms. Afterwards guests dress in provided ‘yukata’ and ‘geta’, light kimonos and wooden sandals, and take to the streets for a pleasant evening stroll around town.

Men and women separate and enter the bathhouses for several dips in the different hot springs. For the Japanese, onsen bathing has always been a spiritual experience, as cleanliness and purity are linked to Shintoism. There is certainly something magical about Kinosaki Onsen and the town has inspired Japanese poets and artists for centuries.

Overnight in Kinosaki Onsen.
MEALS
Breakfast, Dinner
Today you will take the 4-hour train to HIROSHIMA, a city that needs little introduction. It is of course infamous for being the site of one of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War.

Visit the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome and the Peace Memorial Park, both of which emotionally stand testament to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb. The dome was just metres from where the bomb detonated so it was able to retain its shape; the fact that it looks almost exactly as it did after the bombing means it serves as a reminder and symbol of peace. The memorial park serves the same purpose, and has museums, memorials and monuments dedicated to the memory of victims, education on what lead to the bomb’s use, as well as advocating world peace.

Other attractions in Hiroshima include Hiroshima Castle and the baseball stadium. Shukkei‐en Garden is well worth an afternoon stroll with a number of tea houses dotted about the grounds, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art contains some wonderful paintings by both Japanese and Western artists.

Overnight in Hiroshima.
MEALS
Breakfast
Enjoy a day trip to enchanting MIYAJIMA ISLAND from Hiroshima, reached after a short ferry ride (30 kilometres) across the Inland Sea. The island is perhaps best known for the red torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine which appears to be floating in the sea. If it is low tide there may also be the opportunity to walk to the gate by foot.

The size and physical landscape of Miyajima Island makes it an ideal place for walking. There is the lovely Momaji Park (known as Maple Valley), from where it is possible to walk or take a cable car up to the top of Mount Misen. You may also see some of the island's native fauna; the sacred deer are easy to spot as they roam freely, but you'll have to work a little harder to spot any of the resident monkey population; keep your eyes peeled! Miyajima is a wonderful place to slow down, unwind and relax, so take your time and let the magic of this island enchant you! Return to Hiroshima.

OPTIONAL: In the evening, maybe try one of the city’s signature dishes for dinner – okonomiyaki, a kind savoury pancake of egg, cabbage, soba noodles, and meat or seafood.

Overnight in Hiroshima.
MEALS
Breakfast
This morning we take the bullet train (approx. 1 hour) to HIMEJI to visit the impressive UNESCO Listed Himeji Castle, perched high on a hill top. The castle is known as the White Egret due to its white walls and elegant shape and it has impressive maze-like defences. After taking in the panoramic views from the top of its 6 story watch tower we take another bullet train to Hiroshima.

After that, take the bullet train to OSAKA, Japan's second biggest city and an extremely vibrant and lively place to stay. Arrive in Osaka. From Namba Station, walk through Osaka’s liveliest and most colourful shopping and dining streets, starting with Doguyasuji Market, a unique market that sells anything related to food, Doguyasuji is known for its plastic food models, which are often used in restaurant displays.

Make a quick left turn in one of the narrow alleys to see Hozen-ji Temple, a small village temple dedicated to one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas. After offering coins, worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity before praying as a sign of respect. Just nearby is Sennichimae, a lane filled with small eateries that serve all the Osakan delicacies such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki and the famed fugu (blowfish). Aside from the local restaurants, Sennichimae also hosts a couple of game centers and the vibrant Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater, the headquarters of the nationwide Japanese comedy brand, Yoshimoto. Right outside the temple grounds and just across the humble yet historical Kamagata Ukiyo-e Museum is Hozenji Yokocho, a short, narrow lane lined with expensive restaurants.

If your energy allows, pay a visit to Osaka Castle which is well worth a visit despite being a reconstruction as the original was burnt down during the firebombing at the end of World War Two and you will find a variety of very interesting museums scattered throughout the city.

After dark, Osaka really comes alive, and a walk through the bright lights of the Nanba district is a great way to take in the atmosphere, with some great people‐watching opportunities. With literally thousands of restaurants, bars and entertainment spots to choose from, Osaka is perfect for a big night out, some hearty local food and the chance to let your hair down.

Overnight in Osaka.
MEALS
Breakfast
Today your adventure in Japan comes to an end. A departure transfer by shuttle bus will take you to Kansai Airport for your onward travel.
MEALS
Breakfast

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When to Go

See estimated monthly temperature and rainfall for this itinerary
JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC





Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
9ºC
47mm

Yamanouchi
1ºC
77mm

Matsumoto
4ºC
40mm

Tsumago
1ºC
51mm

Kyoto
8ºC
76mm

Hiroshima
7ºC
71mm

Miyajima Island
7ºC
71mm

Osaka
8ºC
67mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
10ºC
62mm

Yamanouchi
2ºC
73mm

Matsumoto
5ºC
49mm

Tsumago
2ºC
56mm

Kyoto
8ºC
82mm

Hiroshima
8ºC
82mm

Miyajima Island
8ºC
82mm

Osaka
9ºC
72mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
13ºC
101mm

Yamanouchi
6ºC
77mm

Matsumoto
10ºC
72mm

Tsumago
5ºC
70mm

Kyoto
12ºC
118mm

Hiroshima
11ºC
114mm

Miyajima Island
11ºC
114mm

Osaka
12ºC
105mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
18ºC
122mm

Yamanouchi
13ºC
91mm

Matsumoto
17ºC
89mm

Tsumago
13ºC
91mm

Kyoto
18ºC
146mm

Hiroshima
17ºC
155mm

Miyajima Island
17ºC
155mm

Osaka
18ºC
132mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
22ºC
139mm

Yamanouchi
19ºC
108mm

Matsumoto
22ºC
96mm

Tsumago
18ºC
114mm

Kyoto
23ºC
159mm

Hiroshima
21ºC
150mm

Miyajima Island
21ºC
150mm

Osaka
23ºC
132mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
25ºC
185mm

Yamanouchi
21ºC
168mm

Matsumoto
25ºC
156mm

Tsumago
20ºC
177mm

Kyoto
26ºC
240mm

Hiroshima
25ºC
258mm

Miyajima Island
25ºC
258mm

Osaka
26ºC
198mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
28ºC
132mm

Yamanouchi
25ºC
188mm

Matsumoto
29ºC
141mm

Tsumago
24ºC
188mm

Kyoto
30ºC
243mm

Hiroshima
28ºC
250mm

Miyajima Island
28ºC
250mm

Osaka
30ºC
169mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
30ºC
148mm

Yamanouchi
27ºC
159mm

Matsumoto
30ºC
96mm

Tsumago
25ºC
170mm

Kyoto
32ºC
181mm

Hiroshima
30ºC
125mm

Miyajima Island
30ºC
125mm

Osaka
32ºC
108mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
26ºC
185mm

Yamanouchi
21ºC
177mm

Matsumoto
25ºC
151mm

Tsumago
20ºC
175mm

Kyoto
27ºC
209mm

Hiroshima
26ºC
200mm

Miyajima Island
26ºC
200mm

Osaka
27ºC
184mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
21ºC
174mm

Yamanouchi
16ºC
131mm

Matsumoto
18ºC
98mm

Tsumago
15ºC
136mm

Kyoto
21ºC
123mm

Hiroshima
21ºC
106mm

Miyajima Island
21ºC
106mm

Osaka
22ºC
126mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
16ºC
90mm

Yamanouchi
10ºC
77mm

Matsumoto
13ºC
56mm

Tsumago
10ºC
65mm

Kyoto
16ºC
86mm

Hiroshima
15ºC
74mm

Miyajima Island
15ºC
74mm

Osaka
16ºC
86mm
Place
Place
Daily Max Temperature
Monthly Rainfall

Tokyo
11ºC
50mm

Yamanouchi
4ºC
75mm

Matsumoto
7ºC
38mm

Tsumago
4ºC
52mm

Kyoto
11ºC
67mm

Hiroshima
10ºC
55mm

Miyajima Island
10ºC
55mm

Osaka
11ºC
65mm

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