Hidden Worlds of Japan

Overview

Japan is an ancient and enigmatic land, and our insider’s journey reveals aspects of it few travelers ever get to see. In ancient Takayama in the Japanese Alps, we’ll find the elegant work of Hida artisans in evidence in the splendid merchant houses and centuries-old sake breweries, and in seaside Kanazawa, we stroll streets lined by immaculately preserved teahouses from the Edo and Meiji eras. We explore in-depth in romantic Kyoto, the thousand-year-old cultural and artistic capital of Japan, attending a stunning Miyako Odori dance performance. Our visits to artists, incredible food markets, and tranquil Zen temples unveil Japan’s unique traditions, and our accommodations include serene ryokans and a Buddhist monastery perched on a mountaintop.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-5
Tokyo / Takayama / Kanazawa

After visiting Tokyo’s treasures, we head to the mountain town of Takayama, whose ancient heritage is preserved in traditional wooden shrines and temples built by Hida master craftsmen in the Middle Ages. We taste the wares at a 17th century sake brewery and see the craft heritage expressed in thatched gassho-zukuri farmhouses that seem right out of a fairytale.

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Days 6-7
Kanazawa

Set on the coast of Japan, Kanazawa was the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan during the Edo Period. We explore its grand feudal castle and 30-acre garden, designed in the 17th century and one of the finest in Japan. The classical Samurai district at the foot of the castle has ancient Samurai houses lining the narrow streets.

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Days 8-14
Kyoto / Koyasan / Osaka

This lovely thousand-year-old city offers a blend of exquisite gardens, obscure shops, and hidden temples. It is also a center for superb folk arts: delicate silks, lacquerware, porcelain, fans, dolls, ink drawings, and bronzes. We begin with a visit to Ginkaku-ji, or the “Temple of the Silver Pavilion,” and a walk down the cherry-blossom-lined Path of Philosophy. We explore the Sagano and Arashiyama districts, remnants of Kyoto’s rural past with their thatch-roofed houses, welcoming teahouses, rice paddies, and the poet Basho’s hut. In the atmospheric Gion District, teahouses line the streets and on a stroll after sunset, we may see geishas in traditional attire. On Day 10, we ride by cable car up to mountaintop Koyasan Monastery for an overnight in a shukubo (temple lodge). Depart on Day 14 via Osaka.

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Highlights

Highlights

Discover Kanazawa’s Edo-period geisha quarter and Takayama’s traditional architectural styles
Explore Kyoto, with its Zen gardens, majestic palaces, welcoming teahouses, food markets, and artisan districts
Enjoy overnights in traditional ryokans, the serene inns that reflect Japanese culture in miniature

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $9395  
Arrive: Tokyo, Japan (or reverse)
Depart: Osaka, Japan (or reverse)
Lodging: 12 nights ryokans and hotels, 1 night temple lodging
Meals: All meals included except lunches and 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Walking, including some steep stairs, 6-7 hours a day, Japanese-style dining (sitting on floor)

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