Temples, Treasures, and Teahouses

From Matsue to Takayama, with a Cherry Blossom Festival


Japan is an ancient and enigmatic land, and our insider’s journey reveals fascinating aspects of it that few travelers see. In Matsue, a castle town in the northwest, we explore its 400-year-old feudal stronghold and the elegant samurai houses encircling it (with the cherry blossoms of spring enhancing our visit!). At Kinosaki Onsen, a traditional hot springs town on the Sea of Japan, we soak up the classic ambience and savor the fresh seafood. We’ll walk the lanes of storied Kyoto, seeking off-the-beaten path temples and gardens, with a grand finale in Takayama in the Japanese Alps, where we’ll join in the fun of the cherry blossom festival. Artisan visits, onsen baths, culinary treats, and the warm hospitality of the Japanese welcome us at every turn.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4, Apr 3- 6, 2023
Osaka / Matsue

In Matsue, where we stay in our favorite riverside ryokan, we walk the labyrinthine paths of the castle and stroll the peaceful woodlands around it, alive in spring with camellias and azaleas in bloom. The local tofu stalls and sake factory are on our walks, and at the celebrated Adachi Museum of Art, we explore its vast and surreal garden, designed as a “living painting.”

Ohashikan Ryokan
Matsue, Japan
Days 2 to 4 (3 nights)
Days 5-6, Apr 7- 8, 2023
Kinosaki Onsen / Izushi

We travel a beautiful coastal route along the Sea of Japan to under-the-radar Kinosaki Onsen, a hidden gem of a town and a local favorite since the 8th century. We’ll enjoy the classic sukiya architecture and, of course, relaxing soaks in hot springs. Each onsen (hot spring) in this town is uniquely designed and heralded for its specific curative properties and legendary history. We’ll also visit the Edo-era castle town of Izushi to sample its unique style of soba (buckwheat noodles).

Days 7-10, Apr 9-12, 2023

Thousand-year-old Kyoto offers a blend of exquisite gardens, venerated temples, tea houses, and folk arts. We’ll visit local artisans and explore the smaller temples and gardens in hidden corners of the city.

Noku Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan
Days 7 to 10 (4 nights)
Days 11-14, Apr 13-16, 2023
Takayama / Spring Festival

This mountain town has a heritage revealed in wooden shrines and temples built by Hida master craftsmen in the Middle Ages. Here we witness the Takayama Festival, one of Japan’s most beautiful celebrations, complete with a mikoshi (shrine) procession, elaborately decorated floats pulled through the streets, and karakuri doll performances. Depart Day 14 via Osaka.

Honjin Hiranoya Bekkan
Takayama, Japan
Days 11 to 12 (2 nights)
Hatoya Zuihokakau
Kyoto, Japan
Days 11 to 13 (3 nights)



Discover Matsue’s fantastic castle and samurai district, soak in Kinosaki’s historic onsens
Explore Kyoto, with its Zen gardens and teahouses, witness the spectacular Takayama Festival
Enjoy overnights in traditional ryokans, the serene inns that reflect Japanese culture in miniature


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $9895  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 13 nights ryokans and hotels
Meals: All meals included except 10 lunches and 3 dinners as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (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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