Temples, Treasures, and Teahouses

From Matsue to Takayama, with a Cherry Blossom Festival

Overview

Our insider’s journey reveals fascinating aspects of Japanese culture that few travelers ever see. We begin in Matsue on the northwest coast, exploring the city’s 400-year-old feudal castle and the elegant samurai houses encircling it. In the hidden gem of Kinosaki Onsen, a traditional hot springs town filled with the culture of old Japan, we soak in classic hot springs and savor fresh-caught seafood. We’ll walk the storied lanes of 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
Osaka / Matsue

In Matsue, we walk the labyrinthine paths of the feudal castle, and the local tofu stalls and sake factory are also on our walks. 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
Kinosaki Onsen / Izushi

In under-the-radar Kinosaki, we’ll enjoy the town’s classic sukiya architecture, soak in the hot springs, and visit the Edo-era castle town of Izushi to sample its unique style of soba (buckwheat noodles).

Days 7-10
Kyoto

Kyoto became the capital of Japan in 794 and to this day, continues to be the cultural and artistic capital of Japan. We spend our days among the cherry blossoms and temples, walking serene paths, exploring the smaller gardens, and visiting artisans. We’ll see extraordinary Ryoan-ji, Japan’s most famous rock garden, and take a day trip to Himeji Castle, Japan’s premier feudal-era fortress.

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

This mountain town, affectionately referred to as Little Kyoto, has a rich 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 elaborate floats pulled through the streets. Depart on 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)

Highlights

Highlights

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

Details

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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