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Japan Winter Rail Discovery

Duration
14 Days
Prices From:
US$ 3,035

FIRST-CLASS | RAIL: Explore Japan's winter highlights while using a rail pass. You'll journey to Nagano to see the famous snow monkeys, visit Takayama, Shirakawago and Gero Onsen in the rural mountainous Hida region and see Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. Have the freedom to explore at your own pace.


This 14-day winter vacation takes advantage of the Japan Rail pass to whisk you across the country. It can include either moderate or first-class accommodations and is perfect for travellers wanting to explore Japan's spectacular winter at their own pace.

Your trip to Japan begins in Tokyo, the nation’s capital and largest city. There are futuristic cities and then there is Tokyo, a mind-blowing showcase of state-of-the-art technology, world-class transit, and looming skyscrapers all next to ancient temples and remnants of the imperial past. You’ll have two full days in Tokyo to explore the city and see its collection of landmarks, from grand temples like Senso-ji and the Meiji Shrine to the futuristic landscapes of Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara “Electric Town,” where manga, video games, and pop culture reign supreme. A half-day tour will help you get settled and hit some of the best sights. After that, Tokyo is endlessly diverse with new discoveries in every neighbourhood, so enjoy a day and a half on your own to get the most out of it.

Head to Nagano, a city that truly shows off the best of Japan in winter. Boasting the highest mountain ranges in the country, this is a ski town through and through, but it also offers spectacular cultural sights like Zenko-ji temple. With any luck, you'll have snow, showing off the temple at its most serene. Then if you choose, take an afternoon trip to Matsumoto, famous for its namesake castle, which comes alive after dark with its winter light show. The following day, a tour takes you to see the best of Nagano and the town of Obuse. The highlight however is seeing Japanese snow monkeys relaxing in the area's natural springs.

From Nagano, hop the train into the Japanese Alps and the Hida region where you’ll find the small town of Takayama, one of the loveliest spots in all of Japan. Visit the Yatai Kaikan Museum to see the festival floats that are the highlight of the spring festival each year, and head down Kami Sannomachi Street to see the old wooden houses and sake breweries that define the town. Head into the beautiful Shirakawago region with your guide and see the 'praying hands' farmhouses, where you'll get a taste of what country life in Japan used to be. The following day, enjoy some quintessential Japanese winter relaxation at Gero Onsen, a popular Japanese spa town surrounded by mountains.

Leave the hot springs behind (sorry!) and journey to Kyoto, the former imperial capital and arguably Japan’s most beautiful city. A morning tour gives you a taste of its many temples and imperial sights, from Nijo Castle and the Kyoto Imperial Palace to the golden pavilion of Kinkaku-ji. Your afternoon is at leisure, so consider taking in the view from Kiyamizu-dera, or hiking the trail under the thousand orange-red torii gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine, which climbs a mountain in the city’s east. Chilly in winter, but beautiful!

While based in Kyoto, you’ll head on a day trip to nearby Nara, the nation’s first permanent capital and a historical gem with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites within its very walkable city core. See the statue of the Giant Buddha at Todai-ji Temple before strolling through Nara Park to befriend the partially-domesticated deer that have lived there for over a millennium. 

Your journey continues to Hiroshima, the city forever linked to the catastrophe of the atomic bomb. In the morning, visit Itshukushima, the small island to the city’s south more popularly known as Miyajima, where you’ll see the nation’s most famous red torii gate, which is partially submerged by the tide each day. In the afternoon, visit the Atom Bomb Dome and the Peace Park to pay tribute to the victims of the atom bomb that detonated over the city in 1945. Turn back northeast and ride the train back to Tokyo, stopping off at the white-walled wonder of Himeji Castle along the way. In Tokyo, you’ll have one final night before returning back home the following day.


 

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Duration
14 Days
Prices From:
US$ 3,035

Itinerary View Trip Map View Trip Special

Day 1

Arrive Tokyo

On arrival at the airport, please make your way to the Japan Rail Pass counter to activate your rail pass. Once you have your pass, you can use it to travel by express train from the airport to your chosen hotel.

Japan has one of the most extensive, comfortable and modern rail systems in the world. The Japan Rail Pass offers foreign visitors the opportunity to travel on the extraordinary network of the JR Group at an economical price. The JR Pass allows travel on most JR trains, including Shinkansen bullet trains, limited express, express, rapid and local trains, as well as some local JR buses and the ferry to Miyajima island (near Hiroshima).

Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Shiba Park Hotel

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    Shiba Park Hotel



    Welcome to the best in Japanese hospitality, the Shiba Park Hotel. It is the tradition of this hotel to serve the local and overseas guests alike, with their well-trained, friendly and helpful staff. They offer many services regardless of whether you are travelling on business …

    Welcome to the best in Japanese hospitality, the Shiba Park Hotel. It is the tradition of this hotel to serve the local and overseas guests alike, with their well-trained, friendly and helpful staff. They offer many services regardless of whether you are travelling on business or pleasure.

    Facilities

    • Bar(s)
    • Business Centre
    • Conference Facilities
    • Gift Shop
    • Laundry facilities
    • Laundry/Dry Cleaning Service
    • Mail and Postal Facilities
    • Parking
    • Restaurant(s)

    More Details

    Preferred Hotel
Days 2

Tokyo Morning Half Day Tour

Start off your stay in Tokyo with a morning tour. Visit the Imperial Palace grounds and Nijubashi Bridge. The palace is the residence of the Emperor of Japan and the grounds are a relaxing spot for Tokyoites and visitors alike. Then visit Tsukiji Outer fish market. Walk along the alleys to explore the stalls and shop for goods. Next, visit Senso-Ji Temple and Nakamise Shopping Street. Senso-Ji, Tokyo's oldest temple, offers plenty to see including the bright red Kaminarimon Gate, a statue of the god of thunder, and a five-story pagoda. The bustling street known as "Nakamise" stretches for about 250 m from Kaminarimon Gate to Senso-Ji Temple and is filled with a plethora of shops. The tour ends in Asakusa after enjoying a stroll around.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 3

Explore Tokyo

A full day to explore Tokyo, Japan’s sprawling, busy capital, offers a mix of the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to cherry trees in season and serene temples. 

The city is made up of a number of districts, each one with its own character and attractions. To get around the city, it is not impossible to walk from one to another but allow time. The Tokyo subway system is somewhat complex but all route maps and many signs are in both Japanese and English. 

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 4

Tokyo to Nagano and Matsumoto

Today you will be using your Japan Rail pass to travel out of Tokyo. Take the bullet train to Nagano which is a 2 hour journey. Nagano is the capital of the Nagano prefecture, often called the ‘roof of Japan’ as the prefecture has the highest mountain ranges in the country. The rest of your morning is free to explore Nagano, perhaps a visit to Zenko-ji Temple, a designated National Treasure built roughly 1,400 years ago and then stopping for a soba noodle lunch, the region’s speciality. In the afternoon we recommend you take the train to Matsumoto (approx. 50 mins), located at the foot of the Japanese Alps. Choose to visit Matsumoto Castle, the Ishii Miso Brewery or Nakamachi Street. We suggest you stay until the evening to watch the winter illumination show at Matsumoto Castle. If you happen to travel at the end of January, you may be in the city for the ice sculpture festival. Return back to Nagano for overnight.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

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    Hotel Metropolitan Nagano



    The Hotel Metropolitan Nagano is an excellent choice as a travel base, conveniently located steps away from JR Nagano Station. This urban style hotel provides comfort and ease, serving as a gateway to Shinshu and all of its natural richness.

    The Hotel Metropolitan Nagano is an excellent choice as a travel base, conveniently located steps away from JR Nagano Station. This urban style hotel provides comfort and ease, serving as a gateway to Shinshu and all of its natural richness.

    Facilities

    • Accessible Facilities
    • Bar
    • Free WiFi
    • Hot Tub
    • Laundry Service
    • Parking(with charge)
    • Restaurant
    • Spa

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Day 5

Private Full Day Snow Monkey & Nagano Tour

This morning you will head to the Jigokudani Yaen Koen by public bus together with your guide to see the famous Snow Monkeys. Jigokudani literally means ‘hell’s valley’ due to the steam and boiling water that bubbles out of small crevices in the frozen ground, and it is in these baths that the resident Japanese Macaques like to bathe and winter is the best time to see them. The monkeys 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. The only way to access the park is via a gentle 2 km hike. The afternoon is at leisure with your private guide. Choose to visit the nearby charming town of Obuse known for its delicious chestnuts and the home of Hokusai, the famous painter and printmaker from Japan’s Edo period. Or choose to further explore Nagano.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 6

Nagano to Takayama

This morning travel to Takayama which is a 4 hour journey by train. Takayama is a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture. To differentiate it from other places named Takayama, the city is also commonly referred to as Hida-Takayama. Takayama retains a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially in its beautifully preserved old town. It now ranks as one of the prime candidates among travelers wishing to add a rural element into their itineraries.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Best Western Hotel Takayama

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    Best Western Hotel Takayama



    Located in the heart of downtown Takayama, the Best Western Hotel Takayama offers the comfort and convenience you are looking for. This hotel is located within walking distance from all major tourist attractions, shopping centres, and convenience stores with banking machines, post office, city hall, …

    Located in the heart of downtown Takayama, the Best Western Hotel Takayama offers the comfort and convenience you are looking for. This hotel is located within walking distance from all major tourist attractions, shopping centres, and convenience stores with banking machines, post office, city hall, bus terminal and JR Takayama Train Station. Each of the rooms are warm and welcoming.

    Facilities

    • Bar(s)
    • Business Centre
    • Concierge
    • Conference Facilities
    • Currency Exchange
    • Laundry/Dry Cleaning Service
    • Mail and Postal Facilities
    • Parking
    • Restaurant(s)
    • Room Service

    More Details

Day 7

Full Day Takayama & Shirakawago Tour

Start the day with a visit to the local Miyagawa Market along the Miyagawa River in Takayama’s old town. Most stands sell local crafts and farm products such as vegetables, pickles and flowers. Then take a walk in the district called San-machi Suji, the traditional home of Takayama’s merchants and sake brewers, which has been preserved in almost exactly the same state as 200 or 300 years ago. Here are inns, shops and taverns which trace their history back many generations. Stop at a sake brewery to sample some sake. Takayama’s sake is renowned nation-wide, thanks to the clear water of the surroundings. Continue with a visit to the Takayama Festival Floats Museum, where the magnificent floats from the famous Takayama Festival are preserved. In the afternoon take a public bus together with your guide to the Shirakawago region. Your guide will show you around the village, famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukkuri translates as ‘Praying Hands’, as the farmhouse steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer, and are designed to withstand the heavy snows which fall in the region. You will be able to look around inside one of these and will see how life in Japan's mountainous region used to be.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 8

Takayama to Gero Onsen

Have a leisurely morning in Takayama and then take a short train ride to Gero Onsen (approx. 45 mins). Gero Onsen is one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. There are public outdoor baths and free outdoor foot baths throughout the town. Tonight, stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan and enjoy a multi-course kaiseki dinner. Your ryokan has indoor and outdoor onsen baths overlooking the surrounding mountains.

Meal Plan Breakfast and Dinner
Duration1 Night
Accommodation

Yunoshimakan Ryokan

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    Yunoshimakan Ryokan



    In Japan, Gero has been praised as one of the “three best hot springs of Japan". The others are Arima and Kusatsu. Without the experience of hot spring of Gero, you will not be able to get the wonders of hot springs in Japan. The …

    In Japan, Gero has been praised as one of the “three best hot springs of Japan". The others are Arima and Kusatsu. Without the experience of hot spring of Gero, you will not be able to get the wonders of hot springs in Japan.

    The Gero Onsen is located in the center of Gifu Prefecture. It is about 280km from Narita International Airport., 250km from Kansai International Airport, 120km from Central Centrair International Airport. In addition, it is just about 150km from Mt Fuji, one of Japan’s newest world heritages. Visiting Gero on the way to travel around Japan is very easy.

    Located in the middle of the hill overlooking the city, Yunoshimakan is surrounded by rich natural forest. You can enjoy yourself in traditional wooden architecture ,the sprit of the good old hospitality and the wonderful hot spring culture of Japan.

    Facilities

    • Free WiFi
    • Hot Spring Bath
    • Restaurant

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Day 9

Gero Onsen to Kyoto

Leave Gero Onsen for Kyoto which is a 3 hour journey. Kyoto served as Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. It is one of the country's ten largest cities with a population of 1.5 million people and a modern face.

Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its exceptional historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and escaped destruction during World War II. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today.

Some of Kyoto's main attractions are Nijo Castle, Sento Palace, Nishiki market, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Fushimi Inari Shrine and the preserved historic district of Higashiyama. There is so much to see, it may be worth extending your stay here.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Cross Hotel Kyoto

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    Cross Hotel Kyoto



    Cross Hotel Kyoto is adjacent to Kawaramachi and Kiyamachi streets in the heart of shopping and gourmet district, yet guests will find a variety of must see heritage sites within walking distance. Nearest train stations of Keihan Line, Subway Tozai Line and Hankyu Line are …

    Cross Hotel Kyoto is adjacent to Kawaramachi and Kiyamachi streets in the heart of shopping and gourmet district, yet guests will find a variety of must see heritage sites within walking distance.
    Nearest train stations of Keihan Line, Subway Tozai Line and Hankyu Line are no more than ten-minute walk away from the hotel.
    This property is a great travel hub to explore the beauty of this ancient capital of Japan.

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Concierge
    • Free WiFi
    • Laundry Service
    • Restaurant

    More Details

Day 10

Kyoto Morning Half Day Tour

Set out to explore some of Kyoto's most famous sites and discover the history behind this one thousand year capital. Tour Nijo Castle, noted for its gorgeous interiors and its "squeaky" nightingale floors which alerted residents to unwanted intruders (if Nijo Castle is closed, visit Ryoanji Temple instead). Continue to Kinkakuji Temple, famous for its Golden Pavilion covered entirely in thin layers of pure gold as well as for its exquisite Japanese gardens and koi ponds. Afterwards, visit Kyoto's Imperial Palace and gain exclusive access to the former residence of the Emperor of Japan (if the Palace is closed, visit Kitano Tenmangu Shrine instead). The tour ends at Kyoto Station (12:40-1:00pm) from where you can return to your hotel or continue to explore the city on your own.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 11

Nara

Today we recommend you use your rail pass to visit Nara. Japan's first permanent capital was established in the year 710 at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784 and a few years later to Kyoto.

Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the first permanent capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest and largest temples. Some sites of interest Todaiji Temple, Horyuji Temple, Heijo Temple and Omizutori to name a few. Return back to Kyoto for overnight.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Day 12

Kyoto to Hiroshima

In the early morning, travel from Kyoto to Hiroshima which is a 2 hour train journey. When the first atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the city became known worldwide for this unenviable distinction. The destructive power of the bomb was tremendous and obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometer radius.

After the war, great efforts were taken to rebuild the city. Predictions that the city would be uninhabitable proved false. Destroyed monuments of Hiroshima's historical heritage, like Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden, were reconstructed. In the center of the city a large park was built and given a name that would reflect the aspirations of the re-born city: Peace Memorial Park. We suggest you visit the Peace Park before continuing on.

Depending on the time you have left in the day, it is suggested you visit Miyajima this afternoon and if you are not able to, try tomorrow morning. It is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan's three best views. While officially named Itsukushima, the island is more commonly referred to as Miyajima, Japanese for "shrine island". This is because the island is so closely related to its key shrine, Itsukushima Shrine, in the public's mind. Like the torii gate, the shrine's main buildings are built over water.

There are also wild deer on the island that have become accustomed to people. In the day the deer wander around the same sites as the tourists, and in the evening they sleep along the walking paths. Return to Hiroshima for overnight.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Accommodation

Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel

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    Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel



    Sheraton Grand Hiroshima is conveniently located in the city next to JR Hiroshima Station, with direct access to the bullet train and bus terminals. The hotel is in the middle of the energy and excitement of Hiroshima, along with its historic sites and architecture. The …

    Sheraton Grand Hiroshima is conveniently located in the city next to JR Hiroshima Station, with direct access to the bullet train and bus terminals. The hotel is in the middle of the energy and excitement of Hiroshima, along with its historic sites and architecture.
    The restaurants offer the finest and freshest cuisine, and the bar is a great place to gather with friends old and new. Guests will have an opportunity to relax and recharge at Shine Spa for Sheraton.

    Facilities

    • Bar/Lounge
    • Business Centre
    • Fitness Facilities
    • Free WiFi
    • Indoor Pool
    • Laundry Service
    • Meeting/ Banquet facilities
    • Restaurant
    • Room Service
    • Spa

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Day 13

Hiroshima to Tokyo

On your way back to Tokyo, a stop at Himeji which is 1 hours away on your way to Tokyo is a great idea. Here you can spend the afternoon exploring the Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle, also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is widely considered as Japan's most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved, complex castle grounds.

The castle complex as it survives today is over 400 years old and was completed in 1609. It is made up of over eighty buildings spread across multiple baileys, which are connected by a series of gates and winding paths. Return to Tokyo in the evening which is 3-4 hours journey.

Meal Plan Breakfast
Duration1 Night
Accommodation

Shiba Park Hotel

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    Shiba Park Hotel



    Welcome to the best in Japanese hospitality, the Shiba Park Hotel. It is the tradition of this hotel to serve the local and overseas guests alike, with their well-trained, friendly and helpful staff. They offer many services regardless of whether you are travelling on business …

    Welcome to the best in Japanese hospitality, the Shiba Park Hotel. It is the tradition of this hotel to serve the local and overseas guests alike, with their well-trained, friendly and helpful staff. They offer many services regardless of whether you are travelling on business or pleasure.

    Facilities

    • Bar(s)
    • Business Centre
    • Conference Facilities
    • Gift Shop
    • Laundry facilities
    • Laundry/Dry Cleaning Service
    • Mail and Postal Facilities
    • Parking
    • Restaurant(s)

    More Details

    Preferred Hotel
Day 14

Depart Tokyo

Today make your own way to the airport for your onward flight. If you would like to extend any part of your stay, please inquire with our team.

Meal Plan Breakfast

Other Information

DEPARTURES:

Daily from December-March

The winter illumination show at Matsumoto Castle is tyically annually from Dec 1st to the end of Feb. 

PRICE INCLUDES:

  • 4 nights first-class accommodations in Tokyo
  • 2 nights first-class accommodation in Nagano
  • 2 nights first-class accommodation in Takayama
  • 1 night first-class ryokan accommodation in Gero Onsen
  • 3 nights first-class accommodation in Kyoto
  • 1 night first-class accommodations in Hiroshima
  • Shared Tokyo Morning Half Day tour (max. 40 guests)
  • Private-guided Snow Monkey & Nagano tour
  • Private-guided Takayama & Shirakawago tour
  • Shared Kyoto Morning Half Day tour (max. 40 guests)
  • 14-day Japan Rail Pass (ordinary class)
  • Daily breakfast (excluding day 1), 1 dinner

PRICE EXCLUDES:

  • Travel insurance
  • International airfare & airfare taxes
  • Meals and beverages not explicitly listed as included
  • Optional excursions
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Visa fees, if applicable
  • Airport transfers

Our Asia Experts can assist with adding any excursions you wish to this itinerary. Click here for a sample of some of the day trips on offer. Don't worry, if what you are looking for is not listed, we are able to assist with any request.

OTHER INFORMATION:

Please chat with our Asia Experts about upgrading your accommodation and rail pass. The green class rail pass allows for some extra benefits. Green cars offer larger seats, more foot space and enhanced board service, and they tend to be less crowded than ordinary cars. They are available on most shinkansen and limited express trains and on a small number of local trains. Many travelers find the size and foot room of ordinary seats sufficient, but those who wish to have additional luxury, should go for the green car.

The pass is valid on almost all trains operated on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways), including shinkansen, limited express, express, rapid and local trains. Below is a map showing the major train lines that can be used with the pass.

TERMS & CONDITIONS:

Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please enquire.

DP TOKTPK14DJP
12 Feb 2023
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