Autumn Leaf Colors in Japan - November 2017
We have designed our November tours to take in the beautiful autumn leaf colors offered during the Japanese leaf viewing season. Many of the cherry trees that provided beautiful views during spring provide orange hues while the Japanese maple can provide beautiful red leaves as well as brilliant yellow and browns. With the cooling Japan weather we have included a range of famous, historic and culturally significant sights to showcase the variety and beauty of the country. From the metropolis of Tokyo to the Japanese Alps, these tours of Japan allow you to experience a wide variety of what Japan has to offer and there is the flexibility to add days on at either end or to overlap tour dates.
Joining a tour: We will normally be available to meet you at the airport and travel with you into Tokyo. If not, we will provide you with detailed instructions on how to do this. We have included a tour start date of Saturday 19th November, but we can generally cater for guests arriving a few days earlier or later and can adjust the schedule and pricing for you accordingly.
Departing a tour: Activities on a day where you are departing a tour will be adjusted to take into account travel time to the airport. We will assist you with your departure as required.
Early Fall in Japan Schedule
Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October Tokyo: Allowing for different arrival days across the weekend, we meet you at either Narita or Haneda airport and transfer to Tokyo. Options for these days in Tokyo depend on your time of arrival but for the first day we keep the tour fairly low-key including things like dinner at a local restaurant, seeing some of the city (afternoon and/or evening) or just sleep if you are jetlagged.
Monday 30th October Tokyo: Visit Asukusa Kaminarimon (thunder gate), Hozomon and pagoda. An array of stalls lines the entrance to this shrine. Either lunch from the food stalls or from a nearby restaurant. In the afternoon, visit one or more of the famous neighbourhood areas of Shinjuku, Shibuya or Ginza. This allows time to see the expansive Shinjuku Gardens, or, because we run flexible tours, let us know what you would like to do or see.
Tuesday 31st October Tokyo: A visit to Harajuku (a trend setting shopping area for the Tokyo youth), and if desired stroll across to the higher-end stores of Omotesando. For a dose of more traditional culture, the nearby Meiji Shrine is adjacent to Harajuku.
Wednesday 1st November Tokyo: A spare day for a day-trip from Tokyo. For example, visit Kamakura to the south of Tokyo including the Great Bronze Buddha and Hase Dera Temple. Nikko or Sendai/Matsushima are other options. Note, depending on the weather, we can change the order to help get conditions in different locations.
Thursday 2nd November Nikko or Matsushima day trip: Based on the experience from our 2015 Autumn tour changing hotels for Nikko or Sendai proved a little time consuming. Either:
- Visit the famous shrines at Nikko including the lavishly decorated Toshugu shrine and Iemitsu Mausoleum. The Rinnojo temple is being renovated and the range of statues on display is limited, or,
- Head north by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Sendai. Then take the local train to Matsushima for a leisurely ferry tour around the bay. Matsushima is one of the 'top three views' in Japan (designated "special places of scenic beauty").
Friday 3rd November: Tokyo to Togura/Nagano: Head into the mountains for a stay at a traditional Japanese inn including onsen and local foods prepared on-site. There is a small castle (fort) on the hill behind the ryokan that gives great views across the valley and mountains around the area. We can also arrange Geisha entertainment during the evening meal (music and dancing performance).
Saturday 4th November Togura/Nagano: Several options (including relaxing) are available. Explore the local town, the city of Nagano, or visit the nearby Matsumoto castle or Jigokudani Monkey Park.
Sunday 5th November: Togura to Kanazawa: Travel via local train and then shinkansen to Kanazawa (''Little Kyoto''). After dinner there is an opportunity to walk around the old tea-house area near the river before returning to the hotel.
Monday 6th November Kanazawa: Omi-cho market is a smaller, friendlier version of the Tokyo Tsujiki fish market (which was due to move in 2016) and a great location for a fresh sashimi breakfast. The day is set aside to visit the famous Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa castle. Additional options include the 21st Museum of Contemporary art or some of the local temples.
Tuesday 7th November Kanazawa to Kyoto: A leisurely start to the day before taking the train to Kyoto. In the afternoon enjoy sightseeing at Inari Fushimi Shinto shrine (10,000 torii gates) which is spectacular and very easy to get to (right next to a train station). Suggested dinner options while in Kyoto include Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) or Japanese BBQ restaurants.
Wednesday 8th November Kyoto: Day trip to the World Heritage Site at Nara. At Nara there is both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. There are sacred deer roaming the park and excellent souvenir shops on the walk to Todai-ji.
Thursday 9th November Kyoto: Start the day by visiting the "golden pavilion" Kinkaku-ji, travel to the north east of the city and then Nijo Castle before heading to the Heian Shrine and gardens.
During the afternoon/evening head to the Arashiyama district, to view the autumn leaves during the evening and enjoy the view across the Katsura River. Also enjoy the nearby Sagano bamboo grove. For 2014 the autumn colour season was very impressive, but the 2015 season has not been so good – Unfortunately we cannot determine what the season will be like.
An alternative (and probably with less people) is to visit Kodai-ji temple. The temple complex includes a Zen garden, bamboo forest and artisan souvenir shops. Kodaiji is illuminated in the evenings and provides a view of the city. Access to/from will be via taxi.
Friday 10th November Hiroshima day trip: As an option, visit Hiroshima as a day trip, achievable using the efficient shinkansen trains and an early start. The highlight is Miyajima Island and Itsukushima Shrine, location of the famous "floating" torii gate. This requires a short local train and ferry ride. Ferry tickets are covered by our JR passes. There is also time to visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city.
Saturday 11th November Kyoto to Takayama: Travel by Shinkansen and then local train to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. Explore the town's historic buildings and shops on foot. The local specialty is Hida beef, very good quality (we recommend enjoying it at one of the local bbq restaurants.)
Sunday 12th November Takayama: A free morning to explore the town, check the local markets or visit one of the different museums or temples scattered around the town. After lunch head to the world heritage site of Shirakaga-go (a half day bus trip) with its unique steep thatched-roofed houses. The Hida Folk village provides a different range of historic buildings and could be included in the morning activities.
Monday 13th November Takayama to Tokyo: Transfer back to Tokyo and the airport for return flights
Late November Autumn Leaf Viewing Tour (peak season)
Saturday 18th November Tokyo: We meet you at the airport (Narita or Haneda) and transfer to your hotel in Tokyo. Options for the day depend on your time of arrival but for the first day we keep the tour fairly low-key including things like dinner at a local restaurant, seeing some of the city (afternoon and/or evening) or just sleep if you are jetlagged.
Sunday 19th November Tokyo: Visit Asukusa Kaminarimon (thunder gate), Hozomon and pagoda. An array of stalls lines the entrance to this shrine (Nakamise Street) providing a wide range of souvenirs and snacks on the approach to Sensoji Temple. We can arrange a kimono photo shoot or an introductory samurai lesson for the adventurous. In the afternoon visit one or more of the famous neighbourhood areas of Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza. An option for Shinjuku includes a visit to the Robot Restaurant, (more a cabaret show) before selecting something delicious for dinner.
Monday 20th November Tokyo to Takayama: Travel by Shinkansen and then local train to the onsen (hot spring) mountain town of Takayama. Use the afternoon for a relaxing onsen bath or explore some of this old-style mountain town.
Tuesday 21st November Takayama: During the morning explore the town's historic buildings, morning market and shops on foot and/or visit the festival floats exhibition hall. The afternoon is reserved for a 1/2 day bus tour that visits the World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go with its old traditional "A frame" farmhouses. Dinner time is an ideal opportunity to sample the famous Hida Beef.
Wednesday 22nd November Takayama to Kyoto: Taking the WideView Hida train down the scenic Kiso valley to Nagano and then a short shinkansen ride to the historic previous capital of Japan. In the afternoon enjoy sightseeing at Inari Fushimi Shinto shrine (10,000 torii gates).
Thursday 23rd November Kyoto: Visit the beautiful Arashiyama district for viewing the autumn leaves and enjoy the view across the Katsura River and the nearby Sagano bamboo grove. After spending time in Arashiyama, head to to the "Golden Pavilion" Kinkaku-ji in the north-west of the city. Returning to the centre of Kyoto exploring the 400 year old covered Nishiki Market.
Friday 24th November Kyoto: Start the day at Nijo Castle before heading to the Heian Shrine and gardens. During the evening visit Kodai-ji temple for the autumn leaf illumination. The temple complex includes a Zen garden, bamboo forest and interesting artisan shops.
Saturday 25th November Kyoto to Hiroshima: Heading south from Kyoto, take the shinkansen to Hiroshima. The afternoon is available to visit the Peace Park and Museum in Hiroshima city and the rebuilt Hiroshima Castle (the castle includes a samurai museum).
Sunday 26th November Hiroshima: A full day in Hiroshima allows time to visit and explore Miyajima Island and Itsukushima Shrine are the location of the famous "floating" torii gate, accessed by a short local train and ferry ride. Depending on fitness and inclination we can use the ropeway and head to the top of Mount Misen. The walk back down the mountain provides some good viewing and vantage points.
Monday 27th November Hiroshima to Osaka: Head to Osaka the second largest city of Japan. From the hotel it is a short walk across the moat bridge to visit the castle and grounds. During the evening head to the Dotonbori district.
Tuesday 28th November Osaka: Day trip to the world heritage site at Nara. At Nara there are both Todai-ji temple (with the world's largest bronze Buddha), and Kagusa Shinto shrine. Sacred deer roam the park and temple/shrine areas.
Wednesday 29th November Osaka to Kanazawa: Completing the trip across the main island take the "Thunderbird" express train to to Kanazawa. Visit the famous Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa castle. Enjoy local cuisine including fresh sushi and sashimi at the Omicho food market.
Thursday 30th November December Kanazawa to Togura: Departing from Kanazawa head back into the Japanese Alps to Nagano transfer to a local train bound for Togura (30 minutes) and check in at Ryokan Kamesei. Have a private soak in the ryokan's hot spring baths or explore the neighbourhood before enjoying an especially prepared traditional ryokan dinner. During dinner we can arrange geisha entertainment of traditional music and dance. The ryokan accommodations include breakfast and dinner.
Friday 1st December Togura: After breakfast (provided), head to Nagano station and take the bus to Jigokudani Monkey Park. Depending on the weather it could be cold (maybe snow). There is a walk of approximately 2km to the "snow monkeys". For those not wanting to see the monkeys, we can visit the Togakushi Shrine in the forest to the north-west of Nagano with its impressive tree lined approach. There is a local cycling tour around Togura and Chikuma for those that want to stay close to the ryokan. After a day of activity, a soak in the onsen provides a relaxing option.
Saturday 2nd December Togura to Tokyo: Transfer back to Tokyo by shinkansen. A visit to Harajuku and the Meiji Shrine, an important focal point of the city commemorating the Emperor and a significant change in the structure of Japan. The nearby Takeshita Dori provides an experience in the local youth culture of the city and the adjacent Omotesando shopping area provides some higher-end brands. Also in this area is Yoyogi Park, a popular place on Sundays for people to spend time and provide entertainment.
Sunday 3rd December Tokyo: Last day in Tokyo and transfers back to Narita or Haneda.
The tour the price for a fifteen day tour (accommodation for fourteen nights) is JPY595,000 per person share twin/double.
For solo travellers (one person, without a shared room), the cost of accommodation is unable to be shared, but we have a policy to limit the extra cost and have priced our tour for a single person at JPY695,000.
Prices include rail transfers from Narita to Tokyo and 14 day rail pass (Green Class), castle/temple/shine entrance fees and tour fees. Accommodation is selected to average 4-star or higher and will normally include breakfast.
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