Highlights of Japan - Yamanaka
Onsen Tokyo - Kyoto - Kanazawa - Yamashiro Onsen - Takayama - Tokyo
11 Days 10 Nights
  • Day 1
  • Arrive in Tokyo

Upon arrival in Tokyo, you will be met by your English-speaking driver and transfer to the hotel in Tokyo by private car.

Check in to your hotel.

The rest of the day is free time.

Welcome to Tokyo!

Japan's capital and the world's largest metropolitan area, Tokyo offers a limitless variety of shopping, entertainment, cultural activities and dining. The city's history can be appreciated in districts such as Asakusa, and in its many excellent museums, historical sites, temples and gardens.
  • Day 2
  • Tokyo
Join your guide for a tour of a few of Tokyo’s highlights.

The first place to visit is Tsukiji market. Known as “Tokyo’s Kitchen,” Tsukiji is the largest market of its kind in the world, and supplies millions of Tokyoites with fresh produce of every kind. The market is most famous for fresh fish, with a history dating back 500 years. The market sells over 400 varieties of fish and shellfish, totaling well over 2,000 tons, every day. (Closed on Sundays)

Next stop is Hamarikyu Garden, a large, beautiful garden in central Tokyo. Situated at the mouth of the Sumida River, Hamarikyu features seawater ponds that change level with the tides, and a teahouse on an island where visitors can rest and contemplate the view. The traditional garden is a calm oasis contrasting with the skyscrapers of nearby Shiodome.

Take a boat ride on the Sumida River to Asakusa.

After you get off the boat you’ll continue to Asakusa Kannon Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, and definitely its most impressive. The main hall was first built in 645 to house a tiny golden statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, which two brothers hauled up in their net while fishing in the Sumida River. The statue was enshrined in the main hall, where it remains to this day.

Following Asakusa, proceed to Kappabashi.
This district is the “Kitchen Town” of Tokyo, the place to go for all your kitchenware needs. Here you can find virtually any kind of kitchen and restaurant equipment you can imagine, as well as furniture, displays, design and construction goods, bamboo wares, cooking ingredients, and more. You don’t have to shop there to enjoy the experience, though – you can just walk around and be amazed by the incredible variety and volume of stuff for sale and the energy and bustle of a busy Japanese business district. One highlight you might find interesting is the fake food sellers – this is where they make those plastic sushi you see in display cases in front of sushi restaurants, as well as plastic cakes, pizzas, hot dogs and anything else you can think of. They make great souvenirs.

Your last stop today is Ginza, Tokyo's famous glitzy shopping, dining and entertainment district, which is home to a staggering number of department stores, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, nightclubs and cafes. Here, you can also find depachika, basement food floors in Tokyo department stores, which sell products including items from famous food brands, bento (box lunches), Japanese sweets from Kyoto, and many other delicious offerings.

Return to the hotel.
  • Day 3
  • Tokyo
In the morning, discover more of Tokyo with your guide.

Visit Omotesando, Harajuku and Aoyama. This area is famous as one of the most sophisticated and fashionable districts in the world. Hundreds of chic and fashionable shops on the main streets and back alleys, unique buildings designed by famous architects, fashionable cafes, and people sporting unique street fashions make this area a showplace of modern Tokyo.

Roppongi is the city's most popular nightlife district, boasting a huge variety of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Roppongi and the surrounding districts of Azabu, Hiro-o and Akasaka are home to many embassies and a large foreign community. Two recent redevelopment projects, Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown, changed the face of the district and expanded its appeal to a wider range of visitors and residents, with high-end retail, leisure and residential spaces, offices, and luxury hotels. Roppongi is also a cultural center, home of the “Art Triangle Roppongi” – the National Art Center (Japan's largest art museum), Roppongi Hills' Mori Art Museum and Tokyo Midtown's Suntory Museum of Art.

Say “goodbye” to your guide and explore the city on your own. The afternoon is free time.

~Optional activity~
Cooking Class with Michelin Star Chef

You can have the experience of learning Japanese home cooking or Temari sushi (small, ball-shaped sushi) from a Michelin star chef.
  • Day 4
  • Tokyo - Kyoto
Board on the shinkansen bullet train for Kyoto.

Upon arrival, leave your luggage at the ryokan. Discover independently one of the most famous World Heritage Temples in Japan.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple
This historic temple, one of the most famous in Japan, was established in 778, before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. The current building dates from the early Edo period, the time of Tokugawa Iemitsu.

Kiyomizu-dera’s wooden stage, which extends out from its main hall 13 meters above the ground, is its most famous feature. The view of the city from the stage is spectacular, especially in cherry blossom and maple leaves in the fall. The Hondo, or Main Hall, which has been designated a national treasure, is home to a small statue of the 11-face, 1,000-arm Kannon bodhisattva, famous for its ability to answer prayers. The temple, has other important cultural properties including the Deva gate, west gate, three-story pagoda and bell tower. Kiyomizu-dera was registered as a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site in 1994.

Ninen-zaka (Two-Year Hill) and Sannen-zaka (Three-Year hill).
Close by Kiyomizu-dera, these are two of the prettiest streets in Kyoto and a great place to experience the beauty and serenity of old Kyoto, before the forces of modernity came along with its pavement and power lines. The pedestrian-only streets are lined with pretty traditional shops, restaurants and teahouses, and are a great place for a stroll in a truly lovely place.

Return to the ryokan and check in.
  • Day 5
  • Kyoto
Let’s discover Kyoto with a knowledgeable and English-speaking guide!

Nijo Castle, built in 1603, is another World Heritage Site, and its Ninomaru Palace is designated a National Treasure due to its splendid architecture and magnificent interior. The floorboards of the corridors creak underfoot -- called uguisubari (nightingale floors), they sound like the chirping of nightingales when anyone (such as an assassin) treads upon them.
*Closed on Tuesdays in July, August, December and January.

Kinkakuji Temple
This beautiful and world-famous temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion for its golden exterior, is one of the most beautiful in Kyoto, and has been designated a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. It was built at the end of the 14th century as a villa for the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and later became a Zen temple, famous for the practice of zazen, or sitting meditation. Kinkakuji is a symbol of Kyoto, and of Japan.

The magnificent Kyoko-chi Pond on the temple grounds is a lovely sight, with manmade islands and artfully placed rocks, whose shapes change depending on the angle from which they are viewed. The reflection of the temple in the waters of Kyoko-chi is a truly impressive sight.

Following Kinkakuji, visit Ryoanji Temple.
This temple is famous as the site of what is certainly the finest example of kare-sansui, or dry landscape garden, composed of raked gravel and mossy boulders. The effect is sublime. The grounds of the temple, which was established in the 15th century, also feature a beautiful wooded section and a garden that dates from the 12th century.

Kimono Experience
Until about 100 years ago the kimono was the everyday clothing of the Japanese. Today it is mostly worn by women on special occasions. There are also kimono for men. Putting on a kimono is a bit involved, but with the help of a kimono specialist, you will transform into a real Japanese beauty or samurai in minutes.

Gion Shirakawa, Kyoto's famous geisha traditional performer district, Gion is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses) where geiko and maiko entertain. The Gion Shirakawa area runs along the lovely Shirakawa Canal, which is lined by willow trees, expensive restaurants and ochaya, many of which have rooms overlooking the canal. As it is a little off the beaten path, the Shirakawa area is typically quieter than the main Hanami-koji Street.

Return to the ryokan.

~Optional activity~
Exotic Dinner with Geiko and Maiko at a Prestigious Ochaya

Geiko (Kyoto geisha) and maiko (geisha in training) are still symbols of Japan, but they are a rather rare sight these days. However, on this tour you can have geiko and maiko show you Japanese dances and play traditional musical instruments in their traditional costume, and they will sit together with you, serve drinks in the Japanese way, play games and take some photos with you.
  • Day 6
  • Kyoto to Yamanaka Onsen
Take the limited express Thunderbird train from Kyoto to Kaga Onsen. The 1 hour and 45min train ride takes you to the town of Kaga, famous for its natural hot springs. The modern Japanese lifestyle has become increasingly Westernized, and traditional Japan is becoming harder and harder to find in the busy modern world. Ryokan are a perfect place to savor the serene beauty of the traditional Japanese lifestyle.

Check in at The Kayotei

As you pass through the entrance of The Kayotei, you quickly realize that this is a very special Japanese inn. The ryokan is located in the small hot spring village of Yamanaka in Ishikawa Prefecture, which remains much the same as it has been for many years, seemingly untouched by time. The inn is situated amid majestic trees and lovingly nurtured gardens surrounded by thickly forested hills.

~The Artisans & Organic Food Producers Group of The Kayotei~

More than 20 local artisans and craftsmen affiliated with The Kayotei belong to this Ishikawa region group. The members of the group are dedicated to protecting and preserving the ancient culture of Ishikawa and maintaining the traditional production techniques.

They produce any number of products, including natural, chemical-free foods and sake, wooden bowls, washi (Japanese paper), and traditional wooden furnishings, all of which are fundamental to Japanese-style interior design.

All the members are devoted to creating work with compassion and consideration for the user’s health. While honoring and respecting tradition, they make products that are gentle to the body. In many cases, their craftsmanship has extended for several generations. The wealth of culture that Ishikawa has conveyed should be further recognized around the world.

As a traditional luxury ryokan, The Kayotei staff see themselves as the inheritors and keepers of the region's traditions -- as a "vessel to showcase the region that surrounds us."

The Kayotei offers its guests the opportunity to participate in producing captivating and charming creations firsthand. As you discover new environments, they provide you with the high level of personalized service that one come to expect at Yamanaka Onsen.

Visits to studios and craftmen's workshops can be arranged upon request.
*Advance booking is required.

・Wood turner's studio and private gallery
・Kutani porcelain master’s studio and private gallery
・Japanese Tea Ceremony at a master's private home
・Wooden furniture artist’s studio
・Washi, Japanese paper making studio
・Maki-e lacquerware studio
・Tatami mat maker’s workshop

Food producers
・Matsuura Sake brewery

・Yamanaka Shoyu (soy sauce) brewery

・Wagashi (Japanese sweets) maker
・Tofu maker
・Aigamo (duck) method organic rice farm

・Soba maker
  • Day 7
  • Yamanaka Onsen
In the morning depart for an exclusive tour with the Kayotei management team.

=Private visit to the studio of a takumi -- a highly skilled traditional craftsman=

Satake Lacquerware Studio – A private studio tour to visit wood turner Yasuhiro Satake. The third-generation owner, Satake-san learned his trade from his father, and the family’s fine craftsmanship has been cherished and handed down for 50 years.

Kutaniyaki Porcelain Studio – Yamanaka has developed into one of the most prominent producers of lacquerware in Japan and is especially known for Kutaniyaki porcelain. In the early Edo era, this new kind of porcelain was created in the village of Kutani, Enuma-gun. You will have a chance to visit the private studio of Shigeo Fujisawa.

Kaga Maki-e Studio – Maki-e is a painting technique that uses powder and thin layers of gold, silver and shells combined with lacquer for adorning lacquer boxes, dishes, trays, furniture and many other items, including modern products such as fountain pens and watches. * You can try a maki-e making lesson to produce your own souvenir maki-e.

*Advance booking is required.
*Availability is subject to season.

For lunch, you can try some Italian dishes cooked with local specialties. The local restaurant Alla Contadina is run by owner Koji Sakamoto, who grew up in Yamanaka and had chef training in Venice, Italy. He is now a member of the Organic Food Producers Group of the Kayotei. Enjoy his unique fusion of Kaga and Italian cuisine.

Return to The Kayotei and relax.

Savor a fine Kaga-style kaiseki dinner, served on locally crafted dishes.
Kanazawa and Kaga are close to the Sea of Japan, so you can enjoy the finest quality seafood. Kaga-style kaiseki ryori Japanese haute cuisine is famous all over Japan.
  • Day 8
  • Day trip to Shirayama Hime Shrine at Mount Hakusan and Eiheiji Temple
Today you might like to join the tour to discover Japan's holy mountains or explore the neighborhood of Yamanaka Onsen.

=Day trip to Mount Hakusan and Eiheiji Temple=

This trip gives you a chance to visit a Japanese holy mountain, accompanied by the owner or ryokan staff. In Japan, there are three holy mountains -- Mt. Fuji, Mt. Tateyama and Mt. Hakusan. As Mount Hakusan is the source of several great rivers, the deity is believed to have divine power over water, which ensures bountiful harvests.

Shirayama Hime Shrine is home to the god Izanagi and goddess Izanami, and is dedicated to the holy mountain Hakusan. The temple grounds are serene and beautifully tended, with magnificent 1,000-year-old cedar trees lining the path up to the shrine buildings.

Eiheiji Temple is the head temple of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism. This temple was founded by the famous Buddhist scholar Dogen Zenji, after he finished his Soto Zen studies in China. It consists of over 70 buildings and structures, all of them connected by covered walkways. It is still an active monastery, with around 150 practicing Zen monks. Eiheiji is a working temple; there are many monks training there, but you may have a chance to get a glimpse of their daily life.

The town of Eiheiji is a lovely, tranquil place nestled in the mountains along a river – a pleasant place for a stroll or a quiet lunch.

=Explore Yamanaka Onsen town=

Kakusenkei Nature walk

You might try the 2.9km (1.8 mile) Kakusenkei Gorge walking course, or the 4.8km (3.0 mile) jogging course along the rim of the gorge. This route includes the beautiful 1.3km footpath to the Kurotani Bridge.

There are several famous historic sites along the walking route next to Kakusenkei Gorge.

The famous haiku poet Basho visited Yamanaka and enjoyed the scenic beauty of this spot. The Basho-do is a hut similar to the one where he stayed, and there is a small image of Basho inside.

Ayatori Hashi (Cat's Cradle Bridge)

The grand master of the Sogetsu school of flower arranging, Hiroshi Teshigahara, designed this unique bridge, with its S-shape and red-purple color.

This Samurai villa, built at the end of the Meiji era, houses a lovely collection of arts and crafts.

Korogi Bridge (Cricket Bridge)

There are various legends regarding the origin of this bridge's name. One of them notes the extremely narrow and steep mountainous roads of Yamanaka and how one misstep could mean disaster. Hence the name "Korogi," which literally means "dangerous road."

Yuge Kaido street

This is the main street running through the town of Yamanaka Onsen. It starts from Kiku No You public hot spring bath. You will find lots of shops, galleries featuring local arts and crafts, as well as restaurants on both sides of the street.

Return to The Kayotei and relax. You could try a shiatsu traditional Japanese massage treatment.

Return to The Kayotei.
  • Day 8
  • Day trip to Kanazawa
Take a day trip to Kanazawa by private car with English-speaking guide.

During the Edo Period, Kanazawa was the seat of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa. As a result, Kanazawa became a place of great cultural achievements, rivaling Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo).

Today, Kanazawa is still an important city and the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The city boasts many historical attractions, such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums. But Kanazawa's main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan's "three best landscape gardens," and which many consider the most beautiful of them all.

The first place to visit is Kenrokuen Garden & Kanazawa Castle Park, originally a private garden next to Kanazawa Castle, and was later developed in the 1620s to 1840s. It is a landscape garden spreading over 100,000 sq.. meters, with Kasumigaike Pond at its center and a variety of hills, streams, smaller ponds and waterfalls to enhance its beauty. Next to Kenrokuen Garden is Kanazawa Castle Park, one of the great symbols of the city’s traditional culture, and a legacy of the rich history of arts patronage by the local feudal clan.

Next stop is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. This impressive museum, designed by Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of the SANAA architect office, focuses on works produced since 1980 that “propose new values.” The museum's collection includes works by such artists as: Francis Alys, Matthew Barney, Tony Cragg, Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Yayoi Kusama and many more.

In the Higashi Chaya District, you can find traditional geisha houses lining both sides of the street. “Chaya” means teahouse, and geisha -- the famous female entertainers who are icons of Japan, especially Kyoto -- were once a common sight in this area. Some of the wooden houses have been designated as an important preservation district of historic buildings; a few of the teahouses were built as long as 200 years ago and are still in use.

You could also visit the Nagamachi Samurai District. This was a district at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, where Samurai and their families lived during the Edo period. The area now preserves the atmosphere of the time, with its remaining Samurai residences, private entrance gates, narrow lanes and canals. One of the main attractions of the district is the centrally located Nomura-ke, a restored residence displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the time when Samurai prospered.

Return to The Kayotei
  • Day 9
  • Yamanaka Onsen - Takayama
Check out from The Kayotei.

You will first visit Shirakawa-Go & Gokayama by private car with an optional English speaking guide.

Shirakawa-go and neighboring Gokayama village were declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1995. They are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.

Gassho-zukuri means “constructed like hands in prayer,” as the farmhouses’ steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. The architectural style is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow the area experiences in winter. The roofs are made without nails, and provide a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.

Continue on to Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. Set in the mountainous Hida region, Takayama has retained a traditional touch like few other Japanese cities, especially in its beautifully preserved old town. The town gained prominence in the 17th century when the Kanamori clan built Takayama castle, and it has been an important regional center ever since, though its isolation in the mountains of Gifu allowed it to develop its own unique culture. All that history means that today, Takayama has a lot of fun and fascinating things to do.

Check in at Wanosato

After dinner, guests are invited to sit by an open built-in hearth called irori after dinner, where you can enjoy the unique drinks that are offered in the evening sip by indulgent sip.

  • Day 10
  • Takayama
After breakfast you may take the shuttle to Takayama station.
*The shuttle bus departs at 9:00, 10:00 and 11:00.

Takayama Jinya used to be as a public office for 270 years, from 1695 to 1969. It was fully restored to revive the Edo period atmosphere, and now pine trees and gravel lanes contrast pleasantly with the beautiful white walls.

Sanmachi Old Town Street, this pretty street in the old town is situated on the east bank of the Miyagawa river in Takayama, is famous for its historical shops and merchants’ homes with their distinctive latticed bay windows and linked eaves that date from the Edo period (17th to 19th centuries). Visitors can fully enjoy the quiet, idyllic atmosphere.

Takayama hosts a famous yearly festival and the floats are quite ornate. The Takayama Yatai Kaikan (Takayama Festival Float Exhibition Hall). This is the hall where the festival floats are stored.

The Hida Folk Village is a famous and lovely open-air museum that features traditional mountain farmhouses. Artisans work in many of the buildings, and you can buy their crafts and try your hand at the traditional crafts.

Higashiyama Walking Course
A great way to see the sights in Takayama is to stroll the Higashiyama Walking Course, a lovely route through the temple town, numerous spot showing the traditional rural lifestyle and Shiroyama Park the site of the former Takayama Castle. The walk takes about 2 hours, and is well worth the effort.

Return to the ryokan.

*The shuttle bus departs from Takayama station at 14:10, 15:10, 16:10 and 17:10
  • Day 11
  • Return to Tokyo
Check out from Wanosato.

Take the shuttle bus to Takayama station.

Before heading to the station, you may visit the Takayama morning market and look for souvenirs. Communicating with the friendly locals, you can enjoy shopping for local crafts and farm products such as vegetables, pickles and flowers.

Then you return to Tokyo from Takayama station. It takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes.