The Honshu Experience

The Honshu Experience

This fourteen-night Daily Itinerary takes you to western Japan in addition to the standard favorites.  Use this itinerary if you want to include all the highlights of central Japan and still visit more of the country including Hiroshima and Miyajima.  It offers a chance to get off the normal beaten path while still hitting some of the most famous places Japan has to offer: a few days in cosmopolitan Tokyo, stops in the castle town of Matsumoto and the quiet wooden town of Takayama, some delightful time visiting the center of Japanese tradition and culture, Kyoto, and then heads off to western Japan for photogenic Kurashiki, historic Hiroshima and the sacred island of Miyajima.  End with one final night in Tokyo, perfectly positioned for your homeward bound flight.  The Honshu Experience Itinerary will give you a chance to visit SIX different yet unique places in Japan at a fast pace, designed with the active traveler in mind. Fill the days with more activities to speed things up, or go a little more slowly and savor fewer visits each day.

We have curated the internet to bring together all the information you need to plan your trip in one handy page. You can easily arrange this entire tour on your own using our simple, do-it-yourself instructions and links to transportation, hotels, train information and more!

Buy The Honshu Experience Itinerary Now

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Tokyo

Tokyo is an extraordinary city—both a large and sprawling metropolis as well as a collection of small neighborhoods bound together both by excellent public transport and centuries of tradition, and it is the capitol of Japan today. This incredible city is also known for its many museums, theaters, gardens, and the world’s most famous fish market. Tokyo holds vast and incredibly lit shopping districts, stunning architectural buildings, and the sprawling Meiji Shinto Shrine, known for its towering gate and surrounding woods in the middle of downtown Tokyo. It is a mixture of the ultramodern and traditional, from the neon-lit skyscrapers to the historic temples.

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Matsumoto

Matsumoto, at the base of the Japanese Alps in Nagano prefecture (home of the 2010 Winter Olympics!) is home to one of the few original castles in Japan, where you can experience the way the samurai lived and climb the steep inner steps to the top to survey the beautiful Kiso valley. The area is known for its apples, soba (buckwheat) noodles and is the birthplace of the famous Suzuki music method. Near the city are numerous onsen (hot spring) towns and ryokans where you can enjoy geothermally heated spring water and multi-course kaiseki meals.

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Takayama

Takayama is a traditional wooden Japanese town in pristine condition. Located high in the Hida Mountains, it borrowed from the cultural centers of Kyoto and Tokyo, and developed its own arts, crafts, cuisine, and architecture. San-Machi Suji is the historical district of Takayama. The town features lovely shops, outdoor morning markets and wonderful specialty museums. Taking a stroll through this area is like taking a journey back in time to 18th century Japan.

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Kyoto

Kyoto is the former capital of Japan, famous for its temples, shrines, Geisha, textiles, festivals, and traditional stone streets. It is home to seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kinkaku-ji Temple (the famed “Golden Pavillion”), Ryoan-ji Temple, and Nijo Castle. After the sun sets, you can sometimes see a geisha dressed in a colorful kimono, silently walking from one tea house to the next in the Gion district. Several times a year Kyoto is the home to festivals that showcase the history of the city and region with parades featuring stunning costumes and elaborate floats.

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Kurashiki

Kurashiki is a small town and one of Japan’s most picturesque, with interesting shops and museums located in the Bikan district, along an old reserved canal. Tourists can enjoy rides on the canal in traditional hand-oared boats. Kurashiki has become known for its history, art and museums. Most of the town’s current museums, boutiques and cafes are former storehouses, known as kura, which are built with distinctive grey walls with white cross-hatch patterns. The town is also located near the Bizen pottery centers and many area shops feature works of the distinct Bizen unglazed style.

Hiroshima-Miyajima

Today Hiroshima is a thriving city and home to the Peace Memorial Park, which includes the Children’s Peace Monument. Each year, thousands of school children from all over Japan and the world send colorful origami paper cranes that continually adorn the monument in memory of one of the young victims of the bombing. In Japan paper cranes are symbols of good fortune of longevity. The Peace Memorial Park and Museum is a must-see for history buffs.

Miyajima Island has long been revered as a sacred island because Itsukushima Shrine, founded there in 593 A.D., was dedicated to maritime guardian goddesses. Sightseeing highlights on Miyajima include the shrine, including the landmark bright orange torii gate on the water which, depending on tide, may even be accessible on foot, and the shrine’s treasure hall.

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Tokyo

After 13 amazing nights in Japan, return to Tokyo for one final day in this dynamic city. Visit those places you weren’t able to get to on your first stay, finish shopping for gifts for family and friends and enjoy one last dinner high atop one of Tokyo’s famous skyscrapers, with views as far as Mt. Fuji on a clear day.

Your Daily Itinerary Includes

Complete PDF (over 50 pages!) with hundreds of links to resources

Planning and preparation information

Curated Japan Signature information – insider knowledge from travelers who go to Japan regularly as tourists

Arrival Logistics Information with links to book in advance

Departure Logistics Information with links to book in advance

Detailed travel instructions for Tokyo to Matsumoto, Matsumoto to Takayama, Takayama to Kyoto, Kyoto to Kurashiki and Hiroshima and back to Tokyo, including multiple options, routes and side-trips

Information on J-R Railpass use

Tokyo Information:

  • 11 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Details on trains, subways and taxis, with some information (and words of caution) about buses and rental cars
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do plus 8 more interesting places to visit in your 3-day visit
  • Resources for finding and hiring a guide (including volunteers)
  • Descriptions of 18 of Tokyo’s neighborhoods
  • Dining with links to lists of restaurants
  • Activities to try including cooking and sword and ninja classes
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Tokyo

Matsumoto Information:

  • 4 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Local transportation information (mostly on foot in this town)
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do plus extras if you have time
  • Resources for finding and hiring a local guide (including volunteers)
  • Descriptions of areas of interest
  • Dining – local restaurants as well as dining at your ryokan
  • Activities to try including soba-noodle making, apple picking and interesting local museums
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Matsumoto

Takayama Information:

  • 10 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Local transportation information
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do plus extras if you have time
  • Resources for finding and hiring a local guide (including volunteers)
  • Descriptions of areas of interest, including a nearby town
  • Dining – local restaurants as well as dining at your ryokan
  • Activities to try including anime site tour, Japanese drum performance and more
  • Festivals and events unique to this area
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Takayama

Kyoto Information:

  • 13 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Details on trains,subways and taxis, with some information (and words of caution) about buses
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do, 5 hidden gems, plus details about places that require an advance reservation
  • Resources for finding and hiring a guide (including volunteers)
  • Descriptions of 6 main areas for sightseeing in Kyoto
  • Dining with links to lists of restaurants
  • Activities to try including cooking classes, taiko drum lessons, kimono dressing and more
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Kyoto

Kurashiki Information:

  • 4 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Local transportation information
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do plus extras if you have time
  • Resources for finding and hiring a guide (including volunteers)
  • Five main areas to explore
  • Dining suggestions and information on dining at your ryokan
  • Activities to try including making jeans, pottery and suggested small museums
  • Festivals and events unique to the area
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Kurashiki

Hiroshima/Miyajima Information:

  • 4 suggested and regularly inspected hotels and ryokans and resources for additional options
  • Local transportation information
  • Sightseeing highlights including Top 5 things to do plus extras if you have time in both Hiroshima and Miyajima
  • Resources for finding and hiring a guide (including volunteers)
  • Local areas to explore
  • Dining suggestions and information on dining at your ryokan
  • Activities to try including brush making, sake brewery tours, oyster harvesting, kayak tours and more!
  • Festivals and events unique to the area
  • Suggested day-by-day itinerary to maximize your time in Hiroshima and Miyajima

Buy The Honshu Experience Itinerary Now

COMING SOON!

Other 10 and 14-Night Options

The Traditional Loop: 14-nights

Tokyo-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto-Hakone-Tokyo

The Mountains & Sea: 10-nights

Tokyo-Matsumoto-Kyoto–Kanazawa-Tokyo

The Wanderer: 10-nights

Tokyo-Matsumoto-Kyoto-Hakone-Tokyo

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