Your 3-day tour puts the spotlight on the historical cities of Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa. Each city is famous in its own right: Takayama for its impeccably preserved Old Town, Shirakawago for its traditional farmhouses, and Kanazawa for its cultural heritage and samurai history.
Start your one-way tour in Kyoto and travel by train, local bus, taxi and coach between the destinations before ending in Tokyo. Travel independently by train, then be met by a professional guide at each stop. Receive assistance with transfers to your hotels, and take tours at each location with professional guides who show you the top attractions, then have time on your own in the evenings. Meals are not included, which allows you the flexibility to eat when, where and what you like. Your guide can provide recommendations for good restaurants. Your tour includes transportation, guides and your choice of standard or deluxe accommodation for two nights.
Day 1: Kyoto –TakayamaAfter pickup in Kyoto, a tour assistant takes you to the city train station to board your high-speed bullet train east. After roughly 50 minutes on board (the train ride is on your own, without a guide), arrive in Nagoya, where another assistant helps you transfer to an express train to Takayama, a small, ancient city known to many as ‘Little Kyoto.’ Your tour guide awaits you at the end of your train ride.
During the Edo period (1600s through to mid-1800s), thriving Takayama was known for its population of wealthy merchants and skilled carpenters. Numerous well-preserved wooden houses, inns, temples and shrines date back to those times, offering an impressive collection of sights for a city so small.
Exploring with your guide, admire the traditional houses of Kami Sannomachi, and visit the Yatai Kaikan hall to see its collection of vividly colored festival floats. Kusakabe Folk Museum is also included on the tour. Admire its array of folk art housed within a striking old merchant’s building. After your tour, your guide takes you to your Takayama hotel where you have the evening at your leisure.
Overnight: Hida Hotel Plaza in Takayama (standard and deluxe option)
Day 2: Takayama – Shirakawago – Kanazawa In the late morning, hop aboard a local bus and travel north to Shirakawago, tucked away in the Shogawa River Valley. Like Takayama, Shirakawago is famous for its architectural heritage, but its houses are somewhat different. As you travel, learn about Shirakawago’s gassho-zukuri homes—beautifully preserved wooden farmhouses with steeply arched thatched roofs, said to represent the hands of Buddhist monks in prayer.
Your first stop in town is its largest gassho-zukuri, the Wada family residence (or Wada-Ke House), where you can see how home life was for one of the area’s wealthiest families. Then, explore Shirakawago’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed folk village to see more modestly sized, but still intriguing, homes.
After touring Shirakawago, take a local bus to Kanazawa Station, then travel by taxi to your hotel.
Overnight: Hotel Kanazawa (standard option) or Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (deluxe option) in Kanazawa
Day 3: Kanazawa – Tokyo Kanazawa boasts an array of cultural attractions that your guide explains along the way. Start with a 30-minute tour of the Higashi Chaya District, known for its Edo-period teahouses, cafes and specialty shops, including one that sells gold leaf products.
Continue on to Tentokuin Temple, a 17th-century temple dedicated to Tamahime, a daughter of the second Tokugawa Shogun. Pass through the gate and have a look inside, and learn about how Tamahime played here with her dolls as a girl.
Next, visit the restored samurai residence of Nomura-Ke in the city’s historic Nagamachi area. Offering a glimpse into the life of a rich samurai, the home-turned-museum is full of sights: authentic armor, Edo architecture and a small, beautiful garden. Then it’s on to Kenroku-en Garden, one of the so-called ‘great gardens of Japan.’ The landscaped grounds date back to the Edo period and surround the front of Kanazawa Castle. Keep your camera handy to capture the stately backdrop.
Afterward, you’ll head to Nagoya station to board the bullet train (Shinkansen) for the journey southeast to Tokyo. Your 3-day tour ends with drop-off at select Tokyo hotels in the evening.