Japan Autumn & Winter Illuminations Discovery Tour (12 Days)



On this Japan Autumn & Winter Illuminations Discovery Tour (12 days), visit the most iconic locations in Japan that is the ideal trip for first-time travelers with an English-speaking tour guide. Stay in 3 – 4 Star overnight accommodations and travel in style with Shinkansen (bullet-train) with combination of private bus or vehicle. This tour is for a group of no more than 26 people.

This Japan Autumn & Winter Illuminations Discovery Tour is an extension of the Japan Discovery Tour. The tour will cover the same cities as the Japan Discovery Tour, but will include Kobe City and other scenic spots for Autumn Foliage and Winter Illuminations throughout the route (the time at some attractions in the Japan Discovery Tour will be shortened to accommodate additional attractions on this tour).

Day 1 – Depart for Tokyo
Depart from your home country to Japan. Please select a flight in which you will arrive no later than 2:30 PM at one of the Tokyo Airports on Day 2 of the itinerary. For guests that are already in Japan, please note that accommodations are not included on Day 1.

Day 2:  Arrive in Tokyo
Arrive in Tokyo and transfer to your hotel at your own leisure. You will officially meet your Tour Manager and other guests for the first time after arriving at the hotel. This evening, there will be a Welcome Dinner at 6:30 PM in which you will receive an orientation from your Tour Manager of what to expect and you can also meet and have some drinks with fellow travelers that will be going on this same tour with you. 
Overnight: Tokyo 
Meals: Dinner

Day 3: Tokyo (Tsukiji Fish Market, Sushi Demonstration, Akihabara, Ginza)
On this morning, wake up early for your first full-day tour of Tokyo. You’ll begin by walking through Tsukiji Fish Market, known for its sprawling fish market and is famous for the popular tuna auction that takes place here. After visiting this busy area, you can see a culinary demonstration of sushi or sashimi-making by a professional Sushi Chef and enjoy the meal for lunch afterward. After lunch, visit Akihabara, famous for its electronic shops and is considered the center of Japan’s otaku (diehard fan) culture with many shops and establishments devoted to anime and manga. Continue to Ginza district, Tokyo’s most celebrated upscale shopping, dining and amusement area, where you will have dinner.
Overnight: Tokyo 
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Hakone (Hakone National Park, Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Mt. Fuji area)
On this early morning, we’ll drive south to Hakone, known for its breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji and for its stunning autumn foliage. Along the way, we’ll stop and visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, a museum located near Lake Kawaguchi and showcases some of the textile artist’s kimono creations with various themes of nature and the seasons. Continue along the scenic road to the gondola which takes you on the Hakone Ropeway overlooking Owakudani Valley’s extraordinary volcanic zone. Eggs are cooked in the sulfur-rich hot pools here and are said to prolong a peron’s life by seven years. Later, take a cruise around the peaceful Lake Ashi. Spend the last part of the day enjoying the drive along Cedar Avenue, a historic site of Hakone Old Tokaido Road that linked Tokyo and Kyoto during the Edo Period. We return to Tokyo, where you’ll enjoy sampling different foods on a local walking food tour and will see impressive Winter Illuminations around the city.
*Due to local conditions, the Mt. Fuji sightseeing might be altered. Details will be provided locally by your Tour Manager. 
Overnight: Tokyo 
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Tokyo (Imperial Palace, Asakusa, Harajuku, Meiji Shrine)
We’ll start by visiting Imperial Palace and its East Garden, a scenic part of the inner palace area, before walking to the Nijubashi Bridge that stretches over the moat of the outer gardens. After the Imperial Palace, we’ll visit Asakusa area to see Sensoji (Asakusa Kannon Temple) with its iconic gigantic paper lantern leading towards the temple. Walk along Nakamise-dori, an old shopping street with many Edo-style crafts and souvenirs. Then, we’ll head to Harajuku, renowned for its colorful street art and fashion scene, with quirky vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops along Takeshita Street, and more traditional, upmarket boutiques lining leafy Omotesando Avenue. Finally, visit the famous Meiji Shrine, nestled in a forested area, dedicated to the deified spirits of the first Emperor Meiji and his Empress. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy the changing colors of autumn foliage at the nearby Yoyogi Park. Tonight, enjoy dinner at an izakaya, a Japanese style pub. Overnight: Tokyo 
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Kanazawa (Kenrokuen Garden, Kagaonsen Ryokan Experience)
Begin this early day by boarding the famous Shinkansen (bullet-train) that takes you to Kanazawa, known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts with Samurai residences, Geisha houses, and lavish gardens. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, celebrated for its classic landscape designs, before continuing to the Nomura Family House, where Samurai once lived. After the Kanazawa City tour, enjoy the evening and overnight stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) at Kaga Onsen, a highly-rated onsen destination with four hot spring towns just south of Kanazawa. Here, you’ll dress in yukata (casual kimono), enjoy a kaiseki dinner (traditional Japanese multi-course meal with seasonal foods) and bathe in an onsen (hot spring spa). There will also be opportunities to enjoy roten-buro (outdoor onsen), where you can bathe and relax while being surrounded in the tranquil natural beauty of autumn foliage and nature around you. The overnight stay at the ryokan will consist of an authentic Japanese room with tatami mats and sleep on a traditional futon mattress bed. 
Overnight: Kaga Onsen
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Shirakawa-go and Takayama
From Kaga Onsen, we’ll travel to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its village of thatched gassho-zukuri (praying hands) farmhouses, and is especially picturesque during Autumn. Explore Ogimachi, the largest village and main attraction of Shirakawa-go, and the ruins of its castle that dates back to the 1300s. Have lunch at a local restaurant before driving to Takayama, a city in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture, and retains an especially traditional atmosphere in its old town. You’ll visit the Takayama Jinya, the historic government headquarters under the Tokugawa shogunate that has been converted to a museum. Then, visit the Yatai Kaikan Hall housing intricate hand-carved floats used only for major bi-annual festivals. Enjoy free time for dinner. In the evening, arrive at a scenic mountain resort for an overnight stay.
Overnight: Takayama 
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Takayama, Nagoya, Kyoto (Bullet-train to Kyoto)
On this morning, enjoy a walking tour of Takayama’s well-preserved Edo-period shops and houses in the Sanno-machi Historic District and the morning market along the Miya River. Across the river lies Sanmachi-Suji, a group of three main streets that are lined with sake breweries, cafes, and iconic architecture that creates a nostalgic atmosphere. Transfer to Nagoya before having lunch then boarding the bullet-train to Kyoto.
Overnight: Kyoto 
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9: Kyoto (Kiyomizudera Temple, Tea Ceremony)
At the very start of the day, enjoy a traditional Tea Ceremony, where you’ll participate in the ancient art of preparing and serving tea while learning the precise rules and etiquette of this traditional art. Next, stroll through the ancient streets of Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka with old wooden storefronts and tea houses and visit the famous Kiyomizudera Temple (Pure Water Temple), the most celebrated temple in Kyoto. Have lunch in this area on your own before meeting your Tour Manager and transfer to Gion to walk around and learn about Kyoto’s geisha district. Afterward, visit the impressive Heian Shrine, a Shinto shrine built on the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto’s foundation (when the capital was transferred from Nara to Kyoto) and has a giant torii gate on the approach to the shrine. 
Overnight: Kyoto 
Meals: Breakfast

Day 10: Kyoto (Arashiyama, Nijo Castle, Rickshaw)
On this day, discover the cultural aspects of the beautiful and traditional Kyoto, as you start by visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. Stroll through the bamboo forest before taking a ride on a traditional Japanese rickshaw. Later, visit the Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Have lunch at a local restaurant before continuing Nijo Castle, which was the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns in Kyoto who had ruled over Japan for over 260 years. Spend the rest of the day and evening at your leisure.
Overnight: Kyoto 
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 11: Kyoto, Nara (Imperial Nara, Great Buddha Statue, Deer Park, Kasuga Grand Shrine, Maiko Dinner)
Wake up early to travel by private transfer to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in Kyoto that is famous for its thousands of torii gates (we will hike for approximately 60 – 80 minutes in total). After the short hike, transfer to the 8th century Imperial capital of Nara, known as Japan’s first permanent capital with some of Japan’s oldest and largest temples that are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites.Arrive at Todai-ji Temple (Great Eastern Temple), to see the great Daibutsu (Great Buddha) bronze statue. Later, have fun at the Nara Deer Park to see and feed the 1,000 tame and wild deer with shika senbei (deer crackers). At the east of Nara Park, you will visit the Kasuga Grand Shrine which rests at the foot of Mt. Mikasa—a spiritual mountain where a god is thought to dwell, and boasts over 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns. After Nara, board the private bus for a drive to Kobe, where you’ll see the fantastic Kobe Luminarie. This light festival, with more than 200,000 individually hand-painted lights, is held once every year since 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake and to signify hope to its citizens. Next, return to Kyoto for the Maiko Dinner (this is also the Farewell Dinner), showcasing the most traditional dance performances of Geisha. 
Overnight: Kyoto
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12: Depart Japan from Osaka
Say, “Sayonara,” to the friends you made on this small group tour before transferring to Osaka for your departure flight. At no additional cost, you will also have the JR Pass that you can use for 3 days at your leisure after the end of the tour. This will allow you to take the bullet-train and other JR transportation from Day 12 to Day 15 to other areas in Japan, or to simply transfer back to Tokyo before returning to your home country.
Meals: Breakfast

Availability: November 17th – November 28th, 2024

–     Adults (Age 12 and up): ¥525,000 per person
–     Child (Age 1 – 12): ¥250,000 per person
–     *Children will stay in the same room as adults
–     1 person only supplementary cost (for accommodations): Additional ¥120,000 per person


  • English-speaking Tour Manager
  • Small groups of maximum 26 travelers guaranteed. The tour may still operate with a smaller group of 16 people.
  • 10 nights First Class accommodations (3 – 4 Star overnight stay at traditional and modern hotels or inns):
    • 4 nights Tokyo
    • 1 night Kaga Onsen
    • 1 night Takayama
    • 4 nights Kyoto
  • Transportation costs included in the itinerary
  • 19 meals: 10 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners
  • Sightseeing per itinerary in modern air-conditioned vehicles or trains
  • Comprehensive, guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary
  • Active itinerary with unique cultural features
  • 3-day JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) available for use between Day 12 to Day 15 for guests to travel at their own leisure (after the tour has concluded)


  • Other fees not included in the tour
  • Optional activities at the guests’ leisure

Booking Request





  • Day 1: En route to Tokyo
  • Day 2: Tokyo
  • Day 3: Tokyo
  • Day 4: Tokyo - Hakone - Tokyo
  • Day 5: Tokyo
  • Day 6: Tokyo - Kanazawa - Kaga Onsen
  • Day 7: Kaga Onsen - Shirakawago - Takayama
  • Day 8: Takayama - Nagoya - Kyoto
  • Day 9: Kyoto
  • Day 10: Kyoto
  • Day 11: Kyoto - Nara - Kobe - Kyoto
  • Day 12: Kyoto - Osaka


Additional Information


Bring comfortable walking shoes, a sweater, clothes you can layer and an all-weather jacket. Some religious sites may require modest dress to enter: No shorts or short skirts, knees must be covered by long pants or a long skirt. No sleeveless tops, shoulders must be covered and a shawl or scarf is frequently not accepted as a cover.

The tour operates in all weather conditions (except when there is a typhoon or other extreme situations). Please dress appropriately for all weather conditions. In such case, please note that the tour may change slightly to accommodate for the weather.


While most places we visit may be non-smoking establishments, there are some places along the way that may allow smoking in designated areas. Please take note of this for guests who are sensitive to smoke.

Age Requirement

There is no age requirement, but a reservation must be made for all guests. For children (Age 12 and below), the children must stay in the same room as adults. For guests age 13 and up, guests may stay in a separate room, or may share a room with parents at request. Passports may be required to verify age on the day of the tour.

Payment & Confirmation

All bookings are payable via Stripe (Booking Checkout) or Flywire. Confirmations regarding your booking will be sent at least 40 days before your activity date.

A minimum number of 16 guests in total is required to operate this tour. If we do not have enough guests booked within 40 days of the tour, we will notify you and the full amount will be refunded to you.

Trip Preparation

It is each traveler’s responsibility to have a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the dates of travel and a visa if required. 

All travelers should familiarize themselves with local conditions, such as high altitude or required immunizations, which could affect their health. We recommend you consult with your personal healthcare provider, the Centers for Disease Control and/or the World Health Organization for their recommendations.

Cancellation Policy

Firm Cancellation Policy:

  • Cancellation fee of 100% if booking is cancelled 7 days or less before event
  • Cancellation fee of 75% if booking is cancelled 14 days or less before event
  • Cancellation fee of 50% if booking is cancelled 30 days or less before event
  • Cancellation fee of 25% if booking is cancelled 45 days or less before event


What if I’m late to meet up with Tour Manager during the tour?

We ask that all guests arrive at the location at least 10 minutes before the designated meet-up time. Since this is a group tour, we may not be able to wait for you if you are late. The tour will begin without the late guests and you can meet the rest of the group at the next location. Guests are provided with the tour guides’ phone number before the tour and you can call the tour guide if you need to meet the group in the next location.

How fit do I need to be for this tour?

This active tour covers a good amount of ground each day. Expect to walk about two to four hours on some touring days. Although the pace is moderate, you may encounter some uneven surfaces, stairs, steps and significant slopes on this tour and there are some areas in the open air and with no shade. There may also be changes in set drop-off and pick-up locations due to driving conditions and regulations, which may require additional walking between the different locations.

Is this an ideal tour for first-time visitors to Japan?

Yes, this tour is ideal for first-time visitors to Japan. While this introductory Discovery Tour will visit many of the most iconic locations in Japan, there are also other places you’ll visit that are not the main landmarks. This will provide you with a better idea of what life in Japan is like for locals, as well as visit to some of the main attractions that Japan has to offer.

What is the difference between this tour and the regular Japan Discovery Tour?

This Japan Autumn & Winter Illuminations Discovery Tour is an extension of the Japan Discover Tour. This tour will cover the same cities as the Japan Discovery Tour, but will include Kobe City and other scenic spots for Autumn Foliage and Winter Illuminations throughout the route (the time at some attractions in the Japan Discovery Tour will be shortened to accommodate additional attractions on this tour).


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