Nagano and Niigata Luxury in Nature

Nagano and Niigata Luxury in Nature

An explorative tour through the mountains and countryside of Japan.

Starting with a brief tour of the nation’s capital, proceed through the mountainous stretches of central Japan. Follow a section of the trail of the old highway between Kyoto and Tokyo. Visit preserved post towns, rural villages and Japan’s second most famous castle.

End your tour at one of Japan’s premier art fields, designed by the same team that created the art islands of the Inland Sea.

Day 1

Narita Arrival Transfer

Narita Arrival Transfer

Meet your driver in the arrival area and move to Tokyo. It is about a 90 minute drive.

Day 2

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle, full day

Private vehicle, full day

Tour in the comfort of your own private luxury vehicle.

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are a part of the inner palace area and are open to the public. They are the former site of Edo Castle's innermost circles of defense, the honmaru ("main circle") and ninomaru ("secondary circle"). None of the main buildings remain today, but the moats, walls, entrance gates and several guardhouses still exist. It is a sight to see.

Tsukiji & Toyosu Market

Tsukiji & Toyosu Market

Every day, from Monday to Saturday at the famous tuna auction is held at Toyosu Fish Market in the early morning hours and afterwards the market opens up to the general public midmorning. This is an excellent chance to discover some of the world’s best seafood and see this famous market in action. While the inner market has many shops that sell business to business, the outer market in Tsukiji is a wonderful chance to to sample a wide variety of some of Japan's finest seafood and various fresh, hot snacks. Your brief tour today will take you to the outer market to experience some of Tsukiji’s best eating (and drinking). We recommend the yaki-tamago - a sweet, custard like scrambled egg pan fried in layers and served fresh out of the pan.

Goma Fire Ritual

Goma Fire Ritual

The Goma Fire Ritual is one of Japan's most enchanting and fascinating experiences. Fire is believed to have many cleansing properties in the Shingon sect of Buddhism and is often used in prayers and requests. The ritual is powerfully hypnotic with the monks’ chants accompanying the intense and purifying fire.

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple

Sensōji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo, having been built in 645AD. Unfortunately, after remaining relatively unscathed for 13 centuries, it was destroyed during WWII. Sensoji was rebuilt after the war and has become a symbol of rebirth of the city and the nation. Nowadays, millions of people step through the Kaminarimon or Thunder Gate, famous for its huge lantern, and stroll along Nakamisedori, the street leading to the temple, filled with small shops selling all manners of goods.

Rikugien Gardens

Rikugien Gardens

Rikugen is often thought of as Tokyo's most beautiful Japanese landscape garden along with Koishikawa Korakuen. Built around the 1700s for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, the garden is a good example of an Edo Period strolling garden. It features a large central pond surrounded by manmade hills and forested areas, all connected by a network of paths. On the Northwest shore of the pond, Fukiage Chaya teahouse is a nice place to take a rest and have some tea.

One of the best times to visit Rikugien is from late November to early December, when the many maples turn the garden into one of Tokyo's best fall foliage spots. Of note are the views around the stream that runs by the Tsutsuji no Chaya teahouse, around the Togetsukyo Bridge and from the Fujishirotoge viewpoint.

Rikugien is also nice to visit in spring. Various flowering trees and shrubs bloom around the garden, most notably the weeping cherry trees, and the azalea bushes.

Day 3

Private vehicle transfer, hotel to station

Private vehicle transfer, hotel to station

Meet your driver in the lobby of your hotel and move to the station. Your driver will assist you in boarding your train.

Shinkansen - Tokyo to Nagoya

Shinkansen - Tokyo to Nagoya

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby upon arrival and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Tsumago

Tsumago

The town and its residents go to great lengths to recreate the ambiance of the Edo Period. Cars are prohibited on the main street during the day and phone lines and power cables are kept concealed, allowing visitors to imagine they have slipped back to an earlier time. Tsumago also recreates the post town atmosphere by maintaining its Honjin and Wakihonjin. In all post towns, the Honjin was the principal inn and served government officials who were traveling through. When more lodging was required, the Wakihonjin served to accommodate the travelers of lower status. Tsumago also maintains the office where laborers and horses were rented to aid in travel. Rekishi Shiryokan is a rather extensive historical museum on Tsumago and the Kiso Valley. Most of the museum is translated into English, and many models and artifacts are on display.

Magome-Tsumago Trail

Magome-Tsumago Trail

The trail between Magome and Tsumago is a well maintained section of the former Nakasendo. The trail is not difficult and is well marked in English and Japanese. It is about 8 km long and should take two to three hours to complete at a leisurely pace. The trail leads through the countryside and passes right alongside the houses and fields of local residents. It also intersects with the road and hikers must tread along asphalt for some portions. Despite this, a walk along the Magome-Tsumago trail is a highly enjoyable part of visiting the Kiso Valley.

Magome

Magome

The town has been beautifully restored with a broad stone walkway lined with carefully tended foliage. Magome's embellished preservation contrasts with the rugged authenticity of neighboring Tsumago. While exploring Magome, visitors will surely come across the name Shimazaki Toson. Born in Magome in 1872, Toson is a highly regarded figure in Japanese literature. In his novel Yoakemae (Before the Dawn), he famously describes life in the area during the early years of the Meiji Restoration. Honjin/Toson Memorial Museum Toson's father was the last person to oversee Magome's Honjin, and Toson himself was born there. Today, it serves as a memorial to the artist.

Day 4

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Kiso Fukushima Town

Kiso Fukushima Town

This town was once the halfway point between Tokyo and Kyoto on the Nakasendo, one of the two roads that linked the Shogunate and Imperial capitals. While the town is not as famous as it once was, it still a wonderful place to see Japan as it once was. Visitors can visit the reconstructed Fukushima Checkpoint, where travelers had to wait and present their passes for travel and be searched by soldiers of the Tokugawa regime for weapons or letters that might be used for rebellion. There is a museum attached that has documents, handcuffs. torture implements and wooden passes used in the Edo Era. Other points of interest are the former residence of the governor of the ovary clan who controlled the area for the Tokugawas and the Kiso Fukushima Historical Museum, which contains items from the area and a traditional farmhouse that was transported from a nearby village. The most important aspect is simply the atmosphere of the town, both relaxing and energizing.

Narai-juku

Narai-juku

Narai of a Thousand Houses. Once the most prosperous post town on the Nakasendo, Narai still retains some of its former glory. Located at the base of Torii Pass, the town is a great place to enjoy a stay at a rokan, have a bath or simply take a break with excellent local cuisine and locally brewed beer. Some sites include the Nakamura Residence, former home of a wealthy wooden comb craftsman, and the Kiso Shashi, a wooden bridge constructed of 300-hundred-year-old cypress wood. The main street is lined with traditional houses filled with shops that sell local delicacies, lacquerware, hand-woven baskets, woodwork, local beer and the famous local sake, Nanawarai (Seven Smiles). This town is a must-see for those interested in traditional Japanese life and history.

Kiso-Hirasawa

Kiso-Hirasawa

Kiso-Hirasawa is the center of lacquerware in the central area of the Japan Alps. The town is over 400 years old and the streets are lined with traditional houses. Many housing lacquerware shops, including those of living national treasures. Visits to workshops to see the process of this amazing craft can be arranged and travelers can see the centuries-old techniques that have been passed down through generations.

Hiraide Ruins

Hiraide Ruins

Hiraide Ruins are one of Japan's most famous archeological sites. It was once a large settlement that started in the Jomon Era and continued to the Heian Period. Over three hundred features have been excavated. Findings include pit dwellings, structural remnants, stoneware, pots and garbage pits, known as middens. Portions of the area have been converted to a visitors' area where people can experience how life was once lived.

Day 5

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Matsumoto

Matsumoto

Matsumoto is the second largest city in Nagano Prefecture. It is most famous for Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan's most beautiful original castles.

Nakamachi

Nakamachi

Nakamachi-dori is a small portion of Matsumoto's town center with streets lined by nicely preserved, old buildings. The buildings include a number of warehouse-type buildings (kura) with large white-painted walls. The area is where the city's merchants used to live during the Edo Period, and today, the types of buildings here reflect this history. Some of the buildings house small shops, restaurants and ryokan. Running parallel to Nakamachi across the river lies "Frog Street", a pedestrian-only lane of shops and cafes housed in small, traditional-style buildings. The street got its nickname in the Meiji Period after the construction of Yohashira Shrine for which it serves as the main approach. Businesses sprung up, allowing people to buy items and return home after worshipping. The two acts sound phonetically identical to the word for frog (kaeru) in Japanese, thus spawning the street's colloquial label. Today, a frog statue stands at the entrance to the street to protect the businesses. Yohashira Shrine, well-known for its impressive wooden architecture, is on the way to Matsumoto Castle. This small, well-kept Shinto shrine, surrounded by the main shopping area in town, offers access via a picturesque stone bridge and features numerous strange stone sculptures, such as sword-wielding warrior frog deities and guardian lions keeping watch over the area. The temple houses four deities, which is unusual for shrines.

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto Castle is one of Japan's most complete and beautiful original castles. The wooden interior is especially interesting compared with concrete reconstructions. The surrounding grounds are a popular cherry blossom viewing spot.

Japan Ukiyoe Museum

Japan Ukiyoe Museum

Here is ,displayed but a small percentage of the wealthy merchant family's collection of more than 100,000 pieces. They have been collecting wood block prints for over 300 years.

Day 6

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Obasute Rice Terraces

Obasute Rice Terraces

Obasute Rice Terraces in Chikuma City in Nagano is a very popular site for amateur photographers. It has more than 2,000 rows of rice terraces that expand down the hillside from the local train station. In the spring when the fields are inundated with water, the reflection of the sunset and later the moon in the waters draw visitors from all over the country.

Nagano City

Nagano City

Nagano City is the capital of Nagano Prefecture. It has grown as a temple town around Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan's most popular temples. In 1998, the city hosted the Winter Olympic Games, and some olympic facilities can still be viewed around town.

Zenkoji

Zenkoji

While many Japanese cities developed around a castle or economic hub, the city of Nagano owes its growth to Senkoji, which classifies it as a temple town. Senkoji was established not long after buddhism was introduced to Japan and it is thought that the temple currently home to the first statue of Buddha ever brought into the country in the 7th century. While you will unfortunately not be able to see the original Buddha statue, a replica is displayed in its place (the original won't be available for public viewing until the year 2021). The temple grounds also yield endless nooks and crannies to explore, along with a rich and fascinating history.

Togakushi Shrine

Togakushi Shrine

Togakushi Shrine is made up of three shrines: a lower, a middle and an upper shrine. It is situated in the forested mountains northwest of Nagano. The shrines are related to an important part of Japanese myth. Because of her brother's behavior, the Sun Goddess put herself in a cave in Takachiho on Kyushu and brought darkness to the world. In order to bring her out, the other deities lured the Sun Goddess out of the cave by performing spectacular dance performances in front of it. As the Sun Goddess looked out, one of the deities seized the cave's stone door and threw it away to stop her from returning to the cave. The stone sailed to the area and gave it its name:Togakushi means "hiding door". The deity who threw the door is enshrined in the upper shrine. The middle shrine is for the goddess who organized the performances before the cave. The three shrines are connected by roads and hiking trails that lead up the mountain's forested slopes. The shrines are entered by the torii gate of the lower one. From there, a long set of stairs leads to its prayer hall. A two-kilometer hike from the lower shrine leads to the middle shrine. Here is also a small cluster of shops and restaurants. The shrine has a interestingly designed prayer hall, a small waterfall, and an 800-year-old sacred grove. A further two-kilometer uphill hike leads to the third shrine. The path is lined by several hundred cryptomeria trees, goes beyond the thatched-roof Zuishinmon Gate and terminates with a series of stone steps. The main hall is situated on the side of Mount Togakushi while above them tower the mountain peaks. An different path to the upper shrine goes via Kagamiike ("Mirror Pond"), a beautiful pond which reflects the surrounding mountain landscape.

Togakure Ninpo Museum

Togakure Ninpo Museum

The Togakure Ninpo Museum is a museum dedicated to the local school of ninja. According to legend, in the 1300's, a warrior from Nagano who was on the losing side of the Genpei War fled to Iga, the traditional home of the ninja. There the warrior honed his ninja skills and then returned to Nagano and started the Togakure ninja school. The museum is just across from the Upper Togakushi Shrine. Several buildings make up the museum. One building houses the tools and weapons used by Togakure Ninja and exhibits many eye-cathing photos of the ninja practicing their techniques in warfare and infiltration. The museum also features a building which appears to be a simple house, but contains secret passages, doors and other trick features. A throwing star (shuriken) throwing range is also on site, where visitors can try throwing shuriken at target boards. The Museum of Togakushi Folklore, which exhibits traditional tools, clothing and furniture from the past, too is on the grounds .

Day 7

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Akiyamago

Akiyamago

Akiyamago is a tiny village in the Nakatsugawa River valley. Surrounded by the steep mountains and isolated by heavy snow in winter, this is a region where traditional life seems to remain unchanged even today. The area is famous as a place where the Heike clan had fled to after losing a civil war in former times. It is renowned for its winter hunting and fishing. Akiyamago kebab (handmade fly-fishing lures) are prized throughout the country. Akiyamago has been chosen as one of Japan's 100 backcountry regions.

Passed down by generations of residents, the area retains its harmonious relationship with nature. In the spring the region is filled with mountain cherry blossoms and violets, and in the fall is brightened by its golden leaves. In winter the thickly fallen snow serves only to highlight both the severity of the winter months and the austere beauty of the valley.

There is a small museum that tells the history of the area back to ancient times and should be visited.

Kiyotsukyo Gorge

Kiyotsukyo Gorge

In southern Niigata prefecture is one of Japan’s Top 3 gorges, Kiyotsu Gorge. In between the towering cliffs, the gorge wends its way for more than 12 kilometers. The gorge was formed thousands of years ago when a volcano erupted and the magma cooled, leaving the stunning escarpments and breathtaking white waters that tumble its length. Kiyotsukyo Gorge Tunnel runs 750 meters and takes around one hour for a round trip tour of its length. There are four viewpoints that give the best views of these wonderful seemingly jointed columns of stone and the clear liquid that rolls over the rocks and through the channels. The tunnel underwent renewal on April 28, 2018 as part of the 2018 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale that began from July 2018. Contemporary art works in the tunnel and a newly established entrance facility are a must see.

Day 8

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Echigo Tsumari Art Field

Echigo Tsumari Art Field

Reconnect with nature through art at Echigo Tsumari. Permanent art exhibits, set in the stunning natural beauty of the Echigo area, are designed to reconnect humans with nature, which is vital as we advance rapidly with technology. The art exhibits are designed to invoke ever changing thought and reflection with the seasons, and the locals are as vital to the experience as the art itself. We invite you to rediscover the artistic beauty of nature and genuine relationships like no other place in Japan.

Day 9

Private Guided Tour

Private Guided Tour

Meet your guide in the lobby of the hotel and set out for a private guided tour.

Private vehicle for touring

Private vehicle for touring

Today you will tour in the comfort of your private vehicle.

Echigo Tsumari Art Field

Echigo Tsumari Art Field

Reconnect with nature through art at Echigo Tsumari. Permanent art exhibits, set in the stunning natural beauty of the Echigo area, are designed to reconnect humans with nature, which is vital as we advance rapidly with technology. The art exhibits are designed to invoke ever changing thought and reflection with the seasons, and the locals are as vital to the experience as the art itself. We invite you to rediscover the artistic beauty of nature and genuine relationships like no other place in Japan.

Shinkansen - Echigo-Yuzawa - Tokyo

Shinkansen - Echigo-Yuzawa - Tokyo

Private vehicle transfer, station to hotel

Private vehicle transfer, station to hotel

Meet your driver on the arrival platform and move to your hotel.

Day 10

Narita Departure Transfer

Narita Departure Transfer

Meet your driver in the lobby of your hotel and move to Narita Airport. It is about a 90 minute drive.

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