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Autumn Leaves in Japan

16 days from £6,450 per person

Like their European namesake, the Japan Alps can be explored at any time of year. In the winter, Hakuba ski resort is easily reached from Tokyo, and the Yudanaka monkeys keep warm in the hot springs against the snow-capped mountain backdrop. During the summer they are the ideal place to take a break from the heat and humidity in the lowland cities. They are perhaps at their most beautiful in autumn when the prime leaf viewing spot of Kamikochi lake plateau is open, along with the Kurobe Alpine route and its snow corridor. 

After the neon-lit bustle of Tokyo has hit you, step back in time to Nikko in the foothills of the mountains. Yomeimon gate and the burial shrines of the Tokugawa shoguns are amongst the most ornate and detailed Japanese creations, with an added air of mystery as they are hidden in the forest. It is also the start of Japan’s ‘romantic road’, a scenic drive past mighty Kegon falls and the shores of tranquil Lake Chuzenji then more waterfalls and quaint onsen towns to Karuizawa. This is a favourite weekend retreat for well-heeled Tokyoites, and you can luxuriate in both traditional and modern comfort at the acclaimed Hoshinoya. In winter the road is closed so take bullet trains via Tokyo instead.

Head on to Yudanaka to see the famous snow monkeys and add a couple of days skiing at nearby Hakuba resort if you wish before heading over the mountains to Kanazawa. From April until October this can be done by traversing the ropeways and snow corridor of the Kurobe Alpine route with its panoramic photo opportunities. There is a wealth of quintessentially Japanese crafts and customs to experience in Kanazawa before being driven back up into the Alps via the charming hamlet of Shirakawago to Takayama. Atmospheric old wooden buildings line the main streets and you can reach Kamikochi lake plateau by taxi, an area of outstanding natural beauty suitable for everyone from strolling families to hardened hikers. A hearty multi-course kaiseki meal awaits you back at your luxury Japanese-style ryokan in Takayama this evening.

No trip to Japan would be complete without a few days in Kyoto, which you can reach in a few hours by train. Your guides will help you explore the many temples, shrines, old side-streets and landscaped spaces such as the ornamental moss garden at Saiho-ji and the zen garden of Ryoan-ji. Complete this grand loop of central Japan by catching the bullet train back to Tokyo, stopping off for one more ryokan stay in Hakone in the foothills of Mt Fuji en route.


Itinerary details

16 days from £6,450 per person

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