Recommended Sample Itineraries
My private tours of rural Japan are carefully tailor-made for you and can be extended in some places to a two-day tour. I can craft your itinerary with the destinations which you do not want to miss in combination with unique destinations that will amaze you. I can choose these places for you based on your tastes and seasonal availability. I want to make sure that your private tour is a memorable experience.
Please keep in mind my recommended sample itineraries are just a taste of what I have to offer. I will always strive to create the best possible itinerary to match your needs and desires.
Click the accordions below to see the details of my tours from Kansai, these are one-day tours unless indicated otherwise:
Koyasan: See the entire mountain from the Buddhist temple, home to an enormous historic cemetery with a huge number of tombstones. Visit Okuno-Inn where Kukai, aka Kobo-Daishi, is said to have been living since the 800s. At Danjo-Garan, you may see the young monks walking around in a group for training. You could stay at Sobo, the temple inn, and participate in the morning prayer at the inn.
Awajishima: The birthplace of Japan, a popular destination for bike riders from Kansai, the “island of onions”, Awaji, is also well known for its own brand of beef and fresh seafood year-round.
Naruto: You can take a boat through a rough current where many whirlpools are created by the tides between the Pacific Ocean and Seto Inland Sea. Not for the faint of heart!
Takeda Castle: Medieval samurai castle ruins that have been well preserved atop mountains shrouded in mysterious fog every morning (closed in winter for snow).
Takashima: The Torii Gate stands in the middle of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake. Be prepared to be wowed as the sunrise at this gate is spectacular. You can also drop by a sake brewery for a tasting session.
Hikone Castle: As one of 12 surviving castles with a main tower, you will have the chance to enjoy the delicious Ohmi beef and local sake by Lake Biwa.
Okayama: Just 40 minutes from Osaka by Shinkansen (bullet train), you can enjoy the beautiful Korakuen Gardens, one of the top three authentic Japanese gardens attached to Okayama Castle.
Kurashiki: The historic town can be reached on a well-kept walkway by the canal just 20 minutes away from Okayama city and the popular Ohara Museum.
Hiroshima: Take a trip to Hiroshima and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with the infamous Atomic Bomb Dome- a lesson from WWII. Then, right next to the park, we will go by speedboat and visit the mysterious and historic Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima Island.
Iwakuni: Only an extra 30 minutes from Miyajima and you can see the state-of-the-art wooden but also historic architecture of Kintaikyo Bridge. You may also enjoy the local sushi called Iwakuni sushi. The city is also well known for the Japanese White Rat Snake so keep your eyes peeled.
- Atomic Bomb Memorial
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima
- Senjo-jiki Hall
- Korakuen Garden
- Okayama Castle
- Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter along the canal
- Ohara Museum (option)
- Korakuen Garden
- Okayama Castle
- Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter along the canal
- Ohara Museum (optional)
Shimanami Kaido: Here you can find a number of beautiful islands on the Seto Inland Sea that are all connected, from the nostalgic Onomichi on Honshu main island across to Imabari on Shikoku Island. You can spend days riding a bicycle and checking out the history of the marine samurai called Suigun. Rent-a-bike services are available on most of the islands along Shimanami.
Kinosaki Onsen: A few hours away by train or bus from Osaka or Kyoto, you can enjoy the classic Onsen township on the Sea of Japan coast. Make sure you don’t miss the delicious snow crab in season (November to March).
Shirahama: Shirahama is one of the 3 oldest onsens (hot springs) in Japan. Aside from the hot springs, this place is a well-known beach resort with beautiful white sands which make for a memorable summer vacation. You can visit the dynamic geological scenic attractions of Senjojiki and Sandanheki including the cave used as a hidden pier. If you’re lucky with the weather, then you will see the beautiful sunset through a hole in Engetsu Island.
Kumano-Kodo: Since the 800s, this area has seen huge numbers of aristocrats travel all the way from Kyoto to the Kumano Hongu Taisha Shrine. To this day, the shrine trail is well preserved so you can walk as if on a pilgrimage through the beautifully mountainous area of Wakayama.
Kushimoto: Here, you can see a line of photogenic, pinnacle-shaped rocks offshore in Kushimoto, called Hashikui-Iwa. We’ll then watch the sunrise beautifully between this famous rock formation. Be sure to check out Shiono-Misaki (Cape) in the south end of Honshu Main Island of Japan.
Yoshino: Though Yoshino is located in the middle of a very mountainous area in mid-southern Nara, this small township with the historic temple of Shugendo, Kinpusan-ji Temple, was once a residence of the Japanese Emperor. In spring, you can see thousands of the pink cherry trees blooming all over the mountains.
Yubara Onsen & Hiruzen Heights: As a nostalgic and off-the-beaten-path destination, visitors can enjoy the big open-air bath right next to the huge wall of the dam 24/7, free of charge. You can also sample the delicious Katsuyama beef or snow crab in season. Give the dairy products a try or even the wine in Hiruzen. In winter, you can also ski.
Matsue: If you are a Japanese castle lover, don’t miss one of the 12 castles with their original main tower, and the last addition to Japan’s national treasure list, Matsue Castle. Unlike other castles, you can enjoy a boat ride along the moat of the castle. While at Koizumi Yakumo Museum, you may learn Japanese ghost stories first introduced by an Englishman, Yakumo, who is one of a handful of foreigners to become a Japanese citizen in the wake of the Meiji Restoration. Finally, sunset at Lake Shinji is one allure you should never miss.
Izumo: Once a year, 8 million Japanese gods get together for a meeting where they will decide who is going to marry whom. Large numbers of Japanese women visit Izumo to send a prayer so that they can find the right future partner. At Izumo Taisha Shrine, you will learn how Japan was built by those Shintoism gods. Aside from the spiritual side of things, Izumo soba noodles is one dish you should try for lunch.
Tottori: Tottori is the capital of Japan’s Tottori prefecture. Visitors descend from all over the country to this large city to witness the spectacular sand dunes—a must-see!
Shirakawago: As a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, you will see many unique-looking Gassho Tsukuri homes and learn how and why they are built in this specific shape.
Gokayama: About 30 minutes from Shirakawago, this small village is the miniature model of Shirakawago. If you want to have a quieter time then I recommend the Toyama or Kanazawa tours instead.
Shokawa: This is another small township before Shirakawago with a different style of Gassho Tsukuri. You are certain to enjoy the scenic drive from here to Shirakawago.
Hida-Takayama: The center of the Hida area is a historic and preserved town that makes you feel like you have been transported back in time. If you are a sake or meat lover, don’t miss the local sake and delicious Hida beef.
Kanazawa: Kanazawa is one of the area’s major historic cities and is famous for the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens. You can also join the tour with all the magic of Myoritusji, aka the “Ninja Temple”. Kawanaza is also known as a sushi town as the fresh seafood from the Sea of Japan is available throughout the year with a huge selection of fine sake on offer.
Fukui (Ichijodani and Dinosaur Museum): Ichijodani is the only ruins of the medieval Japanese township with a number of samurai and common people living next to each other. Fukui is the home of dinosaurs in Japan. The Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama is a key attraction, where you can learn all about 44 bone frames of excavated dinosaurs.
Iya Valley and Oboke-Koboke: As one of my off-the-beaten-path destinations, this tour is set in the mountainous Tokushima prefecture. You will learn about the Japanese history of the mysterious “Ochudo ” of the Taira clan from the bridge made of Hardy Kiwi wood together with the houses in the middle to the top of mountains.
Matsuyama & Dogo-Onsen: Matsuyama Castle is one of 12 castles with their original main towers. But the biggest attraction of Shikoku’s largest city is the historic Dogo Onsen, one of the three oldest onsens in Japan and a prime relaxation destination.
Kochi and Ashizuri Misaki (Cape): If you love Bonito fish (cooked in any style), you can’t afford to miss the Kochi foodie tour. Be sure to check out Kochi Castle too, it is one of the famous 12 castles, but the only one with both the main tower and the house for a lord. From Kochi, we can visit a 3-star Michelin destination. Be aware when in this region as you may feel how rough the waves of the Pacific Ocean can be when they hit the walls of Shikoku.
Beppu (home of the onsen in Japan called onsen-ken): If you are an onsen lover, this is the best destination to pick. In Beppu city, you can choose from 8 different kinds of onsen in mineral content and even color. The local delicacy to help better your health is jigokumushi, food cooked by volcanic steam.
Fukuoka: The center of Kyushu Island and the home of tonkotsu (hakata) ramen. Also, believe it or not, Fukuoka is also the birthplace of udon noodles. You may want to visit the newest national museum, Kyushu National Museum so that you can learn about Japan’s historic connections to the Eurasian Continent.
Yabakei & Kuju: Enjoy the colorful autumn leaves at a glance or walk along the high suspension bridge for pedestrians. An onsen experience is always part of the tour in Kyushu.
- Travel from Kansai to your chosen destination
- Adachi Museum (widely acknowledged as the best Japanese garden in the world for the last 20 years)
- Sunset at Lake Shinji
- Matsue Castle
- Koizumi Yakumo Museum
- Scenic drive to Izumo City
- Izumo Taisha Shrine
- Travel from Izumo City to Kansai
- Travel from Kansai to Beppu
- Umi Jigoku
- Chinoike Jigoku
- Enjoy onsen as much as possible
- Yabakei (a beautiful sight in colorful autumn)
- Rakanji Temple with over 500 of the oldest artifacts in Japan
- Tsukahara onsen & active volcano (source of onsen in Beppu)
- Travel from Beppu to Kansai
Please note: You could also take the overnight ferry between Beppu/Oita City and Osaka/Kobe.