With just yourself, your fellow travelers, and the open road, this adventure is just one example of the stunning self-drives we’ve created and encourage you to embark on as your journey through Japan. Designed by our own Avi Lugasi, this drive is one of the most unique and remarkable ways to explore the island nation. Allow us to take you from ancient temples in Kyoto to humble countryside towns all the way to the haven of innovation that is Tokyo for a sampling of all of Japan’s many amazing facets. You’ll take in views and enjoy experiences and scenes many other travelers, even locals, don’t get the chance to.
In Avi’s words:
“For a long time I have wanted to share with my guests the lesser-known trails of this country. Even though I lived for a number of years in the Japanese countryside and have traveled through them quite a bit, they never fail to surprise me. My passion and enthusiasm for these places has only grown over the years. My heart opens, and my eyes never tire of the views. Something about it is so straightforward and simple. Even if it is not always aesthetically perfect, it is forever different.”
- Stunning country roads and natural beauty as you drive the open roads
- Local festivals, such as the Kishiwada and Kiriko Lantern Festival (Autumn)
- Relaxation in some of Japan’s renowned onsen hot springs
- Eye-opening cultural exchange with locals
- A private meeting with a Zen monk in a rural village
- Participation in a Japanese cooking class
- A chance to play traditional taiko Japanese drums as taught by a master
- Stays at traditional ryokan inns
- Learning how to make Japanese washi paper
- Private meetings with local artisans and craftsmen
The following tour is an example of what we can offer your group as an adventure on the road in Japan. If interested, feel free to contact us to find out what we can add to this itinerary to make it special for you and to learn about our terms and conditions. We look forward to making a tailor-made stay just for you!
Day 1 Yokoso, and Welcome to JapanOvernight in Osaka City
After arriving in Japan, you will transfer to your hotel in Osaka. In the evening you will gather with your fellow travellers for tour orientation and a delicious welcome dinner. Itinerary will be tailored to your flight schedule.
Days 2 to 4 From a Festival of Speed and Bravery to Serene KyotoOvernights in Kyoto City
As a bright and festive start to your trip, you will take part in the exciting Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri festival, where festival participants brave the fast speeds of elaborate carts as said participants jump from cart roof to cart roof as the carts are pulled by parades of locals. You’ll then continue to Kyoto, where you will be properly introduced to Japan. It is in this historic capital that we will take you to the best of the seventeen UNESCO world heritage sites that grace the city’s landscape. You will also have the chance to explore the streets of Gion, where geisha and maiko can be seen as they make their way to teahouses to entertain guests with their traditional dance and musical prowess. It is here in Kyoto that you will get your bearings in Japan. You will come into contact with and come to understand the fundamentals of Japanese culture and aesthetics, the concepts of Zen, the beauty of Japan’s classical architecture, and some of the most serene landscape and stone gardens in the nation.
Days 5 to 10 An Independent Voyage into the Country (Self Drive)Overnights on the Echizen Coast, the Noto Peninsula, and in Kanazawa City
These days are the start of your journey into the country. Taking the wheel, you will begin your drive, bidding farewell to the historic capital as you pass by the city center with its shops and temples and become surrounded more and more by forests and mountainsides. Kyoto offers a grand finale to your stay in the area with a drive through a beautiful canyon, crossing through the mountains that surround the ancient city. You will soon find yourself rolling through isolated villages and landscapes of rice fields as far as the eye can see. On the first day, stops along the way take you to an artisan home of washi paper making where you can try your own hand at the craft and a stay at a lovely ryokan inn or minshuku bed and breakfast located along one of the most dramatic coastlines on the Japan Sea.
As you wake up in the morning to a traditional Japanese breakfast, the road awaits. You will take to the open road once more, today going deeper into a Japan less traveled as you pass quaint fishing villages, small sandy beaches and hidden bays. You will have the chance to meet a Zen monk who will tell you his story firsthand, giving you a peek into the Buddhist monk lifestyle. Moving on, you will enjoy a dinner made by your own hands, taught by experts of Japanese home cuisine who will give you knowledge you can take home to recreate the flavor. Tucking in for the night, you will enjoy another stay at a family run ryokan or minshuku.
Continuing your drive, you will find yourself taking small roads, highways and byways, soaking in the local scenery ranging from mountain ranges and tiny villages to open plains. Making stops here and there, you will get to set foot in some of the charming areas, meeting the locals as you visit town markets. You will also be invited to walk through the house of an old, aristocratic family, learning about the area’s past as you admire how traditions have been maintained over the centuries of social evolution. You will also have the chance to meet local artisans in their own homes, workshops or galleries, getting a further look into the craftsmanship spirit that holds the community together. Depending on the season, this countryside area also offers local festivals to join in, making for memorable moments aplenty.
Ever onward, your journey by land will take you to the artisan city of Kanazawa, famous for its gold leaf, ceramics and lacquer ware, not to mention its historic samurai quarter, geisha teahouse district, and palatial landscape garden — one of the top three in the nation. From Kanazawa you will make your way upward toward the Japanese Alps, starting with the World Heritage Site Shirakawago, a living farm village that is home to locals who have made a point of preserving their unique history, culture, and architecture. Through the winding roads you will go until you reach the near center of the Alps – the feudal town of Takayama.
Days 11 to 13 The Mountainous Alps (Self Drive)Overnights in Takayama, Matsumoto, and Yudanaka
Takayama is a town that had its start as a post town for travelers, from samurai to shogun. The next stretch of your journey starts here, where you will find yourself touring old town architecture and elaborate festival accoutrement while enjoying leisurely hikes in nearby natural landscapes. Takayama and its next-door neighbor offer tastes of sake and cycling options as well, great breathers from your journey on the road. From Takayama, you will make your way through and back down the Japanese Alps, this time on a different side, through a most breathtaking mountain road, heading for the city of Matsumoto. The famed black crow castle awaits you in Matsumoto, along with a charming market and a meeting with local artists who will beckon you to join them on a drive that will take you up two thousand meters to an amazing art project. Leaving Matsumoto, you will venture on, this time to the land of hot springs and snow monkeys, Yudanaka and Jigokudani Valley. Staying at a local onsen hot spring ryokan inn, you will spend time strolling through the town streets, going on a natural spring pilgrimage of sorts as you hop from bath to bath, enjoying the temperature, feel and subtle differences of each. Relaxing in the baths, you might find yourself thinking about the wonders so far, and the adventures yet to come.
Day 14 Volcanic Beauty Toward the Metropolis (Self Drive)Overnight in Nikko
Departing Yudanaka, you now head toward mountains of a different sort – volcanic and historic. For one last peek at the ancient world and a bit of contrast before a final farewell, we will take you through some of the most scenic mountain roads and hidden coves to the palatial homage made for the unifier of Japan, a place known as Nikko that is home to an elaborate shrine boasting some of Japan’s finest wood and lacquer work. Here you will find why a Japanese saying goes, “one can never be content until one has been to Nikko.”
Days 15 and 16 Innovative and Astounding TokyoOvernights in Tokyo City
Departing Nikko, you will take a train into the mega metropolis of Tokyo. It is in this city that you will find elements of historic and countryside Japan molded to fit into the modern world, bits of green evolved to stand strong among the blocks of concrete. Tokyo has many facets, and we will show all parts of the whole. Temple streets, old neighborhoods, modern art, innovations on a man-made island, quirky trends, high fashion, pop culture icons, and the best of contemporary architecture all await you here in this city of wonder.
Day 17 Farewell and SayonaraItinerary will be tailored according to your flight schedule.
Today, after a transfer to the airport, you leave the island nation, taking with you memories of the past days and ideas for future adventures. We wish you the happiest of travels, and look forward to your return to the land of the rising sun.