Wander off the beaten path away from Japan’s big cities and popular sites with this 11-day tour that takes you to destinations that are often overlooked. Visit the treasured castle of Matsumoto and learn about Tokugawa culture, relax in a traditional hot spring-fed onsen, and explore the quaint city of Hagi by bicycle, and settle in at a community homestay to truly immerse yourself in the local culture. Of course, there’s time before and after to explore Tokyo and Kyoto, making this trip a well-rounded glimpse into Japan’s past and present.
This program is sponsored by the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, University of Pittsburgh coordinating site. This study tour is open to only invited alumni.
To enhance the educational impact of the trip Dr. Brenda Jordan, The University of Pittsburgh’s Director of the national coordinating site for the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia (NCTA) and coordinator of Japan Studies, will be traveling with the group, providing historical and cultural context.
On arrival, please check the notice board in the hotel entrance for details of the time and place of the meeting.
As fellow group members will be arriving throughout the day, there are no planned activities until the group meeting in the early evening (6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.). After the group meeting, consider heading out for a group dinner.
Your tour leader will lead the group on a walking tour of eclectic modern Tokyo from the hub of Shinjuku to Shibuya through to Harajuku. The rest of the day is free for exploring more of the city.
Today we board a bullet train and journey to Nagano, located in the Japanese Alps and host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
We will visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where wild snow monkeys can be seen bathing in the natural hot springs. The pool where most of the monkeys soak is man made, fed by the hot springs. Along the walking paths up to the pools other monkeys tend to stop and watch visitors curiously.
Approximate travel time: 3 hrs by bullet train
Today we travel by local train for a day trip to quaint Matsumoto where we will visit one of Japan’s most treasured castles. Amazingly the castle still retains its original wooden interior and stone exterior. Explore this castle where 16th century Samurai once roamed before venturing out with the group to wander Matsumoto’s ancient streets and or dine in a traditional storehouse.
We then return to Nagano and visit the Buddhist temple of Zenkō-ji, one of the last remaining pilgrimage sites in Japan. Built in the 7th century, the city of Nagano was built around the already standing structure.
Approximate travel time: 3-4 hrs round trip by local train
Today we travel to Otsu in Shiga prefecture. Located on the banks of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake, the area is known for the Ogoto Onsens. Settle in and relax with a dip in the healing waters of these Japanese style hot springs, and dine on traditional fare.
Approximate travel time: 4.5 hrs by train
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Ryokan this morning before a long travel day. Please note that before leaving Ōtsu, you’ll need to prepare your day pack/overnight bag for a two-night stay in Hagi, as your main luggage will be sent on to Tottori. Remember to include comfortable clothing for a cycling excursion and two nights at the homestay.
In the early evening, arrive in the quaint city of Hagi, a former castle town that boasts feudal architecture. Take part in a welcome ceremony with the local residents. Then get to know a local family at this G Adventures for Good-supported community homestay in Hagi, a farming, fishing and historical heritage town. In recent years, due to the rapidly aging population and limited income opportunities in many of the rural areas of Japan, many community members have had to leave Hagi in order to make a living. Learn about local history and customs, and enjoy a home-cooked meal with your hosts.
Approximate travel time: 6.5 hrs by train
Explore rural Hagi on a guided morning cycle. Enjoy the slow pace of life as you pedal past the city’s Tokugawa era architecture, and cycle along the Japanese Sea. Afterwards you’ll have free time to wander the narrow streets or opt to visit some of the beautiful old residences which are open to the public. In the late afternoon, return to your homestay and enjoy dinner with your host family.
This morning you’ll bid farewell to your host family after enjoying breakfast together. Later, travel to Miho-misumi by train, taking in scenic views along the way. In Miho-misumi learn the art of making “washi,” a UNESCO-recognized traditional Japanese paper and take home your handmade washi as a memento. Then we board a train again and end our day in the seaside town of Tottori.
Approximate travel time: 6 hrs total by train
Tonight you will have the option of a Defachang Dumpling Banquet (roughly $15 USD). Dumpling banquets are a great way to experience the traditional Northern Chinese cuisine. Have a delicious meal trying all the different dumpling flavours.
Located along the coast of the Sea of Japan, the Tottori Sand Dunes (or “Tottori Sakyu”) were formed thousands of years ago when sand was washed away from a nearby river. This morning we’ll walk amongst the dunes and opt to climb one to take in scenic views of the coastline.
Afterwards check out Tottori’s harbor fish market, home to fresh seafood and some of Japan’s best crab. Walk amongst the stalls and watch the locals in action. Opt to try a tasty dish in the market’s restaurant section.
In the late afternoon, travel to Kyoto, the traditional heart of Japan.
Approximate travel time: 3 hrs by train
We will start off the day with a visit the Fushimi Inari shrine, located just outside of Kyoto. Walk under the thousands of iconic torii gates (as seen in the film Memoirs of a Geisha) and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The shrine itself is at the base of the Inari mountain but includes many trails up to smaller shrines in the area.
Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples, including some of the most magnificent in the country, dating back centuries. Use free time to continue exploring, the options are endless – the city also boasts museums, castles, and traditional gardens – or opt to visit neighbouring Nara or Osaka.
The GEEO organized portion of this program ends today.
Want more adventure? Book two or more GEEO trips in the same year and receive a discount! GEEO will give you 10% off of the lesser value program(s) (up to 3 programs).
If you don’t see a program that interests you that pairs with this trip, but still would like to extend your time abroad, let us know. We will work with you to find a non-teacher trip from our tour operator’s much larger catalog. Even better, if you are an educator, we can still offer you a discounted price on the trip you choose!
Visit our recommended reading page to see the list of books GEEO recommends reading before your program (this is not required reading). We also have lesson plans and Pinterest boards that may be useful for you as you learn about your destination and prepare to bring lessons back to your classroom.
It is very important for you to visit our Terms and Conditions page before signing up for this program.
All cancellations must be submitted to GEEO in written form by emailing your request for cancellation to email@example.com. If you do not receive a confirmation that we have received your written cancellation request, please call us at 1-877-600-0105. Verbal cancellation requests will not be honored.
All GEEO/G Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of G Adventure’s group leaders, which they refer to as Chief Experience Officers (CEO). The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are traveling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues, and introduce you to our local friends. Our itineraries often have plenty of free time to explore on your own.
While not being guides in the traditional sense, you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious, and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting – we think it’s the best of both worlds.
This trip includes walking and hiking. The heat of the summer can be exhausting, so make sure you stay hydrated and opt out of activities if you are exhausted.
Half of the people that travel with GEEO are traveling by themselves, so please don’t worry if you have no one who can join you on your trip. Our pricing is based on double occupancy or, in other words, two people to a room. You never have to pay for a single room unless you want one. GEEO can find you a roommate of the same gender. Most of our trips have a “My Own Room” option, also known as a “Single Supplement,” which is an extra fee that will allow you to have a room to yourself. If you want to room alone, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the price for the “My Own Room” option, please click here where you can look up your trip in the extra services spreadsheet.
Japan is one of the most populous countries in the world and space is at a premium. Therefore, hotel rooms are small! Additionally, many Japanese hotels do not have designated non-smoking rooms. Therefore, we ask hotels to deodorize rooms before check in.
Ryokan are traditional inns found across Japan. Featuring tatami floors (soft mats of woven straw), futon beds, Japanese-style baths, cotton kimono (casual robe worn to lounge around or to head to the bath), and elaborate meals (often served in the comfort of your own room), a ryokan is the perfect place to experience traditional customs and hospitality. As ryokan are usually top tier accommodations, most guests stay only one night, often to celebrate a special occasion or holiday. Don’t be intimidated by the formalities inherent to a stay at a ryokan, your hosts will welcome you the same way they do all their guests. Have fun and enjoy this relaxing opportunity to learn more about Japan’s unique customs.
Minshuku are Japan’s answer to the Western bed and breakfast. Similar to ryokan, they have traditional features like tatami floors, futon beds, and Japanese-style baths. Minshuku are often family-run, and as such they offer a great opportunity to interact with local people and learn more about the nation’s customs. More affordable and simpler than ryokan, minshuku tend to have smaller guestrooms, shared bathroom facilities, and any included meals (traditional, local, and delicious) are served in a communal dining room.
Please note that some of the traditional Japanese inns used on this tour only offer shared bathing facilities. This means that individual shower stalls will not be available, instead several shower stations are available in an open, same-sex bathing area. Shared bathhouses and onsen (hot springs) are an essential part of Japan’s culture, traditionally serving as a place for men or women to gather, relax, and discuss the days happenings.
Day 1 is an arrival day, and no activities have been planned. Upon arrival to the city on Day 1, or earlier if you have booked pre-accommodation with us, please make your way to the joining hotel. Check-in time will be in the afternoon. Once you arrive at the hotel, look for a note at reception from your tour leader. This note will give the details of your Welcome Meeting on Day 1, usually between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., at which you will get a chance to meet your tour leader and other travelers, as well as learn more about how the tour will run. If you don’t see a note, please ask reception for details!
If you miss the Welcome Meeting, your tour leader will leave a note at reception for you with any information you may need and with instructions for the next morning.
Getting to the Hotel B Ikebukuro:
Nearest station is Ikebukuro Station East Exit – Approximately 3 minutes walk to hotel B Ikebukuro. Take the east exit and turn left. You will see a Bic Camera and Yamada Denki on your left. Continue follow the road on Meiji Street a little farther on and you should see the Hotel on your left. It takes about 3 minutes from the station.
From Narita Airport, please take JR Narita Express for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to JR Ikebukuro Station East Exit, or From Narita Airport You can also take Keisei Skyliner for approximately 1 hour 35 minutes to Nippori Station and transfer to JR Yamanote Line and get off JR Ikebukuro Station East Exit and walk for 3 mins.
From Haneda Airport – please take Keikyu Airport Ltd. Express to Shinagawa Station and then transfer to JR Yamanote Line and get off at Ikebukuro Station East Exit and walk for 3 mins to hotel.
Should you need to contact G Adventures during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call their local G Adventures office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.
G Adventures Local Office (Japan)
During office hours, Mon-Fri 9:30-18:00 Local Time
From outside Japan: 1st contact +81 3-6432-0195 (2nd contact +81 80 2725 5133)
From within Japan: 1st contact +81 3-6432-0195 (2nd contact +81 80 2725 5133)
After office hours emergency number
Ayako: +81 70-3607-8937 (from within Japan: 070-3607-8937)
Toshimi: +81 70-3607-8936 (from within Japan: 070-3607-8936)
G Adventures Asia Manager: Julie Fitzgerald
G Adventures Office Bangkok, Thailand
During Office hours (Weekdays, 9am-5pm Local Time)
From outside Thailand: +66 2 381 5574
From within Thailand: 02 381 5574
After hours emergency number (SE Asia Manager)
From outside Thailand: +66 87 049 6074
From within Thailand: 087 049 6074
If you are unable for any reason to contact their local office, they have a toll-free line for North America, which will connect you directly with their Toronto office. In the event that you cannot get through, you can reach a member of their Operations department at the mobile number below.
Toll-free, North America only: 1 888 800 4100
Outside North America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the UK: +1 416 260 0999
Please read this article on GEEO’s blog for our staff’s suggestions on the best gear to pack for your upcoming travels. For Japan specific tips, please follow this link. You must be prepared to carry your own bags and be comfortable carrying them up and down stairs, on and off transportation, and to hotels. As a rule, we try not to have to walk more than 15-20 minutes with your bags, which is why we recommend keeping the weight of your bags between 22-30 lb. Most travelers carry a backpack or rolling bag of small to medium size. No XXL bags please! A daypack is also essential for carrying everyday items. Space is limited on transportation, so there is a limit of one main piece of luggage per person plus a daypack per person.
Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels but this is very expensive. Your leader can show you self service coin laundries in larger cities. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.
All GEEO trips require that the participant have a valid passport. Please see our general FAQ for information on obtaining a passport. As with all of our trips, we try to provide the most accurate information we can, but governments sometimes change visa rules. It is your responsibility to double check the information we provide below by searching here.
Americans do not need a visa to travel to Japan. Non-American participants should check with their government or nearest Japanese Embassy to find out if they need a visa.
As currency exchange rates fluctuate often we ask that you refer to the following website for daily exchange rates: www.xe.com.
Every Post Office and 7-11 Convenience store has an ATM machine that accepts Visa, Mastercard and Debit Cards. At times, Maestro/Master Card/Cirrus have been problematic at these machines, so please bring a back-up card.
Credit Cards should not be relied upon for purchases as they are not widely accepted, except in some restaurants and department stores. Money can be exchanged at Post Offices and some banks and hotels in major cities, however it can be a very slow process.
Tipping is not practiced in Japan. Leaving money at restaurants, in taxis etc will simply cause confusion!
At the end of each trip, if you felt your G Adventures tour leader did an outstanding job, tipping is highly appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline $5 USD per person, per day can be used.
We legally cannot give you any medical advice. We recommend going to to CDC’s webpage for Japan.
We often find the best prices for purchasing flights is 60 days before departure, but of course this varies greatly from route to route and year to year. You must wait until this trip is confirmed with the minimum number of required participants before you book your flights. Typically, we reach the minimum number needed at least 90 days before departure. GEEO and G Adventures bear no responsibility for any flights purchased before the trip is confirmed. You can find out whether this trip has been confirmed here.
Please double check our itinerary for the date by which you must arrive in Tokyo. You can arrive at any time you choose, although we will have a group meeting at 6:00 p.m.
Your trip ends in Kyoto. You should book your return flight from there unless you have further travel plans in Japan.
There are two components to provide external power to your device: adapters and transformers. The adapter is the plug, adapting the prongs on a standard U.S. two to three-pronged power cord to match the prongs required by the local outlets. The transformer changes the local voltage to that required by your device.
Japan uses Type A plugs, which is the same plug design used in the United States. Their voltage is 100 Volts. U.S. outlets are 120V. Most new devices (phones and laptops) can handle the different voltage rates, but some devices only work on the U.S. standard of 120V. Check your device to see what voltage range it handles. Most transformer blocks will have an “Input” line that defines its voltage capacity. For example, “Input: 100-240V” means that it will work on voltages from 100V to 240V. If your transformer can’t handle the different voltage, you’ll need to purchase a voltage converter. You can find world regional voltage converters power packs at various vendors.
Before you decide on traveling with GEEO, it is important that you read all of the information about the program you are considering. Remember, our programs are quite adventurous.
Hopefully this is the kind of adventure you are interested in!
While it is our intention to adhere to the routes described on our website, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable, to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The information on our website is a general guide to the tour and region, and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered. Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.
Japan is hot, humid and rainy during June.
Please keep in mind that this trip offers some free time to pursue activities that interest you. Make sure you look over all of the optional activities and note these additional costs when deciding whether you can afford this program. Breakfasts and a few dinners are included in this trip, giving you the opportunity to eat out according to your own resources. The prices below are in U.S. Dollars and are rough estimates for budgeting your trip.
See price in top right corner
Roughly $1,000-$1,600 USD
If you require assistance in booking your international airfare, we would be happy to help you.
Please note: It is mandatory for all of our travelers to have Emergency Medical insurance that covers both emergency evacuation and repatriation to the sum of $200,000 USD. We also strongly recommend purchasing cancellation insurance as well.
We recommend $50 USD for your G Adventures tour leader.
Make sure you budget for these types of expenses
Variable. Please consult your doctor.
Variable. At your personal discretion.
Most optional activities are booked and paid for locally in the local currency. You do not have to decide in advance for which activities you would like to sign up. The prices listed are based on the latest information we have received from our participants and G Adventures. They are not guaranteed to be accurate. Please feel free to use them as a guide for budgeting your trip.
– Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingū) Visit (Free-1000JPY per person)
– Sensō-ji Temple Visit (Free)
– Samurai Spirit Full Kembu Lesson
– Day Trip to Osaka
– Day Trip to Nara
– Philosopher’s Walk (Free)
– Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion Visit (400JPY per person)
– Kiyomizu Temple Visit (400JPY per person)
– Chion-in Temple Visit (300-500JPY per person)
– Gion Walk (Free)
– Nijo Castle and Gardens Visit (600JPY per person)