Bustling cities, historical castle towns, rich culture, artistry, and traditions come together on this fabulous ‘Way of Mitsuboshi Kaido’ tour. Join us as we traverse vibrant cities and picturesque landscapes and delve into the heart of Japan’s captivating heritage. You’ll taste authentic Japanese cuisine, see traditional arts and crafts, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Japan. This is an unforgettable journey through the famed “Mitsuboshi Kaidou”, the ‘Three Star Road’.
From Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, the Mitsuboshi Kaidou traces an arcing line through gorgeous mountains to its final destination in Ishikawa Prefecture’s Kanazawa. This extraordinary country journey takes you through Japanese history from modern Tokyo, known as Edo, during Japan’s period of rule by the Shoguns and connects five 3-star Michelin Green Guide sites. From Matsumoto and the 16th-century Matsumoto Castle, it makes its way through the old market town of Takayama, to the thatched-house villages of Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before culminating in Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden, considered one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan noted for its beauty across all seasons.
Mitsuboshi Kaidou is also perfect for art and history lovers alike. In Matsumoto, we can explore an old merchant district, now a hot spot for folk art shops. Kanazawa is known as the “City of Folk Art”, and Takayama is a hotbed of traditional crafts and shops of beautiful and unique handcrafted items.
Central Japan is a region of tall mountain ranges and remote villages, and today, many remain remarkably well-preserved and evocative of centuries past. Our ‘Way of Mitsuboshi Kaido’ journey takes us through Japanese history from modern Tokyo, through an array of World Heritage sites and National Treasures, and back to Tokyo. This incredible tour is perfect for first-time or returning visitors to Japan or returning visitors looking for a quick but immersive deep dive into an incredible culture. culture.
*This tour is also perfect as an ‘extension” to our ‘Way of Kyoto’ tour.
TBC October 2024 – TBC October 2024
– from $TBC per person Twin Rate
– from $TBC per person Single Rate
– from $TBC per person Twin Rate
– from $TBC per person Single Rate
*Rates are based on 6 Guests.
*Rates are per person based on Twin Share & Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full.
*International Airfares are not included. PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE.
Arrive at Tokyo, pass through immigration; collect your luggage and clear customs. If you have booked an arrival transfer through us, then our assistant will meet you just outside of the secure area, and they will take you to the hotel by private van transfer.
Check into the hotel and relax.
Arrival time is relatively late this evening, so have a good rest, ready for the week ahead.
Overnight: Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier.
The best way to discover a city is by walking it and riding it’s rails. Today we do both.
This morning, we jump on a train and travel to Shibuya to see the famous scramble.
After this, we visit the Shibuya Sky Tower and the 360° open-air observation deck located on the roof. Shibuya Sky is more than just an observatory; it spans three floors and has an indoor section that incorporates dazzling digital art displays to encourage you to see the city in a different way. On the 46th floor, there is a café and bar where we can sit back with a drink as we enjoy the aerial views of Tokyo.
After this, we visit the Tsujiki Outer Market, located on the edge of Tokyo Bay. The market is a maze of streets where we can feast on fresh sushi or pick up unique souvenirs, ranging from seaweed to sushi knives to handmade ceramics. (We may take some time to see the knives at the likes of Tsujiki Masamoto.)
We have lunch at the market.
From here, we walk to the Ginza district. Ginza is Tokyo’s most famous up-market shopping, dining, and entertainment district. You’ll find magnificent examples of architecture all over the city, but the upscale neighborhood of Ginza is the mecca of modernist Tokyo architecture. It centers around a major avenue called Chuo-dori, which some call the 5th Avenue of Tokyo: a broad street lined with high-end fashion stores, each trying to outdo one another with impressive displays and buildings. We will walk past the likes of Nissan Crossing, Ginza Place, Louis Vuitton Ginza, Hermes, Mikimoto Ginza, and Yamaha Ginza.
We visit the Mitsukoshi Ginza Depachika Food Hall. The in-house food halls, or depachika, are known for their comprehensive array of gorgeous sweets and confectionery, immaculately packaged food, ready-to-eat dishes, and picture-perfect bento.
We will stop at Itoya – one of the city’s most beautiful and well-stocked stationary shops. And perhaps a stop at the Muji Flagship Store.
After a long day, we return to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
Overnight: Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier (B / L)
We will forward our luggage to Takayama this morning and travel with only an overnight bag. Our luggage will meet us in Takayama.
After breakfast, we taxi to the station and board our Shinkansen to Matsumoto. This is about a 2.5-hour journey. We will grab a bento box at the station before we board for our lunch. (Our Driver will meet us at Matsumoto Station.)
Home to one of Japan’s last remaining original castles, Matsumoto, located in the shadow of the Japanese Alps, is a small, historic city. As a registered national treasure, Matsumoto Castle is without doubt the beacon that draws visitors to the city, but once here, you’ll discover a lovely little town with lots to offer. It is part of the famed “Mitsuboshi Kaidou” (the Three-Star Road), one of the most notable sightseeing routes in Japan, connecting Kanazawa, Nanto, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, and Matsumoto.
We also, of course, visit Matsumoto Castle. Matsumoto has preserved many traces of its prosperity from the feudal period. But the most striking feature of a visit to the town is its imposing castle, known to the Japanese as “the crow” because of its black color. Matsumoto Castle is one of just twelve original castles that exist in Japan today gggand offers a stunning view in all seasons.
We also stroll Nawate Dori Shotengai Street and Nakamichi Street.
We then check into the Matsumoto Jujo Hotel for the night. Matsumoto is most famous for its castle, but it is also locally recognized for its onsen. With a history dating back more than 1300 years, Asama Onsen, Matsumoto’s hot spring area, was once frequented by Feudal Lords and Samurai. The area has long been lauded for its ‘water of beauty’, highly alkaline water that does wonders for the skin.
Asama Onsen has undergone a revitalization due to the input of the Matsumoto Jujo project. Jujo means ‘ten stories’, a reference to the art, architecture, and design that were used as inspiration for the property’s concept and for the communal goal of revitalizing the entirety of Asama Onsen into the resort that it was when samurai still ruled the land. One aspect of the project was to restore the Koyanagi property, a ryokan (traditional inn) whose history dates back to 1686 that was designed as a book lover’s dream with its old onsen converted into a bookstore. One of the primary reasons for designing the communal areas like a bookstore is the fact that Asama Onsen has no bookstores. In this way, Matsumoto Jujo aims to attract a community of bookworms, encouraging locals and tourists to appreciate and peruse their wide selection of literature—over 10,000 individual books, including Japanese classics, Western novels, architectural series, designer photo books, and manga. There is also an onsite bakery, shop, café, and apple cider brewery.
After check-in, we are guided to our accommodation annexes (around a three-minute walk away), taking in the scenery of the historic onsen area in which Matsumoto Jujo sits. The guest rooms at Matsumoto Jujo are complete with their own open-air baths, featuring unparalleled views of the sun setting over the Japanese Alps beyond.
Dinner tonight at the restaurant, 365 + 2 (367), is a feast. Named after the length of the Shinano-Chikuma River, the longest in Japan, whose fresh, clean waters flow through the lush soils of both Nagano and Niigata prefectures. The menu is a culinary journey, from the headwaters of Mt. Kobushigatake to the waters of the Sea of Japan and as far north as Sado Island. Each dish is a tale of Japan’s unique topography, presented as a love letter to Japan’s rich abundance of excellent ingredients.
After dinner, it is time for a well-earned nap.
Overnight: Matsumoto Jujo, Asama Onsen (Bento Box, Dinner)
After breakfast, we head out of the city and explore Azumino’s Daio Wasabi Farm – one of Japan’s largest producers of wasabi. Known in the West for its nasal-clearing heat, real wasabi has a much more subtle and versatile taste than many people realize. Wasabi needs large amounts of clear water to grow, and the streams and pools across the farm form a picturesque and idyllic setting.
We then track back towards Matsumoto and visit the Ishii Miso Brewery. Ishii Miso is one of the few remaining breweries that still crafts its miso using wooden barrels in the traditional way instead of using modern methods to quicken fermentation. We have lunch here: a mix of miso soup, salad with miso dressing, rice balls, and even ice cream using miso. When in Rome!
After lunch, we continue to Takayama, located deep within the mountains of Central Japan, famous for the excellent preservation of its Edo Period (1603–1868) historical center, known as the ‘Sannomachi’.
We check into our hotel, Hotel Wood Takayama, a stunning design hotel featuring a Zen Room and a large public bath to wash away the day’s fatigue. Your evening is free.
Overnight: Hotel Wood Takayama. (B / L)
Takayama has retained much of its traditional architecture and is well-known for its crafts, particularly yew-wood carving, Shunkei lacquerware, pottery, and furniture. Today, we’re doing a walking tour where old traditions are alive and well. Along the narrow streets, we’ll stumble upon beautifully preserved wooden houses built in the Edo period. Takayama is a treasure house of jazz bars and stylish galleries and crafts shops; even the 7-Elevens here are elegant latticed-wood structures.
We will stroll through the Miyagawa Morning Market, Takayama Jinya, and Sanmachi Street, which will take us to historic shops sporting beautiful architecture. We visit Yoshijima Heritage House, built in 1908, which was a sake brewery and still sports a huge sakabayashi (sign of a shop dealing in sake made of Japanese cedar leaves) hanging under the eaves.
We visit the Kusakabe Folk Museum, constructed in 1879. Built to be solid with overlapping eaves, this house is the first old merchant’s house designated as a National Important Cultural Treasure, along with the adjoining Yoshijima House.
We eat lunch at the likes of Bistro Mieux, which has been serving the finest French cuisine using local Hida Takayama ingredients with a concept of ‘local production for local consumption’ for some 30 years.
After lunch, there will be free time for you to explore the city further and hunt for special treasures to bring home.
This evening, we enjoy a private dinner at a Japanese-style restaurant designated as a tangible cultural property of Takayama.
Overnight: Hotel Wood Takayama. (B, L, D)
This morning, we will travel to Shirawago, a small, traditional village showcasing the gasshō-zukuri style of building and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The steeply pitched thatched roof houses are the only examples of their kind in Japan. Despite economic upheavals, the village is an outstanding example of a traditional way of life, perfectly adapted to the environment and people’s social and economic circumstances. In existence since the 11th century, the village has a strong sense of community.
We continue to Kanazawa.
We visit the Kaga Yuzen Kimono Centre. Kaga-yuzen, the local technique of hand-dyeing Japanese silk, has been practiced in Kanazawa for about 500 years. There are three schools of hand-dyed kimono. All follow a basic process; however, they differ greatly in theme and ornamentation. The silk dyeing of Kanazawa was neither for the highest nor the lowest classes. Kaga-yuzen reflected the Buddhist values of the samurai class: nature with all her imperfections, creating refinement from simplicity, and the calm and stillness of the tea ceremony. So it centers on three things: simplicity, especially in the lessons we take from nature; grace, that is, to be respectful and thoughtful; and mastery, in that it matures over traditional study, technique, and attention to detail. Kaga-yuzen uses a palette of five colors—indigo, crimson, ocher, dark green, and royal purple—to create vivid, hand-drawn patterns featuring realistic natural motifs, including flowers with leaves nibbled by insects.
The Kimono Center features a gallery of traditional and contemporary examples of Kaga-yuzen silk products. Artists regularly work in the front room, where visitors can watch them craft beautiful garments.
We check into our hotel, the UAN Hotel. After a busy day, your evening is free.
Overnight: UAN Hotel (B / L)
Today, we’ll enjoy a full-day tour of Kanazawa.
We start off with a visit to Nagamachi, the old samurai district. The cobblestone streets and tiled earthen walls are characteristic of wealthier samurai districts in Kanazawa during the Edo period (1603–1867). During the Edo period, the Kaga domain (present-day Ishikawa and around) was extremely prosperous. This wealth enabled samurai of even moderate rank to build large, beautiful homes. The historic Nagamachi neighborhood was once home to some of these samurai families.
After the domains’ lords ceded authority to the emperor in 1869, samurai families lost their source of income and privilege and were ultimately forced to abandon or sell their homes. A few former samurai houses and estates are open to the public today. One highlight is the Nomura Residence, once the estate of wealthy retainers to the Maeda family. Heirlooms on display include a full suit of samurai armor. The house has been awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide, in part for its inner garden with tranquil streams and a miniature waterfall.
We walk to the nearby Omicho market. It dates to the Edo period (17th century) and is known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and delicate sushi. We’ll have lunch at the market.
We wander to the smaller and less crowded Kazuemachi Chaya Area, a former Geisha district known for its beautiful cherry tree arcade. A stroll along the banks of the Asano-Gawa River is the perfect way to end the day in Kanazawa. (One of three well-preserved chaya districts in Kanazawa. Cha-ya means ‘tea house’ in Japanese.)
Across the Asano-gawa River, in the Higashi Chaya District, we visit the Kaikarao Tea House. With over 200 years of history, the Tea House is the largest chaya in the Higashi Chaya-gai District and is a registered historical building. Here, you have a rare opportunity to see the exquisite interior of a traditional chaya; entering through the wooden sliding door, we see a vermilion-lacquered staircase, Ozashiki banquet rooms positioned on the second floor, bold fusuma-e paintings, and an impressive golden tearoom – where the individual threads of the straw tatami mat have been intricately wrapped in gold. We’ll sip matcha green tea and savor Japanese confectionery at a historical cafe with an old sunken hearth. The specialty luxury desserts are well worth a try – like the Gold Gilded Sweet Bean Soup.
Over 99 percent of Japan’s gold leaf is produced in Kanazawa. Its boutiques, galleries, and even cafes celebrate this luxurious craft. We will stop at Hakuza Hikarigura in Higashi Chaya, which has a Japanese storehouse completely covered in a layer of gold leaf inside and out, with 20,000 sheets of gold leaf on the outside alone. The noonday sun bounces off the sides into the small garden with the glow of sunset.
We will also drop into Ochaya Shima in the Higashi Chaya-gai district. Ochaya Shima is a historical geisha house which is now a museum and offers a look at the life of the geisha who once entertained here. Many of the former geisha houses in this area have been converted into guest houses or restaurants. However, this house is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting memories of the past and is now a nationally designated Important Cultural Asset.
We return to the hotel, and after a fabulous day, our evening is free.
Overnight: UAN Hotel (B / L)
A morning of Zen. This morning, we visit the D.T. Suzuki Museum, dedicated to the life, writings, and ideas of Kanazawa-born Buddhist philosopher D. T. Suzuki. The facility, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, uses clean, simple lines as an architectural interpretation of Suzuki’s philosophy. We can take time for thoughtful meditation in the three idyllic landscaped gardens, which include the Water Mirror Garden for self-reflection.
We then visit Kenroku-en Gardens. At almost 12 hectares (29 acres), this spacious garden forms the green heart of Kanazawa. The Japanese rank it as one of the top three gardens in the country, and it’s a fine place for a peaceful, contemplative walk. The name means “six attributes garden,” a Chinese book describing the perfect garden’s six attributes. Located adjacent to Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle.
We’ll enjoy a Kaiseki-style lunch at nearby Kanazawa Gyokusen House, a 200-year-old samurai residence built in the late Edo period. The expensive 720-tsubo two-level pond spring stroll garden is said to boast a history that is nearly 120 years older than Kenrokuen.
After our lunch, we‘ll board our train to Tokyo, traveling in Gran Class.
Our transfer assistant will be waiting at the train station to transfer us back to the Millennium Garden Hotel Ginza Premier for our final evening.
We meet in the bar this evening for a farewell cocktail.
Overnight: Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier (B / L / Farewell Cocktail)
Your final day. Say farewell to Japan!
Enjoy a lazy breakfast, and then prepare for your transfer to the airport. (B)