Hidden Japan holiday

One of our most popular in-depth Japan tours uses bullet trains and ferries to take you to islands and valleys away from the tourist trail. Staying at locally-owned temple lodges and ryokans, you’ll experience local rituals and home-cooked feasts
Kyoto Mount Koya Shikoku Island Takamatsu Naoshima island Kotohira and Kompira-san shrine Iya Valley Miyajima Stay in ryokan traditional inn with hot spring bath.
£4610To£5080excluding flights
13 Days
Small group
More info
Maximum Group Size: 14. Single Supplement from £360. Extra pre & post tour nights available.
Please ask us for details.
Make enquiry

Description of Hidden Japan holiday

Starting and finishing in historic Kyoto, our Hidden Japan tour explores Japan in-depth. We stay in temple lodgings on sacred Mt. Koya and in a luxury hot spring ryokan at the shrine town of Kotohira. See traditional puppetry in Tokushima and Naoshima art island from Takamatsu.

The Hidden Japan tour is an odyssey through lost Japan; a journey of discovery - Imperial Kyoto, Matsuyama Castle, the vine bridges and gorges of the stunning Iya valley, traditional theatre in Tokushima, temple lodgings on Mt. Koya and fantastic art-works on the tiny island of Naoshima.

Accompanied throughout by your expert Tour Leader, the tour starts and finishes in Kyoto, Japan's Imperial capital and home to a wealth of temples, shrines and gardens, many of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sights. On the first night we have included a group meal at a local restaurant and then we have the following day to explore this fascinating city.

From Kyoto we travel by private minibus to the mysterious Mt. Koya religious complex. Here we will stay at temple lodgings and have the chance to witness traditional ceremonies as well as try some fantastic Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. We will be exploring the area including the expansive Oku-no-in cemetary with a local Japanese guide.

A ferry crossing takes us on to Shikoku Island which is the main focus of the tour and is a much more rural area of Japan than the main island of Honshu. Stays in Matsuyama, Tokushima and Takamatsu see us exploring a samurai castle, the fantastic Ritsurin Japanese gardens and visiting Naoshima 'art island'. We will also have the chance to see Awa Odori traditional dancing and Bunraku, Japanese puppet theatre.

Matsuyama is famed for Dogo Onsen, the oldest hot spring baths in Japan and you will also have a great opportunity to try Japanese style baths at our luxury ryokan stay in Kotohira. This will be a truly unique experience and the dinners are superb. Kotohira is a small pilgrimage town full of character and from here we will also do a day trip to the stunning Iya Valley where we explore vine bridges and see some beautiful scenery.

A short ferry crossing sees us arrive in Hiroshima where we will visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum to gain a more poignant reminder of Japan's more recent history. We spend two nights in this area allowing plenty of time to visit scenic Miyajima Island which has a truly magical atmosphere. We have a whole day strolling amongst the deer, taking in the shrines and walking through the primeval forests.

A shinkansen (bullet train) ride back to Kyoto sees us finish up with time to further explore this ancient city.

This is a unique tour and is for those who wish to see the main cities but also delve a little deeper into rural Japan. It is a great opportunity to see a Japan rarely seen by most visitors and features some excellent ryokan and hotel stays as well as numerous great meals.

Price information

£4610To£5080excluding flights
Maximum Group Size: 14. Single Supplement from £360. Extra pre & post tour nights available.
Please ask us for details.
Make enquiry

Check dates, prices & availability

Travel guides

Japan railway
With super-fast, super-efficient shinkansen bullet trains connecting practically every major city, and the potential to head up into the mountains too...
Escorted rail holidays
“Everyone thinks they’re going to read War and Peace, but they won’t.” Liz Anderson, from our rail trip experts Sundowners Overland, knows better than...

Holiday information

Our top tip:
It is a deep part of the culture to be good hosts, and engaging with Japanese people is the best way of saying thank you.
Trip type:
Small group tour. Max. 14 people.
Activity level:
3* hotels and ryokan inn.
Accomm., transfers, entrance fees, luggage forwarding.
All breakfasts, some lunches and dinners included. Budget £3 for street food, £8-10 for dinner in modest restaurant.
Solo travellers welcome. Surcharge for own room.
Dietary requirements:
We can cater for vegetarian and vegan diets.


7 Reviews of Hidden Japan holiday

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 18 Jun 2023 by

Extremely well organised and thought out. A wide range of interest, covering so many aspects of the area. We were extremely lucky to have a truly great guide, Kinga, who was unfailingly helpful, cheerful, knowledgeable and professional. She was the difference between a good and a great holiday. Read full review

Reviewed on 11 Oct 2022 by

Conversation with Make was probably most memorable. Temples/shrines, gardens, castles all interesting... Read full review

Reviewed on 07 Dec 2019 by

The most memorable part of the holiday was the buddhist temples in Miyajima. Read full review

Reviewed on 20 Nov 2018 by

Absolutely wonderful; probably the best we've ever had. Read full review

Reviewed on 08 Jul 2018 by

It was an amazing experience; everything we hoped for and more...each day was different and a new fascinating experience. Read full review

Reviewed on 13 Jun 2018 by

We had a fantastic time. The guide, Yuri, was great and the tour was varied and constantly enlightening. Read full review

Reviewed on 09 May 2016 by

Absolutely wonderful. Great to get away from the very big cities and engage with the people. Visiting Shikoku Island for over five days was brilliant. Our guide was excellent and the entire trip was hassle free. Read full review

Responsible Travel

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) holiday so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.


We are extremely passionate about Japan and therefore try to reduce any potential negative environmental impact our holidays could have on this beautiful country.

For most journeys during the tour you will be using Japan's fantastic public transport system and will be travelling by the famous Shinkansen (bullet train), local trains and even ferry.

On Mt Koya you will spend a night in a temple lodging and will get an insight into the traditional buddhist lifestyle. Showing respect and being in harmony with nature are some of the tenets of Buddhism: you will enjoy meals of local vegetarian food, and join the morning prayers with the monks.


At Mt Koya we will arrange a local Japanese guide who knows the area inside out and can give you unique insights into Buddhism, the Japanese culture and history and answer all the question about this fascinating place that you might have.

On your journey through Shikoku you will have enjoy local arts and traditions. In Tokushima you will visit the Awa Odori Kaikan museum at the foothills of Mt Bizan. The dancers here wear traditional costumes and perform their dances following a 800 years old tradition. In Takamatsu you will see authentic Bunraku, a very refined puppet-theatre that counts to one of the big Japanese arts next to Noh and Kabuki. Bunraku was once very popular, but there are only a handful of true Bunraku-masters left today.
Attending any of these local performances will help to keep this unique and beautiful arts alive, and pass this heritage on to future generations.

Popular similar holidays

Japan classic tour by rail

Japan classic tour by rail

From £5995 14 days including UK flights

A visually striking railway journey through Japan

Japan golden route holiday

Japan golden route holiday

From £2060 10 days excluding flights

9 night classic Japan trip: Tokyo, Fuji, Kyoto

Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail

Japan self guided walking holiday, Nakasendo Trail

From £930 - £1525 5 days excluding flights

Self-guided walking along Japan’s ancient Nakasendo trail