Discover a place where ancient traditions exist side by side with modern civilization and the historic cornerstones of Japanese culture, the Samurai and Geisha, are still revered today. See how Japan has undergone centuries of transformations, from its first ancient capital, Nara, to its present-day capital, Tokyo. From Nagano to Kyoto, from original temples to stunning Japanese gardens, this exclusive tour will leave you with a better understanding and appreciation for this East |Asian land. Three guest lecturers provide fascinating background on the history of Japan, the life of a Geisha, and the restoration of the Byodoin Temple.
Day #1 Overnight flight - Discover how Japan has undergone centuries of transformations, from its first ancient capital Nara, to its present capital of Tokyo. From Nagano to Kyoto, temples to stunning gardens, this exclusive tour gives you a better understanding and appreciation for this East Asian land. Four guest lecturers provide fascinating background on Japan’s history, Geisha life, relationships of Zen & tea ceremonies, and wood block printing. Your tour begins with an overnight flight to Tokyo, Japan, the vibrant and energetic capital city. Crossing the International Dateline en route, skip a full day ahead.
Day #2 Arrive Tokyo, Japan - Arrive in Japan's vibrant and energetic capital of Tokyo. Welcome to "The Land of the Rising Sun" where you are about to embark on a journey unlike any other.
Day #3 Tokyo - Begin your day at the Meiji Shrine, honoring both Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and learn about the emperor’s role in Japan’s modernization. Later, stroll through Nakamise Shopping Arcade, one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan, before visiting Asakusa Kannon, Tokyo's oldest Buddhist Temple. A brief stop is made outside the gates of the Imperial Palace before returning to the hotel. The remainder of your day is at leisure. This evening enjoy a welcome dinner.
Day #4 Tokyo - Hakone - Tokyo - Leave Tokyo and travel to Hakone, part of a magnificent national park, and enjoy a cruise on Lake Ashi, well known for its reflection of Mt. Fuji (weather permitting). A ride on the Komagatake Ropeway cable car provides spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi and Mt. Futago. The valley contains clear lakes, volcanic peaks, steaming hot springs and shady valleys. See the treasures at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, where the artist uses kimonos as his paper and silk thread to create these outstanding tie-dye kimonos.
Day #5 Tokyo - Nagano - Travel via the famous Shinkansen, or “bullet train,” to Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics. This afternoon you will take a walking tour to the Zenkoji Temple. One of the most visited temples in Japan, Zenkoji was founded 1,400 years ago and stores what many believe to be the first Buddhist statue ever brought into Japan. A replica of this statue is displayed to the public every seven years. Next, visit Jigokudani Yaen Koen, where wild monkeys bathe in hot springs. Enjoy some leisure time in Obuse Town, a historical site and home to three major museums all linked to the famous painter Katsushika Hokusai.
Day #6 Nagano - Takayama - Matsumoto Castle, designated a national treasure, is your first stop this morning. Next, visit the Ukiyoe Museum, which showcases fine wood block prints of Japanese customs and history. At Daio Wasabi Nojo Farm, where pungent wasabi is grown, you make pickles and enjoy a lunch of soba noodles and tempura. In the late afternoon, arrive at a traditional Japanese inn. Savor a traditional dinner this evening, dressed in a time-honored kimono. Later, you may enjoy the luxurious hot spring baths at your hotel.
Day #7 Takayama - Kanazawa - Begin the day with a stroll to the morning market. Visit Takayama Jinya, the regional headquarters during the Edo period and host to one of Japan's greatest festivals. See many of the floats and marionettes during a visit to Matsuri-no-Mori. Drive through Shirakawago and Gokayama and see traditional farmhouses with steep thatched roofs. Learn how to make Japanese paper at Gokayama Washi-no-Sato.
Day #8 Kanazawa - Return to the days of the samurai when you visit Nomura Family House, the traditional residence of Nagamachi Samuraithen. Stroll through the Oumicho Fish Market which provided food for feudal lords and citizens for about 270 years. Visit the traditional Geisha district of Higashi and a Shima (tea house). Enjoy an afternoon at Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Garden.
Day #9 Kanazawa - Kyoto - After a morning drive, arrive at Miho Museum, also known as the “Museum in the Mountains.” The museum was the dream of Mihoko Koyama, heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and houses a collection of antiques.
Day #10 Kyoto - In Kyoto visit two temples considered national treasures: Kiyomizu Temple, with its panoramic views and Sanjusangen-do Temple, which houses more than 1,030 standing Buddhist statues in its main hall. Your next visit is to the Kodaiji Temple and includes a traditional tea ceremony. At Nijo Castle, see elaborate wood carvings and wall paintings. With two concentric fortifications, this unique castle also features the Ninomaru Garden designed by the famous landscape architect and tea master Kobori Enshu. Visit the Kinkakuji Temple, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
Day #11 Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto - Travel to Nara, Japan's first capital. Todaiji Temple houses one of the largest bronze statues in the world. The Great Buddha Hall, dating from 1709, is the world's largest wooden structure and a national treasure. Kasuguga Taisha Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Nara and one of the "Three Great Shrines" in Japan. Your day concludes with a visit to Byodoin Temple, with its remarkable Phoenix Hall. Join your fellow travelers this evening for a special farewell dinner and private Geisha performance.
Day #12 Kyoto - Osaka - Tour Concludes - As you depart this fascinating land, take a moment to reflect on all you have learned about its rich history and traditional culture. On your return home, cross the International Dateline and gain a day, arriving in the U.S. the same day you departed Japan.