- The Japanese live, with nature; their gardens are idealised representations of a wider landscape. From Tokyo to Kyoto, this tour will introduce you to some of Japan’s most famous gardens as well as ground-breaking art and architecture. Join Bruce Spence on this unique journey to explore the splendours of its gardens, art and culture from the distant past to the near future.
Garden Tour to Japan with Bruce Spence
Day 1 Fri 11 Nov Arrive Tokyo
Transfer from Narita Airport to hotel on arrival.
Day 2 Sat 12 Nov Tokyo
The first visit on our tour will be to the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas.
The famous Korakuen Garden is designed in the traditional Japanese landscape style and is the first of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan we will visit.
Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 3 Sun 13 Nov Tokyo
We have only a short time in Tokyo so Senso-ji Temple and Asukusa have been chosen to introduce us to a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asukusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. (Breakfast)
Day 4 Mon 14 Nov Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo
We escape Tokyo and journey by private coach to Hakone for the day. Hopefully weather permitting we will get an excellent view of Mount Fuji. We will visit the Hakone Open- Air Museum which includes a spectacular garden, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures. While in Hakone we will visit the Hakone Museum of Art which houses a unique and modest collection of ancient to modern ceramics, but the velvety moss garden surrounding it could also be regarded as a work of art. Also enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ashi. (Breakfast)
Day 5 Tue 15 Nov Tokyo-Kanazawa
Take bullet train to Kanazawa. We are off to Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. The Japanese say Kenroku-en means having six factors: spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view, and they are right!
Nomura Family House shows us just how the Samurai would have lived in times past. It evokes a sense of what old Japan and best of all its exquisite gardens might have been like. An absolute joy. Many of us will be inspired by the imaginative opportunities that could apply even to our own backyards.
We also visit Higashi Chaya district, a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha have been entertaining people since the Edo period. (Breakfast)
Day 6 Wed 16 Nov Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Takayama
Travel by road to Takayama, stopping en route in the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village. Shirakawa-go is a fairytale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields.
We then continue our journey on to Takayama.
Hida beef dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 7 Thu 17 Nov Takayama
Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of Takayama Old Town and the Kusakabe Folkcraft Museum, including the cultural heart of the town, the morning market. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse.
Afternoon is at your leisure. (Breakfast)
Day 8 Fri 18 Nov Takayama-Nagoya-Himeji-Okayama
Travel by Bullet Train to Himeji where we visit Himeji Castle, a world cultural heritage site and a national treasure. Fortunately Koko-en Garden is located beside Himeji Castle. Its diminutive size packs a wallop by featuring nine separate gardens, each centred on a different theme authentic to the Edo Period and enclosed by replica mud walls topped by tiled roofs. Continue travelling to Okayama and check in at our hotel. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 9 Sat 19 Nov Okayama-Kurashiki-Okayama
After breakfast we will explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Then we cross the Asahi River to view the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour.
In the afternoon we will wander through the Bikan area of Kurashiki, a time warp into ancient feudal times. With a distinct and stunningly beautiful architectural design, you’ll see a central canal crossed by traditional curved bridges, and lined by fascinating shops, eateries and museums. (Breakfast)
Day 10 Sun 20 Nov Okayama-Takamatsu
Today we depart Okayama for Takamatsu to visit Ritsurin Park, considered to be one of the best gardens in Japan. It is often suggested that Ritsurin Park deserves a spot on the list with the “Three Great Gardens”. It was given three stars as the highest-rated, worth-visiting place for sightseeing in the Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. We will also pay a visit to Kinashi Bonsai Village, in the heartland territory of Japanese Bonsai. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 11 Mon 21 Nov Takamatsu-Naoshima-Kyoto
In the morning, as a change of pace, we catch the ferry to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island and visit the Lee Ufan and Cichu Art Museums. It’s worth visiting just for the contemporary art alone, but it’s also a great spot to briefly rest your frazzled senses after visiting so many garden landscapes. We then transfer to Miyaura Port to take the ferry to Uno and then by Bullet Train from Okayama on to Kyoto. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 12 Tue 22 Nov Kyoto
Today, we experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, possibly the most well-known temple in Japan, and then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto encourages contemplation while enjoying the simplicity of carefully arranged boulders amidst raked pebbles that resemble ripples of the sea. Definitely recommended to gain an appreciation of the deep thoughts behind this garden style. It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 13 Wed 23 Nov Kyoto
A more relaxing day. After breakfast we visit the secluded Gio-ji Temple. It presides over a magnificent grove of thick magical moss that just about begs you to lie down on it (you are strictly forbidden), straight out of a fairytale. We then head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest.
The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch)
Day 14 Thu 24 Nov Kyoto
This morning we visit the I M Pei-designed Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture. The building is a work of art in itself, as it sits in perfect harmony with an incredible mountain landscape. It is best known for its Shigaraki pottery as well as an incredible collection of artworks belonging to the founder of the museum, Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan, and her daughter Hiroko.
The afternoon is at your leisure. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner. (Breakfast/Dinner)
Day 15 Fri 25 Nov Depart Kyoto
Today we transfer to Osaka Airport for your onward flight. (Breakfast)
To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
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Price per person twin share $AUD
Land Only*: $7,985
Single Room Supplement: $820
*Land Only tour starts in Tokyo and finishes in Kyoto.
INCLUSIONS: 14 nights twin-share accommodation in 4 star hotels, 22 meals including 14 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 7 dinners, private coach with local English speaking guide during the tour, reserved seating on train Tokyo-Kanazawa, Takayama-Nagoya-Himeji//Uno-Okayama-Kyoto, transfer on arrival, if travelling on suggested flights, luggage transfer Tokyo-Takayama//Takayama-Okayama//Okayama-Kyoto.
Not Included: International flights, transfer on arrival if not travelling on suggested flights, transfer on departure (local assistance will be provided), travel insurance, personal expenses, anything not mentioned above.
**Single rooms in Japan: Most hotels in Japan have single rooms which are smaller rooms with a single bed and private facilities. The single supplement is based on a single room.
If you wish to have more space we offer a single supplement for a double room for sole use, additional cost will apply please contact us.