Japan is renowned for its garden culture, dating back 500 years. In recent decades, the Japanese have embraced ‘the new’ in striking art and architecture, often set in magnificent spaces or dramatic natural environments.
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. With Genevieve, you will explore the Japanese aesthetic in gardens, art and culture, embarking upon a unique visual journey from the distant past to the near future.
AT A GLANCE …
• Discover modern museums, tranquil parks and high-octane energy of Tokyo
• Enjoy a change of pace in the unspoiled, Edo-era mountain town of Takayama
• Visit ‘must-see’ gardens including Okayama’s Korakuen Garden, Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Park, the Adachi Art Museum and Garden, and Kyoto’s ‘Rock’, ‘Moss’, ‘Zen’ and ‘Bamboo’ Gardens
• Spend two days on the famous ‘art island’ of Naoshima
• Finish in the former imperial capital of Kyoto, the home of ancient temples, castles and gardens, and I.M.Pei’s Miho Museum of Contemporary Art.
Tue 13 Oct / Tokyo
Suggested departure from Australia on Cathay Pacific Airways via Hong Kong to Haneda Airport (HND), Tokyo.
For guests arriving on suggested flights, a transfer to the hotel will be provided.
Perth and Brisbane passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 548, and arrive in Haneda at 13:25.
Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 542 and arrive in Haneda at 21:05.
Wed 14 Oct / Tokyo
Join Genevieve and fellow members for a welcome breakfast and briefing.
Depart the hotel for a full day of touring. Begin with the Imperial Palace East Gardens which are a part of the inner palace. They are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defence: the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle).
Next visit Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine – Meiji Jingu. The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and is located in an evergreen forest of approximately 175 acres, in the middle of Tokyo.
Following lunch, continue to the Mori Art Museum a contemporary art museum founded by real estate developer, Minoru Mori. The museum is located on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, offering spectacular views from the panoramic observation deck.
Thu 15 Oct / Tokyo
Morning visit to the large, public Ueno park situated in central Tokyo. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period. Today it is home to museums, a zoo, a Toshogu Shrine and the Shinobazu Pond.
Enjoy a visit to Tokyo National Museum located within the park, housing the largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items in the country.
In the afternoon, visit one of Tokyo’s oldest Japanese gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden – a beautiful Japanese landscaped garden, representing famous Japanese and Chinese scenes in miniature, dating from the early Edo Period.
Dinner at a local restaurant.
Fri 16 Oct / Tokyo – Takayama
Please note: you will be required to pack a small bag for travel on the train and the two-night stay at Takayama. Your main suitcase will be transferred directly from Tokyo to the Okayama hotel.
After breakfast, depart Tokyo by train to Takayama, via Nagoya (change train). The journey is approx. 3h, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.
On arrival enjoy a walking tour of Takayama’s beautifully preserved old town. Many of the buildings and streets of houses date back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), with some open to visit, providing a glimpse behind the façade into the former living quarters of local merchants.
Dinner at a local restaurant.
Sat 17 Oct / Takayama
This morning travel to the Shirakawa Valley, home to the historic village of Shirakawa-go, a traditional Japanese settlement. The village houses are unique to Japan and are known as ‘Gassho-zukuri’. ‘Gassho’ means praying hands, suggesting the form of hands raised in prayer to the Buddha (here it refers to the triangular shape of the roof).
Afternoon at leisure to further explore Takayama.
Sun 18 Oct / Takayama – Okayama
Today depart Takayama by train to Okayama (change trains at Nagoya). Journey time is approx. 5h30m, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.
Afternoon arrival in Okayama.
The largest city in the Chugoku Region after Hiroshima, Okayama developed as a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867), becoming a significant regional power and is an important transportation hub. Okayama faces the Seto Inland Sea and is endowed with abundant natural beauty, including the islands, Seto-ohashi Bridge (spanning Honshu and Shikoku islands), Mt Washu-zan (which overlooks them), and the Hiruzen-kogen Highlands in Daisen-Oki National Park.
Dinner at a local restaurant.
Mon 19 Oct / Okayama
Following breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on Japanese garden design.
Your exploration of Okayama begins with a visit to the Korakuen garden, one of the three most famous landscape gardens in Japan (along with Kanazawa’s ‘Kenrokuen’ and Mito’s ‘Kairakuen’). Korakuen is a spacious garden that incorporates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden, including a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point.
Following lunch near the garden, cross the Asahi River by footbridge to Okayama Castle. Also known as ‘crow castle’ due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of World War II, but a reconstruction was made in 1966.
Tue 20 Oct / Okayama – Takahashi – Okayama
Drive to the small city of Takahashi located in the mountains to the north of Okayama, for a visit to the Raikyu-ji temple, a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect that dates back to 1504. The beautifully constructed garden within the temple grounds garden is a Penglai Zen dry- garden style constructed by Kobori Enshu, one of the founders of the Japanese tea ceremony, renowned for his architecture, garden design, calligraphy and poetry.
After lunch, continue to the Adachi Art Museum) in Yasugi. Set within a superb and unique garden, the museum was built to house the collection of modern Japanese paintings, ceramics and sculptures of local businessman and collector Zenko Adachi.
Wed 21 Oct / Okayama – Takamatsu – Naoshima
Today you will travel over the Seto Ohashi Bridge to Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku in the Inland Sea. Visit Ritsurin Koen Garden, often mentioned as deserving of a spot on the list of the ‘three most beautiful gardens of Japan’. The spacious park features many ponds, hills, historic trees and beautiful pavilions divided into a Japanese style garden.
After lunch (own expense), continue to Naoshima. Transfer by ferry to Naoshima Island (35km/1.5 h), home to the Benesse Art site.
Dinner at our hotel.
Benesse Art Site: The site combines Benesse House (a symphony of nature, art and architecture), the Art House Project (which weaves threads of everyday home life with substantial strands of history), and Chichu Art Museum, a fresh re-interpretation of the potential of art museums.
Benesse House Museum opened in 1992 as a facility integrating a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of ‘Co-existence of nature, art and architecture’. The facility consists of four buildings, all designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando: Museum, Oval (opened in 1995), Park and Beach (both opened in 2006).
The Art House Project started in 1998 in Naoshima’s Honmura district. The project takes empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art, weaving in the history and memories of the period when the houses were used as homes.
Chichu Modern Art Museum is built into the hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. Designed by Ando Tadao, it is primarily underground and utilises natural light to illuminate artworks by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell.
Thu 22 Oct / Naoshima
Begin with a tour of the Chichu Modern Art Museum.
Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit Benesse House Museum. One of the pleasures of visiting Benesse House is unexpectedly encountering works of art, not only within the walls of the museum but also while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the abundant natural beauty of the Inland Sea region.
Fri 23 Oct / Naoshima
In the morning take the ferry to the Inujima Art Project Seirensho, a museum that preserves and reuses the remains of a copper refinery on the island. The project embraces the concept of a recycling-based society as a model for a new type of regional revitalisation through industrial heritage, architecture, art and the environment.
Early afternoon return to Naoshima Island.
Sat 24 Oct / Naoshima – Himeji – Kyoto
After breakfast, depart Naoshima by ferry to Uno port, then transfer by coach via Himeji Castle to Kyoto (approx 220km), stopping en route at Kokoen garden.
Late afternoon arrival in Kyoto. With its hundreds of temples and gardens, Kyoto was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan.
Dinner at a local restaurant.
Sun 25 Oct / Kyoto
After breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on the gardens of Kyoto.
Begin with a tour of the elegant Nijo-jo Castle, built by the first Tokugawa Shogun, a striking example of the splendid decorative luxury of the Momoyama period (1587–1615), followed by a visit to the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre.
Visit Ryoan-ji Temple, which houses the famous Zen rock garden, before visiting Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion built in 1397 as a villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.
Ryoan-ji is the site of Japan’s famous rock garden consisting of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. A feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.
Continue to the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again, more recently, in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
Mon 26 Oct / Kyoto
Begin with a visit to the Kyoto National Museum for an introduction to the traditional arts of Japan. Continue to Sanjusangendo, a uniquely shaped long hall rebuilt in 1251 to house its central image of the thousand-armed Bodhisattva Kannon, surrounded by 1,000 gilt bronze images of Kannon.
In the afternoon visit Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), a Zen temple at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modelling it after Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490. Stroll along the ‘Philosophers Path’ which follows a quiet tree-lined canal connecting Ginkaku-ji to the extensive buildings and grounds of one of the world’s largest Zen temples, Nanzen-ji.
This evening enjoy a performance of Japanese Arts at the Gion Corner Theatre. Located in one of Kyoto’s best preserved historical quarters, the Gion Corner Theatre presents a display of Japanese traditional arts and entertainment including Kyoto-style dance, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, Japanese Harp, Comic play, Court music and Puppet play.
Tue 27 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to Saiho-ji (Kokedera), an ancient temple said to have been established by the monk Gyoki during the Nara Period (710 – 794), later restored and converted into a Zen temple by the monk Muso Soseki, in 1339. The precincts are covered by more than 120 types of moss, resembling a beautiful green carpet, hence its other name, Kokedera, which literally means ‘Moss Temple’.
After lunch, visit the Daitoku-ji temple complex consisting of nearly two dozen sub-temples, and one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens such as Daisen-in, a Zen contemplative garden. One part of the garden is an allegory; the other is designed for meditation.
Wed 28 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to the Miho Museum nestled among the verdant Shigaraki Mountains. The museum houses the Shumei Family Collection of rare treasures from the ancient world and traditional Japanese art.
Continue to the Arashiyama-Sagano area situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area is known for its scenic beauty, narrow streets, old villas and temple compounds. It was favoured by noble classes 1,200 years ago. Enjoy a walk through the area’s vast bamboo groves.
This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner.
Thu 29 Oct / Depart Kyoto
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Kansai International Airport (KIX) can be reached by airport bus service or express train departing from near your hotel. There will be local assistance to buy tickets (approx 1 hr30 min).
Morning departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth via Hong Kong (nb: Guests travelling to Perth arrive in the evening on the same day, 29 October).
Evening departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Sydney and Melbourne, via Hong Kong.
Fri 30 Oct / Arrive Australia
Morning arrival in Australia for Adelaide and Brisbane guests, and an afternoon arrival for Melbourne and Sydney guests.