Follow the cherry blossom trail as it blooms across Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko and Tokyo on a 14-day tour that will take you inside Japan’s great gardens. You’ll meet some of the masters of Japanese horticulture, and experience that fascinating mix of ancient serenity and eye-popping modernity that makes Japan such an exciting destination.

DAY 1 Wednesday 1 April 2015
Sydney – Narita
Meet your Ross Tour Leader at the Qantas check-in counter two hours before departure for the evening flight from Sydney to Narita International Airport.
DAY 2 Thursday 2 April 2015
Narita – Kyoto (D)
When we arrive at Narita we’ll jump straight on the bullet train for Kyoto, the beautiful former imperial capital of Japan. We’ll stay for the next four nights at Westin Miyako. The hotel stands on the Higashiyama Hills overlooking the capital and its extraordinary gardens are registered as a cultural property of the City of Kyoto. We’ve left the afternoon free to give you time to explore the gardens and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. There are also easy walking paths through the surrounding forest, which is a sanctuary for wild birds.
We’ve arranged a welcome dinner tonight at Junsei Restaurant, which is housed in a traditional building of pavilions and courtyards surrounded by a tile-capped stone wall. The building was originally a medical school, established by a remarkable doctor, Ryotei Shingu, in 1839. It became a restaurant after WWII and the traditional architecture and gardens have been retained. It’s a perfect setting for the simple, subtle and clean flavours of Japanese food.

Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 3 Friday 3 April 2015
Kyoto (B/L)
We’ll stroll along the famous Philosopher’s Path this morning, under hundreds of cherry trees in full bloom, and with the rushing snow-fed waters of the Shirakawa River below us. Three rows of cherries line this most-admired walk, which stretches from the local temple to the entrance of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji).
This Philosopher’s Walk is a beautiful way to reach this 15th century temple, which was formerly the villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Legend has it that the pavilion was to be covered in silver leaf, but that the shogun died before that could happen. An alternative theory for the name holds that the glistening black tiles on the pavilion roof reflected the light of the full moon in such as way as to look like silver. We’ll come to our own conclusion as we admire the elegance of the pavilion and the wonderful Zen gardens with their raked and moulded gravel. This serene garden also features ancient pines, ginkgoes, maples and camellias.
Our next stop is Hakusa Sonso, a garden, villa and museum created by the famous Japanese painter Kansetsu Hashimoto in 1915. We’ll watch a tea ceremony performed by his wife, who is a Tea Master, in the private garden. The garden is a showcase of Japanese plants and Chinese statuary and we’ll have time to admire it as we enjoy our lunch. The rest of the day is free to explore Kyoto.

Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 4 Saturday 4 April 2015
Kyoto (B)
We’ll experience some icons of Japanese garden design today. First, an early start to catch the wonderful morning light glowing on the 18-carat gold leaf-covered roof of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku- ji. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built this three-tiered pavilion in 1397. He used it for entertaining, and as a space for quiet contemplation of nature. It’s perfect proportions are reflected in the broad Mirror Lake before it.
Ryoanji Temple is our next stop, renowned throughout the world as Japan’s finest example of a rock and sand garden (seki-taki). We’ll take time here to reflect on the meaning of the raked patterns and enigmatic placement of rocks. While this stone garden is the most famous part of the temple grounds, the garden itself is large and planted with Japanese cedars and hundreds of exquisite flowering cherries. It’s also home of a stone water-basin, Tsukubai, engraved with a famous Zen script.
Our final highlight today is Saihoji Temple and its beautiful Moss Garden. Access to this treasured and fragile garden is restricted to protect the moss, and the spirit of the place. We enter only after pausing to meditate in a Buddhist ceremony. Created by Zen priest Muso Soseki in 1339, this is a tranquil space of murmuring streams, groups of stones and velvety moss beneath the trees. So splendid are the 120 types of moss growing here that the Japanese refer to the temple as Koke-dera, the Moss Temple. We’ll also see the world’s first dry rock landscape depicting a waterfall, created by Zen priest Muso Kokushi in 1338.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 5 Sunday 5 April 2015
Kyoto (B/D)
A day celebrating the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossom today. We’ll start at Heian Shrine, with its unique pairing of Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. The entrance to this popular Meiji-era strolling garden is through an avenue of 300 weeping flowering cherries. It’s a popular venue for wedding parties, and we can expect to see brides in exquisite bridal kimono posing for photographs.
Our next stop is Nijo Castle, famous for its fortress-like interior and the ingenious escape routes built into the design by the Tokugawa shogun in the early 17th century. The garden here, Ninomaru Garden, is planted with ancient pine trees and 430 ‘Sakura’ cherry trees.
Next we turn to the Higashiyama Mountains and the towering, World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu Temple, set against a backdrop of wild cherries. We’ve arranged a special dinner tonight at another traditional Japanese restaurant with its own beautiful garden – and an elegant geisha performance.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 6 Monday 6 April 2015
Kyoto – Kanazawa (B)
We’ll catch the express train north this morning, through Japan’s picturesque countryside, past Lake Biwa, and on to the university city of Kanazawa on the Sea of Japan. Kanazawa is a lovely change of pace. Its old districts are reminiscent of Kyoto though it’s a far less busy city, with a relaxed pace. Traditional crafts, such as ceramic, lacquerware, inlay, embroidery and gold leaf work are still practiced. Kanazawa is also home to makers of exquisite fish flies.
After checking into our hotel, the Excel Tokyu, we’ll stroll to the nearby Bukeyashiki or Samurai House district and the ancient home of the Nomura Family. This charming home wraps around a skillfully laid-out garden of meandering streams, waterfalls, lanterns and fabulous plant material.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa
DAY 7 Tuesday 7 April 2015
Kanazawa (B)
A tour of the city will orient us for an afternoon of exploration, then it’s on to Kenroku-en, one of Graham Ross’ favourite gardens. Kenroku-en combines the six essential features of true gardens: vastness, symmetry, solemnity, coolness, antiquity and pleasure. Highlights are the mature conifer, the channel gardens of water iris and Japan’s first water fountain, surrounded by flowering cherries.
The rest of the day is free to explore Kanazawa’s Edo-period districts; its great department stores, or the art at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa
DAY 8 Wednesday 8 April 2015
Kanazawa – Awazu (B/D)
A unique horticultural, architectural and cuisine experience today, as we travel deep into the Japan Alps to visit Shirakawago Village. This village, nestled in a rural setting that looks unchanged for centuries, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The traditional farmhouses have steep thatched rooves, called Gasho Zukuri, a style used more than 250 years ago. We’ll stay tonight in a Japanese ryokan, and enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner. Make sure you take time to enjoy the Japanese baths at the ryokan.
Accommodation: Roten-no-yu Kinkaku, Awazu
DAY 9 Thursday 9 April 2015
Awazu- Nikko (B/D)
Today we make our way to Nikko National Park and its famous monuments and mountains. We’ll travel up the northern coastline, then cross the spine of Honshu through forests of Japanese Cryptomeria cedar and Chamaecyparis cypress dotted with maples.
Our hotel in Nikko for the next two nights is the charming, century-old Nikko Kanaya Hotel. This is the oldest Western-style hotel in Japan and many diplomats and intellectuals used it in its 19th and early 20th century heyday to escape the summer heat of Tokyo. Fittingly, dinner tonight in the hotel is western-style, complete with silver service.
Accommodation: Hotel Kanaya, Nikko
DAY 10 Friday 10 April 2015
Nikko (B)
We’ll take a walking tour of the nearby Toshogu Shrine today, and hear the history behind this sacred region and its traditions. The shrine was built in 1542 to honour the founder of the Tokagawa shogunate. Rinnoji Temple, on the avenue leading to the shrine, contains three gigantic gilded wooden images of Buddha. The buildings are inspiring, but it is the natural beauty of the place that drew the rich and powerful all those centuries ago, and it still casts a spell. There are giant cryptomerias over 1000 years old, the turbulent waters of the Daiya River, and mists wrapping the mountain. The entire site is World Heritage listed.
This afternoon there is plenty of time to walk around the charming town of Nikko, and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.

Accommodation: Hotel Kanaya, Nikko

DAY 11 Saturday 11 April 2015
Nikko – Tokyo (B)
Today our coach takes us to Tokyo, with a stop to see the sacred way of ancient cedar trees, and to visit the Omiya Bonsai Village and Museum. The village was established in 1925 when an earthquake in central Tokyo forced bonsai nurseries to look for an alternative location. They chose Omiya for its clean water and good soil. There are several nurseries in the village that specialise in bonsai and private gardens also have good collections by their front doors. The museum itself offers a great introduction to this ancient art.
This afternoon we’ll check in to the luxurious New Otani Hotel, our accommodation for the next two nights. The hotel is set in 10 acres of beautiful gardens dating back to the 16th century.

Accommodation: New Otani Hotel, Tokyo
DAY 12 Sunday 12 April 2015
Tokyo (B/D)
We’ll visit Nezu Shrine, one of the famous Meiji Ten Shrines of Tokyo this morning, but our first destination is Rikugien Garden. This strolling garden was laid out in 1695 and restored in the 18th century. A path takes us around a lake, which features 88 stops, each offering a view that is a symbolic representation of scenes from classical Japanese literature. The rhythm achieved by alternating dark and bright zones, spacious and confined areas, sunlit groves and mysterious forests, produces virtually a musical effect. The azaleas and cherries will be putting on the last of their spring show.
Our farewell dinner tonight will be held in one of the hotel’s garden restaurants.

Accommodation: New Otani Hotel, Tokyo
DAY 13 Monday 13 April 2015
Tokyo – Sydney (B)
Our day is free to explore some more of Tokyo. Take a stroll through the famous Ginza district, visit Hibya Park, or catch up with some last-minute shopping. We’ll take a late-afternoon transfer to Narita Airport for our flights home.
DAY 14 Tuesday 14 April 2015
Arrive Home

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Twin Share land only $8,795 per person Twin Share including air $10,595 per person Single Supplement $1,795 All prices in Australian Dollars Prices based on minimum 15 passengers Price is based on departure ex Sydney Price from NZ and other Australian ports available on application

Book and pay in full by 28/11/2014 to receive the Early Bird Discount of $350.00 per person off the final instalment. Previous Traveller Discount $100 Garden Clinic Member discount $50
Return flights (including taxes) Sydney / Tokyo / Sydney with Qantas
Shinkansen and express train travel
Deluxe air-conditioned motorcoach throughout tour
Deluxe accommodation for 11 nights, including an overnight stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan
Breakfast daily, plus 1 lunch and 6 dinners
Ross Guide and National (English speaking) Japanese Guide
Guided tours of Kyoto, Kanazawa, Nikko and Tokyo
Entrance fees to all gardens and sightseeing including, Ginkakuji, Hakusa Sonso, Heian Shrine, Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Saihoji, Nijo Castle, Kiyomizu Temple, Fushimi Shrine and Nomura Family Samurai House, Kenrokuen, Shirakawago, Kegon Waterfall, Toshougu Shrine, Omiya Bonsai Village, Rikugien, Nezu Shrine
Ross Tours travel wallet
Ross Tours travel bag