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Japan: An Exploration of History, Culture and Society

Program Number: 19724RJ
Start and End Dates:
11/13/2012 - 11/29/2012; 3/22/2016 - 4/7/2016; 5/3/2016 - 5/19/2016; 9/20/2016 - 10/6/2016; 10/12/2016 - 10/28/2016; 10/15/2016 - 10/31/2016;
Duration: 16 nights
Location: Japan
Price starting at: $6,798.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Train Treks Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 32; 15 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 12 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

From the frantic pace of the world’s largest fish market to the elaborate rituals of the Way of Tea, from samurai castles to serene Buddhist temples, delve into the history and modern identity of Japan. Discover Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the hidden jewels of rural Japan.


• Journey through Japan’s cities, mountains and rural areas via Shinkansen Bullet train, bus, street tram, ferry and on foot.
• Learn about the Nakasendo Way, a centuries-old route between Tokyo and Kyoto, and stay at one of its historic port towns.
• Experience the art of Japanese cuisine from fresh sushi to regional specialties and learn the symbolic ritual of the tea ceremony with a Tea Master.

Activity Particulars

Walking up to five miles and standing for up to three hours daily. Uneven, hilly terrain, many stairs. Participants must handle own luggage on and off transport.

Date Specific Information


This program date is optimal for viewing cherry blossom in the low lying areas (e.g. Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima) of Japan.
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

5-3-2016, 9-20-2016, 10-12-2016, 10-15-2016

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; Shinkansen bullet train and coach to Kiso Fukushima, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 1 night; train to Kyoto, 3 nights; Shinkansen Bullet Train to Hiroshima, 2 nights; Sonic Express Train and coach to Yufuin, 1 night; Yufu-no-Mori Train to Nagasaki, 2 nights; train to Fukuoka, 1 night; train to Kansai International Airport: departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Tokyo
3 nights

Explore Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, the Imperial Palace grounds and the ancient Senso-ji Buddhist temple. Visit the Edo-Tokyo museum and the historic districts of Yanaka and Asakusa. Delve into the bustling Tsukiji fish market early in the morning.

Shinkansen Bullet Train and coach to Kiso
2 nights
Coach to Takayama
1 night

Experience woodblock printmaking and visit a preserved post-town on the historic Nakasendo Way. Learn about Japanese food production and try your hand at making soba noodles. Set foot in the towering Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s National Treasures. Walk among Takayama’s Edo period houses and farmer’s market and learn how sake is made.

Train to Kyoto
3 nights
Shinkansen Bullet Train to Hiroshima
2 nights

Discover Kyoto’s renowned cultural icons including Daitoku-ji temple complex. Visit Nijo Castle, the only shogunate residence still in existence. and spend time with a Tea Master. Explore Hiroshima’s Peace Park and take the tram and ferry to the historic Itsukushima Shrine, built over the Inland Sea.

Sonic Express Train and Coach to Yufuin
1 night
Yufu-no- Mori Train to Nagasaki
2 nights
Train to Fukuoka
1 night
Shinkansen Bullet Train and Express to Kansai Airport

Visit the little-known, picturesque temple of Fuki-ji in the early Buddhist stronghold of Kunisaki. Enjoy views from the train as it winds it way through Kyushu’s beautiful countryside. In Nagasaki, go back in time at Dejima, a reconstructed Dutch trading post that was once Japan’s only point of contact with the West. View the treasures of the Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu.


In 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Uraga Harbor to demand Japanese trade with America. Less important to Perry was the tradition of cultural trade the country pursued long before his “Black Ships” arrived. From the art of bonsai first begun in China to the Buddhism philosophy imported from India through China and South Korea, the Japanese have transformed practices and products from other cultures into a form wholly unique to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tokyo: Quality Western-style hotel. Kiso Fukushima: Elegant Japanese inn with natural hot spring baths. Takayama: Western-style hotel. Kyoto: Three-star hotel in heart of city. Hiroshima: Western-style hotel. Yufuin: Quality inn in renowned spa town. Nagasaki: Western-style hotel. Fukuoka: Quality hotel convenient to explore sites.
Meals and Lodgings
   Yaesu Terminal Hotel
  Tokyo, Japan 4 nights
   Ryokan Iwaya
  Kiso-Fukushima, Japan 2 nights
   Takayama Ouan
  Takayama, Japan 1 night
   Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa
  Kyoto, Japan 3 nights
   Hotel Granvia Hiroshima
  Hiroshima, Japan 1 night
  Yufuin, Japan 1 night
   Hotel Cuore
  Nagasaki, Japan 2 nights
   Hotel Centraza Hakata
  Fukuoka, Japan 1 night
 Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: The Yaesu Terminal Hotel is a modern, comfortable business hotel located in the busy and popular Marunouchi district, only a 3-minute walk from Tokyo station and surrounded by shops and restaurants. In common with many Japanese city hotels, the rooms are a good deal smaller than you may be accustomed to. However, the location is second to none in terms of accessibility and convenience.
  Contact info: Yaesu 1-5-14
Tokyo,  103-0028 Japan
phone: +81332813771
  Room amenities: Western-style rooms with air-conditioning, data port for High-Speed Internet access, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, radio, tea making facility, bathrobe, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer. Non-smoking rooms are available
  Facility amenities: Restaurant and bar; Internet access, concierge desk and laundry service. Wi-fi internet access in the lobby.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Contact Program Provider Contact Program Provider for Rates and Reservations.
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Ryokan Iwaya
Type: Inn
  Description: The Ryokan Iwaya is a traditional, elegant Japanese inn, with tatami rooms and natural hot spring baths, located in the heart of historic Kiso-Fukushima.
  Contact info: Fukushima 5169
Kiso Gun
Kiso-Fukushima,   Japan
phone: +81 264 22 2015
  Room amenities: Tatami rooms with futon mattresses, air-conditioning, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, radio, Japanese tea making facility, in-room safe, mini-bar, bathrobe, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Traditional Japanese cuisine and hot spring public baths (male and female). Wifi Internet access available in the lobby.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Takayama Ouan
Type: Other
  Description: The traditional Japanese experience begins as you remove your shoes to move beyond the lobby area of this modern, stylish Japanese hotel that combines tradition with Western conveniences. The rooftop hot spring baths with views over the city and beyond is a must-do.
  Contact info: 4-126 Hanasato
Takayama,  506-0026 Japan
phone: +81 577 37 2230
  Room amenities: Western- and Japanese-style rooms with air conditioning, direct-dial telephone, high-speed LAN Internet access, tea set, refrigerator, hair dryer, complimentary toiletries, dressing gown, private bathroom with shower.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, roof-top hot spring public baths (male and female), sauna, concierge services, computers available for use, vending machines, coin laundry facilities.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Bathroom: Shower in room, with more extensive bathing facilities available at the rooftop hot spring baths.
  Elevators available: Yes

 Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Very conveniently located for the sights of central Kyoto, the hotel is situated on Kawaramachi Street, Kyoto's main restaurant and entertainment district.
  Contact info: Sanjo-Agaru, Kawaramachi
Kyoto, NA  Japan
phone: +81 -75-223-1234
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Granvia Hiroshima
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Situated atop the main Hiroshima railway station, the Granvia is ideally located for the main sights of central Hiroshima.
  Contact info: 1-5 Matsubara Cho
Hiroshima,  732-0822 Japan
phone: +81 82-262-1111
  Room amenities: Western-style rooms with air-conditioning, complimentary LAN Internet access, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, hot water kettle, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer
  Facility amenities: Restaurants and bar; concierge desk, business center, laundry service
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

Type: Other
  Description: The Shuhokan Inn is situated one-half mile from the Yufuin railway station and offers a scenic view of Shuho Yufu Peak, in the renowned spa town of Yufuin.
  Contact info: Kawakami 2415-2
Yufuin,  879-5102 Japan
phone: +81 977 84 5111
  Room amenities: Air-conditioned Japanese and Western-style rooms, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, Japanese tea making facility, in-room safe, bathrobe, slippers.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant and bar, hot-springs, sauna, Wifi internet access in rooms.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Cuore
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: The Hotel Cuore is a conveniently-located Western-style hotel near the main railway station and a short tram ride to the center of town.
  Contact info: 7-3 Daikoku-cho
Nagasaki,  850-0057 Japan
phone: +81958189000
  Room amenities: Western-style rooms with air-conditioning, Wired LAN Internet Access, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, Japanese tea making facility, in-room safe, bathrobe, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Wired LAN Internet Access, coin laundry service, computers available for use in the lobby.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Centraza Hakata
Type: Hotel
  Description: Around five minutes by subway from Fukuoka Airport and located in front of JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka, this city hotel is a perfect base for travel and sightseeing.
  Contact info: 4-23, Chuogai, Hakataeki, Hakata-ku
Fukuoka, NA 812-0012 Japan
phone: +81 -92-461-0111
  Room amenities: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Shampoo, Towel, Nightwear, Toothbrush Set, Razor, Hair Dryer, Hair Brush, Japanese-Style Shower Toilet, Electric Water Boiler, Tea Set, Telephone, TV, Satellite Television, Video on demand, Refrigerator, Mini-Bar, Wired LAN Internet Access.
  Facility amenities: Laundry Service, Room Service, Massage, Vending Machine, Non-Smoking Floor, Non-Smoking Rooms, Restaurant and Bar.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Contact Program Provider Contact Program Provider for additional information.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
8:30 p.m. in the lobby of the hotel on Day 2 You will be staying at Yaesu Terminal Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
2:00 p.m. on Day 17, at Kansai International Airport You will be staying at Hotel Centraza Hakata the night before.
  Required documents:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: There are regular Narita Express Trains (approx 55 min journey) from Narita Airport to JR Tokyo Station. One-way tickets cost approximately 3000 Yen. The hotel is a 3-minute walk from the Yaesu North station exit (MAP AT BACK OF DOCUMENT)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Tokyo
  Nearest airport:  Narita International Airport
  Transportation to site: There are regular Narita Express Trains (approx 55 min journey) from Narita Airport to JR Tokyo Station. One-way tickets cost approximately 3000 Yen. The hotel is a 3-minute walk from the Yaesu North station exit (MAP AT BACK OF DOCUMENT) The Yaesu Terminal Hotel is located very close to the Yaesu North Exit of Tokyo Station. As you exit the station cross over the pedestrian crossing to the Honma Golf shop and continue straight ahead on a smaller road lined with cherry trees. The hotel is about 30m up this road on the left hand side just past a Pronto il Bar cafe. See the attached map for details. PLEASE ALSO SEE THE MAPS AND DIAGRAMS AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT FOR MORE DETAILS.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Fukuoka
  Transportation from site: For details on independent onward travel from the hotel, please contact the program provider.
Elevation Note: Day 7 Kaida Plateau, 3700 feet.

Equipment Requirements: Your one piece of main luggage (a medium suitcase no larger than 25in x 18in x11in) should have wheels for easy navigation through train stations and public transport. We recommend good quality comfortable shoes/boots that are suitable for walking.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departures
(Tuesday, November 13)
 Evening: Depart on overnight flights from the USA.

Day 2: Arrivals / Welcome and Program Overview
(Wednesday, November 14)

Note: Allow 2 hours for a road transfer from Narita Airport to the hotel. If using rail or arriving independently, take a 55 minute journey on the Narita Express, a 7 minute walk through Tokyo station with luggage, and a 3 minute walk to the hotel.

 Afternoon: Arrivals at Narita Airport, Tokyo's international airport. Transfer to central Tokyo.
 Dinner: Program orientation and welcome during your first meal of the program.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Historical Edo, The Samurai And Economic Heart Of Feudal Japan
(Thursday, November 15)

Note: 2.5 mile walk from Nihonbashi through the grounds of the Imperial Palace East gardens and Yasukuni Shrine. In the afternoon, a 30-minute transfer is followed by an approximately 0.5 mile walk around the Edo Tokyo Museum. The return journey to the vicinity of the hotel is 20 minutes via public transport and walking.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Begin with a walking exploration of the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo with your Study Leader. Edo, as Tokyo used to be known in the feudal period, was the de facto political and military centre of Japan. Nihonbashi was Edo’s heart, with the five main highways of Japan, terminating here. Continue walking to the nearby Imperial Palace Gardens, on the site of the Shogun’s castle, then on through stimulating Yasukuni Shrine as far as Iidabashi.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: A guided visit to the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum, which describes well the built environment and life from the Edo period through to post-war Tokyo. For the energetic, carry on to Ginza, once the site of the shogun's treasury and now the premier shopping district of Japan. Ginza has a plethora of upmarket and smaller shops to browse through before returning to our hotel.
 Dinner: In a lively izakaya restaurant, a popular choice for most Japanese. The large and varied menu caters to everyone's tastes.
 Evening: At leisure
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Edo - the City of the Townspeople
(Friday, November 16)

Note: Approximately 2.5 miles of gentle strolling and 1hr of assorted rail and subway transfers enable us to explore Tokyo today.

 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the charming neighbourhood of Yanaka. A quiet quarter with winding streets and narrow alleyways, local shops and an intimate feel, Yanaka provides perhaps the closest approximation to how life once was in downtown Edo through to the pre-war years of Tokyo. From here we stroll on to Ueno Park before transferring to Asakusa. This area has long been famous for its Senso-ji temple, which we visit together.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare - your leaders will advise.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore the surrounding streets that provide a sense of the local culture still connected to its Edo and early Tokyo roots. It is a straightforward journey on the Ginza line back to the vicinity of the hotel.
 Dinner: With help from your Study Leader, choose from a variety of local and international eateries.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 5: Kamakura: The Ancient Samurai Capital Of Japan
(Saturday, November 17)

Note: 30 minute public transport transfer to Tsukiji fish market, followed by 1 mile stroll around the expansive precincts. Walk 20 mins to Shinbashi station and travel approximately 2 hour return journey (one hour each way) by train to Kamakura. 1.5 miles walking while exploring the attractions of Kamakura.

 Breakfast: Before exploring the fish market, enjoy a sushi breakfast of the freshest produce available anywhere in the city.
 Morning: After breakfast (Market is now open from 0900), observe the intricacies of buying and selling of one of Japan's most important commodities during a morning visit to the world-famous Tsukiji fish market. Continue on by rail to Kamakura, the first Samurai capital of Japan, founded by the Minamoto Clan.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare - your leaders will advise.
 Afternoon: View the Daibutsu, one of Japan's most famous Buddha statues and spend some time soaking up the serene atmosphere. On our return journey, we visit Hase-dera Temple, with an impressive view over Kamakura Bay, and take a short ride on the narrow-gauge Enoden Railway, weaving its way through Kamakura’s suburbs and along the coast, before returning to Tokyo.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: The Nakasendo Way and the Post Towns of the Kiso Valley
(Sunday, November 18)

Note: Approximately 3 hours by rail to Ena and the Hiroshige Print Museum. 40 minutes by coach from Ena to Tsumago. Approximately 1 mile walking around the village of Tsumago. Optional 3 mile (1.5hr) walk on trails from Magome Pass to Tsumago. Approximately 1 hour onward journey to Kiso-Fukushima. Sleep on traditional futons on tatami mats on the floor.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Set off in the early morning by train, including Shinkansen Bullet train, to the picturesque Kiso Valley and the Nakasendo Way. Learn about the woodblock printing process at the Hiroshige Print Museum, then try your hand at producing your own. These iconic prints give great insight into the daily life of Edo-period Japan, particularly along the Nakasendo Way.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare while experiencing the novelty of a Japanese supermarket.
 Afternoon: Continue by coach to Tsumago, a picturesque old post town and probably the most famous in Japan. Explore the workings of a traditional high-class inn and visit the local history museum. Prior to this, an optional 3 mile (1.5hr) walk along the old Nakasendo from the Magome Pass to Tsumago, for those so inclined, while others can enjoy exploring Tsumago. Onward travel to Kiso-Fukushima and our lodgings. Immerse yourself fully in Japanese culture, at an excellent modern Japanese inn with onsen hot spring baths
 Dinner: Traditional Japanese-style dinner at the ryokan.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Ryokan Iwaya
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Soba Noodles and Barrier Stations
(Monday, November 19)

Note: 20 minute local bus journey to our cookery workshop, followed by another 20 minute bus journey after lunch back to Kiso Fukushima. Approximately 1 mile walking around historic Kiso-Fukushima.

 Breakfast: Traditional Japanese-style breakfast in the ryokan.
 Morning: Roll up your sleeves and learn how buckwheat soba noodles, a local specialty are made by hand.
 Lunch: Enjoy the noodles you have made.
 Afternoon: Return to Kiso-Fukushima and visit the Edo-period Barrier Station. Learn more about travel under the watchful eye of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
 Dinner: Traditional Japanese-style dinner at the ryokan.
 Evening: An after-dinner lecture on the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Accommodations: Ryokan Iwaya
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Castle Towns and the Japan Alps
(Tuesday, November 20)

Note: Approximately 1.5 hour coach or rail journey from Kiso-Fukushima to Matsumoto. Total 1.5 mile walking to explore Matsumoto Castle and its surrounds. Drive 2.5 hours by coach through the mountains from Matsumoto to Takayama.

 Breakfast: Traditional Japanese-style breakfast in the ryokan.
 Morning: Travel by coach to the city of Matsumoto for a visit to the city's castle. The keep of Matsumoto Castle, an impressive and imposing structure, is an original structure dating back to the late 16th Century and it is one of only four in Japan to be designated a National Treasure. Learn insights into the establishment and importance of castle towns under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Delve into the facts versus myth surrounding the Samurai.
 Lunch: Learn about miso production and enjoy a delicious lunch at a traditional manufacturer of this tasty Japanese essential foodstuff.
 Afternoon: Continue by coach through the spectacular mountains of Japan’s Central Alps to the town of Takayama.
 Dinner: At the hotel, featuring a specialty of Takayama: Hida beef.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Takayama Ouan
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Takayama, Independent City
(Wednesday, November 21)

Note: Leisurely walking of approximately 2 miles around the sights of Takayama. 3 hour rail transfer to Kyoto, arriving in the early evening.

 Breakfast: Western and Japanese buffet in the hotel.
 Morning: Explore Takayama, a charming, small mountain town. Its streets are lined with Edo-period shops and houses. Largely isolated by the surrounding mountains, Takayama fiercely protected it's independence under pressure from the Shogunate, which eventually had to resort to direct rule. Through a visit to the historic Jinya, the Shogunate’s local headquarters, gain insights into Takayama's proud history and daily life in the provinces. Following this, learn how another of Takayama’s famed products, sake, is produced during a visit and tasting at a brewery.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Time for independent exploration before departing by rail to Kyoto in the mid-afternoon.
 Dinner: A slightly later dinner than usual, taken at or nearby the hotel following our arrival in Kyoto
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10: The Cultural Icons of Kyoto
(Thursday, November 22)

Note: A combination of public transport, private-hire vehicles and leisurely walking of 3-4 miles to enjoy the important attractions of Kyoto.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Discover Kyoto's icons, that form much of the heart of Japan’s history and culture. Visit Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion) and the fabulous Zen gardens at Ryoan-ji temple. The Golden Pavilion, probably the most recognizable structure in Japan, was built by 3rd Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu as a lavish retirement villa.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore independently.
 Dinner: Your choice among Kyoto’s abundant, small restaurants. Your Study Leader will provide suggestions.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 11: The Importance of Tea in Japanese Culture
(Friday, November 23)

Note: This is a busy day that includes 2.5 miles of walking in the morning, assisted by short transfers on public transportation. In the afternoon, sit on either tatami mats or small chairs on the floor while participating in the tea ceremony. The after-dinner walk is 1 mile and finishes at the hotel. Note that space is limited at the tea room, and that large groups will be split into two, reversing the daily itinerary.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Continue to delve into Kyoto's history and culture. First, a visit Nijo-jo castle, the only Shogun residence still in existence, for a chance to learn about the daily life at the Shogun's court. Continue to Daitoku-ji temple complex, associated with the ultimate master of the tea ceremony; Sen-no-rikyu.
 Lunch: At a Shojin Ryori, or temple vegetarian restaurant located by the 56-acre Daitoku-ji temple complex.
 Afternoon: To round off the main theme of today, experience the Tea Ceremony in the informative and enthralling company of a Tea Master. Delve into the ceremony, a delightful and deeply meaningful practice far from the rigid image it often has, and also make tea for each other.
 Dinner: In a local restaurant.
 Evening: Take an evening stroll around the exclusive Gion district of Kyoto with your Study Leader. Here, with some luck, you might spot a Geisha scurrying between appointments.
Accommodations: Kyoto Royal Hotel and Spa
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Hiroshima - A City Reborn
(Saturday, November 24)

Note: 105-minute bullet train transfer to Hiroshima with luggage. Total walking around Hiroshima and Miyajima, 3-4 miles. Transfers by tram, ferry and train.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Early morning departure by Shinkansen Bullet train to Hiroshima, a vibrant city that belies its recent and infamous past. The town has one of the last remaining tram systems in Japan, which you ride to alight the Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum. Within the grounds of the Park is the Atom Bomb Dome, the old Industry Promotion Hall. The Hall was very close to the epicenter and its smashed walls and twisted metal frame vividly recalls the blast.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Continue on the tram to Miyajima-guchii and take the ferry to Miyajima island. The island is justly famous for the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine, built out over the sea. The Shrine is over 1,400 years old. Miyajima, where vehicles are few, is a pleasant place to stroll around.
 Dinner: Try your hand at making Hiroshima-yaki at an establishment near the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Granvia Hiroshima
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 13: Early Japanese Buddhism
(Sunday, November 25)

Note: Another active day with a 3-hour transfer on Shinkansen "bullet" train and Sonic express train with luggage. A short coach transfer is followed by approximately 1 mile of walking to visit some temple precincts, where there is some rough ground and steep steps. Another mile walking around Kitsuki followed by a 1-hour transfer to the hotel. Accommodation here is mostly Japanese style - you may be sleeping on traditional futons on tatami mats on the floor.

 Breakfast: Early breakfast (6:30) am at the hotel.
 Morning: Early departure to the train, the award-winning Sonic Express. Kunisaki is a little-known but fabulous area of Japan. The area is now sparsely populated but was once one of the first Buddhist strongholds in Japan. Many beautiful temples and thousands of stone Buddhas and deities are spread throughout the whole of Kunisaki. Common in years past, monks on pilgrimage are now a rare sight. But the local religion, which has morphed over the centuries into an eclectic concoction of Buddhism, Shintoism and various folk religions, is vibrant. Visit Fuki-ji, one of the most picturesque temples in Japan. Note: In order to protect the treasures inside Fuki-ji temple from the elements, it may not be possible to view the interior of the temple in rainy and windy conditions.
 Lunch: Enjoy locally-produced, farmhouse dishes in a nearby restaurant.
 Afternoon: Kunisaki, like so many rural areas of Japan, suffers from depopulation and decline. In conversations with residents, examine the problems this raises for the local community and what is being done to reinvigorate a small part of Japan. Continue to Kitsuki, a quiet castle town, to visit a splendid example of a thatched Samurai house. End the day in the surroundings of a high-class resort hotel in Yufuin, an up-market destination famed both for its setting: nestled in a valley below Mt. Yufu-dake and its onsen. Japanese style accommodation.
 Dinner: Traditional Japanese-style dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Shuhokan
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: The Romance of Train Travel
(Monday, November 26)

Note: Leisurely independent walking in the morning, followed by a 3.5 hour train transfer with luggage in the afternoon.

 Breakfast: Traditional Japanese-style breakfast in the ryokan.
 Morning: Take some time to explore Yufuin before boarding the train to Nagasaki. The train system in Japan is one of the best in the world and the trains on Kyushu the most interesting in Japan. Today, travel on the Yufu-no-Mori, a slightly eccentric looking, but comfortable express train.
 Lunch: You may wish to try a bento packed lunch, or other selections available for purchase on the train.
 Afternoon: The train continues to wind its way through Kyushu’s beautiful countryside past villages, fields and mountains. Arrive in the early evening in Nagasaki, the most westerly city in Japan. Founded by the Portuguese in the 16th Century, Nagasaki is a compact and unusually cosmopolitan city.
 Dinner: In a restaurant near the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Cuore
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15: Edo Japan and Trade With the West
(Tuesday, November 27)

Note: Approximately 2.5 miles leisurely walking in the morning, with some short public transport transfers.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Visit re-created Dejima, the small Dutch trading post that was the sole access between Japan and the West during Japan’s long period of seclusion from the rest of the world. The buildings have been recreated and these, along with informative displays, provide a very good idea of daily life in the Edo period. Continue to the nearby Tojin-machi, the still-atmospheric and original Chinese quarter, and Glover Gardens. The latter was the home of an expatriate Scots businessman, Thomas Glover, living in Japan during the late Edo and early Meiji, modern state, period. The gardens, which provide great views over the sea inlet, now contain period houses of other foreign traders brought here from around Nagasaki.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore the many other interesting places of the city.
 Dinner: Use your tram pass to explore independent dining options and Nagasaki's lively nightlife - your group leader will advise.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Cuore
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 16: Fukuoka - Japan's Gateway to Asia
(Wednesday, November 28)

Note: Express train to Fukuoka 2 hrs followed by dropping off luggage and 30 minutes to Dazaifu. 2 miles total walking.

 Breakfast: Western and Japanese buffet in the hotel.
 Morning: Travel to Fukuoka, where an exploration of this lively city - Japan's gateway to Asia – commences. A 30-minute ride on the Nishtetsu Railway brings you to Dazaifu, the old western capital of Japan. Visit the impressive Tenman-Gu Shrine and Komyo Zen-ji Zen Buddhist temple and its beautiful garden.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: In the Kyushu National Museum, view the collections of calligraphy, sculpture and arts from Japan and its Asian neighbors.
 Dinner: Celebrate your journey and review the highlights at a farewell dinner.
 Evening: Choose to relax or join your Study Leader in a rousing Karaoke session.
Accommodations: Hotel Centraza Hakata
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 17: Return to the U.S.A.
(Thursday, November 29)

Note: 3-4 hr railway journey to Kansai International Airport.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by Rail to Kansai International Airport.
 Evening: Depart Kansai International Airport for flights to the USA. Cross International Date Line. Arrivals in the U.S.A.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A Dictionary of Japanese Food

Author: Richard Hosking

Description: A comprehensive resource explaining Japanese dishes and ingredients, including Japanese-English and English-Japanese sections and information on cultural aspects such as the tea ceremony and the making of miso.

A History of Japan

Author: Conrad D. Totman

Description: A revised edition of Totman's authoritative history of Japan from c.8000 BC to the present day. Popular in university courses.

Contemporary Japan

Author: Duncan McCargo

Description: A concise introduction to Japanese history, politics, economy and society.

Dimensions of Japanese Society

Author: Kenneth G. Henshall

Description: A straightforward approach to Japanese identity and culture discussing gender, minorities and the mainstream.

Diplomat in Japan

Author: Ernest Mason Satow

Description: A first-hand account by Sir Satow, who served as a British diplomat in Japan from 1862 to 1883.

Embracing Defeat, Japan in the Wake of WWII

Author: John W. Dower

Description: A social and political history of the postwar years in Japan. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, it's an eye-opening account by a leading scholar of Japanese-American relations at MIT.

Everyday Life in Traditional Japan

Author: Charles J. Dunn

Description: This detailed evocation of traditional Edo Japan portrays all walks of life -- samurai, farmers, courtiers, priests, outcasts and merchants -- with hundreds of marvelous black and white illustrations.

Eyewitness Guide Japan

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: Dazzling illustrations, architectural cutaways and color photographs, along with useful local maps, give this guide to Japan's many attractions a distinct edge.

Fodor's Tokyo's 25 Best


Description: A shirt-pocket map and practical guide.


Author: Liza Crihfield Dalby

Description: The observations of an American graduate student who apprenticed as a geisha, interpreting this intriguing role in traditional Japanese society.


Author: John Hersey

Description: Never sensational, this classic by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hersey, first published in 1946, puts a human face on the unthinkable. Hersey explores the tragedy through interviews with residents, scientists and politicians.

Hitching Rides with Buddha

Author: Will Ferguson

Description: As irreverent as ever, Will Ferguson tracks cherry blossoms from Kagoshima to Rishiri Island in this rollicking report from the cultural frontlines in Japan.

In Praise of Shadows

Author: Junichiro Tanizaki

Description: An earthy meditation on traditional Japanese art, architecture and design, this essay by the great Japanese novelist, first published in 1933, offers tremendous insight into Japanese aesthetics. Most illuminating.

Japan Map

Author: Periplus Maps

Description: This convenient map covers the island nation at a scale of 1:2,000,000, with insets of the major cities.

Japan, A Traveler's Literary Companion

Author: Jeffrey Angles (Editor), Thomas Rimer (Editor), Donald Richie (Introduction)

Description: This geographically-organized anthology introduces both Japan and its best contemporary writers.

Japan, Its History and Culture

Author: W. Scott Morton

Description: An introduction to Japanese history, people and culture from ancient origins to contemporary society. With selections from Japanese literature and arts, anecdotes and illustrations.

Japanese Buddhism, A Cultural History

Author: Yoshiro Tamura

Description: A succinct history of Buddhism as it interacts with Japanese culture. From one of Japan's leading scholars of Buddhism.

Japanese Culture

Author: Paul Varley

Description: Valery traces cultural trends from the emergence of Japanese civilization through the present age, touching on religion, gardens, tea ceremony, the visual arts, theatre, literature and cinema.

Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings

Author: Edward S. Morse

Description: An authoritative review of traditional Japanese architecture and landscape design, with over 300 illustrations. Originally published in 1886.

Kyoto, A Cultural History

Author: John Dougill

Description: A rich portrait and guide to the gardens, monasteries, art, history and culture of Kyoto, once Japan's capital, founded 1,200-years ago.

Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook

Author: Yoshi Abe

Description: A handy, palm-sized guide to pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.

Lost Japan

Author: Alex Kerr

Description: Originally appearing as a series of 15 articles in a Japanese magazine, long-time resident Kerr offers a wistful account of traditional culture and change in contemporary Japan.

Secrets of the Samurai

Author: Oscar Ratti, Adele Westbrook

Description: This definitive account subtitled The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan includes detailed descriptions of weapons, techniques and strategies.

The Book of Five Rings

Author: William Scott Wilson (Translator), Miyamoto Musashi

Description: The original account of samurai philosophies and warfare by the swordsman and samurai Miyamoto Musashi, originally published in 1643.

The Book of Tea

Author: Kakuzo Okakura

Description: A graceful, witty meditation on Japanese aesthetics and culture as reflected through the tea ceremony. A celebrity and cultural ambassador, Okakura was a curator at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

The Flowering Spirit, Classic Teachings on the Art of No

Author: William Scott Wilson, Zeami

Description: This translation of Fushikaden, the 15th century classic text combining theater and philosophy by the founder of the Noh theater, includes Wilson's background notes explaining the context and translation of Zeami's play Atsumori.

The Making of Modern Japan

Author: Marius Jansen

Description: An epic account of Japan and its transformation from feudal society to modern superpower.

The Roads to Sata, A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan

Author: Alan Booth

Description: A revealing, humorous account of the author's 2,000-mile walk north to south from Hokkaido to Kyushu by a wonderfully eccentric British expatriate.

The State and Politics in Japan

Author: Ian Neary

Description: Describes the current state of Japan's politics and international relations.

The Taming of the Samurai

Author: Eiko Ikegami

Description: A sociological study of the roles of samurai throughout Japan's history and their lasting influence on Japanese culture and political organization.

The World Turned Upside Down

Author: Pierre Francois Souyri, Kathe Roth (Translator)

Description: A lively history of medieval Japanese society, with a particular focus on the samurai.

Tokyo, A View of the City

Author: Donald Richie

Description: Richie's literate essay on the culture, history and fabric of Tokyo, where he's lived for 50 years, is structured as a geographic tour starting at the Imperial Palace and branching out. With black-and-white photos.

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan

Author: Isabella Bird

Description: Bird's narrative of her travels in Japan in 1878, just after the country re-opened its doors to the world. She spent little time on the cities, heading straight out to meet the peasants in their fields.

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion

Author: Donald Keene

Description: Keene demonstrates that much of Japanese art and culture -- including Noh drama, sand gardens, monochrome ink painting, architecture, poetry and the tea ceremony -- developed from the aesthetic and efforts of the abysmal 15th century shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa.

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