Road Scholar : Home
The Cultural Highlights of Japan

Program Number: 19725RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/14/2014 - 10/29/2014; 10/6/2015 - 10/21/2015; 11/3/2015 - 11/18/2015; 4/12/2016 - 4/27/2016; 5/21/2016 - 6/5/2016; 10/4/2016 - 10/19/2016; 11/1/2016 - 11/16/2016;
Duration: 15 nights
Location: Japan
Price starting at: $5,882.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type:
Meals: 35; 14 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Gain unique insight into the fascinating culture of Japan on this journey that explores the country’s national identity from samurai traditions to ultramodern cities. Experience energetic Tokyo, iconic Kyoto, the atmospheric Noto Peninsula, the soaring Japanese Alps and more. Appreciate Japan’s engaging, friendly people and savor its cuisine, a delight for the eyes and the stomach.


• Explore Tokyo’s remaining links to historic Edo, seat of power of the Tokugawa Shogunate from the 17th to 19th century.
• In Kyoto, learn about traditional Japanese arts including the intricacies of the tea ceremony, which you learn with a Tea Master.
• Use all your senses to experience the delights of Japan’s culinary traditions from the freshest sushi obtainable through temple vegetarian cuisine to popular izakaya restaurants.

Activity Particulars

Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. Walking and standing for up to two miles, three hours per day. Some longer walks are optional.

Date Specific Information


Arrival Tokyo, 4 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 1 night; coach to Kanazawa, 3 nights; coach to Kyoto, 4 nights; departure.

11-3-2015, 11-1-2016

This program date is optimal for viewing the fall leaves in the low lying areas (e.g. Kanazawa, Kyoto) of Japan.


This program date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in the high altitudes (e.g. Matsumoto, Takayama) of Japan.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 1 night; coach to Wajima, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 4 nights; departure.

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

Explore Tokyo’s historic Yanaka district, the Imperial Palace grounds and the venerable Senso-ji Buddhist temple. Experience Kabuki, a form of Japanese theatre.

Coach to Matsumoto
2 nights
Coach to Takayama
1 night

An expert on Japanese history provides insight into the feudal castle town of Matsumoto, which is dominated by its brooding, black castle. Through a lecture and field trip learn about the historic Nakasendo Way, a major highway during the Edo period connecting Kyoto to Edo — modern-day Tokyo, and explore one of its immaculately preserved post towns. Discover Takayama on an expert-led walk and see the Jinya, the local governors building.

Coach to Wajima 2 nights
Coach to Kanazawa
2 nights

See the rustic farmhouses of Shirakawa-go village and enjoy a delicious lunch of handmade soba noodles. Continue to Wajima for a look at Japanese coastal life and enjoy a soak in traditional “onsen” thermal hot springs. Explore the gardens, temples and pleasure quarters of the powerful Kaga clan in Kanazawa.

Coach to Kyoto
4 nights

Discover Kyoto’s renowned cultural icons including the Silver Pavilion and Daitoku-ji temple complex, learn about artistic customs at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts and visit Nijo Castle, the only shogunate residence still in existence. Spend time with a Tea Master.


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: Hotel in the fashionable Ginza District. Matsumoto: Historic hotel furnished in the Meiji style, near renowned Matsumoto Castle. Takayama: Stylish hotel with hot spring bath and city views. Wajima: Japanese style accommodation with "onsen" hot spring baths. Kanazawa: Four-star hotel centrally located. Kyoto: Comfortable hotel.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Naomi Addyman

Naomi Addyman was born in Tokyo, where her British parents have owned an English language school since the mid-1970s. Educated in Tokyo and Oxford, England, Naomi has traveled to Australia, Canada, Guatemala and South America. She has led explorations on horseback through the rain forests of Queensland, Australia and through the Canadian Rockies; done earthquake relief work in Peru; and worked for a charitable organization educating children living on landfill sites in Guatemala City.
Meals and Lodgings
   Yaesu Terminal Hotel
  Tokyo, Japan 4 nights
   Hotel Kagetsu
  Matsumoto, Japan 2 nights
   Best Western Hotel Takayama
  Takayama, Japan 1 night
   Kanazawa New Grand Hotel
  Kanazawa, Japan 3 nights
   Hotel Gimmond
  Kyoto, Japan 4 nights
 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: +81 -3-3281-3771
  Room amenities: Western-style rooms with air-conditioning, High-Speed Wireless 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; WiFi Internet access in lobby, concierge desk and laundry service.
  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

 Hotel Kagetsu
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: A historically significant building dating back more than 100 years to the Meiji Era, the Hotel Kagetsu is also conveniently located for access to Matsumoto Castle, one of only four castles in Japan to be designated national treasures. For a truly local experience, take advantage of the Japanese-style public baths, filled with “Fukashi” water from the Japan Alps.
  Contact info: Ote 4-8-9
Matsumoto,   Japan
phone: +81 263 32 0114
  Room amenities: Rooms are furnished in the Meiji style, using Matsumoto folk craft furniture and have air-conditioning, data port for High-Speed Internet access, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, radio, tea making facility, iron (on request), in-room safe, bathrobe, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, coffee shop, Internet access, concierge desk, laundry service, large Japanese-style public baths, coin laundry (until 9pm), computer in lobby for guest use.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Best Western Hotel Takayama
Type: Hotel
  Description: Located in the heart of historic Takayama, a short walk from the many attractions of this compact city.
  Contact info: 6-6 Hananosato Machi
Gifu, NA 506-0026 Japan
phone: +81 -577-37-2000
  Room amenities: TV, Satellite TV, Telephone, Wireless Internet, Tea Set, Refrigerator, Hair Dryer, Trouser Presser, Desk Lamp, Iron, Humidifier, Individual Temperature Control, Soap, Body Soap, Shampoo, Conditioner, Toothbrush, Razor, Shower Cap, Brush, Towel, Bath Towel, Slippers, Pajamas
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, Lounge, Conference Room, Sauna, Non Smoking Rooms, Vending Machines, Computers, Fax, Internet Access, Room Service, Massage Service, Wake-Up Call,
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Kanazawa New Grand Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Kanazawa New Grand Hotel is a centrally-located, modern, Western-style hotel within easy walking distance to the main areas of Kanazawa.
  Contact info: 1-50 Takaoka Machi
Kanazawa,   Japan
phone: +81 076 233 1311
  Room amenities: Western-style rooms with air-conditioning, WiFi & LAN Internet access, cable / satellite television, direct-dial telephone, alarm clock, radio, Japanese tea making facility, in-room safe, bathrobe, slippers, private bathroom with bathtub and shower, hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, cafe, bar, coffee shop, room service, concierge desk, business services, gift shop and laundry service.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Gimmond
Type: Hotel
  Description: A truly excellently located 3-star hotel in central Kyoto. Within easy walking distance of two main subway stations, the Gimmond is an ideal base from which to explore this fascinating city. Choice of Japanese or Western-style breakfast.
  Contact info: Takakura-Oike-dori
Kyoto,  604-8105 Japan
phone: +81 -75-221-4111
  Room amenities: Refrigerator, Remote control, Colour TV, Alarm clock, Hanging closet, Night wear 'Yukata', Hair dryer, Towels, Shampoo, Toothbrush, In-room japanese tea set, High Speed wireless and cable Internet
  Facility amenities: 24 Hour Front Desk, Safe deposit box at reception, Once daily maid service, Laundry service, Xeroxcopy, fax service, Coin operated Internet at Lobby, Free WiFi Access in Lobby, Italian Restaurant, Japanese Restaurant.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: Contact Program Provider Contact Program Provider for more information

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
7:00 p.m. in the lobby of the hotel on Day 2. You will be staying at Yaesu Terminal Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
After breakfast on Day 16, in Kyoto. You will be staying at Hotel Gimmond 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:  Tokyo Narita International Airport
  Transportation to site: 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. PLEASE ALSO SEE THE MAPS AND DIAGRAMS AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT FOR MORE DETAILS.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Kyoto
  Nearest airport:  Kansei International Airport
  Transportation from site: For details on independent onward travel from the hotel, please contact the program provider.
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: Depart the USA
(Tuesday, October 14)
 Evening: Depart on overnight flights from the USA.

Day 2: Arrivals / Welcome and Program Overview
(Wednesday, October 15)

Note: Allow 2 hours for a road or rail / taxi transfer from Narita Airport to the hotel in Tokyo. If 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. Travel to the program hotel in central Tokyo.
 Dinner: An initial program briefing is held over our first meal of the program.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Edo – the City of the Shogun
(Thursday, October 16)

Note: A 1.5 mile walk through the grounds of the Imperial Palace East gardens and Yasukuni Shrine. In the afternoon, a 15-minute transfer is followed by 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 an exploration of the Imperial Palace East gardens, the site of the Shogun’s castle, with your Study Leader. Following this, walk on through stimulating Yasukuni Shrine.
 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. Following this, we return to Ginza, once the site of 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, October 17)

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

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: We start the day in Asakusa. This area has long been famous for its Senso-ji temple, which we visit together. The surrounding streets provide a sense of the local culture still connected to its Edo and early Tokyo roots. Afterwards we 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.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: From here we stroll on to Ueno Park. This public park is famous for housing many of Tokyo's museums and participants are given free time to explore these and other attractions in the area. It is a straightforward journey on the Yamanote train line back to the vicinity of the hotel.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yaesu Terminal Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Japanese Buddhism - Meditative and Militant
(Saturday, October 18)

Note: Approx 1.5 miles easy strolling while exploring the attractions of Kamakura and Kita-Kamakura. 2 hour return rail journey to Kamakura, or 3 hour coach journey, depending on number of participants (train being the sensible and quicker option with a small number). 0.5 hour journey on the Enoden Electric Railway.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: A day away from the capital for a trip to the coast. We journey to Kamakura, the first Samurai capital of Japan founded by the Minamoto Clan. Zen Buddhism, which was brought to Japan along with Tea by the monk Eisai, became intimately related to the Samurai. It first found prominence at Kamakura and many serene Zen temples dot this pleasant seaside town. At any time of the year, the temples are a profusion of seasonal flowers and foliage.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore the quaint local restaurants and cafes the Hase area of Kamakura has to offer.
 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: 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 6: Japanese Feudal Castle Towns
(Sunday, October 19)

Note: 3.5 hour coach transfer to Matsumoto. Total walking 1.5 miles to explore Matsumoto Castle and surrounds. The castle interior contains some very steep flights of steps and polished wooden floors.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Depart Tokyo and travel into the heart of central Japan to Matsumoto, a pleasant regional city surrounded by the Japan Alps. As we travel, explore the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate through a lecture delivered by your study leader.
 Lunch: Learn about miso production and enjoy a delicious lunch at a traditional manufacturer of this tasty Japanese essential foodstuff.
 Afternoon: A guided tour of the castle and its surroundings, one of only four castles in Japan that are listed as national treasures.
 Dinner: In the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure
Accommodations: Hotel Kagetsu
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: The Nakasendo Way
(Monday, October 20)

Note: 2 hr return train or coach trip to Narai, depending on number of participants (train being the sensible option with a small number). 1.5 miles strolling around Narai and Kiso Hirasawa. Sitting on the floor on tatami mats for lunch.

 Breakfast: Western or Japanese breakfast in the hotel.
 Morning: A full-day excursion travels to Narai, one of the best-preserved post towns of the old Nakasendo Highway. Lying at the foot of the difficult Torii Pass (4200 feet), Narai prospered from the travelers who would rest there in order to prepare for the difficult journey ahead. View the distinctive wooden houses with their overhanging roofs and the many well-preserved features of an old post town.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue to Kiso-Hirasawa, a center for hand-crafted, high quality lacquer ware. Visit the home and workshop of Suyama-san, one of the top lacquer craftsmen of Japan, to learn about the painstaking process of his exquisite art.
 Dinner: Your choice to explore local dining.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Kagetsu
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Japanese Regional Architecture and Sake Brewing
(Tuesday, October 21)

Note: 2.5 hour motor coach transfer to Takayama. Leisurely walking of approximately 2 miles around the sights of Takayama.

 Breakfast: Western or Japanese breakfast in the hotel.
 Morning: Depart Matsumoto and drive through the spectacular scenery of Japan’s Central Alps to Takayama, also known as ‘Little Kyoto’ by the locals. This compact, delightful town is explored on foot with your Study Leader.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant - an involved experience.
 Afternoon: Take in the picturesque Sanmachi district of town, where the streets are lined with many beautifully-preserved traditional shops, inns, restaurants, cafés, private homes and museums. Sample a glass or two of the very palatable sake in one of the many breweries. This is followed with a visit to the Jinya, the local governor’s buildings of the Tokugawa Shogunate, providing a fascinating look at period regional architecture.
 Dinner: Enjoy a traditional Japanese-style dinner at the hotel, featuring the local specialty, Hida Wagyu beef.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Best Western Hotel Takayama
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Small-Scale Agriculture and Rural Ecology In Japan
(Wednesday, October 22)

Note: 1hr coach journey to Shirakawago. Approx 1 mile gentle strolling around the area of Shirakawago. 75 minute onward coach journey to Kanazawa. Approx 1 mile stroll around old geisha quarters of Kanazawa. Sitting on tatami mats on the floor for lunch.

 Breakfast: Japanese breakfast in the hotel.
 Morning: Depart by motorcoach to Kanazawa, arriving at the end of the afternoon. En route, visit rustic Shirakawa-go, a village situated in the midst of remote mountain countryside. Shirakawa-go is famous for its Gassho-zukuri, large, A-framed thatched farmhouses. Almost one hundred of these farmhouses stand amid vegetable plots and paddy fields. Take a leisurely stroll through this timeless village, where motorized vehicles are not permitted.
 Lunch: In a Gassho-zukuri, contemplate the ingenuity and scale of the architecture as you enjoy local specialty food.
 Afternoon: Rejoining our bus we head for Kanazawa. Spared from large scale bombing during the Pacific War, Kanazawa retains much of its distinct charm. We explore the former Geisha quarters before checking into our hotel.
 Dinner: Kaga cuisine, well known throughout Japan, is the feature of tonight’s evening meal.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kanazawa New Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: The Samurai and Edo Period Lifestyle
(Thursday, October 23)

Note: Approx 1.5 miles leisurely walking around the main sights of Kanazawa.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: In the Edo Period, Kanazawa flourished economically and culturally under the powerful Kaga Clan. With the exception of the Shogun’s family, the Kaga Clan was the wealthiest family, with a worth of more than one million koku - one koku was defined as enough rice to feed one person for a year. The city’s glorious past is still palpable in its samurai quarters, former pleasure quarters and temples. The Kenrokuen Gardens and the imposing, recreated castle buildings, which we walk through this morning, attest to the power of the Clan’s wealth and evoke their grand lifestyle.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore independent dining options in the local food market.
 Afternoon: Wander the lively and warren-like central food market. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to explore independently. Places of interest include the Samurai Quarter or, for a change of pace, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is an acclaimed, ultra-modern structure that is as much an attraction as the art housed inside.
 Dinner: With help from your Study Leader, choose from a variety of local and international eateries.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kanazawa New Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 11: Rural Decline and Depopulation in Japan
(Friday, October 24)

Note: 2 hrs transfer by coach to Wajima. Approx 1.5 mile stroll around the morning market and lacquerware museum. 3 hr return journey via the coastal route to Kanazawa.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: An excursion by motorcoach explores the Noto Peninsula - far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life and a distinct change in pace. The terraced rice fields leading down to the sea are an engaging landscape typical of this little-visited area of rural Japan. Experience the bustling morning market in the town of Wajima and learn about local lacquer ware craft through a visit to a small workshop. For those who wish, an opportunity to try your hand at this attractive craft.
 Lunch: Enjoy the freshest of seafood that is featured in an excellent lunch of regional cuisine.
 Afternoon: Return to Kanazawa via the scenic Kongo coast. En route, discuss the concerns of rural Japan and the challenges faced by the depopulation of remote areas.
 Dinner: At a nearby restaurant.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kanazawa New Grand Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: At the Shogun's Court
(Saturday, October 25)

Note: 3.5 hour motor coach or express train transfer to Kyoto. Approx 1 mile walking around Ni-jo Castle and adjacent gardens.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Kyoto by motorcoach or express train, depending on numbers.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: We 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. Then, take in the serenity of one of the exquisite gardens of Kyoto.
 Dinner: Venture to a lively izakaya restaurant, a popular choice for most Japanese. The large and varied menu caters to everyone's tastes.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Gimmond
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Making A Cup Of Tea and Humanity
(Sunday, October 26)

Note: Approx 1.5 mile walk around the Golden Temple Pavilion and Daitokuji Temple Complex. Sit on tatami mats on the floor for lunch. In the afternoon, sit on either tatami mats or small chairs on the floor while participating in the tea ceremony. 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: We start the day with a visit to the Golden Pavilion. Probably the most recognizable structure in Japan, it was built by 3rd Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu as a lavish retirement villa. The Ashikaga Clan overthrew the Minamoto Shogunate in Kamakura in 1336 and returned the capital to Kyoto. Yoshimitsu supported the arts, particularly Noh Theater, which flourished at the Golden Pavilion. Continue on to explore the massive, 56-acre Daitoku-ji temple complex associated with Sen-no-Rikyu, the ultimate master of the tea ceremony. Explore the meaning of Zen buddhist rock gardens and the origins of some notable Japanese architectural features.
 Lunch: At a Shojin Ryori, or temple vegetarian restaurant in the 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: Your choice to choose among Kyoto’s abundant, small restaurants. Your Study Leader will provide suggestions and help with reservations.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Gimmond
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14: Ashikaga Yoshimasa and Japanese Arts
(Monday, October 27)

Note: A total of 2 miles leisurely walking around the Higashiyama area of Kyoto during the day. Various transfers by public transport. 1 additional mile walk in the evening.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Delve into Kyoto’s history and culture with an introduction to the city’s splendid artisan crafts at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Arts. Then walk to nearby Heian Jingu, a vast Shinto shrine complex that was modeled on an ancient imperial palace. Next stop is Ginkaku-ji temple (Silver Pavilion) built by the 8th Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimasa. Like his grandfather, Yoshimitsu, Yoshimasa was a great patron of the arts but a poor governor of the nation. While Kyoto was engulfed in the internecine and destructive Onin Wars, the Higashiyama culture began and flourished at Ginkaku-ji. Based largely on the ideals and aesthetics of Zen Buddhism and the concept of wabi-sabi, which can be translated as beauty in simplicity, Higashiyama culture centered on the development of the Japanese tea ceremony, ikebana flower arranging, Noh drama, and sumi-e ink painting.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Continue with a short stroll down the philosopher’s path to Nanzen-ji Temple, before returning to the hotel via the bustling Nishiki market.
 Dinner: In a discreet restaurant in the Pontocho area of Kyoto.
 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: Hotel Gimmond
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: The Mystery of Noh
(Tuesday, October 28)

Note: Short transfer to lecture in the morning.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Learn the traditions and symbolism of Noh theatre during a lecture and demonstration from one of its leading Western students.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free time to explore independently.
 Dinner: Celebrate your journey and review the highlights at a farewell dinner.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Gimmond
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Departures
(Wednesday, October 29)

Note: Approx 2.5 hour transfer by road to Kansai International Airport.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Afternoon: Departures to the USA from Kansai International Airport.
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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