19724
Japan
Japan: An Exploration of History, Culture and Society
Fulfill the dream of a lifetime as you immerse yourself in the traditions, history and stunning landscapes of one of the world’s most ancient and beautiful cultures — Japan.
Rating (5)
Program No. 19724RJ
Length
17 days
Starts at
7,399
Flights start at
1,000
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
17 days
16 nights
34 meals
15 B 8 L 11 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Tokyo, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Tokyo
D
Yaesu Terminal Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This program will be accompanied by both a Group Leader, who will primarily handle logistics, and a Study Leader who will lead most lectures and field trips, unless otherwise specified. Meals will include water and tea; other beverages will be available for purchase. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a tasty buffet meal for our Welcome Dinner, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
3
Historical Edo, The Samurai & Economic Heart Of Feudal Japan
Tokyo
B,L,D
Yaesu Terminal Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles total throughout the day; mostly flat terrain indoors and outdoors, city sidewalks and garden trails. Use of public transportation; some stairs, elevators and escalators may not always be available.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet will include a variety of items, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin by setting out on a walking exploration of the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo with our Study Leader. Edo, as Tokyo used to be known in the feudal period, was the de facto political and military center of Japan. Nihonbashi was Edo’s heart with the five main highways of Japan terminating here. Continuing our walk with commentary provided as we go, we’ll visit the nearby Imperial Palace Gardens on the site of the former shogun’s castle.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll go on an expert-led field trip to the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum, which chronicles the development and life of the area from the Edo period through to post-war Tokyo. We’ll then return to the hotel for some time to freshen up before walking to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a tasty family-style meal with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening will be at leisure.

DAY
4
Asakusa & Senso-ji Temple, Yanaka & Edo, City of Townspeople
Tokyo
B,L
Yaesu Terminal Hotel

Activity note: Walking approximately 3 to 4 miles throughout the day; gentle pace. Use of transportation including assorted rail and subway transfers; about 1 hour total; some stairs, flat city streets, elevators/escalators sometimes available. Shoes may need to be removed to visit some of the sites today.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After transferring via subway to Asakusa, we will visit the famous Senso-ji temple led by our Study leader. Asakusa is the centre of Tokyo’s Shitamachi, the low city, and was an entertainment district for the lower classes. Senso-ji is a very popular Buddhist temple that was built in the 7th century with a market and entertainment street leading up to it.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a buffet meal with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll travel to the charming neighborhood 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. As we walk around and soak up the atmosphere, we’ll see a part of Tokyo that survived the air raids of the 2nd World War and learn about the specifics from our Study Leader. The remainder of the afternoon will be free for independent exploration. It is a straightforward journey on the Yamanote line back to the vicinity of the hotel.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
The Nakasendo Way, Print Museum, Post Towns of Kiso Valley
Kiso-Fukushima
B,D
Kisojino-yado Iwaya

Activity note: Traveling approx. 300 miles; about 5 hours total throughout the day by rail and motorcoach, with stops. Walking approx. 1 mile around Tsumago; elective additional trail hike of about 3 miles; approx. 1.5 hours; some uneven terrain, stone trail. Sleeping in lodgings on traditional futons on tatami mats on the floor. Main luggage will be sent by overnight courier from Tokyo to arrive in Kiso-Fukushima tomorrow. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll set off early by bullet train to the picturesque Kiso Valley and the Nakasendo Way. Upon arrival in town, we’ll learn about the woodblock printing process at the Hiroshige Print Museum, then try our hands at producing some of our own. These iconic prints give great insight into the daily life of Edo-period Japan, particularly along the Nakasendo Way, an old highway of Japan. We’ll then head to a Japanese supermarket for lunch.

Lunch: On your own to explore local fare while experiencing the novelty of a Japanese supermarket.

Afternoon: We’ll then board a motorcoach to continue our transfer to Tsumago, a picturesque old post town and probably the most famous in Japan. As we approach, you may choose to embark on an elective walk along the old Nakasendo from the Magome Pass to Tsumago. You may also choose to drive the whole way to Tsumago and spend more time exploring before we all regroup to discover the workings of a traditional high-class inn, and visit the local history museum. Next, we’ll travel onward to Kiso-Fukushima and our lodgings where we will be able to immerse ourselves fully in Japanese culture at an excellent modern Japanese inn with onsen, also known as hot spring baths.

Dinner: At the ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, we’ll enjoy a customary plated Japanese dinner with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Make Soba Noodles, Barrier Stations
Kiso-Fukushima
B,L,D
Kisojino-yado Iwaya

Activity note: Transferring via local bus approx. 6 miles one way; about 1 hour roundtrip. Walking approximately 2 miles throughout Kiso-Fukushima; about 2 hours; fairly flat, on pavement. Sleeping on floor in traditional Japanese fashion. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: In the ryokan, we’ll have a traditional Japanese-style plated breakfast with tea and water.

Morning: Setting out from the ryokan, we’ll transfer via local bus to our cookery workshop where we’ll roll up our sleeves and learn from a team of local folks how buckwheat soba noodles, a local specialty, are made by hand.

Lunch: At the cookery workshop, we’ll enjoy the noodles we made with tea and water.

Afternoon: We’ll then return to Kiso-Fukushima the way we came and visit the Edo-period Barrier Station where we will learn more from our Study Leader about how travel worked under the watchful eye of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Dinner: Ryokan traditional plated meal.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
7
Matsumoto & Castle Towns, Japan’s Alps, To Takayama
Takayama
B,L,D
Best Western Hotel Takayama

Activity note: Driving approx. 90 miles throughout the day; about 4 hours total with 1.5 hours in the morning Kiso-Fukushima to Matsumoto and 2.5 hours in the afternoon to Takayama. Walking approx. 2 miles total in and around Matsumoto Castle; mostly flat, some steep stairs that can be quite deep. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: Ryokan traditional plated meal.

Morning: Once checked out of the ryokan, we’ll travel via motorcoach 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 which dates back to the late 16th century and is one of only five in Japan to be designated a National Treasure. While here, we’ll be given insights into the establishment and the importance of castle towns under the Tokugawa Shogunate. We’ll also delve into a discussion comparing facts versus myths surrounding the samurai. We’ll then transfer to a traditional miso manufacturer’s facility to learn and see how this essential Japanese foodstuff is made.

Lunch: At the traditional miso manufacturer’s establishment, we’ll enjoy a delicious plated lunch featuring their product, plus tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Continuing by motorcoach, we’ll travel through the spectacular mountains of Japan’s Central Alps to the town of Takayama where we will check into the hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy plated meals featuring a specialty of Takayama: Hida beef. Tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
An Independent City, Festival Floats Exhibition, To Kyoto
Kyoto
B,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Walking approx. 3 miles during morning group activities; more dependent on personal preference; flat terrain, pavement, roads. Train ride to Kyoto is about 165 miles; approx. 3 hours. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet will feature both Western and Japanese dishes, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: On a walking field trip with our Study Leader, we’ll 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 its independence under pressure from the Shogunate, which eventually had to resort to direct rule. Along our way, we’ll visit the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition hall where 11 of the floats for this famous festival are kept and displayed on rotation.

Lunch: On your own to sample the local fare.

Afternoon: We’ll then take some time for independent exploration before regrouping at a predetermined time and place and transferring by rail to Kyoto in the mid-afternoon and checking into the hotel upon arrival.

Dinner: At the hotel slightly later than usual.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Japanese Tea Ceremony, Daitoku-ji Temple, Nijo-jo Castle
Kyoto
B,L,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Walking about 3 miles throughout the day; some unavoidable stairs. Taxi transfers. Sitting 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. Sitting on the floor at lunch. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: As we explore Kyoto's history and culture on foot led by our Study Leader, we’ll first make a visit to the Daitoku-ji temple complex, associated with the ultimate master of the tea ceremony, Sen-no-rikyu. Then, a short walk away, we’ll experience a tea ceremony in the informative and enthralling company of a tea master. We’ll 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.

Lunch: At a Shojin Ryori, a temple vegetarian restaurant, located by the 56-acre Daitoku-ji temple complex, we’ll have plated meals, plus tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: To round off the main theme of today, we’ll go on an expert-led field trip to Nijo-jo Castle, the only residence of the shogun still in existence, for a chance to learn about the daily life at the shogun's court.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
10
Cultural Icons of Kyoto, Free Time
Kyoto
B,L
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Walking approx. 3 miles throughout the morning’s group activities; more depending on personal preference during free time; some unavoidable stairs. Taxi transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Setting out from the hotel, we’ll begin a comprehensive multi-stop field trip led by our expert Study Leader. First, we’ll arrive at the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Arts and begin with an introduction to the city’s splendid artisan crafts before walking to nearby Heian Jingu, a vast Shinto shrine complex that was modeled on an ancient imperial palace. Our next stop will be 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: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy plated meals with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like among Kyoto’s abundant, small restaurants.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
11
Tale of Heike, Miyajima Island, Shinto Itsukushima Shrine
Hiroshima
B,D
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima

Activity note: Bullet train ride of approx. 220 miles to Hiroshima; about 2 hours. Walking approx. 3 miles throughout the day in Hiroshima and Miyajima; mostly flat, pavement, roads. Some short transfers by tram and ferry. Main luggage sent by overnight courier.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll head to the train station for our morning transfer by Shinkansen bullet train to Hiroshima, a vibrant city that belies its recent and infamous past. Next, we’ll transfer to Miyajima-guchi then the ferry to Miyajima Island. The island is justly famous for the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine, built out over the sea, which we will visit. The Shrine is over 1,400 years old but its present form was established in 1168 under the patronage of Taira-no-Kiyomori, who established the first samurai government of Japan. The Taira Clan’s fierce and bloody feud with the Minamoto Clan is related in the epic, Tale of Heike. Finally victorious, the Minamoto established the Shogunate at Kamakura in 1192.

Lunch: On your own to explore the local cuisine of Miyajima.

Afternoon: Free time. Miyajima, where vehicles are few, is a pleasant place to stroll around before returning to Hiroshima for check-in at the hotel.

Dinner: On the top floor of the hotel, we’ll have a plated meal as we enjoy views over Hiroshima with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Hiroshima – A City Reborn, Peace Memorial Park, Shukkeien
Hiroshima
B,L
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima

Activity note: Walking approx. 3 miles total around Hiroshima; mostly flat pavement. Some transfers by tram and taxis.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a breakfast buffet featuring both Western and Japanese-style dishes, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Our first field trip of the day will bring us to the Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum. Within the grounds of the park is the Atom Bomb Dome, which is the ruin of the old Industry Promotion Hall. The Hall was very close to the epicenter of the explosion and its smashed walls and twisted metal frame vividly recall the blast. The museum itself is a thoughtful and non-sentimental exhibition of the effects of the bomb while the park also contains the eternal flame with a serene, underground memorial hall. The whole area is a thought-provoking site but with an overwhelming feeling of the forward-looking, hopeful way the people of Hiroshima perceive their collective experience.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then set out to visit Shukkeien, an archtypal “shrunken” Japanese garden, with our Study Leader. There are a number of tea houses en route as we stroll around – those who wish can enjoy the beautiful scenery over a cup of green tea before returning to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to explore some of Hiroshima's many restaurants.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
13
Early Japanese Buddhism, Kunisaki
Yufuin
B,L,D
Yufuin UBL Hotel

Activity note: Train transfer is approx. 180 miles; about 3 hours. Getting on/off motorcoach for short transfer to temples. Walking about 3 miles total throughout the day; some uneven ground and steep steps. Driving approx. 30 miles to hotel; about 1 hour. Accommodation is mostly Japanese style – sleeping on traditional futons on tatami mats on the floor. Main luggage sent by overnight courier. Shoes will need to be removed at some locations.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out early from the hotel to the train, the award-winning Sonic Express, we’ll transfer to Kunisaki, a little-known but fabulous area of Japan. Although sparsely populated now, it was once one of the first Buddhist strongholds in Japan with many beautiful temples and thousands of stone Buddhas and deities 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. While here, we’ll explore the area’s unique scenery and learn about the Japanese countryside and depopulation. We’ll also visit Fuki-ji, one of the most picturesque temples in Japan. 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: In a local community hall, we’ll enjoy locally-produced, farmhouse plated meals with some of Kunisaki’s residents.

Afternoon: Kunisaki, like so many rural areas of Japan, suffers from depopulation and decline. In conversations with residents, we’ll examine the problems this raises for the local community and what is being done to reinvigorate a small part of Japan. We continue onto Yufuin to end the day in a high-class resort, an up-market destination famed both for its setting – nestled in a valley below Mt. Yufu-dake – and its onsen hot spring baths. We’ll settle into our Japanese-style accommodation.

Dinner: At the ryokan, we’ll have a traditional Japanese-style plated dinner with tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
14
Free Time, The Romance of Train Travel, To Nagasaki
Nagasaki
B,D
The Hotel Nagasaki

Activity note: Walking distance dependent on personal preference. Train transfer is approx. 150 miles; about 3.5 hours with luggage. Due to high demand during the peak seasons, in the case that seats on the train are not secured, transfer will be made by coach to Nagasaki.

Breakfast: At the ryokan, we’ll have a traditional Japanese-style plated breakfast with tea and water.

Morning: Free time. Take some time to explore Yufuin independently before regrouping at a predetermined time and place and boarding the train to Nagasaki. The train system in Japan is one of the best in the world and the trains on the island of Kyushu are some of the most interesting in Japan.

Lunch: Aboard the train, you may wish to try a bento packed lunch or one of the other selections available for purchase.

Afternoon: The train will continue to wind its way through Kyushu’s beautiful countryside past villages, fields and mountains. We’ll 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. We’ll check into our hotel upon arrival.

Dinner: At a local restaurant near the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Edo Japan & Trade With the West
Nagasaki
B
The Hotel Nagasaki

Activity note: Walking approx. 3 miles in the morning; about 4 hours; with stops and opportunities to rest; gentle pace. Some short public transportation transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a breakfast buffet with a variety of dishes to choose from, plus juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Setting out on foot we’ll take a tram to get to Dejima where we’ll visit the re-created Dejima, the small Dutch trading post, which was the sole point of 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. We’ll then 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: On your own to explore the local fare.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to use your tram pass to explore Nagasaki's lively nightlife independently, or simply relax at the hotel. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
16
Fukuoka – Japan's Gateway to Asia
Fukuoka
B,D
Hotel Forza Hakata

Activity note: Express and local trains to Dazaifu (3hrs). Up to 4 miles total walking en route to and around Dazaifu, as well as in the museum.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll transfer via train to Fukuoka where we will set out with our Study Leader on an exploration of this lively city, known as “Japan's gateway to Asia.” En route, we’ll make a stop in Dazaifu, the old western capital of Japan, for a visit to the impressive Tenman-Gu Shrine.

Lunch: On your own to sample the regional cuisine.

Afternoon: We’ll then go to the Kyushu National Museum to view the collections of calligraphy, sculpture and arts from Japan and its Asian neighbors. Our Study Leader will offer commentary illuminating the stories and influences related to the art.

Dinner: At a local restaurant near the hotel, we’ll celebrate our journey and review the highlights of the program over our family-style farewell dinner. Tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
17
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. Short transfer via taxi to Fukuoka Airport. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll transfer by taxis to Fukuoka Airport. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






Click here to provide website feedback
Website Feedback