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.
Program No. 19724RJ
Length
17 days
Starts at
7,499
Flights start at
1,000
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17 days
16 nights
34 meals
15 B 8 L 11 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Departures
In Flight

Evening: Depart on overnight flights from the USA.

DAY
2
Arrivals / Welcome and Program Overview
Tokyo
D
Yaesu Terminal Hotel

Activity note: For independent arrivals, there are regular Narita Express Trains (approx 55 min journey) from Narita Airport to JR Tokyo Station. One-way tickets cost approximately 1,500 Yen. The hotel is a 3-minute walk from Tokyo station. PLEASE ALSO SEE THE MAPS AND DIAGRAMS AT THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT FOR MORE DETAILS.

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.

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

Activity note: 3 mile walk from Nihonbashi through the grounds of the Imperial Palace East gardens. In the afternoon, a 30-minute transfer is followed by an approximately 1 mile walk around the Tokyo National Museum. The return journey to the vicinity of the hotel is 20 minutes via public transport and walking. Total walking up to 5 miles.

Breakfast: At 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.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After lunch we transfer to the Tokyo National Museum. The oldest and largest in Japan, the museum houses over 110,000 objects including 600 Important Cultural Properties. The museum is located on the edge of Ueno Park, a very pleasant park to stroll through.

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

DAY
4
Edo - the City of the Townspeople
Tokyo
B,L
Yaesu Terminal Hotel

Activity note: Approximately 3 ~ 4 miles of gentle strolling and 1hr of assorted rail and subway transfers enable us to explore Tokyo today.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast we transfer to Asakusa. This area has long been famous for its Senso-ji temple, which we visit together.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: 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. It is a straightforward journey on the Yamanote line back to the vicinity of the hotel.

Dinner: With help from your Group Leader, choose from a variety of local and international eateries.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
The Nakasendo Way and the Post Towns of the Kiso Valley
Kiso-Fukushima
B,D
Ryokan Iwaya

Activity note: Approx. 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 to Tsumago. Approximately 1 hour onward journey to Kiso-Fukushima. Sleep on traditional futons on tatami mats on the floor. Main luggage is sent by overnight courier from Tokyo arriving in Kiso-Fukushima on day 6. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

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.

DAY
6
Soba Noodles and Barrier Stations
Kiso-Fukushima
B,L,D
Ryokan Iwaya

Activity note: 20 minute local bus journey to our cookery workshop, followed by another 20 minute bus journey after lunch back to Kiso Fukushima. Approximately 2 miles walking around historic Kiso-Fukushima. A second night sleeping on futon on the floor. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

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: At leisure

DAY
7
Castle Towns and the Japan Alps
Takayama
B,L,D
Best Western Hotel Takayama

Activity note: Approximately 1.5 hour coach or rail journey from Kiso-Fukushima to Matsumoto. Total 2 miles walking to explore Matsumoto Castle and its surrounds. Drive 2.5 hours by coach through the mountains from Matsumoto to Takayama. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

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.

DAY
8
Takayama, Independent City
Kyoto
B,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Leisurely walking of approximately 3 miles around the sights of Takayama. 3 hour rail transfer to Kyoto, arriving in the early evening. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

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.

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.

DAY
9
The Importance of Tea in Japanese Culture
Kyoto
B,L,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: This is a busy day that includes 3 miles of walking in the morning, assisted by short transfers on public transportation. Sitting on the floor at 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. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: Delve into Kyoto's history and culture. First, a visit to Daitoku-ji temple complex, associated with the ultimate master of the tea ceremony; Sen-no-rikyu. Then 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.

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, 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.

Dinner: In a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure

DAY
10
The Cultural Icons of Kyoto
Kyoto
B,L
Hotel Gimmond

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

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: At a local restaurant

Afternoon: Free time to explore independently.

Dinner: Your choice among Kyoto’s abundant, small restaurants. Your Study Leader will provide suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
The Tale of Heike
Hiroshima
B,D
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima

Activity note: 105-minute bullet train transfer to Hiroshima. Total walking around Hiroshima and Miyajima, 3 miles. Short transfers by tram and ferry. Main luggage sent by overnight courier.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: 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 we ride to Miyajima-guchi then the ferry to Miyajima island. The island is justly famous for the Shinto Itsukushima Shrine, which is built out over the sea. 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: Your choice to explore - your group leader will advise.

Afternoon: Miyajima, where vehicles are few, is a pleasant place to stroll around before returning to Hiroshima.

Dinner: Enjoy views over Hiroshima whilst dining on the top floor of the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Hiroshima - A City Reborn
Hiroshima
B,L
Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima

Activity note: Total walking around Hiroshima 3 miles. Transfers by tram and taxis.

Breakfast: Western and Japanese Style in the Hotel

Morning: Visit 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. The Museum itself is a thoughtful and non-sentimental exhibition of the effects of the bomb. The Park also contains the eternal flame and a serene, underground memorial hall. The whole area is thought-provoking site but with an overwhelming feeling of the forward-looking, positive way the people of Hiroshima are using their experience.

Lunch: In a local restaurant.

Afternoon: In the afternoon, visit Shukkeien, an archtypal “shrunken” Japanese garden. 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: Your choice to explore many of Hiroshima's restaurants located close to the hotel - your group leader will advise.

Evening: At leisure.

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

Activity note: Today starts with a 3-hour transfer on Shinkansen "bullet" train and Sonic express train. A short coach transfer is followed by a visit some temple precincts, which have some uneven ground and steep steps (1 mile). A walk through Kitsuki (1 mile) is 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. Main luggage sent by overnight courier. Shoes will need to be removed at some locations.

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 with some Kunisaki residents.

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. Stay in Japanese style accommodation.

Dinner: Traditional Japanese-style dinner at the hotel.

DAY
14
The Romance of Train Travel
Nagasaki
B,D
Hotel Cuore

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

DAY
15
Edo Japan and Trade With the West
Nagasaki
B
Hotel Cuore

Activity note: Approximately 3 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.

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

Activity note: Express train to Fukuoka 2 hrs followed by dropping off luggage and 30 minutes to Dazaifu. Up to 4 miles total walking en route to and around Dazaifu, as well as in the museum.

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: At leisure.

DAY
17
Return to the U.S.A.
In Flight
B

Activity note: Transfer by taxi to Fukuoka Airport where the program ends. For those flying on international flights from other airports, domestic flights from Fukuoka Airport.

Breakfast: In the hotel.

Morning: Transfer by taxi to Fukuoka Airport. For participants who purchase flights through Road Scholar, domestic flight to Narita, and then transfer to International flight to the States included in program. For Program Only Option participants flying on international flights from Narita or other airports, arrangements for flights out of Fukuoka to be made independently.