The Cultural Highlights of Japan

Program No. 19725RJ
Take the adventure of a lifetime as you dive deep into the ancient culture of Japan, discovering iconic monuments, ancient traditions and world-renowned cuisine.

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At a Glance

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 soaring Japanese Alps and more. Appreciate Japan’s engaging, friendly people and savor its cuisine, a delight for the eyes and the stomach.
Activity Level
Varies by date
Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. Walking and standing for up to three miles, four hours per day. Some longer walks are optional.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • Explore Tokyo’s remaining links to historic Edo, seat of power of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
  • Learn about traditional Japanese arts including the intricacies of the tea ceremony, which you learn with a Tea Master in Kyoto.
  • Experience the delights of Japan’s culinary traditions from the freshest sushi obtainable through temple vegetarian cuisine to popular izakaya restaurants.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Kazui Yabe
Native-born Japanese Kazui Yabe graduated from Meiji University in Tokyo, then spent four months at Southern Illinois University in Illinois to hone her English skills before returning to Japan. Kazui is passionate about the distinctly Japanese theater of kabuki, known for the stylization of its drama and the elaborate makeup worn by its performers. She is friend with many of the actors and provides an insider’s look at life behind the scenes.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Kazui Yabe
Kazui Yabe View biography
Native-born Japanese Kazui Yabe graduated from Meiji University in Tokyo, then spent four months at Southern Illinois University in Illinois to hone her English skills before returning to Japan. Kazui is passionate about the distinctly Japanese theater of kabuki, known for the stylization of its drama and the elaborate makeup worn by its performers. She is friend with many of the actors and provides an insider’s look at life behind the scenes.
Profile Image of Yukiko Kawahara
Yukiko Kawahara View biography
Yukiko Kawahara spent her childhood in Hiroshima and studied English and American literature at a local collage before traveling to the United States to perfect her English and further her education. In academia, Yukiko decided she wanted to see Japan from a non-Japanese perspective and chose Japanese history as her field of study. Before retiring in 2016, Yukiko was a professor of Japanese Studies with her principal areas of expertise being Japan’s language, popular culture, society, and history.
Profile Image of Kathleen Aoki
Kathleen Aoki View biography
Kathleen Aoki majored in Latin American Studies, but an opportunity to teach English in Japan led her to discover her second home — Nagasaki. A twenty-five career at a major Japanese electronics manufacturer in Tokyo followed, where Kathleen learned the business culture of corporate Japan. During this time she married, raised a family and did her stint of PTA duty. With her kids almost grown, Kathleen decided to begin a career as an instructor making the most of her interest in travel and knowledge of Japan.
Profile Image of Michael Drzmisek Sozui
Michael Drzmisek Sozui View biography
Michael was born in Switzerland and first came in contact with Japanese culture came through the martial arts Aikido and Iaido. He originally started to study Japanese calligraphy and later chanoyu to complement martial arts studies but became increasingly interested in tea over the years. After more than twenty years of experience, Michael sees chanoyu as a way of communication between people and ideas. The focus of his tea studies is not only to be a tea master, but to become a true tea person.
Profile Image of Kaho Shoji
Kaho Shoji View biography
Kaho Shoji was born in Kyoto but raised in the Noto Peninsula on the Sea of Japan. Following her grandmother’s influence, Kaho is a practitioner of chado — the Japanese tea ceremony. Under her influence, Kaho also grew up with a broad interest in Japan’s traditional culture and is known to enjoy wearing a kimono, and visiting temples and shrines. In 2015, she moved from Ishikawa to her grandparents’ old home in Kyoto to further her cultural interests and begin training to be a travel group leader.
Profile Image of Junko Kawamura
Junko Kawamura View biography
Junko Kawamura is the director of the Association for Spreading Noh Gaku and a professor at the Ikenobo Bunka University. Junko moved to Kyoto on her marriage to the late Nobushige Kawamura; the lead actor of the Kanze school of Noh drama. She has been involved with the management of the Kawamura Noh Theatre and of the Ladies’ Association for the Appreciation of Noh. As a passionate denizen of Kyoto, Junko has taken an important role in promoting traditional culture in the city.
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Jamie Dwyer View biography
Jamie graduated from Macalester College in 2002 with a BA in Asian studies. The following year, he returned to work in west Japan to teach English and international relations. After four years working in Hyogo and Okayama Prefectures, he joined the Peace Boat as volunteer staff, teaching English and leading groups in the ports of call. He then received a master's degree in agriculture from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in 2012. Jamie and his wife live in the Kyoto countryside.
Profile Image of Kristina Watanabe
Kristina Watanabe View biography
Kristina Watanabe grew up in Stockholm, intrigued by the peoples and cultures of other countries from an early age. While a student, she made backpacking trips across Europe, and at the age of 20, traveled Hong Kong on the Trans-Siberian Express. She took time out to explore East Asia, including Japan. Kristina was fascinated by Japanese life. After meeting her husband, they raised two children, while she worked as a teacher of Swedish and English languages. She then began a new career as a guide.
Profile Image of Junko Nakahama
Junko Nakahama View biography
Junko Nakahama made her first trip overseas as a student, staying with a family in New York’s suburbs. After graduating in English and American literature from Gakushuin University, she began her career as a writer, first in travel and then in food and wine. Junko believes that food culture is an ideal way to understanding any country, and delights in introducing Japan’s cuisines. She works as a group leader in the spring and autumn, and travels the world in summer and winter.
Profile Image of Timon Screech
Timon Screech View biography
Timon Screech was professor of the history of art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London from 1991 to 2021, when he left the UK in protest over Brexit. He is now a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto. Screech is a specialist in the art and culture of early modern Japan.
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Theodore Cook View biography
Theodore F. Cook, Ph.D is professor emeritus at William Paterson University. Ted has lived in many parts of Japan conducting research in Japanese social and cultural history, and been a senior research fellow at Tokyo University, Japan’s National Museum of History and Ethnography, and Kyoto’s International Research Center for Japanese Studies, as well as a visiting professor at Sophia University. His focus has been on war and society in early and modern Japan in comparative perspective.
Profile Image of Yuta Arai
Yuta Arai View biography
Yuta Arai, born in Yokohama, moved with his family to San Francisco at the age of two, and lived in California up to early adulthood. In 2013, Yuta returned to Japan, and in 2017, he entered Tokyo’s Temple University to gain a qualification in the teaching of English. When not studying, he explored Japan by train, bicycle, and on foot. Yuta now works part-time as a translator specializing in the automotive industry, and as a mechanic for a professional Japanese auto racing team.
Profile Image of Yoko Ozawa
Yoko Ozawa View biography
Yoko Ozawa was born and raised in a suburb of Tokyo. She first traveled overseas as a university student staying in San Francisco. After a career at a securities company, Yoko decided to become a Japanese language teacher. She worked in Australia for two years, and upon returning to Japan, she took up studies at Yokohama National University and graduated with an M.A. in language education. Yoko and her family have lived overseas, for four years in the UK and another four in the U.S.A.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.

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