19725
Japan
The Cultural Highlights of Japan
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.
Rating (5)
Program No. 19725RJ
Length
16 days
Starts at
6,899
Flights start at
825
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16 days
15 nights
35 meals
14 B 11 L 10 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrival Tokyo, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Tokyo
D
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza

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

Afternoon: After some time to relax and get settled, we’ll meet in the hotel lobby and walk to a nearby restaurant where we will go over program logistics and have dinner.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel, we’ll enjoy a family-style meal together for our Welcome Dinner, plus beer, wine, soft drinks, tea, coffee and water included; other beverage available for purchase.

Evening: 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, unless specified otherwise. 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. We’ll then return to the hotel. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
3
Imperial Palace Gardens, Yasukuni Shrine, Edo-Tokyo Museum
Tokyo
B,L,D
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 miles throughout the day; mostly flat, pavement, some steps, elevators and escalators may not always be available. Driving approx. 10 miles total throughout the day, with stops; about 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a tasty breakfast buffet with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Begin with an exploration of the Imperial Palace East gardens, the site of the Shogun’s castle, with your Study Leader. Residence of the Tokugawa shogun between 1603 ~ 1867, the Imperial Palace East Gardens are one part of the inner palace area that is open to the public. Here will see the former defenses of the castle including the moats, walls, entrance gates and guardhouses. Afterwards, we’ll set out on a walk through the stimulating Yasukuni Shrine. Founded in 1869, this Shinto shrine commemorates over 2.5 million people who died serving Japan at war.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have plated meals with tea, 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.

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

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Kabuki Theater & Cultural Performance, Free Time
Tokyo
B,L
Daiwa Roynet Hotel Ginza

Activity note: Walking approximately 1 mile; gentle pace. Use of public transportation; about 1 hour of assorted rail and subway transfers; some stairs, elevators and escalators may not always be available.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: During a morning lecture given by an expert in Kabuki, we’ll learn about this classical Japanese dance-drama that has been performed in Japan since 1603. Later in the morning we will watch a matinee Kabuki performance.

Lunch: At the theater during intermission, we’ll have Japanese bento lunch box lunches with water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After enjoying the remainder of the performance, we’ll have some time to explore the area independently beginning in the mid-afternoon.

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
Japanese Feudal Castle Towns, Matsumoto, Miso Manufacturer
Matsumoto
B,L,D
Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

Activity note: Driving approx. 145 miles; about 3.5 hours to Matsumoto. Walking approximately 1.5 miles in and around Matsumoto Castle; some very steep flights of steps and polished wooden floors. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll leave Tokyo and travel into the heart of central Japan to Matsumoto, a pleasant regional city surrounded by the Japanese Alps. As we travel, we’ll learn about the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate through a lecture delivered by our Study Leader. Upon arrival in Matsumoto, we’ll go straight 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 with tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then explore the city of Matsumoto we go on 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 the facts with our Study Leader and compare them to common myths surrounding samurai. Carrying on, we’ll then check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have plated meals with tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
The Nakasendo Way, Narai, Kiso-Hirasawa & Lacquerware
Matsumoto
B,L
Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

Activity note: Transferring approx. 30 miles one way; about 2 hours total. Walking about 2 miles; approx. 1.5 hours; flat terrain around Narai and Kiso Hirasawa. Sitting on the floor on tatami mats for lunch. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a Western plated breakfast with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Setting out for a full-day field trip, we’ll travel 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. While here, we will view the distinctive wooden houses with their overhanging roofs and the many well-preserved features of an old post town.

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

Afternoon: Continuing, we’ll go to Kiso-Hirasawa, a center for hand-crafted, high quality lacquer ware. Upon arrival, we’ll visit the home and workshop of one of the top lacquer craftsmen of Japan to learn about the painstaking process of his exquisite art. We’ll then return to Matsumoto.

Dinner: On your own to sample the local fare.

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

DAY
7
Japanese Regional Architecture, Jinya, Sake Brewing
Takayama
B,L,D
Hotel Associa Takayama Resort

Activity note: Driving approx. 50 miles; about 2.5 hours to Takayama. Walking of about 2 miles total throughout the day. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today as well as upon arrival at the hotel.

Breakfast: Hotel plated meal.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll leave Matsumoto via motorcoach and drive through the spectacular scenery of Japan’s Central Alps on our way to Takayama, also known as ‘Little Kyoto’ by the locals. Upon arrival, we’ll explore this compact, delightful town on foot with our Study Leader.

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

Afternoon: Largely isolated by the surrounding mountains, Takayama fiercely protected its 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, we’ll gain insight into Takayama's proud history and daily life in the provinces. As we continue, we’ll 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. Along the way, we’ll see the sake breweries where this very palatable drink is made and sample a glass or two. Our Study Leader will show us around and answer any questions. We’ll then check into the hotel with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a traditional plated Japanese-style dinner featuring the local specialty, Hida Wagyu 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
Takayama Festival Floats, Kanazawa Geisha Quarters
Kanazawa
B,L,D
Kanazawa New Grand Hotel

Activity note: Driving approx. 75 miles; about 2 hours. Walking approx. 2 miles throughout the day, half in the morning in Takayama and half in Kanazawa in the afternoon; mostly flat terrain on pavement.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a delicious buffet featuring Western and Japanese dishes, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll start out with a field trip to the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition hall, where 11 of the floats for this famous festival are kept and displayed on rotation. Afterwards, enjoy some free time for independent exploration in Takayama.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: Then we will board our motorcoach for transfer to Kanazawa. Spared from large scale bombing during the Pacific War, Kanazawa retains much of its distinct charm. Upon arrival we explore one of the former Geisha quarters before transferring to our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have delicious plated meals featuring Kaga cuisine, well-known throughout Japan. Tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
The Samurai & Their Domains
Kanazawa
B
Kanazawa New Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 miles during group activities throughout the morning; mostly flat with some slopes and steps; more depending on personal preference.

Breakfast: At the hotel we’ll enjoy a breakfast buffet with juice, coffee, tea, water.

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 (about six US bushels) 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 will walk through led by our Study Leader, attest to the power of the Clan’s wealth and evoke their grand lifestyle.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

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. You may wish to check out the lively and warren-like central food market, 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 of an attraction as the art housed inside.

Dinner: On your own to explore the local fare.

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

DAY
10
The Japan Sea
Obama
B,L,D
Sekumiya

Activity note: Walking approx. 1.5 miles in Kanazawa throughout the morning; mostly flat with some steps. Driving approx. 110 miles; about 2 hours to Obama. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll take a stroll through a nearby samurai quarter and visit a samurai residence built in 1583 that has recently been awarded two Michelin stars. After returning to the hotel to board our motorcoach, we’ll then set out on our driving transfer along the coast to the seaside town of Obama.

Lunch: Local restaurant on route to Obama.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in the early-afternoon we visit the Food Culture Museum, an interesting combination of museum, cooking studio, crafts activity area and hot springs. We enjoy a hands-on experience making Japanese paper postcards. Later we check into our accommodations and have some time to relax and enjoy the hot spring baths.

Dinner: At the inn, we’ll experience Japanese hospitality at its best with a Kaiseki multi-course plated meal, with tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
11
Small-Scale Agriculture & Rural Ecology in Japan
Kyoto
B,L,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Driving approx. 70 miles; about 1.5 hours to Miyama and 1.5 hours to Kyoto. Walking approx. 2 miles throughout the day; gentle pace with short bus transfers between sites. Extended periods of standing in the afternoon. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: At the inn we’ll have a traditional plated Japanese breakfast with juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll begin our day with a drive to the Kayabuki no Sato thatched village in Miyama. When we get there, we’ll go on a stroll around the houses led by our Study Leader before visiting the folk museum and the indigo gallery.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: We’ll then transfer to engage in a cooking class with some local residents in a community group and learn to use some fresh local ingredients to make some regional favorites.

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

Evening: We’ll then set out for our transfer to Kyoto and, upon arrival, check in at the hotel for the remainder of the evening at leisure.

DAY
12
Kyoto National Museum, At the Shogun's Court, Nijo-jo Castle
Kyoto
B,L,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 to 3 miles throughout the day around Kyoto; flat pavement, some steps. Shoes will need to be removed to enter some of the attractions today.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Transferring via taxis, we’ll arrive to visit the extensive Kyoto National Museum where our Study Leader will show us around parts of the permanent collection which is presented in rotating exhibitions and consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including ceramics, calligraphy, and paintings.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: We’ll then 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. Continuing, we’ll take in the serenity of one of the exquisite gardens of Kyoto.

Dinner: Local restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Japanese Tea Ceremony, Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto Shibori
Kyoto
B,L
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Short transfers via taxis. Walking approx. 2 miles throughout the day; extended periods of standing in the afternoon. Siting on either tatami mats or small chairs on the floor during tea ceremony. 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: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll start out by exploring the massive 56-acre Daitoku-ji temple complex associated with Sen no Rikyu, the ultimate master of the tea ceremony. While here, we’ll explore the meaning of Zen Buddhist rock gardens and the origins of some notable Japanese architectural features. Rounding off the main theme today, we’ll then 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 enjoy a tasty plated meal with tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll go on a field trip to the Kyoto Shibori (tie-dyeing) Museum where we will be able to try this method for ourselves under the direction of museum staff with both of our leaders as translators. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to explore the regional cuisine.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
Ashikaga Yoshimasa & Japanese Arts
Kyoto
B,L,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 miles throughout the day; gentle pace, some stairs, elevators and escalators may not always be available. Short transfers via taxis.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: Then we’ll travel to explore the world-famous geisha quarter of Gion. The area emerged in order to accommodate the needs the many travelers and pilgrims coming to visit nearby Yasaka Shrine. A short walk away is the extensive Teramachi shopping arcade and Nishiki market, for those wanting to sample some of Kyoto's more modern wonders.

Dinner: Local restaurant plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
The Mystery of Noh Theater, Free Time, Farewell Dinner
Kyoto
B,D
Hotel Gimmond

Activity note: Short transfer via taxis to lecture. Walking approx. 1/2 mile during group activity; mostly flat terrain. More dependent on personal preference.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out via taxi and on foot, we’ll transfer to a lecture hall to learn about the traditions and symbolism of Noh theatre from one of its leading Western students.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel, we’ll celebrate our journey over a delicious plated farewell dinner. Tea, 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
16
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program.

Morning: 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 rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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