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Japan

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.
Length
16 days
Rating (4.8)
Activity Level
Starts at
7,999
Flights start at
1,350

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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
Activity Level: On Your Feet (4)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Mar 21 - Apr 5, 2023
Starting at
7,999
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. Walking and standing for up to three miles, three hours per day. Some longer walks are optional. Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

Sep 26 - Oct 11, 2023
Starting at
8,299
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Apr 8 - Apr 23, 2024
Starting at
8,599
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations. On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Sep 30 - Oct 15, 2024
Starting at
8,299
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Activity Level: On Your Feet (4)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Mar 21 - Apr 5, 2023
Starting at
8,749
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. Walking and standing for up to three miles, three hours per day. Some longer walks are optional. Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

Sep 26 - Oct 11, 2023
Starting at
8,999
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Apr 8 - Apr 23, 2024
Starting at
9,699
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations. On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Sep 30 - Oct 15, 2024
Starting at
9,099
Itinerary Note

On Your Feet - Participants must handle their own luggage at all times. However, the pace of this departure has been relaxed and follows this itinerary: Arrival Tokyo, 3 nights; coach to Matsumoto, 2 nights; coach to Takayama, 2 nights; coach to Kanazawa, 2 nights; coach to Kyoto, 5 nights; departure. It has been designed to avoid staying in hotels with futons or restaurants that require sitting on the floor. Where possible coaches is used rather than navigating public transportation. 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.

Activity Level: Keep the Pace (14)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 4 - Apr 19, 2023
Starting at
8,099
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

Apr 11 - Apr 26, 2023
Starting at
8,099
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, it may be possible to see some cherry blossom at higher altitudes.

May 16 - May 31, 2023
Starting at
8,099
Sep 19 - Oct 4, 2023
Starting at
8,299
Oct 10 - Oct 25, 2023
Starting at
8,299
Oct 31 - Nov 15, 2023
Starting at
8,299
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the fall leaves in some locations.

Mar 4 - Mar 19, 2024
Starting at
7,999
Mar 11 - Mar 26, 2024
Starting at
8,399
Apr 1 - Apr 16, 2024
Starting at
8,399
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

May 6 - May 21, 2024
Starting at
8,199
May 20 - Jun 4, 2024
Starting at
8,199
Sep 16 - Oct 1, 2024
Starting at
8,299
Oct 14 - Oct 29, 2024
Starting at
8,299
Nov 4 - Nov 19, 2024
Starting at
8,399
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the fall leaves in some locations.

Activity Level: Keep the Pace (14)
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 4 - Apr 19, 2023
Starting at
8,849
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

Apr 11 - Apr 26, 2023
Starting at
8,849
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, it may be possible to see some cherry blossom at higher altitudes.

May 16 - May 31, 2023
Starting at
8,849
Sep 19 - Oct 4, 2023
Starting at
8,999
Oct 10 - Oct 25, 2023
Starting at
8,999
Oct 31 - Nov 15, 2023
Starting at
8,999
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the fall leaves in some locations.

Mar 4 - Mar 19, 2024
Starting at
8,799
Mar 11 - Mar 26, 2024
Starting at
9,199
Apr 1 - Apr 16, 2024
Starting at
9,199
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the cherry blossom in some locations.

May 6 - May 21, 2024
Starting at
8,999
May 20 - Jun 4, 2024
Starting at
8,999
Sep 16 - Oct 1, 2024
Starting at
9,099
Oct 14 - Oct 29, 2024
Starting at
9,099
Nov 4 - Nov 19, 2024
Starting at
9,199
Itinerary Note

Weather depending, this date is optimal for viewing the fall leaves in some locations.

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.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • 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 Experts
Profile Image
Kazui Yabe (Tokyo Kabuki)
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 (Tokyo Kabuki)
Kazui Yabe (Tokyo Kabuki) 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 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 (Tea Master)
Michael Drzmisek Sozui (Tea Master) 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 (Kyoto Noh)
Junko Kawamura (Kyoto Noh) 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.
Profile Image of Jamie Dwyer (Miyama)
Jamie Dwyer (Miyama) 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 Diane Tincher
Diane Tincher View biography
Originally from Virginia, Diane first arrived in Asia as a young adult. She moved to Tokyo from Manila in 1987, and settled in Kagoshima City in 1995. Diane has a deep love of the natural world and delights in exploring the numerous waterfalls, hiking paths and Edo Period (1603-1868) roads of the Kagoshima region. She has eight adult children, and teaches English at homes for the elderly and the disabled, in kindergarten classes, and privately. Diane joined Walk Japan as a Group Leader in 2018.
Profile Image of Akio Matsui
Akio Matsui View biography
Akio Matsui grew up accompanying his father to the famed Tsukiji market, helping the family fish business. He decided to further his English language studies and moved to Sydney, where he has lived since 1995. He later traveled the world for 18 months and began working in the travel industry with JTB Travel, then started his own company. Zen Buddhism is an important part of Akio's life, and he has a special interest in the lifestyle and mentality of the Japanese during the Edo period.
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.
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.
A Traveller's History of Japan
by Richard Tames
A lively and concise narrative history of Japan and its transformation from Shinto, Shogun and Samurai traditions to 20th-century powerhouse.
Japan Adventure Map
by National Geographic Society
Printed on waterproof and tear-resistant paper, this double-sided map shows all the islands of Japan at a scale of 1:1,300,000.
Hiroshima
by John Hersey
This classic book, first published in 1946, has been hailed as the greatest piece of journalism in the 20th century. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Hersey puts a human face on the Hiroshima tragedy through interviews with survivors.
Seeing Kyoto
by Juliet Winters Carpenter, Sen Soshitsu (Introduction)
In this oversized visual celebration of Kyoto and neighboring Nara, long-time resident Carpenter presents the cobblestone streets, temples, gardens, history and traditions of the ancient capital.
Learning to Bow, Inside the Heart of Japan
by Bruce Feiler
As surprising, helpful and informative as it is funny, this is an insightful account of travels and teaching in Japan. Feiler presents anecdotes on the rituals, personality traits and cultural peccadilloes of the Japanese.
The Old Capital
by Yasunari Kawabata, J. Martin Holman (Translator)
Kawabata captures perfectly the tension between tradition and new ways in postwar Japan in this lyrical novel set in Kyoto.
The Book of Tea
by Kakuzo Okakura
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 Book of Tokyo: A City in Short Fiction
by Michael Emmerich (Editor)
This anthology of contemporary Japanese short stories was edited with the traveler in mind. The ten pieces of literature, mystery, science fiction and horror form an imaginary tour of the city of Tokyo.
The Art of Setting Stones & Other Writings from the Japanese Garden
by Marc P. Keane
In these lyrical essays, Kyoto resident and landscape architect Marc Peter Keane uses eight Japanese gardens as bases for essays on nature, religion and aesthetics. His rich, meditative excursions find beauty in garden composition - every element gaining importance and interconnectedness.
Tokyo, A Biography
by Stephen Mansfield
In his 500-year history of Tokyo, Mansfield presents the Japanese capital as an "indestructible organism" that has survived bombs, earthquakes and radiation and continues to thrive. An easy introduction to a fascinating city.
Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye
by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
When her American father passes away, Mockett seeks consolation in her mother’s home country of Japan. She visits a radiation zone, a Buddhist school, temples and festivals in an effort to understand the Japanese way of grieving, to bury her dead and find healing.
The Dog Shogun
by Beatrice Bodart-Bailey
Arguably one of the most notorious figures in Japanese history, Tsunayoshi (1646 to 1709) was viewed as a tyrant with eccentric policies, including the Laws of Compassion, which made maltreatment of dogs an illegal offense, punishable by death. Bodart-Bailey delves deep into the shogun’s life, offering an engaging and brilliantly researched biography of the fifth Tokygawa shogun.
Walking the Kiso Road: A Modern-Day Exploration of Old Japan
by William Scott Wilson
William Scott Wilson travels along the ancient Kiso Road, historically used by samurai and warlords and relatively unchanged today. As he makes his way, Wilson engagingly ruminates on Japanese history, culture and folklore.
Thousand Cranes
by Yasunari Kawabata, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator)
This novella by the great Kawabata may be Japan's best-known literary work, a story of love, grief and redemption. Kawabata's prose is as economical as the tea ceremony itself and very beautiful.
Eyewitness Guide Japan
by Eyewitness Guides
Dazzling illustrations, architectural cutaways and color photographs, along with useful local maps, give this guide to Japan's many attractions a distinct edge.
Japan's Cuisines
by Eric C. Rath
This illustrated overview charts the transformation of Japanese cuisine over the ages, revealing the influences of private and public institutions, exploring the rise of tea and showing how lunch became a gourmet meal.
Culture Smart! Japan
by Paul Norbury
A concise, no-nonsense guide to local customs, etiquette and culture, this is a helpful travel tool for visitors to Japan.
In Praise of Shadows
by Junichiro Tanizaki
This extended essay by the great Japanese novelist, first published in 1933, offers tremendous insight into traditional Japanese art, architecture and design.
Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook
by Yoshi Abe
A handy palm-sized guide to pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.
Memoirs of a Geisha, A Novel
by Arthur Golden
The runaway best-selling novel about a geisha in the celebrated Gion district of Kyoto. A major feat of literary impersonation, the novel is rich in period detail and ceremony.
A Year in Japan
by Kate T. Williamson
Williamson records her extended stay in Kyoto, its architecture, gardens, culture and traditions in 350 watercolor illustrations.
Super Sushi Ramen Express
by Michael Booth
Using keen insight and sarcastic wit, Booth describes the cuisine and culture of Japan as he recaps the nearly three months-long foodie road trip he and his family took through the island nation. A fun journey, sure to both entertain and inform.
Bending Adversity, Japan and the Art of Survival
by David Pilling
Financial Times Asia editor Pilling captures the dynamism and diversity of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. He interviews, among many, novelist Haruki Murakami, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, industrialists, bankers, activists and artists, teenagers and octogenarians.
The Inland Sea
by Donald Richie
Richie's masterpiece, more than a travel account, is a beautiful reflection on all things Japanese by one of its most acute observers.
Kyoto, A Cultural History
by John Dougill
A rich portrait and guide to the gardens, monasteries, art, history and culture of Kyoto, once Japan's capital, founded 1,200-years ago.
The Samurai
by Shusaku Endo
This historical novel by one of Japan's best-known modern writers is set in the world of the 17th-century Samurai. A Roman Catholic, Endo explored Christianity and morals in his many novels and stories.
Kaempfer's Japan: Tokugawa Culture Observed
by Beatrice Bodart-Bailey
A good account of what it was like to travel in the Tokugawa period.
The Little Book of Japan
by Charlotte Anderson, Gorazd Vilhar
Veteran Japanophiles Vilhar and Anderson produced this illuminating collection of 44 essays on Japanese life and culture, which, even in the 21st century remains elusive and poorly understood.
5 Reviews
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4.8 Average
(5) Review left 12/21/2022

Visting Japan has long been on my bucket list. The tour with Road Scholar provided many opportunities to learn about the country, the culture and the lovely people. The meals were outstanding, and we had sufficient free time to visit areas that each of us wanted to see.

(5) Review left 11/17/2019

This iss a well-conceived, well organized, and logical program that features excellent opportunities to understand Japanese culture. The staff are superb!

(4) Review left 6/11/2019

This was my third Road Scholar trip, and unlike the previous two, I was very disappointed in the educational content, more specifically, the instructor responsible for providing the on-location enrichment which is the hallmark of Road Scholar trips. We had an older woman who did not like to walk, who had no interest in gardens, who did not seem to know much about Buddhism or Shintoism, or if she did, wasn't interested in sharing her knowledge, and had nothing by the way of educational credentials which her position, as instructor, would have called for. I chose Road Scholar for this trip mainly because we would be accompanied by a full-time instructor, and now believe I would have been better served had a chosen an alternative travel company that makes more use of local experts in lieu of a full-time instructor. Most of what I learned about Japanese culture I got from my own pre-trip preparation and from the excellent tea master who we visited in Kyoto. The trip logistics, hotels and meals were all fine (food better than I had expected) with the exception of the hotel we stayed in in Kanazawa which had serious HVAC issues (could not get room temp below 78 degrees) and a peculiar bathroom. Masaki was a delight as group leader, cheerful, helpful and very effective in handling transportation and dining arrangements. I thought that perhaps too much attention was given to arts & crafts, but I did take some time out in Kyoto to visit additional places not in the itinerary. I would recommend including Nara instead of the lecture on Noh theater (but since I skipped out on the Noh, I can't really make a fair comparison. I also thought the trip was not as active as I expected or wanted, and didn't really merit the activity rating it was given. Additionally, it would have been nice to include some use of the rail system, for which Japan is so famous. (On my own, I did use the subway system in Tokyo and Kyoto, and took the bullet train back to Narita airport)

(5) Review left 6/10/2019

The cultural highlights of Japan is an excellent tour and well organized by Walk Japan's instructors/guides. The program provided so much education about Japanese history, culture, art, clothing, and beautiful countryside. One of the best tours I've taken with Road Scholar (12 to date).

(5) Review left 4/26/2019

This was an excellent introduction to Japan. While we went to many touristy locations (museums, temples, shrines, gardens), we also had many "only in Japan" experiences such as visiting a miso factory, a sake brewery, a wasabi farm and an indigo museum. We also made tie dye scarves and molded candy/confections. The food was fabulous too - beyond our expectations!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.