Himeji Castle (Himeji-jō) is perhaps the finest extant example of Japanese castle architecture.

November 3-12, 2018
Plan your arrival in Kyoto for November 2, 2018
Plan your departure from Takamatsu for November 13, 2018

Join Amy Osaki for a newly designed trip exploring the heritage of Japan. Step into thousands of years of Japanese history. Visit Nijo Castle, Himeji Castle, and Matsue Castle, three of only twelve remaining samurai castles from the 17th century in Japan. Delve into masterworks of Japanese gardens in Kyoto where you’ll visit temple gardens as well as the home of a famous garden designer. Plunge into the riches of 21st century art during a two-night stay at the Tadao Ando-designed Benesse House on Naoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea. While there, travel to the neighboring art islands of Teshima and Inujima. Visit remote centers of art and gardens at the Adachi Museum, the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Ohara Museum. In the interior of Shikoku you’ll visit several temples (Temples 71 to 75) that are part of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage, an eleven hundred year old, 800 mile long route that encircles the island. This pilgrimage is closely associated with the life of Kōbō Daishi, a eighth century Buddhist monk born near Temple 75 in the year 774. (During your time in Kyoto you’ll gain a broader perspective on the history of Buddhism at the Ryukoku Museum and Nishi Hongwanji temple in preparation for your visits to Shikoku’s pilgrimage temples.) This trip is timed to catch fall foliage in Japan. Depending on the vagaries of the season, we may experience displays of the crimson leaves of Japanese maple. Whether this is your first trip to Japan (or one of many) you’re invited to join Amy for an experience that combines the well-known attractions of Japan with lesser-known adventures off-the-beaten-path.

Detail, Nijo Castle Gate, Kyoto.

Day 1 – Kyoto: Nijo Castle, Ryukoku Museum, Nishi Hongwanji
Overnight Kyoto
Lunch & dinner included
Step into the past at Nijo Castle. Spend a leisurely morning exploring the world of the shoguns and samurai. Visit the palaces and the gardens of the Nijo Castle World Heritage Site built in 1601 for the Tokugawa shogun. After lunch, at the Ryukoku Museum, step further back in time and learn about the birth of the Buddha 2,500 years ago in India and the spread of Buddhism to Japan 1,000 years later. Conclude the day at the Nishi Hongwanji, the headquarters of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism founded in the 12th century and designated as a World Heritage Site.

Gingko tree at the Nishi Hongwanji, Kyoto.

Day 2 – Kyoto: Kyoto National Museum, Kawai Kanjiro
Overnight Kyoto
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included
In 1853 Japan signed trade agreements with western governments including the United States and emerged from over 200 years of isolation. The shoguns transferred power back to the Emperor and in 1869 the capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. This began the Meiji Restoration, a period of rapid modernization in Japan. The Kyoto National Museum was established in 1897 as one of three national museums founded to preserve traditional culture, antiquities, temples and shrines. We will tour the museum’s impressive collection of ceramics, painting, calligraphy, textiles, sculpture and lacquer. In addition, visit the museum’s new wing designed by architect Yoshi Taniguchi (who also designed the MOMA in New York). After lunch, proceed to the private home of Kawai Kanjiro, a ceramic artist who led a movement known as “mingei” whose aim was to perpetuate traditional Japanese folk arts at risk of disappearing due to the rapid modernization. Preserved by his family, the home exhibits over four decades of his art as well as the kiln (one of only 4 surviving in Kyoto) used by Kanjiro and other artists to fire their work.

Himeji Castle.

Day 3 – Himeji Castle
Overnight Kyoto
Breakfast & lunch included
After breakfast, travel via high speed train (shinkansen) to Himeji town. Spend the day exploring Himeji castle built in 1609 and the best preserved of the feudal castles in Japan. The castle was recently reopened after an extensive renovation. Traverse the moat, pass through the gate, follow stone paths, and if you wish, climb the many flights of stairs to the summit of the inner keep of the castle where you can gaze out over the town. In the afternoon, return by train to Kyoto. Enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 4 – Kyoto: Tofukuji Temple and Mirei Shigemori Garden Museum
Overnight in Kyoto
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included
Tofukuji, a temple built in 1236, is known for its spectacular display of fall foliage. Less well known are the four gardens at the head priest’s residence designed by Mirei Shigemori. In 50 years, Shigemori designed more than 180 gardens in Japan and worked with Isamu Noguchi on the UNESCO garden in Paris. We will visit the temple and gardens at Tofukuji, and in the afternoon Shigemori’s home and private garden. Shigemori described the melding of the classical and contemporary in garden design as “eternal modern” and his descendents have preserved his home and garden as a museum.

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin” on Naoshima.

Day 5 – Teshima and Benesse House
Overnight on Naoshima
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included
Depart Kyoto and travel by train and bus to Uno port where you’ll board a ferry to Teshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea. Teshima is part of the visionary contemporary art program of the publishing firm, Benesse House. In response to the growing migration away from the isolated islands of Japan, Benesse House created a stunning art museum on Naoshima in 1992. In 2010, a new program on Teshima Island opened as the Teshima Art Museum designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito. The result is the “successful integration of art, architecture, and nature.” Continue to Christian Boltanski’s seaside art installation of Archives du Coeur which also opened in 2010. In the afternoon, journey by boat from Teshima to Naoshima where you’ll enjoy a two-night stay at the Benesse House Park Hotel designed by Tadao Ando. After dinner, you may visit the Benesse House Museum which is open to hotel guests until 11pm. In addition, enjoy over forty artworks in the hotel and on the grounds of the hotel and the museum.

Day 6 – Inujima and Benesse House
Overnight on Naoshima
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included
This morning, journey by boat from Naoshima to Inujima to experience another contemporary art project by Benesse House. Opened to the public in 2008, the Seirensho Museum on Inujima was created by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi and artist Yukinori Yanagi. Explore five art houses in Inujima village, a project led by architect Kazuyo Sejima and art director Yuko Hasegawa. Revel in the tranquility of the village and contemplate the industrial legacy and subsequent rebirth of this remote island. Return by boat to Naoshima. Explore the island’s main village before returning to Benesse House Park Hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 7 – Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art
Overnight in Matsue 
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included 
Depart Naoshima by boat and travel to Uno port. Here, board a private bus for the journey north. Stop at the innovative Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art described by the New York Times as “more startlingly original than any built by a major city in recent years.” Conceived and designed by Arata Isozaki (who also designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles), this innovative museum is a delight and a splendid example of site-specific contemporary art. After lunch and the museum visit, continue north to Matsue, a city near the coast of the Sea of Japan. Settle in for a two-night stay and enjoy dinner together.

Day 8 – Adachi Museum, Lafcadio Hearn Museum, Matsue Castle
Overnight at Matsue
Breakfast & lunch included
Travel by private bus to the Adachi Museum. Created by Zenko Adachi, the museum melds its art collection with its garden. Adachi designed the gardens to be viewed simultaneously with the paintings and strived for the viewer to be “moved by beauty.” Adachi said, “The garden is, so to speak, a picture scroll.” You can take a virtual step into the gardens thanks to the Google Art Project, https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/partner/adachi-museum-of-art. The Adachi Museum also exhibits a collection of ceramics by Kawai Kanjiro. Return to Matsue and continue the journey into 19th century Japan with a visit to the home and museum of Lafcadio Hearn. Hearn arrived in Japan in 1890 on assignment for Harper’s Monthly magazine. In Matsue, he married Setsu Koizumi in 1896 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. He wrote 30 books celebrating the beauty and mystery of old Japan. Afterwards, tour Matsue Castle before returning to our hotel. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.

Day 9 – Ohara Museum of Art
Overnight in Takamatsu
Breakfast & lunch included
Depart Matsue by private bus and journey south to the Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki near the city of Okayama. Opened in 1930, the Ohara Museum was the first museum in Japan to exhibit western art. Works by Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, and Calder fill the galleries. Some, including Waterlilies by Claude Monet, were purchased directly from the artist in the 1920s. Ohara’s son expanded the collection to include Japanese craft including ceramics by Kawai Kanjiro and Bernard Leach who was a British potter and leader with Kanjiro in the “mingei” movement to preserve traditional Japanese folk art. After lunch, cross the Inland Sea via the Seto Ohashi (bridge) and arrive on the island of Shikoku. Settle into your hotel in Takamatsu. Dinner is on your own this evening.

Pilgrims at Shusshaka-ji (Temple 72) on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.

Day 10 – 88 Temple Pilgrimage
Overnight in Takamatsu
Breakfast, lunch & dinner included
Kōbō Daishi was born in northern Shikoku in the late eighth century not too far from Takamatsu. Today we’ll experience a portion of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, a route closely associated with his life. Travel by bus from Takamatsu to visit five temples and learn about the pilgrims (known as henro in Japanese) who travel from all over Japan and the world to undertake the pilgrimage. Zentsuji (Temple 75) is often said to be the place where Kobo Daishi was born in the year 774. Consider purchasing a temple stamp book (called a nokyocho). At each temple office, you can have someone stamp your book with the vermilion stamps bearing the temple’s name. Then, using a calligraphy brush, symbols representing the main deity of the temple are handwritten in your book. You can acquire a blank book that you can use for any temple in Japan or a special book made specifically for the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Perhaps you will return someday to complete the entire route! Return to Takamastu for a farewell dinner and overnight.

Other Details about this Trip
Trip Dates: November 3-12, 2018
Trip Leader: Amy Boyce Osaki
Price: $6,650 (A deposit of $400 is required to guarantee your reservation)
Single Room for entire trip: $500
Meeting Point: The trip begins at the hotel in Kyoto on the morning of November 3, 2018.
Departure Point: The trip concludes after dinner on November 12, 2018 at the hotel in Takamatsu. However, your overnight lodging in Takamatsu this evening and breakfast the following morning are included in the trip price.
Lodging: Ten nights of lodging in hotels/inns. Private western-style hotel rooms with private bathing facilities. Please note that your lodging in Kyoto on the evening of November 2 (the night before the trip begins) is not included in the trip price, but we will be happy to book accommodations for you on that evening.
Meals: Ten breakfasts, ten lunches (packed lunch or restaurant depending on the day), and seven dinners are included. Meals are normally Japanese-style.
Also included in the trip price: Access to museums and attractions, admission to all sites, all ground transportation, expert insights into the art and culture of Japan provided by your trip leader and local experts.
Not included in the trip price: Airfare, excess baggage charges, personal insurance, meals not mentioned in the itinerary, and all items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone, and internet access. Lodging in Kyoto on the evening of November 2 is not included in the tour price.

Resources for Further Learning

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Origami cranes in Kyoto. (Photo credit)