Japan·May 9 - 15 2025

Art & Artisan Japan

Japanese culture is rich, intricate and ancient. The beauty and artistry with which everyday duties are carried out leaves one in awe.

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Overview

If you’ve never been to Japan, you’re in for a real treat. First off you'll soak in the antique beauty of Kyoto visiting masterpiece zen temples and gardens. You'll try your hand at some of the traditional Japanese arts such as calligraphy and Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) which are tied closely to Zen Buddhism. Then we’ll be traveling to the world-famous art islands created by a Japanese billionaire to highlight some of the world's most fascinating artists and architects. Naoshima, aka the art island is surely one of the most fascinating, art-filled destinations you can visit on the planet right now. Imagine an entire island, in fact a series of islands devoted to avant-garde contemporary art and architecture with a little Monet thrown in for good measure. You’ll be fed exceptionally well, enjoying the best cuisine that this Japan has to offer. Join us on this incredible journey that marries ancient culture imbued with Buddhism and Shintoism and both ancient and modern art and artisanship unparalleled in the world.

Highlights

Stay in a Ryokan with your own private onsen bath

Stay in a Ryokan with your own private onsen bath

Learn Japanese Calligraphy with an expert

Learn Japanese Calligraphy with an expert

Gaze at the Iconic Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion

Gaze at the Iconic Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavillion

Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Visit Naoshima Island, dubbed the “Art Island”

Visit Naoshima Island, dubbed the “Art Island”

Learn about the life of a Geisha, called Maikos in Kyoto

Learn about the life of a Geisha, called Maikos in Kyoto

Learn Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging

Learn Ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arranging

Experience awe as you view James Turrell’s Open Sky at night

Experience awe as you view James Turrell’s Open Sky at night

View some of the most inspiring modern art in the world

View some of the most inspiring modern art in the world

Explore one of the most beloved gardens in Japan which is 300 years old

Explore one of the most beloved gardens in Japan which is 300 years old

Itinerary

Here's a day-by-day itinerary for the trip.

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Day 0

It’s a long trip to Japan, so we suggest that you arrive a day early (or more) to rest and recover from your travels. You’re free to stay at whatever hotel inspires you, but we offer as a recommendation the Cerulean Tower. (Note, your stay in Tokyo before the trip start is not included in the trip cost). If you come several days early, we can help you plan a highlight tour of Tokyo. 


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Day 1: Tokyo to Kyoto

If you can’t sleep, we’ll meet very early to walk through the old fish market for an early Sushi breakfast! 

Then we'll meet up around 9:00 am in the lobby at the Cerulean Tower where your guide will escort us to the train station for the high speed train to Kyoto. Train tickets included). We will enjoy a box lunch on the train together, a classic thing to do when traveling in Japan. 

Upon arrival in Kyoto, we’ll head to our beautiful hotel situated right in the Gion district, the Granbell Hotel complete with its own onsen bath for you to enjoy.

Later after a bit of a rest and time to unpack. we will enjoy a Calligraphy experience with an expert. Our teacher will explain how calligraphy is related to Zen Buddhism with mindfulness being the key to achieving the elegant brush strokes we’ll be striving for.

Tonight’s meal will be teppanyaki, where Kobe beef is the star of the show, just a short walk from our hotel.

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Day 2: Temples & Wabi-Sabi

In the morning, after a traditional Japanese breakfast (you can also choose Western), we’ll visit one of the most famous sites in all of Japan, the Golden Pavillion and its extraordinary gardens. As it is late spring, you’ll be enriched by all the blooms and greenery at Kinkakuji. 

Afterwards, we’ll visit the most famous Zen Garden in the world, the Ryoan-ji temple. We’ll have time to sit and contemplate after our guide explains the significance of dry zen gardens and what the various elements are metaphors for. Prepare to be blown-away.

If this wasn’t enough for the day, we’ll have the opportunity to lunch at the oldest noodle shop in Japan – over 500 years old dating back to 1465. Here, we’ll enjoy their buckwheat soba noodles and learn how to slurp … a sign in Japan that you really love the food you’ve been offered.

This afternoon is reserved for instruction and participation in the iconic tea ceremony which will illuminate for us how much more involved it is than simply drinking tea. We’ll experience the famous hospitality of the Japanese people and appreciate how many years and the commitment it takes to become a tea master, a truly profound moment.

Afternoon is free time for rest and relaxation.

Tonight, we’ll head out to savor an Izkaya night – a traditional Japanese pub with yummy nibbles and beer. 

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Day 3: Gardens & Geisha's

In the morning, we’ll visit the Arashiyama-Sagano area where we’ll see the historic garden at the Tenryu-ji Temple which is also a UNESCO world heritage site. We’ll walk through a bamboo forest to discover a hidden garden and temple Gio-ji which has an interesting story. After our time in the we’ll lunch at a temple of tofu Izusen, for a healthy lunch in stunning surroundings.

The restaurant has been described as follows: “Leaving behind the frenetic busyness of the modern bustling metropolis of Kyoto, as you step over the threshold of the great gateway that marks the entrance to the vast grounds of Daitokuji, one of the five great Zen temple complexes of Kyoto, you enter into a sacred space that seems timeless and imbued with tranquility. Nestled within this great rambling temple complex, following one of the meandering stone pathways flanked by high earthen walls of secluded little temples and ancient twisting pine trees, you eventually arrive at a small sub-temple called Daiji-in. Within this temple is Izusen, a shojin-ryori (Buddhist vegetarian) restaurant that specializes in teppachi-ryori (Iron-Bowl Cuisine).”

After our stomachs and hearts are full, we’ll have a moment to visit some craft shops nearby to learn a bit about Indigo dying, traditional Kyoto paper called Kurodani washi as well as bamboo crafts. You'll probably want to pick up an artisanal souvenir or two.

This afternoon is reserved for a very special experience. An expert will instruct us on the basics of Ikebana – Japanese flower arranging – which incorporates components of Buddhist/Zen philosophy. 

Tonight’s meal and final night in Kyoto will be exciting indeed. We’ll take a little walk through our Gion neighborhood followed by a Geisha show and dinner. Lest you worry, this is a not too-touristy of an experience. Rather, through this elegant introduction, we’ll be able to learn more about this mysterious tradition.

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Okayama

Day 4: Okayama

Check out and depart with our guide to by train to Kanazawa, a center for traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Today’s lunch will be a packed picnic lunch that we can enjoy as we travel.

Upon arrival we’ll beeline to Okayama Korakuen, one of Japan’s most celebrated gardens created 300 years ago. After a serene walk in these expansive gardens we'll check into an elegant hotel, the Korinkyo.

Here we can relax and unwind a bit before dinner. Why not pop into the rooftop sauna or bath to loosen up any tired muscles. 

Just a short walk away, we can take an optional visit of the 400-year-old Nomura Samura Family residence in the nearby district of Nagamachi considered one of the best preserved samurai districts in all of Japan. 

Tonight you'll delight in a specialty charcoal grill restaurant just a short walk from our lovely hotel, Kanazawagin.

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Naoshima Island

Day 5 : Naoshima Island

Today we’ll head by ferry to Naoshima Island, formerly an island for fisherman that has been transformed over the past several decades into one of the most exciting and important places to see modern art in the entire world. Lunch today will be a box lunch in transit. 

We'll check into our modern yet traditional Ryokan Roka which is as carefully designed as the art museums at Naoshima. Each room has its own onsen tub as well as private terrace with a countryside view. 

After a cup of tea and a little rest we'll venture into the small town that surrounds us taking a short walk to peruse the Ando museum nearby. Tadao Ando is the award winning Japanese architect who has designed almost all the buildings on these "art islands". He considered a genius. 

We'll likely also stop into one or more of the art houses in town, a project that has taken old traditional wooden fisherman houses and filled them with art installations. 

We'll retire to a beautifully orchestrated dinner back at our hotel and sleep well tonight.

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Naoshima Island

Day 6: Naoshima Island

Today after breakfast we'll depart via bus (this is the only method of transport on the island) to visit the acclaimed Benesse House Museum, which opened in 1992 when billionaire Soichiro Fukutake realized his father's dream of creating a place to house his art collection. You'll see works by international as well as Asian artists both inside and outside the structure including Jennifer Bartlett, Richard Long, Shinro Ohtake, Yukinori Yanagi and Kan Yasuda to name just a few. 

After we’ll certainly be getting peckish. Today’s lunch at the Benesse House museum's restaurant Issen will be a formal Kaiseki meal with a focus on the freshest seafood found in local waters. The presentation, art in itself, will amaze you.

Next we'll take the bus over to the Chichu Art Museum designed by architect Tandao Ando with works by artists as diverse as Walter DeMaria and Claude Monet. We’ll follow up our private tour with the Chichu Garden designed as an homage to Claude Monet’s Giverny. The James Turrell visit left most of spellbound in past tours. 

We'll stay until the place closes for a very special treat. We'll reserve a space for our group to watch sunset over the Open Sky Exhibit, also by James Turrell. We don't want to spoil the surprise by telling you too much about it. 

Next we'll head into the small main town close to the ferry dock to enjoy a casual dinner at mom & pop kind of place.

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Day 7 : Teshima

Today we’ll have the opportunity to visit nearby Teshima island by ferry. At the port upon arrival, we’ll have a photo opportunity with Yayoi Kusama’s giant pumpkin.

In Teshima we’ll head over to the Teshima Museum designed by Ryue Nishizawa with an installation by Rei Naito. The artist tells us “By immersing calmly in this space, feeling united with nature, we may sense the joy of life on earth.”

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll then visit the Yokoo House which is a renovated old village house and barn which faces the port. Here we will find 11 works of art both inside and out by artist Tadanori Yokoo.

Today’s lunch will be at the community-based kitchen, Shima which focuses on local produce.

After lunch we’ll relish a unique sound and art experience. The French artist’s installation, Les Archives du Couer, translates literally to the archives of the heart was conceived and created by artist Christian Boltanski who has recorded thousands of heartbeats from around the world to create his one-of-a-kind piece of art. We’ll even have the chance to add our own.

We’ll ferry back in time to our hotel on Naoshima Island for you to enjoy a rest at the hotel and to pack up for tomorrow’s departure.

Before our last dinner, you’ll have an opportunity to take a steam and sauna at I Love Bath, a fun and funky bathhouse and art project, and put some last-minute finds in your journals.

Tonight’s farewell meal will be a celebratory sushi dinner. In Japan sushi is not an everyday thing; it’s considered a special meal for celebrations. Tonight, we’ll celebrate our new catalog of experiences, our gorgeous journals which we’ll cherish forever almost as much as the new friendships we’ve made. Sake toasts will be abundant as are lasting friendships we’ve made.

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Day 8: Departure or Kobe Onsen Extension

Depart via ferry and then train back to Tokyo for your flight home. 

After your in-depth art experience, why not continue on with us to the Kobe region to the famous Royal Onsen town of Arima. Onsen means hot spring in Japanese, a bath where the water has been heated by the earth. In an onsen, the minerals in the water make the experience totally unique. Onsens are especially enchanting when experienced in the open air. 

The Arima hot springs have been a destination since they were discovered more than 1,300 years ago. Unlike other hot springs, these are not volcanic and are rich in minerals. The major springs here are divided into golden springs (kinsen) and silver springs (ginsen). The silver are carbonated and rich in radium which improves blood circulation and can help with a myriad of health issues. Drinking these waters is renowned to boost your immune system.

After traveling to Kobe, we’ll check in to a charming traditional Onsen Inn, Tosen Goshobo. Founded in the 12th century and beloved by Junichiro Tanizaki and other Japanese novelists, Tosen Goshobo is the oldest of the hot-spring inns at Arima. Note: The Japanese rooms have traditional futon beds.

During our two days in Arima, we’ll relax and soak up the minerals and walk away healthy and refreshed. As we are in the land of Kobe, we’ll also enjoy some of Japan’s famous Wagyu beef at our hotel on our first night.

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Day 8: Day 2 of Kobe Onsen Extension

On day two, we’ll explore the small town of Arima with a guide, then we'll head to a gorgeous garden in Kobe via ropeway said to be the largest herb gardens in Japan, followed by a ladies lunch of tea, sandwiches and cakes. 

Later we'll stop at a sake museum tour to learn about how the quintessential Japanese rice wine is made. Tastings are a must! Back in Arima we’ll enjoy some free time to shop the local craft stores. 

A casual sake bar with yummy snacks tonight will be our final farewell get together.

Tokyo

Day 9: Day 3 of Kobe Onsen Extension

Today is our final day in Japan, but I suspect it will not be the last time you visit. Once you've experienced this unique country, with its rich history, culture and traditions, you'll be thirsting for more. 

But for this visit, we'll bid each other goodbye. We’ll return to Tokyo for our flights home. But Japan will stay with us forever!

You'll Be Staying Here

Cranbell Hotel

Cranbell Hotel

Situated in the heart of Gion, the famed Geisha district in Kyoto, lies our hotel the Cranbell. Relax in the onsen bath or have a cocktail in their inviting lounge. Step outside and you're in the heart of it. 

Korinko

Korinko

Korinkyo is a exceptionally designed boutique hotel which was formerly an art gallery. Situated in downtown Kanazawa a short walk from everything. After a day of travel, enjoy the hinoki cypress baths on the rooftop or the sauna. 

Ryokan Roka in Naoshima

Ryokan Roka in Naoshima

Roka is a traditional Japanese Inn (a Ryokan) done up in cutting edge contemporary minimalist style, and in perfect keeping with the nature of Naoshima Island. You'll find a stay here to be close to idyllic. 

Price

Reserve your spot

Reserve your spot

We're not quite ready to publish this trip, but you can reserve your spot with a FULLY-REFUNDABLE deposit of $250.

FROM$250

Private Room

Private Room

This is an estimated price. (It's not really sold out). When the trip is finalized, we will activate this option so it can be purchased.

FROM$7,085

There is no place like Japan

Japan: A Gorgeous Sensual Experience

Alain Ducasse, the many Michelin starred French chef said it best. "It is impossible to remain indifferent to Japanese culture. It is a different civilization where all you have learnt must be forgotten. It is a great intellectual challenge and a gorgeous sensual experience.

Japan: A Gorgeous Sensual Experience

What's Included

What's Included

Everything is included that is stated above

All meals, all drinks at meals including sake/beer/wine

All guides, masters and experts as well as all classes

Entry tickets into all temples and gardens

International airfare

All transfers to and from the airport

Alcoholic beverages beyond what is mentioned

Spa treatments beyond what is mentioned

All souvaniers

Hotel and meals in Tokyo

Trip and Medical Insurance (required)

FAQs

You will want to fly into Tokyo's Narita Airport. 

If you are traveling across an ocean to get to Tokyo you may want to consider arriving a day early so you have time to relax and get acclimated to the local time zone. If not arrive before 8:00 am on Day 1. 

We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips. 

The mornings might start off on the cooler side, but the temps will rise during the day. Expect mid 60's. You might want to bring a light raincoat just in case. 

Inquire about this trip

Art & Artisan Japan

Japan· May 9 - 15 2025· 6 nights

FROM$7,085/pp