Cultural Explorations - vacations and travel

Burlington Art Centre: Japan Gardens, Temples, Ceramics

Japan, Southeast Asia

from $4,595* per person 13 Days April
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 4
Operator: Cultural Explorations 16 people max
  • Tokyo
  • Culture & Nature trips
The image of Japan as the home of samurai, geishas and tea ceremonies just touches the surface of Japanese culture. Join the Burlington Art Centre's guided tour to explore Japan through its famed temples, gardens, and ceramics. From the world heritage site of Nikko, the first Shogun's burial site, to the potter's village of Mashiko, home to the great ceramist Hamada, the trip proceeds to the hyper-modern capital Tokyo. While enjoying some of the most intriguing modern architecture, we also visit the ancient temple at Asakusa and make time to shop for spectacular souvenirs, from realistic plastic food to antique kimonos. Then on to Kyoto where we will spend a day wandering some of the most famous gardens in the world, from the monastic stone garden, Ryoanji, to the stroll garden of the Golden Pavilion Ginkakuji. With free time in Kyoto there is the chance to visit a silk dye house to see how kimonos are made or walk the back alleys of the Gion where geishas can still be seen on their way to appointments. While this is an opportunity to be introduced to the arts and crafts of ancient Japan, the modern world, from the bullet train to the manga inspired fashions of teenage Japanese will also be explored the fascinating juxtaposition that is Japan today.

Join me, Jonathan Smith, and Reid Flock as we guide you. I will be taking us through the galleries, highlighting the treasure from painted scrolls to Noh theatre costumes to Japanese swords while Reid, who has lived in Japan for nine years can introduce us to all things Japanese from saki to ceramics.

Locations visited/nearby

Japan, Southeast Asia

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Special information

  • May accommodate certain types of disabilities. Contact the operator for more information.

Itinerary

Day 1:      Arrive at Narita Airport
Participants arrive at Narita Airport today. You will be met on arrival and transferred to our hotel in Nikko. Nikko means "sunlight" an apt description of the start to our trip! We'll spend the first two nights of our trip here, resting up from our flight and enjoying the some of the country's most spectacular mountain scenery.
Overnight: Asaya Hotel, Nikko
Meals: D
Day 2:     Nikko
The shrines and temples of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, have for centuries been a sacred site known for its architectural and decorative masterpieces. They are closely associated with the history of the Tokugawa Shoguns. We will visit the lavishly decorated Toshogu Shrine set in a grove of magnificent ancient Japanese cedars and the Tamozawa Imperial Villa and the Rinnoji complex of Buddhist temples founded in 766 BC by the Buddhist hermit Shoto.
Overnight: Asaya Hotel, Nikko
Meals: B
Day 3:     Mashiko, Tokyo
This morning we transfer by coach to Tokyo. We'll spend the day in Mashiko, the small village known for its Mashiko-yaki, distinctive, heavy, country-style pottery. Here we'll visit the home of the late Hamada Shoji, designated a "National Treasure", who introduced Mashiko-ware throughout Japan. We'll also visit a dye workshop in the city. The end of the day brings us to Tokyo tonight we visit the glittering Ginza to introduce ourselves to the city.
Overnight: Tokyo Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Meals: B, D
Day 4:     Tokyo
We'll begin the day with a cruise on the Sumida River an ideal way to admire the cherry blossoms. We'll travel to the Asakusa district, the pleasure quarters of old Edo. Here we'll visit the Asakusa Kannon, Tokyo's most popular temple with a history dating back to AD 628. Nearby is the Kappabashi-dougugai Dori, lined with shops selling everything needed to run a restaurant including plastic food. In the Ueno Park district, we'll visit the National Museum housing a large collection of antiques including old kimono, pottery, woodblock prints, ceramics and more. Tonight, we get a taste of the Shinjuku area.
Overnight: Tokyo Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Meals: B
Day 5:     Tokyo
The Idemitsu Museum of Art, displays a private collection of Eastern Asian antiques including Japanese painting, calligraphy and East Asian ceramics. We'll begin the day here. We'll also visit Tokyo's most venerable Shinto shrine; the Meiji Jingu Shrine, opened in 1920 in honor of Emperor and Empress Meiji, who were instrumental in opening Japan to the outside world more than 120 years ago. Japan's two largest torii (the traditional entry gate of a shrine), built of cypress more than 1,700 years old, give dramatic entrance to the grounds. We'll take a break from our activities to visit the Oriental Bazaar, the city's best known craft store and the Sake Museum.
Overnight: Tokyo Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Meals: B, D
Day 6:     Tokyo
Today is a "pay your own way day", to indulge in your own special interests. Jonathan and Reid will be leading visits to some of their favourite places too. Tonight we'll attend a performance of Bunraku, traditional Japanese puppet theatre. This has been popular since the 17th century depicting dramas for adults with themes centering on love, revenge and sacrifice.
Overnight: Tokyo Prince Hotel, Tokyo
Meals: B
Day 7:     Train to Kyoto
This morning we travel by Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. The 513km distance is covered in just 2 hours, 18 minutes. Once Japan's Imperial Capital and now the country's cultural and artistic capital with more than 1,600 temples, hundreds of shrines, artful gardens, and well-preserved wooden architecture, Kyoto embodies Japan's rich culture and complex history. We begin our stay in Kyoto with visits to the Toji Temple a five story pagoda that is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. The Kodo (Lecture Hall), dating from 1491, contains 15 original statues of Buddhist deities that were carved in the 8th and 9th centuries. We'll also visit the Tofukuji Temple with its beautiful Japanese Garden.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B, D
Day 8:     Kyoto
The Kyoto National Museum, housed in a French baroque-style building constructed in 1897, features changing exhibits highlighting magnificent art objects and treasures, many of which once belonged to Kyoto's many temples and the imperial court. Japanese and Chinese ceramics, sculpture, Japanese paintings, clothing and kimono, lacquerware, and metalworks are always on display, making this the best museum in town for viewing the ancient capital's priceless treasures. We'll visit the Heian Shrine, Kyoto's most famous shrine dating from 1895 built in commemoration of the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto. Near the shrine is the Kyoto Handicraft Gallery, a co-operative dedicated to the many crafts that flourished during Kyoto's long reign as the imperial capital. Various displays and videos demonstrate the step-by-step production of crafts ranging from stone lanterns and fishing rods to textiles, paper fans, umbrellas, boxwood combs, lacquerware, Buddhist altars, and Noh masks. This evening we'll stroll Gion Street where geishas gather.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B
Day 9:     Kyoto
Highlights of our explorations in Kyoto today include the 16th-century Ryoanji Temple, with the dry garden of sand and rocks (kare-sansui), a marvel of classic Japanese design; and Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion set on pillars suspended over the water. We'll relax in the Daisenin Teien, one of the most celebrated gardens in Japan. It was constructed in 1509 on the grounds of the Zen temple, Daitokuji and is significant for the spectacular way in which the Sung landscape painting tradition is turned into three-dimensional form. The Ginkakuji Silver Pavilion is considered one of the more beautiful structures in Kyoto. We'll visit the Pavilion and then take a stroll along Philosopher's Walk, a tranquil canal which is particularly beautiful during the cherry-blossom season.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B, D
Day 10:     Kyoto
Today is a "pay your own way day", to indulge in your own special interests. Jonathan and Reid will be leading visits to some of their favourite places too.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B
Day 11:     Nara
Today, we enjoy an excursion to Nara, Japan's ancient capital, a short train ride from Kyoto. Here we'll see the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, an important Shinto shrine founded in 768 and filled with over 3,000 bronze and stone lanterns, Todaiji Temple, home to the largest Buddha statue in the country, and Nara National Museum on a walking tour. We return to Kyoto in the late afternoon.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B
Day 12:     Kyoto
Built by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, in 1603, Nijo Castle is considered the quintessence of Momoyama architecture, built almost entirely of Japanese cypress and boasting delicate transom woodcarvings and paintings by the Kano School on sliding doors. We'll visit Sanjusangendo Hall with one of the most visually stunning sights in a Japanese temple: 1,001 wooden statues of the thousand-handed Kannon. Row upon row, these life-size figures, carved from Japanese cypress in the 12th and 13th centuries, make an impressive sight. Later continue to the Kiyomizu dera temple, known throughout Japan for the grand views afforded from its main hall. Founded in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 the temple occupies an exalted spot on Mount Otowa, with its main hall constructed over a cliff and featuring a large wooden veranda supported by 139 pillars.
Overnight: New Miyako Hotel, Kyoto
Meals: B, D
Day 13:     Depart
This morning, we transfer to Kansai Airport for our homeward bound flights.

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