Gardens of Japan
Prices from €4,720
Gardens of Japan will take you to the finest Japanese Gardens you’ll ever see. Our tour is created in such a way that you will experience not only the incredible beauty of these gardens but also the stunning natural landscapes that inform their design. Our award-winning Japanese Garden Expert will accompany you throughout explaining the concepts and execution of the different styles of Japanese Gardens. You will visit gardens in Tokyo, Kamakura, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Shimane that best exemplify the three main types of Japanese gardens: tea gardens, sand & stone gardens, and promenade gardens. These include Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and the Adachi Art Museum Garden which has been crowned the best Japanese landscape garden for twelve years running by the Journal of Japanese Gardens.
Route: Tokyo - Kanazawa - Kyoto (Optional Nara or Hiroshima & Miyajima Island Day Trip) - Matsue - Tokyo
Dates: Places are available on our 2018 tours.
2018 Tours commencing on: March 18th, May 19th, September 24th, November 12th
2019 Tours commencing on: March 31st, May 12th, September 22nd and November 17th
Duration: 11 Nights/12 Days
Route: Tokyo - Kanazawa - Kyoto (Optional Nara or Hiroshima & Miyajima Island Day Trip) - Matsue - Tokyo
Tour Type: Fully Escorted accompanied with English speaking Garden Expert
€4,720 / £3,960 / US$5,210 / AU$7,070 (Per Person sharing twin/double)
€5,620 / £4,710 / US$6,150 / AU$8,325 (Single Room Throughout)
Accommodation Category: Superior & Deluxe
Day 1: Tokyo (3 nights)
One quarter of all Japanese live in Tokyo or the near vicinity and with a population of over 12 million inhabitants, Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world. With its huge skyscrapers, underpasses, overpasses and crowds of pedestrians, Tokyo may not seem the most attractive city on the surface, but the city has a vibrant charm all of its own. The street level detail is what makes Tokyo such an incredibly interesting place to explore and at every turn you will be met with an array of sights, sounds and smells to enliven the senses. The city has many major sights to visit such as Senso-ji Temple in the old downtown area of Asakusa or the fashion hub of Shibuya from where all new trends are said to emanate. All in all a stay in Tokyo is to experience one of the world’s most vibrant and interesting cities; a capital hurtling headlong into the future whilst maintaining its links with the traditions of ancient Japan.
Day 2: Tokyo Full-day private tour
Today you will travel around Tokyo like locals with our expert local guide. You will begin by visiting Hamariyku Garden and the famous Tsukiji fish market where you will explore the outer market and sample some of the freshest sashimi imaginable. Next you will visit Asakusa Kannon Temple, Tokyo’s oldest and most important temple. Located in Tokyo’s old-town Asakusa introduces you the traditional side of Tokyo. From Asakusa you will continue on after lunch to one of the most popular shrines in all of Japan, Meiji Jingu. Close to Yoyogi and Harajuku, Meiji Shrine is an oasis of calm, cloistered away at the center of an evergreen forest of 120,000 trees of 365 different species. Finally your tour guide will bring you to Shibuya’s iconic scramble crossing where you can watch hordes of pedestrians as they cross this famous junction.
Day 3: Kamakura (Day Trip)
Kamakura is located one hour from Tokyo Station on the JR Yokosuka Line. This charming coastal town was capital of Japan between 1185 and 1333, a turbulent and bloody time in Japan’s history. Today Kamakura is a haven of tranquillity and is home to many secluded temples and shrines which once you leave the main tourist trail you will often have to yourself. Engakuji is one of the leading Zen temples in Japan and the second most important of Kamakura’s five great Zen temples. Built into the slopes of Kita-Kamakura’s forested hills and surrounded by maple trees, Engakuji is set in stunning surrounds.There is a lovely walk through the hills from North Kamakura to the famous Big Buddha at Kotokuin Temple. Along the way you can visit the money washing shrine, Zeniarai-benten, where money washed in the sacred waters is said to double its value! You will also visit Hasedera Temple home to an 11-headed wooden statue of Kannon, hand-carved by the monks of the temple. Enjoy stunning views out over Kamakura Bay and be sure to explore the amazing underground cave-temple. In the evening will return to Tokyo and enjoy some free time in the capital.
Day 4: Kanazawa (1 Night)
Kanazawa is a lovely small city close to the Japan sea coast. Until the turn of the century it was the 4th biggest city in Japan. However, its wealth was built on rice production and traditional crafts such as weaving and gold leaf and with the full scale industrialisation of the country Kanazawa was somewhat left behind. Today the city is flourishing again and still maintains a lot of its old charms. There are several small geisha districts and one where you can go inside an old tea house and see where the clients were entertained and even take tea yourself (sadly no longer served by geisha!). There are also samurai houses, a ninja temple and the city’s most famous sight, the beautiful Kenrokuen garden rated as one of the three best promenade gardens in the whole of Japan.
Upon arrival to Kanazawa you begin a guided afternoon tour with your tour Guide. Drop off at the nostalgic Higashi Chaya district which is not unlike the old streets of Kyoto, but a little more preserved and almost flawless looking. Then move to Kenrokuen garden located beside Kanazawa Castle for a relaxing stroll around. Kenrokuen Garden is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan, and certainly deserves the visit. In the evening you can use your free time to visit Kanazawa’s incredible 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Day 5: Kyoto (3 Nights)
Today you will transfer to Kyoto by train using your Japan Rail Pass. Oozing with tradition, Kyoto is the ultimate destination for anybody who wants to soak up time-honoured Japanese culture. Home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, this ancient city showcases the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Kyoto boasts an array of world-class gardens, majestic festivals and delicate cuisine, all of which make much of the rhythms of nature and the changing of the seasons. On first glance however, visitors will see that like any large Japanese city, grid-like Kyoto has its fair share of neon and concrete. But the discerning eye will soon pick out Kyoto’s treasures: sacred shrines tucked in among shopping arcades, time-honoured teahouses nestling among modern businesses and mysterious geisha scuttling down backstreets among the tourists and souvenirs. Kyoto’s charm lies in these details and whether you’re here for three days or three years, the closer you look, the more you’ll discover. Your tour leader will guide through your introduction to Kyoto which includes: Saihouji Temple & Garden (subject to availability), Arashiyama scenic sightseeing, Torokko Train Ride, and Nanzenji Evening Light-Up (Optional)
Day 6: Kyoto Local Full Day Private Tour
Today you will be blown away by Kyoto’s most spectacular sights: Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavillion), Kiyomizu Temple, and the Gion District famous for the geisha who live and work there. Our local guide really brings to life the history and culture of Japan’s ancient capital providing great insight into special character of the city.
- Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Temple of the Golden Pavilion
- Ryoanji Temple
- Lunch at a favourite local restaurant
- Kiyomizudera Temple
- Gion District (Geisha district) Walk
Day 7: Free day in Kyoto / Optional day-trip to Nara OR Hiroshima & Miyajima Island
Today you can have a full day off from touring giving you the opportunity to either take a break from it all and/or go see the sights in Kyoto that you really want to see. Your tour leader will be available in the morning to help you orientate your day. If you need ideas, he/she will also be there to fill your day with other Kyoto highlights such as the Philosophers Walk or Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. There is the option of partipating in an Ikebana workshop (Japanese flower arrangement) for those would like to try their hand at this elegant and refined art form. If you are still full of energy and keen for some sight-seeing we recommend an optional day-trip to either Nara or Hiroshima & Miyajima Island.
Day 8 & 9: Matsue (2 nights)
Matsue, located in rural Shimane, is Japan’s best kept secret. Such a well kept secret that the popular cartoon character Yoshida-kun frequently quips that no one in Japan can find Shimane on a map even though the area is known as the birthplace of Japan and the home of the gods. The Horikawa Sightseeing Boat offers visitors a fascinating and unique perspective of Matsue Castle and the old-town area as they explore its moat and canal network. You can get a real sense of the atmosphere of this old castle town by walking along Shiomi Nawate street which runs parallel to the moat and be sure to visit the finely preserved buke yashiki or samurai residence. Other highlights include a delicious traditional kaiseki dinner at your ryokan and Lake Shinji’s fabulous sunsets.
On Day 9 you will visit the stunning number one ranked Adachi Museum of Art Japanese Gardens in Yasugi. Here at Adachi you will have the chance to experience traditional tea ceremony in the magical environs of the Juryu-an Garden Tea House. There are only twelve original castle structures remaining in Japan and Matsue Castle is one of the finest examples of these Edo Period feudal strongholds having survived for over 400 years. In the evening you will enjoy another sumptuous kaiseki dinner at your ryokan.
Day 10 & 11: Tokyo (2 nights)
This morning you are in for a real treat. After your ryokan breakfast you will be taken by private transfer to one of the most sacred Shinto sites in Japan – Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine.
Your Gardens of Japan Tour ends after breakfast. You will be provided with airport limousine bus tickets to get you to Narita Airport which departs frequently from Shinagawa (the area where you are staying).
Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The name Kenroku-en means “garden combining six characteristics” and is rooted in the idea that it serves the six aspects considered most important in creating the ideal garden. These aspects are: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness. Kenrokuen is designed as a walking garden which should be enjoyed by strolling through its grounds. Different sections of the garden use gardening techniques from different periods and incorporate various features to create a unique “flow” throughout the garden. These features (ponds, hills, streams) have special symbolic resonance based cultural aesthetics derived from classical literature and art. The Kotoji-toro stone lantern is one such example, designed to resemble the bridge on a koto, a stringed musical instrument that is the national instrument of Japan. With roughly 8,750 trees, and 183 species of plants in total, Kenrokuen is every garden enthusiast’s dream.
Saihouji Temple & Moss Garden
Saihō-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple famed for its moss garden. Indeed Saiho-ji is acclaimed by many as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden and is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. The moss garden takes the form of a circular promenade based around a central pond. The pond is shaped like the Chinese character for ‘heart’ and contains three small islands. Over 100 varieties of moss cover the area surrounding the pond. The gardens of Saihō-ji are collectively considered to be both a historical landmark and a “special place of scenic beauty” in Japan. Our Japanese Garden Expert will take you through Saiho-ji explaining the significance of the garden’s features and how it exemplifies the zen-style of Japanese garden.
Arashiyama & Nanzenji Light-up
To the west, Arashiyama is famous for its mountain views especially with autumn leaves and is a fantastic opportunity to see this foliage in a natural landscape. These landscapes heavily influence the design of Japanese gardens and visiting Arashiyama and riding the Torokko Sightseeing Train through such beautiful natural scenery can only help deepen your appreciation of the gardens that we visit. In the evening you have the option of visiting Nanzenji Temple which holds spectacular evening light-up events for a limited time in Autumn to allow visitors view the stunningly illuminated autumn foliage.
East of Matsue, on Daikonshima Island, is the beautiful Yuushien garden. Yuushien is a traditional walk-through garden with carp-filled ponds, streams, and waterfalls and is most famous for its 250 types of peony flower. In spring, early-flowering peonies are painstakingly transplanted by hand into the large central pond transforming the heart of the garden into one gigantic garland of cascading colours. In Autumn, Yuushien holds magical evening illuminations that turn the streams and ponds into reflecting pools that capture and magnify the vibrant colours of Japan’s spectacular autumn foliage. On this evening you will be one of the lucky few who visit these amazing illuminations.
Adachi Museum of Art Japanese Gardens
The Adachi Museum of Art’s Japanese Garden has been ranked as the number one garden in Japan for twelve consecutive years by the Journal for Japanese Gardening. The museum and its garden are located in the small town of Yasugi in beautiful rural Shimane. Adachi is actually host to six different types of Japanese garden which surround the Museum building. The six gardens comprise of a Dry Landscape Garden, Moss Garden, Garden of Juryu-an, White Gravel & Pine Garden, Pond Garden, and Kikaku Waterfall Garden. One of the keys to the beauty of these gardens is how well they sit within and compliment the stunning natural scenery that surrounds them. The museum exhibits are also of exceptional quality lending to the sense of the Adachi Art Museum & Garden as an aesthetic paradise.
Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine
Japan’s oldest shrine is located outside the picturesque village of Taisha-machi. Pass under the massive torii gate that marks the entrance to the grounds of the shrine and follow on either side of the central pathway lined with pine trees until you reach the Main Hall, the tallest shrine building in Japan. Continue on to the Worship Hall where you will be greeted by the sight of Japan’s largest shimenawa – a huge sacred straw rope 13.5 meters in length and weighing over 5 tons – that hangs under the front ceiling of the Worship Hall. Take your time to enjoy this special experience before you bid farewell to Shimane and return to Tokyo by airplane.
Inclusions and/or Prices
|Accommodation||11 nights in superior and deluxe hotels, 2 of which are luxurious traditional Japanese ryokan style with hot spring baths and kaiseki meals|
|English Speaking tour leader/Garden Expert||English/Japanese speaking garden expert throughout your journey|
|Airport Transfers||Arrival & departure airport transfers included to & from Tokyo hotel|
|Private Tour Guides||Local English speaking tour guides in some places (Tokyo, Kyoto, Matsue, and Kanazawa)|
||Included Into all sights listed on itinerary|
Tea Ceremony (Matsue), Kamakura Giant Buddha & Mountain Walks, Calligraphy/Meditation at Saihouji, World Heritage Temples and Shrines in Kyoto, Bullet train journeys, stunning walks through the Japanese Gardens (some secret gardens along the way), Ikebana Workshop– Japanese Flower Arrangement, Samurai castle & Adachi Museum in Matsue, Tokyo, & Hiroshima/Miyajima sights, among many other hidden gems you will find along the way.
|Meals||Breakfast daily, 1 lunch, 3 evening meals|
|This package does not include:||
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Total price of this tour
Prices from €4,720 per person