2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn
The 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan is specifically designed to showcase exquisite Japanese gardens against the background of gorgeous autumn colours. Due to popular demand, the tour now has two departures at the peak of fall foliage, and in 2023 it is extended to 15 days to further relax the pace. The highlights of the tour include;
- Japan’s most awarded gardens, including Rikugi-en in Tokyo, Koraku-en in Okayama and Kenroku-en in Kanazawa,
- Japan’s best international-standard art museums such as Miho Museum and Adachi Museum of Art as well as small boutique galleries including Nezu Museum of Art and Itchiku Kubota Museum,
- A visit to one of Japan’s most highly prized pottery towns, Bizen, and
- An outstanding art experiences at the art island of Naoshima.
As with the other Journey to the East’s popular small group tours, this 15-day tour accepts only 8 travellers per tour. The “Comfort” style tour leans towards luxury with superior comfort in accommodation and an easier pace and travel with extensive use of private minivans. The accommodation is all 4-to-5-star hotels with western beds at ryokan.
Dates & Prices
2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn
Per person twin share:
Day 1: Arrival
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Narita or Haneda International Airport, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by private transport.
Today is an arrival day and no group program is scheduled. Your hotel is located right in the middle of Tokyo near glitzy Ginza. Why not take a stroll, relax and be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Garden & Art Tour of Japan in Autumn.
*Many of our guests arrive a day or so early to settle in before the tour starts. We can arrange your additional nights accommodation in the same room as the tour.
Day 2: Tokyo & Omiya
This morning, you waste no time and go straight into visiting one of the best autumn gardens in Tokyo, Rikugi-en. After strolling the magnificent garden at peak of its fall colours, you continue your journey northwest, to arrive at a suburb in the Greater Tokyo, Omiya.
Here you will visit the Omiya Bonsai Village. Visiting an outer suburb away from the central Tokyo is an interesting experience in itself seeing how ordinary Japanese people live.
After the visit to the Omiya Bonsai Museum, an opportunity opens up where you can learn more about the art of bonsai, the care and preservation of these beautifully manicured miniature trees, and creating your own bonsai in the friendly bonsai workshop. (*You can't take it home for a biosecurity reason, but the skills are yours to keep.)
Tonight, we have a "welcome Japan" dinner is at your hotel.
Day 3: Tokyo
On this second day of Tokyo, you will see a mix of old and modern-day Japan. The highlights include;
- Visit Meiji Jingu Shrine, a historically significant and magnificent shirine in the thick forest, most surprising in the middle of busy Tokyo,
- Stroll along Omotesando avenue, arguably the most fashionable street in Japan with cutting-edge architecture and the top brands of the world,
- Wander through Ota Memorial Museum which specialises in ukiyo-e (wood print) art, and
- Amble through the wonderful Nezu Museum, designed by Kengo Kuma, where you can enjoy the contemplative Japanese garden and take in one of the finest collections of Japanese and East-Asian pre-modern art.
Tonight, you will experience more casual dining at one of the endless choices of restaurants in Ginza near your hotel.
Day 4: Kawaguchiko
Your adventure begins with a scenic train ride and a lovely overnight trip to Kawaguchiko, a hot springs resort area located at the foot of Mt Fuji. Today you will;
- Visit Muse Museum displaying adorable Japanese dolls produced by Yuki Atae.
- Have plenty of opportunities to absorb the superb views of iconic Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko against the backdrop of peak autumn colours.
- Stay at an exquisite boutique hotel and experience the best form of Japanese hospitality, a soak in a hot-spring onsen bath and multi course dinner.
Day 5: Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
After a Japanese style breakfast, you will visit one of our top pick art venues at Kawaguchiko. Itchiku Kubota Kimono Art Museum showcases the centuries old tie-dye technique excellently reproduced by master Itchiku.
The museum building and the garden are also worthy of visit in their own right, especially in autumn.
In the afternoon, you will take a public coach back to Tokyo. It is a free night tonight. Why not finding your favourite restaurant in Tokyo?
Day 6: Kanazawa
This morning you will take Japan's impressive shinkansen (bullet train) to the city of Kanazawa on the shores of the Japan Sea.
Kanazawa is commonly known as “Little Kyoto” and is home to many traditional Japanese arts and cultures, history from the samurai era and the outstanding Kenrokuen Japanese Garden. Today you will visit;
- Kenrokuen Garden, originally designed as a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and regarded as one of the three great gardens of Japan,
- National Craft Museum, relocated to here in Kanazawa from Tokyo in 2020,
- 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, noteworthy for the unusual glass cylinder structure which envelopes the building to reduce its environmental footprint designed by SANAA,
- a tea house in a beautiful Japanese garden to experience 'The Way of Tea' one of the most well-known aspects of Japanese culture.
Tonight, you will sample wagyu beef at a teppanyaki restaurant.
Day 7: Kanazawa
This morning you will stroll around the Nagamachi samurai house district. You then visit the Higashi Geisha District, a well-preserved area of narrow streets.
In days gone by, immaculately presented geisha would have entertained wealthy patrons in slatted wooden tea houses. Here you will also visit the Gold-leaf Museum, the Kanazawa’s number one traditional craft.
After lunch, you have free afternoon and evening. Stroll around the backstreets of Kanazawa yourself and explore the many temples, galleries and craft shops offering exquisite kimono, gilded lacquerware and local sake products. D.T. Suzuki Museum is also highly recommended.
For dinner, we are more than happy to make our recommendations!
Day 8: Okayama and Kurashiki
After a couple of days in Kanazawa, you head for Kurashiki, which was once a prosperous trading town during the feudal era.
On a way, you stop at Okayama, for a guided tour of the sublime Koraku-en Garden, another one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.
Initially completed in 1700, Koraku-en is prized for being a great example of the “scenic promenade” garden style, which reveals a new view to the visitor on every turn along its meandering path.
In the afternoon, you will arrive at Kurashiki. It is delightfully historic and picturesque village to walk around.
It has maintained its charming streetscape of traditional black-and-white storehouses, merchant residences and canals lined with willow trees. Here you visit the Ohara Museum of Art, with a superb collection of ceramics, paintings and antiquities from Japan, China and other ancient civilizations.
You will have a French style dinner at your hotel tonight.
Day 9: Yasugi (Adachi Museum)
Today you travel to Yasugi, a rural town on the western coast of Japan’s main island, to visit the garden at the Adachi Museum of Art.
This garden has been nominated Japan’s most popular garden for 17 consecutive years. Designed in the “borrowed scenery” style, the mountainous backdrop to this extensive garden makes it appear that the mountains are a seamless part of the garden itself.
You will also visit the Photography Museum of an award-winning photographer, Shoji Ueda.
You return to stay in Kurashiki tonight
Day 10: Imbe (Bizen)
A short minivan ride will take you to the small regional town of Imbe, which has been producing Bizen ceramic for some 1,000 years.
Bizen-ware is still highly prized among pottery enthusiasts both in Japan and overseas. Today you;
- Engage first hand with one of Imbe’s most prominent potters in his own studio and private garden,
- Visit the ancient climbing kilns, and
- Wander through the galleries and craft shops.
Potentially the biggest surprise of your trip awaits this afternoon. You hop on a ferry across Seto Inland Sea to an art island, Naoshima.
Tonight, you will enjoy an evening viewing at Benesse House Museum.
Day 11: Naoshima
Once home to just a few remote fishing villages, Naoshima is now known as the "Art Island" in Japan’s magical Seto Inland Sea.
Thanks to the Benesse Corporation and the visionary Naoshima Art Project, Naoshima has been transformed into a cutting-edge contemporary art island and it is visited by leading architects and artists from all over the world. Today you;
- Spend time on the island visiting Chichu Museum, Lee Ufan Museum, and Ando Tadao Museum and his House Projects,
- Also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural scenery of the Seto Inland Sea,
This evening you will cross back to the mainland, and take a shinkansen to your final destination, Kyoto.
Day 12: Kyoto
With 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (at last count!), Kyoto is the historical heart of Japan’s culture and the guardian of many of its ancient traditions.
Originally made capital way back in 794, present-day Kyoto offers an incredible range of contemplative gardens often associated with the ancient temples and shrines.
While Kyoto has many iconic sites, our walking guided tour today will focus on hidden treasures not often found on a guide book.
Tonight, a maiko (young geisha) joins us for a private performance during dinner at a shabu shabu hot pot restaurant serving premium wagyu beef.
Day 13: Arashiyama
Today you explore Kyoto's western suburb, Arashiyama in the peak of autumn colours. At Arashiyama you will;
- Visit superb examples of Japanese gardens at Tenryuji Temple,
- Take a rickshaw, a two-passenger wagon pulled by energetic young men in traditional garb, to go through the iconic bamboo grove,
- Lunch is a classic lunch of tofu, a Kyoto specialty,
- You stop at Kinkakuji Temple, better known as Golden Pavilion. The temple is a stunning three-storied pavilion covered in dazzling gold leaf.
This evening is at your leisure to explore superb selections of restaurants in Kyoto.
Day 14: Kyoto (Miho Museum)
This is another very special day. Past guests have said this visit ranks as one of the most impressive days of the tour.
Today you visit the stunning Miho Museum. Here you can experience a thorough immersion into the world of art, architecture and landscape design.
Renowned architect I.M. Pei designed this museum with much of the site built into a forested hillside. Miho was built to house an extensive private collection of some 2,000 antiquities from ancient civilizations.
The contrast of the glass and steel structure of the museum’s roof against the surrounding natural environment is spectacular. It is this seamless integration of the man-made and the natural which creates today's indelible memory.
Back in Kyoto tonight you will gather together one last time for a "farewell Japan" dinner with the group.
Day 15: Bon Voyage
This morning after breakfast, your 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn concludes.
You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan. Please see our Model Extension Itineraries for inspirations!
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
Accommodation listed in itineraries at the time of publishing is an indicative choice only and we may select a similar alternative.
- 14 nights accommodation
- 14 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 10 dinners
- All public and private transport for the group itinerary
- SUICA IC card preloaded with starter credit
- Airport meet & greet and private transfer to hotel upon arrival
- Government qualified English speaking local tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees as included in the group itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport during free time
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
The tour exceeded our expectation and will be remembered for the best tour of our lives.
JTTE were very helpful and informative throughout the booking process. The tour itself was great and covered a wide variety of art venues and gardens and the local guides were all very helpful, informative and pleasant. It was also nice to travel in a smaller group. I would happily recommend JTTE to anyone thinking of travelling to Japan.
A wonderful experience of Japan in a safe and skillfully guided environment. The whole experience was so fascinating. The small group made organization very easy. I loved the way the tour is organized so that a small bag only is required overnight. The use of multiple guides is also a great idea. Very happy with Journey to the East. Very well planned, informative and communicated. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. Thankyou.