2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan
The 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan visits many wonderful gardens and international standard art museums.
The gardens are all different in style and based in spectacular locations across Japan. Many gardens are attached to some of Japan’s iconic temples, museums, galleries and historical villas. Through the prism of the Japanese gardens, you will gain a rich insight into Japan’s unique culture and traditions, its art, history and modern-day life. A great introduction to the country itself!
As well as being a garden tour and Japan architecture tour, this holiday includes some of Japan’s best art museums (galleries). The wide selection of art has to be seen to be believed, particularly the way some of the Japanese gardens integrate into the art.
The tours take place in May to early June – ideal times of year to visit Japan. The weather is typically warm and sunny, and the gardens are at their best. Also, a couple more tours in October to take advantage of early fall foliage. The tours are not designed specifically for horticulturists or garden experts (though always welcome), but rather for general lovers of gardens and art who want to explore Japan and learn more about its deeply fascinating culture.
Dates & Prices
2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan
Per person twin share:
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at Haneda or Narita International Airport, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel in Tokyo. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2023 Garden and Art Tour Japan.
Day 2: Tokyo
Today you visit Omotesando and Aoyama area of Tokyo. The tree-lined boulevard of Omotesando is filled with cutting edge modern buildings designed by famous architects. Here, you will visit Ota Memorial Museum of Art to witness some exemplary works of traditional ukiyo-e wood-block prints. The next stop is Nezu Museum of Art. The museum building was designed by Kengo Kuma, and it features the finest collections of Japanese and East-Asian pre-modern art with the contemplative Japanese garden. After lunch, you will visit the Japanese Traditional Craft Centre at Aoyama Square.
Day 3: Tokyo
Today, you visit the Omiya Bonsai Village in an outer suburb of greater Tokyo. You also get the chance to create a bonsai for yourself in a friendly workshop. (You can't bring it home, but the skills are yours to keep.)
Day 4: Hakone
A lovely overnight trip to Hakone, a scenic hot springs resort area located in the mountains near Mt Fuji.
Our 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan visits will include Narukawa Art Museum for modern-day Japanese paintings and the exquisite view of Mt Fuji across Lake Ashi. You will have a cruise on a 'Viking' ship across the lake and take a ropeway across Owakudani to witness the geothermal activity that is the source of healing hot speing spa bath.
Tonight offers your first chance to stay in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), where you can experience an authentic kaiseki-style banquet and a soak in a hot-spring onsen bath.
Day 5: Hakone to Tokyo
The next treat is a visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum and walk through its vast grounds. The amazing sculptures from the likes of Henry Moore and Rodin are set against a spectacular backdrop of maple and cherry trees.
After a relaxed start in Hakone we wend our way back to Tokyo.
Day 6: Kanazawa
The shinkansen (bullet train) whisks you away from Tokyo to the city of Kanazawa, home to Kenrokuen Garden.
Kenrokuen Garden is a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and is regarded as one of three great gardens of Japan. You will have the opportunity to explore this garden and contemplate the beauty of its sublime design.
Also included in the 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan are the National Crafts Museum, which was relocated from Tokyo in 2020, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, noteworthy for the unusual glass cylinder structure which envelopes the building to reduce its environmental footprint.
Tonight you will sample some of the Kanazawa's regional dishes for dinner.
Day 7: Kanazawa
This morning you will try your hand at Japan's traditional tea ceremony at a quaint tea house atop a magnificent Japanese garden. You then visit the Higashi Geisha District, a well-preserved area of narrow streets where, in days gone by, immaculately presented geisha would have entertained wealthy patrons in slatted wooden tea houses. Here you will visit Gold-leaf museum, the Kanazawa’s number one traditional craft.
In the afternoon, you can wander around the backstreets of Kanazawa yourself and explore the many temples, galleries and craft shops offering all sorts of exquisite kimono, gilded lacquerware and local sake products. Or why not visit the Nagamachi district, the old part of Kanazawa where the samurai and their daimyo lords once resided. D.T. Suzuki Museum is also highly recommended. Charming and atmospheric, the winding old streets of this district are full of timber-clad houses and canals.
Day 8: Kurashiki
After a couple of days in Kanazawa, you will transfer to the next base Kurashiki.
On a way, you will stop at Okayama and visit the sublime Korakuen Garden. This garden is recognized as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Initially completed in 1700, Korakuen is a great example of the “scenic promenade” garden style wiith vast lawns, ponds, streams, flower gardens and tea houses.
Kurashiki is a delightfully historic and picturesque town and is the home of the Ohara Museum of Art, which has a superb collection of ceramics, paintings and antiquities from Japan, China and other ancient civilizations.
Day 9: Yasugi
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 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.
A new addition to the 2023 Garden & Art Tour Japan is a visit to the Photography Museum of an award-winning photographer, Shoji Ueda.
You return to Kurashiki to spend the evening at your leisure.
Day 10: Okayama and Imbe
A short train ride will take you to the small regional town of Imbe, which has been producing Bizen ceramic-ware for some 1000 years. Bizen-ware is still highly prized among pottery enthusiasts both in Japan and overseas.
You can wander through the galleries, craft shops and working kilns and engage firsthand with one of Imbe’s most prominent potters in his own studio and private garden.
Tonight you travel to Naoshima, the contemporary art island on Seto Inland Sea.
Day 11: Naoshima
Once was a quiet agricultural island, Naoshima has been transformed into a cutting-edge contemporary art island visited by leading architects and artists from all over the world. Colloquially known as the 'Art Island" it is located in Japan’s magical Seto Inland Sea.
You will spend time on the island visiting the galleries, architecture and sculptures of Ando Tadao, Lee Ufan and many others. While we guarantee the artwork will spark debate, we know you will also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural scenery of the Inland Sea.
Tonight you will transfer to your final destination on the tour, 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.
Today, you will visit select gardens and art museums in Kyoto.
Day 13: Shigaraki (Miho Museum)
You are off to the stunning Miho Museum! A renowned architect I.M. Pei designed this museum with much of the site built into a forested hillside. It 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 to say the least. It is this seamless integration of the man-made with the natural which is a real highlight. Past guests have said this visit ranks as one of the most impressive days of the tour.
You return to Kyoto to enjoy rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
Day 14: Arashiyama
At Arashiyama, at the foot of the mountains around Kyoto, you visit a superb example of a Japanese-style “stroll” garden at Tenryuji Temple. Moving on we wander through the bamboo grove of Arashiyama, famous for its extensive forest of thick bamboo stands and ethereal light.
The historic villa of Okochi Sanso, built on a hill-side offers magnificent views of Kyoto. The sprawling gardens, villa and tea house showcase the Japanese garden aesthetic at its very best. At lunch you will taste Kyoto’s traditional tofu cuisine, a local specialty with roots in Kyoto’s Buddhist vegetarian past.
In the afternoon, you will visit a selection of Kyoto’s finest temples to view their splendid gardens including the big landmark temples such as Kinkakuji and Ryoanji.
We will gather one more time in the evening for a final meal. A maiko (young geisha) joins us for a private performance during dinner at a shabu shabu hot pot restaurant serving premium-wagyu beef.
This morning after breakfast, your 2023 Garden and Art Tour of Japan 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 Extension Model Itineraries on our Private tours page 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.
Accommodation listed in itineraries at the time of publishing is an indicative choice only and we may select a similar alternative.
- 14 nights accommodation (including traditional inns)
- Meals as specified
- Airport meet & greet and hotel transfer by public transport on arrival
- All local transport (train, bus and taxi)
- Pre-loaded Suica card
- Locally licensed English speaking tour guides
- Most cultural activities and entry fees included in 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)
I would be very happy to recommend Journey to the East Tour company to anyone wanting a small group tour with superb variety in art, gardens, food and Japanese experiences. Terrific trip.
Japan is truly magical and the country is beautiful, the contemplative gardens impart a feeling of harmony, the culture is friendly, helpful and everything works well. A trip I will always remember as truly satisfying.
Kathryn Daniels & John Chichester
We just returned from our wonderful 2022 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in the Fall . Kudos to all!! It was the trip of a lifetime.
Exceeded our expectations. We loved everything about the Art & Garden Tour, particularly the companionship a small group of eight added to our holiday.