Arrival Day – April 18, Tuesday
It’s a long trip to Japan, so we suggest that you arrive a day early to rest and recovery from your travels. We’ll provide suggestions to you as to where to stay or make a reservation for you. For those who aren’t too tired, we’ll meet up for a simple meal. Optionally, you may want to consider arriving even sooner if you want to spend time in Tokyo, or staying longer at after the trip is complete. We can help recommend tours and activities.
Dinner & hotel for Arrival Day are not included but suggestions and arrangements can be made for you.
Day 1 – April 19, Wednesday
Meet up around 11am to train together to Kyoto. (Train tickets included). We will enjoy a box lunch on the train together, a classic thing to do when you travel in Japan.
Upon arrival in Kyoto, we’ll head to our traditional Ryokan and check in.
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 a traditional one at our Ryokan.
Day 2 – April 20th, Thursday
In the morning, after our traditional Japanese breakfast, we’ll visit one of the most famous sites in all of Japan, the Golden Pavillion and it’s extraordinary gardens. As it is spring, you’ll be enriched by all the flowers and bulbs that are blooming 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, Ayumi, explains the importance of the 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.
After an enjoyable lunch, we’ll have the pleasure of visiting the Heian shrine and its scenic garden with our expert.
This afternoon is reserved for instruction and participation in the iconic tea ceremony which will illuminate for us the concept of Wabi-Sabi. We’ll experience the famous hospitality of the Japanese people without any words. A 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. I bet you’ll discover that this kind pub food is better than any you’ve ever had in the world!
Day 3 – April 21, Friday
Today is our gardens and flowers day … with our garden expert.
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 garden time, we’ll enjoy lunch at a temple of tofu and tempura, Izusen, to enjoy a healthy lunch in some truly stunning surroundings.
The description of this restaurant taken from shojincuisine.com is apt; I couldn’t possibly have stated it better. “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. Surely, you’ll want to pick up an artisanal souvenir or two.
This afternoon will be reserved for a very special and unique experience. Ayumi will instruct us on the basics of Ikebana – Japanese flower arranging – which incorporates components of Buddhist/Zen philosophy. You’ll also get to make a Keshiki ike, which is a scenic arrangement using the same concepts we learned about on our garden tours earlier today.
Tonight’s meal and final night in Kyoto will be exciting indeed. We’ll take a little walk through Gion followed by a Geisha show and dinner by the river. 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.
Day 4 – April 22, Saturday
Check out and depart with our guide to Naoshima Island by train and ferry. Today’s lunch will be a packed picnic lunch that we can enjoy as we travel.
On route,we’ll stop at Okayama Korakuen, one of Japan’s most celebrated gardens created 300 years ago for a visit. By the afternoon we’ll arrive at our hotel for the next three nights and check in.
Our unique minimalist-style boutique hotel My Lodge is a project in conjunction with the home brand Muji, and lucky for us all of our rooms have sea views. Take a rest, relax, unpack and discover the hotel and its surroundings.
This evening, we’ll have the unique chance to view the Open Sky Exhibit, James Turrell’s installation, around sunset. This nature/art experience will certainly move you. It’s a good introduction of what’s in store for you on this very special Japanese island.
Tonight’s meal will be back at the hotel’s French/Japanese fusion restaurant. After your meal, at the hotel’s bar we’ll enjoy a Japanese whiskey tasting. Think you don’t like whiskey? Japanese whiskey – smooth with a touch sweet – will change your mind!
Day 5 – April 23, Sunday
Today we’ll head out to see the highlights of this magical isle.
We’ll check out the Chichu Art museum designed by famed Japanese 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.
After all this, we’ll certainly be getting peckish. Today’s lunch at the museum will be Kaiseki cuisine based around the seafood found in the local waters at Issen.
This afternoon we’ll visit the art and architecture project based around water by Architect Hiroshi Sanbuichi.
Tonight’s meal, just to switch it up a bit, will occur at a funky rock-n-roll, American-style diner – Shioya – that is completely kitch and over the top.
Day 6 – April 24, Monday
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.
Depending on the weather, today’s lunch will be at the open-air 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 celebratory sushi at the New Oympia. 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!
Day 7 – April 25, Tuesday
After our breakfast, we’ll have to bid each other adieu, or perhaps we shall say “Mata zehi” (I had a great time and hope to see you again soon!) Your return to the Tokyo airport will be all arranged for you.