AIA Tours: land

Japan: Ancient & Medieval Treasures & Temples

Tour Dates: October 14-30, 2024 (17 days)

Tour Leader(s): Ilona Bausch ,

Join us in Japan during the autumn season for this comprehensive, luxurious tour exploring the many elements that make Japan’s cultural and natural heritage exceptional. Appreciate firsthand the Japanese pursuit of artistic beauty in imperfection and simplicity. Visit five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and four Japan-designated “National Treasures.” Together with our AIA lecturer/host, Dr. Ilona Bausch, and expert local guides you will learn about Japan’s prehistory, history, and culture from the remarkable early Jōmon culture to the present.

Highlights:

  • Learn about Japan’s extraordinary prehistoric Jōmon culture through a variety of site visits and activities: visit the sites of Sannai Maruyama, with ruins of a large Jōmon settlement, and Umenoki, with its reconstructions of Jōmon pit houses; explore the Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology and the Shakado Museum of Jōmon Culture; participate in a Jōmon-style cooking demonstration; and try your hand at creating a small piece of Jōmon-style pottery.
  • Admire the design and art of two impressive, ancient tumuli: Ishibutai Kofun, a tumulus from the late Kofun period (A.D. 300 to 538), formed by 30 massive stones weighing approximately 2,300 tons; and the Center for Preservation of the Kitora Tumulus Mural Paintings, where mural paintings and artifacts from the 7th/8th-century Kitora Tumulus are preserved and exhibited.
  • Stroll through the beautiful, carefully designed grounds of several iconic temples, including Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple; Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple, with three gilded wooden Buddha statues; Nara’s Todaiji Temple, with one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha statues; and Kyoto’s renowned Kinkakuji Temple (“Golden Pavilion”).
  • Gaze upon natural wonders such as Oirase Stream, famous for its waterfalls and its trees’ autumnal colors; Oishi Park, one of the five scenic lakes at the foot of Mt. Fuji and the best place to view Mt. Fuji; and Oshino Hakkai, a former pilgrimage site that is a collection of eight beautiful ponds fed by clear water from Mt. Fuji.
  • Enjoy special events and meals, including a private tea ceremony; a winery visit, including a meeting with the owner and a wine tasting; a wadaiko (taiko) traditional drum lesson and performance; a special dinner with a geisha and a maiko (apprentice geisha); and two traditional, multi-course, kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) dinners.
  • Relax and let the tour manager handle all the logistics, including porterage and bullet train transfers; and rest at luxurious 4- and 5-star hotels throughout.

Tour Prices (15 nights):

Per person, double occupancy

(14-16 participants) $16,545
(11-13 participants) $18,295
Single Supplement $2,995

With fewer than 11 participants, a small group surcharge may be added. Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required.

To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).

Sita deer at Nara Park

Kyoto-Tenryuij temple

Lake Towada

Sannai-Maruyama site, Amori

Itinerary


 Monday, October 14, 2024: Depart home

Tuesday, October 15: Arrive Tokyo, Japan | Transfer to hotel

Wednesday, October 16: Tokyo: Meiji Jingu Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo National Museum, Wadaiko lesson | Welcome dinner

Thursday, October 17: Bullet train to Shin-Aomori | Sannai Maruyama Jōmon Archaeological Site | Oirase

Friday, October 18: AM at leisure OR guided walk at Oirase Stream | Towada Art Center | Oirase

Saturday, October 19: Hachinohe: Korekawa Archaeological Institution | Bullet trains to Utsunomiya | Nikko

Sunday, October 20: Nikko: Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park

Monday, October 21: Karuizawa | Hokuto City Archaeology Museum | Hokuto

Tuesday, October 22: Chino: Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology, Suwa Taisha Shrine | Nagawa: Obsidian Museum | Hokuto

Wednesday, October 23: Hokuto: Misogi Shrine | Umenoki Site and Jōmon Experiential Programs | Hokuto

Thursday, October 24: Hokuto City Center for Archaeological Research | Katsunuma City: Winery visit | Fuefuki: Shakado Museum of Jōmon Culture | Fujikawaguchiko

Friday, October 25: Mt. Fuji area: Oishi Park | Itchiku Kubota Art Museum | Oshino Hakkai | Bullet train to Kyoto | Nara

Saturday, October 26: Asuka Village | Nara

Sunday, October 27: Nara: Nara Palace Site Historical Park, Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, National Museum | Kyoto

Monday, October 28: Kyoto area: Tenryuji Temple, Optional rickshaw ride & Shojin ryori lunch, Kinkakuji Temple, Private tea ceremony, Dinner with geisha/maiko performance

Tuesday, October 29: Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, Murin-an Garden Villa, Nijo-jo Castle | Farewell dinner

Wednesday, October 30: Osaka | Fly home

 

 

View Detailed Itinerary

Itinerary
B= Breakfast • L= Lunch • D= Dinner

Monday, October 14, 2024: Depart home
Board independent flights to Tokyo, Japan.

Tuesday, October 15: Arrive Tokyo, Japan | Transfer to hotel
Arrive today at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT), where you will be met and transferred as a group to our hotel in Tokyo. Alternatively, you may arrive at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport (HND) and schedule a private transfer (at additional cost) to our hotel in Tokyo. Overnight at the 5-star Hotel New Otani Tokyo for two nights.

Wednesday, October 16: Tokyo: Meiji Jingu Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Tokyo National Museum, Wadaiko lesson | Welcome dinner
This morning we visit Meiji Jingu Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. People from all over Japan and the world donated 100,000 trees to commemorate their virtues. Next, visit the lively old downtown of Asakusa, home to Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Walk through the Kaminarimon Gate with its huge red lantern, and then stroll the Nakamise Dori street leading to the temple. After lunch we spend some time in the Tokyo National Museum, with the best collection of art and archaeological artifacts in Japan. Before returning to our hotel, we learn about wadaiko (taiko, for short), a traditional Japanese drum, after which we may perform a song together, and then we will be treated to a short performance by a wadaiko master. This evening, we gather for a welcome dinner of kaiseki, Japanese haute cuisine. (B,L,D)

Thursday, October 17: Bullet train to Shin-Aomori | Sannai Maruyama Jōmon Archaeological Site | Oirase
Transfer this morning to the train station to take a high-speed shinkansen bullet train to Shin-Aomori. Upon arrival we will tour Aomori prefecture and receive an introduction to UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Jōmon Period archaeological sites – a period of Japanese prehistory that spans from approximately 13,500 B.C. to either 900 B.C. or 300 B.C., depending on the region. Explore the Sannai Maruyama site, with the ruins of a very large Jōmon period settlement. After lunch at the site, we continue to Oirase where we check-in to our hotel and then gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Friday, October 18: AM at leisure OR guided walk at Oirase Stream | Towada Art Center | Oirase
Enjoy the morning at leisure at our luxurious resort. Alternatively, take a guided, flat walk (for about one hour) along the Oirase Stream, which is famous for its waterfalls and its trees’ autumnal colors. After enjoying lunch together, visit the Towada Art Center, a contemporary art museum featuring 38 pieces of art created exclusively for the museum by renowned artists from Japan and abroad, including Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, Choi Jeong Hwa, and Ron Muek. Return to our hotel and gather this evening for dinner. (B,L,D)

Saturday, October 19: Hachinohe: Korekawa Archaeological Institution | Bullet trains to Utsunomiya | Nikko
This morning we visit the Korekawa Archaeological Institution, a museum with an extensive collection of excavated clay figurines and artifacts, including lacquered pottery and tools. Aomori prefecture is famous for its traditional lacquerware, created by techniques that date back to the Jōmon period. Here we will see the National Treasure of “Gassho Dogū,” a Jōmon period clay figurine. This afternoon, we take two shinkansen bullet trains to Utsunomiya, with an ekiben lunch box provided en route. Ekiben is a bento box, which is the most popular style of lunch for train travel. Upon arrival in Utsunomiya, we continue on by private motor coach to Nikko. Check-in to our hotel, settle in, and then gather for dinner. Overnight at the 4-star Nikko Kanaya Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Sunday, October 20: Nikko: Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple, Nikko Toshogu Shrine, Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park
This morning we visit two of the sites that comprise the UNESCO World Heritage Site of “Shrines and Temples of Nikko,” beginning with Nikkozan Rinnoji Temple. Established in A.D. 766 by Shodo Shonin, the first Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Nikko, it is the largest wooden structure in eastern Japan and houses three gilded wooden Buddha statues. Next we visit the early 17th-century Nikko Toshogu Shrine, which consists of more than a dozen buildings decorated with impressive carvings of spiritual animals and Chinese legends symbolizing peace. After lunch, we visit Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park, established in 1899 as a retreat for Emperor Taisho. Until 1947, the villa was used by three generations of Emperors and the Crown Princes. View the different architectural styles of the Edo, Meiji, and Taisho periods. Return to our hotel for the balance of the day, and dinner, at leisure. (B,L)

Monday, October 21: Karuizawa | Hokuto City Archaeology Museum | Hokuto
Today we drive to Yamanashi Prefecture, stopping along the way for lunch in Karuizawa. After arriving in the Yamanashi Prefecture, known for its abundant pure water, climate, and the “Jōmon Kingdom Yamanashi,” visit the Hokuto City Archaeology Museum. The museum showcases a number of important Jōmon artifacts, including dogū (abstract clay figurines) and clay pots. Check-in to our resort, get settled, and then gather for dinner. Overnight at the 4-star Hoshino Resort Risonare Yatsugatake for three nights. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, October 22: Chino: Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology, Suwa Taisha Shrine | Nagawa: Obsidian Museum | Hokuto
Drive to Chino today, to explore the influence that the Jōmon period had on the Nagano Prefecture. Our first stop is the Togariishi Museum of Jōmon Archaeology, boasting over 2,000 artifacts excavated from Jōmon sites located at the western foot of Yatsugatake Mountain. The highlights are two dogū designated as National Treasures: the “Jōmon Venus” from the Middle Jōmon period and the “Masked Goddess” from the Late Jōmon period. On the way to lunch we stop at the Suwa Taisha Shrine, the head of more than 10,000 Suwa Shrines throughout Japan and considered one of the oldest shrines in existence. This afternoon we visit Nagawa’s Obsidian Museum, whose exhibits introduce the 30,000-year-long history of utilizing obsidian mines from the Paleolithic to the Jōmon periods. The Jōmon people discovered obsidian in Japan and found that, when chipped the right way, it made very good arrowheads, knife blades, and other sharp tools. The balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy our resort and have dinner on your own. (B,L)

Wednesday, October 23: Hokuto: Misogi Shrine | Umenoki Site and Jōmon Experiential Programs | Hokuto
This morning we visit Misogi Shrine (the practice of “Misogi” is the purification of body and soul). The shrine, like many, has a stage for performing ceremonial dances, except that this one has a full-scale Noh theater stage floating on a sacred pond of pure water. Enjoy a stroll around the shrine before driving to the Umenoki Site to take part in some Jōmon experiential programs (subject to change). Remains of the Umenoki settlement from the Middle Jōmon period were excavated, and Jōmon pit houses were reconstructed. Join a local expert in learning about Jōmon life while participating in Jōmon-style cooking with a professional chef using gibier (wild game). After the light, Jōmon-style lunch, we will have the opportunity to create small Jōmon pottery or clay plates using techniques from thousands of years ago. Return to our resort for the balance of the day at leisure and dinner on your own. (B,L)

Thursday, October 24: Hokuto City Center for Archaeological Research | Katsunuma City: Winery visit | Fuefuki: Shakado Museum of Jōmon Culture | Fujikawaguchiko
Start the day with a visit to the Hokuto City Center for Archaeological Research to meet with staff and learn the process of what they do with an artifact from discovery to cataloguing. Continue on to a winery in Katsunuma City that is well known for its grape and wine production. Learn from the owner of the winery about the history of Japanese wine, and taste a few of their wines. After lunch, visit the Shakado Museum of Jōmon Culture, which boasts a thousand Jōmon dogū and artifacts excavated from Shakado, where extensive ruins were discovered in the early 1980s during construction of the Chuo Expressway. Arrive at our hotel in Fujikawaguchiko, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Fuji View Hotel. (B,L,D)

Friday, October 25: Mt. Fuji area: Oishi Park | Itchiku Kubota Art Museum | Oshino Hakkai | Bullet train to Kyoto | Nara
Take a morning tour of the Mt. Fuji area, stopping briefly at Oishi Park, one of the five scenic lakes at the foot of Mt. Fuji and the best place to view Mt. Fuji. Continue on to Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, a kimono gallery by famous Japanese artist Itchiku Kubota, whose colorful kimonos are highly regarded worldwide. Before departing on the shinkansen bullet train for Kyoto, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Oshino Hakkai, a collection of eight beautiful ponds fed by clear water from Mt. Fuji. During the Edo period, these ponds were a place of pilgrimage where worshippers purified their bodies and souls before climbing Mt. Fuji. Lunch will be an ekiben (bento box) provided aboard the train. After arriving in Kyoto, we transfer to Nara and check-in to our hotel, where the evening and dinner are on your own. Overnight at the 4-star JW Marriott Hotel Nara for two nights. (B,L)

Saturday, October 26: Asuka Village | Nara
Take a day trip to Asuka Village, starting with a visit to the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, a museum dedicated to exhibiting artifacts from sites in Nara Prefecture, ranging from the Late Stone Age (approx. 40,000 B.C.–10,000 B.C.) to the Muromachi period (A.D. 1336-1573). Also visit the Center for Preservation of the Kitora Tumulus Mural Paintings, where mural paintings and artifacts from the 7th/8th-century Kitora Tumulus are preserved. The murals from the tomb’s ceiling were of ancient Chinese-style astronomical charts and have been designated National Treasures. This museum illustrates the history of the excavation and preservation techniques. Continue on to a visit to Ishibutai Kofun, a tumulus from the late Kofun period (A.D. 300 to 538), formed by 30 massive stones weighing approximately 2,300 tons. Our last stop of the day is at the small Asukadera Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. Enjoy dinner in Asuka Village before returning to Nara. (B,L,D)

Sunday, October 27: Nara: Nara Palace Site Historical Park, Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, National Museum | Kyoto
Begin this morning visiting Nara Palace Site Historical Park, where Japan’s first capital was located in the 8th century; and Nara Park, where more than 1,200 freely roaming deer are believed to be messengers of the gods. While in the park we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Todaiji Temple, where we see one of Japan’s largest bronze statues of Buddha (Daibutsu). The temple is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples. Continue on to Nara National Museum, the second oldest museum in Japan, with collections of Buddhist art. Its main room houses statues that are designated National Treasures. Drive to our hotel in Kyoto where we check-in, get settled, and enjoy dinner independently. Overnight at the 5-star Hotel Okura Kyoto for three nights. (B,L)

Monday, October 28: Kyoto area: Tenryuji Temple, Optional rickshaw ride & Shojin ryori lunch, Kinkakuji Temple, Private tea ceremony, Dinner with geisha/maiko performance
Today is spent on the western outskirts of Kyoto, in the Arashiyama district, beginning with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tenryuji Temple. First established in 1339 by Shogun Ashikaga, it is ranked first among Kyoto’s five important Zen temples. It has suffered eight major fires, and has been rebuilt and restored along the way. Either enjoy the balance of the morning at leisure in Arashiyama, exploring independently and having lunch on your own; or experience an optional rickshaw ride and shojin ryori lunch (additional cost). On the rickshaw ride, explore the highlights of Arashiyama, its major bamboo grove, and serene backroads. Your shojin ryori lunch, prepared by a monk in the Tenryuji Temple, is the traditional vegan cuisine of Buddhist monks in Japan.

This afternoon we gather and drive to northern Kyoto to visit Kinkakuji Temple (“Golden Pavilion”), Kyoto’s iconic landmark and one of the most gorgeous temples in Japan. The gold-leaf-adorned pagoda was built to house sacred relics of the Buddha, and in the 14th century the complex included the retirement villa for shogun Yoshimitsue Ashikaga, which was converted to a Zen temple after his death. Also experience a private tea ceremony in a traditional tea room. Enjoy a bowl of matcha powdered green tea with Japanese sweets carefully prepared by the tea master. This evening, while we enjoy dinner, a geisha (traditional, female, Japanese performing artist/entertainer) and a maiko (apprentice geisha) will join us to talk, perform a traditional dance, and play games. Questions about their lives are welcomed, and our guide will assist us in communicating with them. (B,D)

Tuesday, October 29: Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, Murin-an Garden Villa, Nijo-jo Castle | Farewell dinner
Begin the day visiting Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in A.D. 778 and one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. It is dedicated to Kannon, a deity of mercy and compassion and, as it is located on the steep slope of Mt. Otowa, it offers one of the most dramatic views of Kyoto’s cityscape amid autumn colors. Next, we make our way to the 15th-century Jishoji Temple, which has been more commonly known as Ginkakuji Temple (“Silver Pavilion”) since the Edo period. Make a visit to the 19th-century Murin-an Garden Villa, whose garden is a modern Japanese masterpiece. Our final stop of the day is at the early 17th-century Nijo-jo Castle, a former imperial villa that was the Kyoto residence of generations of Shogun until 1867. Return to our hotel to freshen up before we gather for a farewell dinner of kaiseki, Japanese haute cuisine. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, October 30: Osaka | Fly home
Transfer as a group this morning to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) for flights homeward. (B)

 


For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

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