Kyoto is famous for its Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, traditional wooden houses, kaiseki dining and geisha. Blessed with one of the most distinct cultures on the planet, Japan is home to several unique and defining arts and nowhere else can you find so many Japanese art forms in one place as in the ancient capital of Kyoto.
Kyoto is one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, and the place most travelers dream of when envisioning Japan. It is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites, was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years and remains the heart and soul of traditional Japan. Today, it is a large modern city but retains many of its long-established traditions; it is teeming with beautiful and well-preserved pockets where time seems to move more slowly.
On this exclusive ‘The Way of Kyoto’ Hosted tour we will learn about, well, ‘The Ways’ of Kyoto! The culture of green tea – Sado (茶道), the art of incense appreciation – Kodo (香道), and the art of flower arranging as an art form – Kado (華道), better known as ikebana. We will learn to make wagashi (Japanese sweets), and will try our hand at Kyo-yaki, the general term for pottery created in Kyoto. We will discover an array of delights at an amazing craft market; visit incredible gardens & temples; wander the famous Nishiki market and the fabulous boutique stores of the surrounding area; and we will take a day out in the country to visit the stunning Miho Museum.
Along the way, we will also enjoy various culinary specialties including Kyozushi (Kyoto sushi), yudofu (boiled tofu), Obanzai Ryori (the traditional home style cooking of Kyoto), shojin ryori (vegetarian Temple cuisine), and kaiseki.
This tour really is all about the best of Japanese art & craft, food and amazing local shopping experiences. We will be exploring behind the scenes Kyoto and will learn with local specialists, artisans and makers.
This incredible tour is perfect for first time or returning visitors to Japan; for those looking for a quick, but in-depth, taste of Japanese culture in an amazing city, or for returning visitors who feel the need to have an immersive deep-dive into an incredible culture.
26 MAY 2023 – 03 JUNE 2023
– from $7315 per person Twin Rate
– from $8560 per person Single Rate
– from $6585 per person Twin Rate
– from $7680 per person Single Rate
*Rates are based on 6 Guests.
*Rates are per person based on Twin Share & Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full.
*A ‘Willing to Share’ for Single Travelers may be possible on this tour.
*International Airfares are not included. PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE.
Arrive at Tokyo, pass through immigration; collect your luggage and clear customs. *If you have booked an arrival transfer though us, then our assistant will meet you just outside of the secure area, and they will take you to the hotel by private van transfer.
Check into the hotel and relax.
Arrival time is relatively late this evening, so have a good rest, ready for the week ahead.
Overnight: The Millennium Hotel Tokyo Ginza.
The best way to discover a city, is by walking it and riding it’s rails. Today we do both..
Our first stop this morning, is a visit to the Tsujiki Outer Market – located on the edge of Tokyo Bay the market is a maze of streets where we can feast on fresh sushi, or pick up unique souvenirs, ranging from seaweed to sushi knives to handmade ceramics. We can take some time to see the knives at the likes of Tsujiki Masamoto.
From here, we walk to the Ginza district. Ginza is Tokyo’s most famous up-market shopping, dining, and entertainment district. It is known for its architecture, dining, tea rooms, entertainment, and attractions. We stop at Ginza 6 to visit Tsutaya – one of Tokyo’s most divine ‘design’ bookstores.
We visit the Mitsukoshi Ginza Depachika Food Hall. The in-house food halls – or depachika – are known for their comprehensive array of gorgeous sweets and confectionery, immaculately packaged food, ready-to-eat dishes and picture-perfect bento.
We will stop at Itoya – one of the city’s most beautiful and well-stocked stationary shops. We will walk past Ginza Place, Louis Vuitton Ginza, Mikimoto 2 and then jump on a train and travel to Shibuya to see the famous crossing. After this, we visit the Shibuya Sky Tower and the 360° open-air observation deck located on the roof. Shibuya Sky is more than just an observatory: it spans three floors and has an indoor section which incorporates dazzling digital art displays to encourage you to see the city in a different way. On the 46th floor, there is a café and bar, where we can sit back with a drink as we enjoy the aerial views of Tokyo.
After all this excitement, it is time to slow down with a cocktail at The Bellwood before we return to the hotel.
Overnight: The Millennium Hotel Tokyo Ginza. (B / L / Cocktail)
This morning we taxi to the station and board our shinkansen to Kyoto. This is about a 2 hour journey. *we can grab a Bento Box at the station before we board for our lunch.
On arrival in Kyoto, we are met by our Guide, and we visit Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion perhaps Kyoto’s most iconic site. Originally built as a retirement villa for the Shogun, after his death it became a Buddhist Temple at his request and is now one of Kyoto’s most famous temples. We also visit visit the serene UNESCO World Heritage Ryoanji and its famous Zen rock garden.
When you hear the water splash into the tea bowl, the dust in your mind is washed away –Sen no Rikyu.
The Japanese tea ceremony, Chadō or “The Way of Tea”, is a Japanese tradition steeped in history; a ceremonial way of preparing and drinking green tea. Beyond just serving and receiving tea, one of the primary purposes of the tea ceremony is for the guests to enjoy the host’s hospitality in an atmosphere distinct from the fast pace of everyday life.
This afternoon we immerse in a modern version of the Tea Ceremony. While we still pair Japanese tea with different seasonal sweets, it’s not completely traditional. This tea ceremony has been modernized with thoughtful design – minimal, classic, and mysterious – and unique ingredients. Architecture, art, the Japanese sense of beauty… it all relates back to tea. This is an ethereal experience where you enjoy the essence and intimacy of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in a more experimental setting.
After this sublime ceremony, we transfer to our hotel, and our evening is free.
Overnight: Cross Hotel Kyoto (B / Tea Ceremony)
Ikebana, also known as kado or the “Way of Flowers”, is much more than sticking flowers in a vase. Flower arranging is an art requiring patience and discipline and encourages using other parts of a plant, including the leaves, stems, and stalks. Ikebana is an authentic Japanese art through which you appreciate the beauty of simplicity; everything is considered to the smallest detail, including the size and shape of the flowers, trunks, leaves and branches. By observing the beauty and serenity of nature, you incorporate the Buddhist concepts of peace, harmony, and reverence into your life. Ikebana is an opportunity to slow the mind, release stress and be in tune with nature.
This morning we transfer to a ryokan on quiet Kyoto street in the old Shimabara pleasure quarter. We will have tea, learn about the history of ikebana and try our hand at creating a small classical arrangement of Sogetsu style ikebana. Sogetsu is grounded in traditional Japanese aesthetics while also proposing that ikebana can be done “anytime, anywhere, using any materials.”
Lunch is at a casual Japanese restaurant opened to introduce people to the natural bounty of Kyoto prefecture’s Tango peninsula. The main ingredients in the seasonal menu are rice cultivated in-house and vegetables procured from nearby farmers.
After lunch, we visit the Kyoto Handicraft Center – a store with seven floors of crafts, where we can watch artisans create various arts. There are plenty of high-quality goods that make for the perfect souvenirs: woodblock prints, yukata, pottery, and jewelry.
Return to the hotel for rest & refresh. We can then meet in the bar for a quick cocktail (own expense) before we depart for our fabulous evening with a Maiko.
When hearing the word “Japan,” one’s mind immediately conjures up images of Geiko with their elaborate hairstyles, white-painted faces and bright red lips, wrapped in an elegant kimono. This evening, we have an opportunity to have dinner with a “Maiko”, an apprentice Geiko. Our dinner will be kaiseki ryori (traditional multi-course dinner) and during the dinner, there is ample opportunity to interact with the hostess and ask questions about her craft and the world of Maiko. She will perform traditional dances and even invite guests to play Japanese drinking games.
After this unforgettable experience, it is time to return to the hotel and wind down from the day’s events.
Overnight: Overnight: Cross Hotel Kyoto. (B / L / D)
Natural indigo has been regarded as a coveted dye for centuries worldwide. Japanese Indigo is taken from the “Tade” plant, unique to Japan, and is famous for giving an intense colour. Compared to other indigo dyes, the natural colour of Aizenkobo in Japan is said to be more reminiscent of an eggplant colour. While the dye’s colour is relatively intense, it takes multiple steps to dye clothes with the Aizenkobo method. Some works require the dye to be applied from 15 to 16 or even 40 to 50 times to achieve optimal results.
This morning is all about Shibori at Aizen Kobo. The Aizenkobo Workshop is a famous indigo dyeing shop and workshop and is highly regarded for its beautiful works of dyeing. Boasting generations of skilled artisans, the artisans of Aizenkobo are some of the best Kyoto has to offer. The family business first started in the kimono weaving industry but later switched to indigo dyeing. We will tour the building and see the processes.
Lunch at Kanei for soba. It is said that Kanei makes the best soba in Kyoto and soba otaku make the pilgrimage here from all over Japan to sample these sublime noodles. The handmade noodles at this humble little soba restaurant genuinely earn the title of artisanal.
After our noodles, we will walk through the Nishijin Textile and Weaving district. We visit Orinasu-kan to learn about the Nishijin district’s long history as Kyoto’s textile district, presented in an atmospheric old Kyoto wooden workshop.
We return to the hotel for a rest and refresh.
This evening, we can take a stroll through the atmospheric, lantern-lit alleyway of Pontocho. Ponto-chō is composed of a single narrow street extending along the Kamogawa River that comes to life at night as the small restaurants, teahouses, and bars open their doors. The perfect place to end a night soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying a few drinks.
We return to the hotel, and our evening is free.
Overnight: Overnight: Cross Hotel Kyoto. (B / L)
This morning we visit Saihō-ji, Koke-dera Moss Garden. Koke-dera, which means “Moss Temple” is one of the most aptly named temples in Kyoto. It’s a lush green paradise with over 120 types of moss present in the two-tiered garden, resembling a beautiful green carpet with many subtle shades. Built on the site of an ancient temple, Saiho-ji Temple was restored and made into a Zen temple in 1339 by the monk Muso Soseki, who is also said to have designed the upper tier of the garden. It is acclaimed by many as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Kodo (Koh-do) means “Way of the Fragrance.” Along with Sado (The Way of Tea) and kado or ikebana (The Way of Flower Arrangement), it is one of the three principal classical arts that any woman of refinement was expected to learn. This morning, we will focus on traditional incense making. We will visit a 200-year-old incense company – Yamado Matsu – and take part in a traditional practice known as kneaded incense. After being introduced to incense materials, we make our own original blend kneaded incense. We all know about the power of the sense of smell, how a scent can instantly transport a person back to a place from their childhood etc. In Japan, the burning of incense has been transporting people to a different spiritual plane for many centuries.
Kodo is said to have ten physical and psychological benefits or virtues: Sharpens the senses – Purifies the mind and body – Removes mental or spiritual “pollutants” – Promotes alertness – Heals feelings of loneliness – Creates a feeling of harmony even under stress – is not overwhelming – Satisfies – Does not decay even over centuries – Does no harm even if used every day. As you deeply inhale and analyse the fragrant smoke, earthy notes of spice or citrus begin to take shape: and the story of that particular incense is being told.
We will take a fragrance factory tour of the Shoyeido Incense Co.
Lunch today is tempura lightly fried in shiroshibori oil.
We stop for a coffee at Otafuku, a retro kissaten. These retro cafes serve ink-black coffee, and hints of European belle époque. We’ll have to descend the stairs to this warm little basement café, and as we walk through the door, the din of downtown Kyoto subsides, replaced by cool jazz along the lines of Miles Davis.
En route back to the hotel, we walk through the Nishiki-koji food market, known to the locals as Kyoto daidokoro or Kyoto’s kitchen. There is an eye-popping assortment of fresh seafood, meats, pickles, tofu, miso, Kyoto’s famous vegetable varieties (Kyo-yasai) and many other local delicacies – and of course, there will be plenty of foods to sample. We will explore the local vicinity, including incredible design and gallery stores, handmade paper shops, a famous Kyoto tea store, antique and textile specialists. We’ll visit shops specialising in items for the cooking and dining enthusiast; think finely crafted chopsticks, placemats, dishes, storage containers, knives and other distinctly Japanese kitchen utensils.
We return to the hotel with our goodies for a rest and refresh.
Overnight: Overnight: Cross Hotel Kyoto. (B / L)
Today after breakfast, we drive out of Kyoto for a day trip. We will head into the countryside for amazing architecture, art, nature and traditional ceramics.
In the hills of Shiga Prefecture, the Miho Museum is as famous for its unusual architecture as for its impressive collection of historical artefacts. It was designed by the renowned architect I. M. Pei (the Louvre Pyramid, anyone?). It is named after Koyama Mihoko, a textile company heiress and founder of the Shinji Shumeikai spiritual movement. She is also one of Japan’s wealthiest women.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the museum is the design of its structures and how they are integrated into their natural surroundings. This is highlighted in the museum’s 500m approach, which leads through a mixture of artificial and natural environments. As you pass through the beautifully illuminated tunnel and the suspension bridge spanning the hidden valley, you will feel as though you stepped into “Shangri-La” on earth. The inside of the museum continues this theme by contrasting steel and glass with warm stone and panoramic views of the surrounding valleys. The museum’s exhibits consist of works from ancient civilisations and various Asian cultures, with the pieces mainly coming from Koyama’s private collection.
We then travel to Shigaraki town, where we will have lunch.
Shigaraki is home of the world-famous Shigaraki-yaki (Shigaraki ware) and this hillside town has a centuries-long history in pottery making. The central area of Shigaraki retains a nostalgic atmosphere with studios, galleries and houses stand close together along quaint narrow streets. Dotted around are the remaining traditional-type kilns, anagama (literally “cave kiln”) and noborigama (multi-chambered climbing kiln). On a stroll, we visit some local pottery artisans, where we can view their kilns, workshops, and galleries. Most of the studios and galleries in Shigaraki are attached to the potter’s residences, allowing you to see their workspaces and experience parts of the artisan families’ daily life. Many of the ceramic vessels you’ll see when touring Kyoto, and indeed throughout Japan, originate in Shigaraki.
Shigarakiyaki ceramics tend to be rough in appearance with a special feel and is used to serve traditional kaiseki cuisine. Its’ popularity is all thanks to the work of master Kenzo Ogawa, who brought ceramics back into fashion.
We return to Kyoto and to the hotel. Your evening is free.
Overnight: Overnight: Dhawa Yura Kyoto (B / L)
We will experience “Kyogashi” or the ‘Way of Sweets’ this morning at Kanshundo, in Higashiyama. Wagashi are traditional Japanese confections known for their delicate beauty and their seasonal motifs —thus, they have earned a reputation as “edible art.” Sweets have been part of life in Japan for thousands of years. They appear as offerings at festivals and religious ceremonies, are served at tea gatherings and are, of course, enjoyed as everyday snacks. What makes wagashi unique is how their intentional designs of flowers and plants evoke the transient beauty of the seasons.
Kyo-gashi is the wagashi of Kyoto, known for its notably subdued, elegant colours, and is meant to be appreciated with all of the five senses. In this workshop, we will learn how to make a few types of delicate Kyoto style wagashi as the teacher instructs us on the techniques used to shape the Kyo-gashi. We will enjoy our finished creations with matcha green tea.
We have a lunch reservation at a fabulous sushi restaurant.
From here, we walk through the Higashiyama area to the Gion area. We will wander Shinbashi-Dori, Kyoto’s most famous antiques street, which runs straight to the Tatsumi Bridge – a hotspot for Kyoto visitors dressed in beautiful kimonos to stand amidst a backdrop of the Shirakawa Canal and its striking scenery. Just get lost amongst the beautifully preserved streets, awash with traditional wooden machiya houses, tea houses, sweet shops, kaiseki restaurants, and unique boutiques.
We make one last stop at Kagizen Wagashi Shop, one of Kyoto’s oldest and most esteemed tea and sweet shops. It has a serene tea room out back where you can enjoy traditional sweets with cups of thick matcha tea.
We return to the hotel to rest and refresh.
Tonight we will meet in the hotel bar for a Farewell Drink.
We then enjoy our farewell meal in a small restaurant located just along the philosophers path; a calm serene place located just near Ginkakuji in Kyoto. Simple food prepared by the primitive way of cooking around live “Fire”.
Overnight: Overnight: Cross Hotel Kyoto (B / L / Farewell Dinner)
Your final day. Say farewell to Kyoto!
Enjoy a lazy breakfast and then prepare for our your transfer to Osaka Airport. (B)
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