March 27- April 4, 2020
March 26 Arrive on Thursday to Tokyo (or before), rest and recover from your long journey at the hotel of your choice, recommendations will be available. (Note: this night’s hotel is not included).
27 Travel to Kyoto
Meet in Tokyo and take the train to Kyoto. Stay 4 nights here. (Train travel is included)
If you can’t sleep in today we’ll meet at 5am at the fish market for an early breakfast of Sushi. While the market isn’t what it once was because the main market has moved outside of town to a new venue, the small outer stalls remain open and this is one of the very best ways to experience sushi in all of Japan.
Mid-day train to Kyoto, upon arrival we’ll check into our Hotel or Villa and get settled in.
There are two places to stay and you will be able to choose especially if you book early. We will be doing a lot of our classes (like the Ikebana flower class) at the villa. The villa has one tatami style room with futons, the traditional way to sleep for the Japanese and two regular rooms. I’ve done it and its absolute bliss unless you have a hard time getting down to the ground (IE an injury or severe arthritis).
The hotel is Hotel Carta with normal beds and its only a 5 minute walk to the Villa.
The hotel and Villa are in the Gion district, aka the Geisha district. It’s one of the most charming places to stay in Kyoto. Learn a bit more about the area here.
This evening over sake and drinks we’ll learn about the concept and history of Wabi-Sabi as well as a bit more about the National Living Treasure Artists that we’ll be visiting.
Tonight we’ll get to experience a traditional royal Kaiseki feast (a 10-course meal focused on season ingredients) – if you’ve never experienced this it is guaranteed to blow you away! Don’t worry they serve it to you in very small courses.
3/28 Temples, Tea and Cherries
Today we’ll visit the top 2 temples in Kyoto, the golden temple Kinkaku-ji as well as Kiyomizurdera plus we’ll visit the key cherry blossom sights.
We’ll lunch at the oldest noodle house in Japan, which is over 400 years old.
This afternoon we’ll learn about the Japanese Tea ceremony which is a lot more involved and fascinating that you might ever have imagined.
Tonight we’ll have a Whiskey tasting, Japanese whiskey is so good even a non-whiskey drink will enjoy it. The tasting will be followed by Okonomiyaki at one of the hot spots known for this Japanese comfort food. Note: Okonomiyaki is a cabbage pancake which sounds unusual but its magnificent!
After our meal we’ll visit 600 cherry trees all lit up in Maruyama Park which has been created specifically for night viewing.
3/29 Japanese Gardens & Flowers – Zen Gardens and Ikebana
Today we’ll see the top two Zen gardens in Kyoto – the Ryoan-ji Temple & Heianjingu. After our visits, we’ll lunch at a tofu temple where we will be able to savor the distinct difference between the tofu we buy at the store and homemade tofu.
This afternoon we’ll learn about Ikebana. This is traditional Japanese flower arranging and every placement of a flower stands for something elemental even trying our own hand at it.
Tonight we’ll change things up by enjoying a modern Japanese meal created by one of Kyoto’s better chefs.
3/30/20 Pottery, Fabric, Geishas and Sushi!
Today we’ll learn a bit about Japanese Pottery and why raku commands such extremely high prices. We’ll also learn about hand-dyed Japanese indigo fabrics and later have the chance to purchase some of this iconic, beautiful fabric fashioned into clothing and home goods . We’ll also learn a bit more about the world of the geisha and later enjoy some free time for shopping or photography.
Tonight we’ll splurge on an incredible, unforgettable sushi dinner.
3/31 Zen Temples
Today we head to Mt Koya-san via train and funicular. En route, if time, we’ll stop at Fushimi Inari, the Tori Shinto Shrine famous for the many hundreds of bright red-orange Tori gates you pass through as you walk up to the top!
Later when we arrive to Mt. Koya mountain we’ll explore this Mecca for Buddhists only on foot. There are no cars allowed here, so the atmosphere of the small town is as peaceful as any place in Japan. Here we’ll check out some of the most historic and interesting Buddhist Temples in Mt. Koya and make an offering.
Tonight we will have the chance to spend the night at a Buddhist Monastery with time left to soak in their Onsen baths before we relish a vegetarian feast for our nightly meal.
4/1 From Calmness to the Big City of Art
Enjoy an early hike up into the mountains to watch the sunrise. Take part in a prayer ceremony with the monks, this is something you won’t ever forget. Head to Kanazawa by train, as it’s a fairly long journey so we’ll enjoy a bento box picnic on the train.
Check-in to our hotel in Kanazawa allowing time to rest and unpack. Kanazawa is situated between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps on the water. Tonight we’ll dine at a yakiniku (a Japanese BBQ) restaurant where they serve Noto beef – a popular breed of Wagyu which is raised in Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture just north of Kanazawa.
4/2 Art Adventure in Kanazawa
Today we’ll have the pleasure of visiting 7 or so artists with Nana Onishi at their studios including those who specialize in Japanese metalwork, ceramics, lacquer or kimonos. Some of these artists are National Treasures, these are the best at what they do in the entire country.
We’ll stop for lunch at an Izkaya, a traditional Japanese pub. We’ll drink beer and try Tonkatsu, oysters, tempura or whatever strikes our fancy on the menu.
Some artist visits will continue into the afternoon. In addition this afternoon we’ll explore the city’s well preserved historical district Higasi Chaya, the geisha district which is chock full of traditional tea rooms. While in the area, we’ll pop into Ochaya Shima which is a historical geisha house now preserved as a museum. Here we’ll see how the geisha lived and worked while we enjoy a cup of green tea and a sweet.
Tonights meal will be at a well-known French restaurant situated in a 100-year-old tea house for a change of scenery and taste. One of the chef’s specialties are vegetables from nearby Ishikawa called “Kaga vegetables”. Fresh fish from the area will also be on offer.
4/3 Gardens, Samurai’s and Onsen Baths
Rise early (for those who want to) to visit Kanazawa’s fish market, Omicho, a smaller version of the one in Tokyo and more friendly. After breakfast and check-out of our hotel, the whole group will visit the 29 acre Kenroku-en Garden considered by the Japanese as one of the top three gardens in the country where we will take a contemplative walk. For lunch we’ll savor a simple yet delicious Ramen lunch with Gyoza appetizers. After if time allows we’ll visit the Nomura Clan Samurai Home before heading to our last and final destination, Yamanaka Onsen.
Yamanaka Onsen (山中温泉), is a small resort town along the Kakusenkei Gorge discovered 1300 years ago by the Monk Kaga Onsen and is considered one of Japan’s best hot springs. Here we’ll check into the Kayotei Onsen a traditional Japanese Ryokan Inn known for its exceptional food and tranquil beauty. This afternoon we’ll relish time spent in the onsen bath, walking along the gorge and listening to the rushing river. In the evening we’ll delight on an exception Kaiseki meal. As the late Anthony Bourdain said about the Kaiseki experience, “Designed to create lasting memories, the experience of the meal goes beyond the edible.”
Our last day will end in relaxation and in nature allowing us time to soak in the other-worldly experiences we’ve had over the course of our 8 nights in Japan.
4/4 Check out & Departure Day
Enjoy a delicious Japanese breakfast and perhaps one last soak before heading back to Tokyo and then home.
Everything is included that is stated above. All lodging in Kyoto and Mount Koya-san, all meals, all drinks at meals including sake/beer/wine, all guides, masters and experts, entry tickets into all temples and garden, train tickets plus all classes. All transportation during the 9 days and 8 nights is included.
What’s not included:
Trip insurance which is highly recommended, your flight to Japan and the transfer to your hotel as well as your stay in Tokyo. Any souvenirs you might wish to buy plus extra alcoholic drinks beyond those offered at meals.
Cost is $7995
Save $600 if you wish to share a room in Kyoto.
For our one night stay in Mt Koya-san we will be sharing rooms because that’s normally how it works at the monastery.
To save your spot email Doni Belau at [email protected] and we will schedule a call with you. Once you decide to commit, GG2P will ask you to pay your deposit of $2000. Your balance will be due by about 8 weeks before the trip departs.