The richness of Japan’s history and art is immediate and tangible, but the culture that produced it often seems impenetrable. Move beyond appearances on this popular 16-day tour and gain comprehensive insight into the beauty and mystique of this wonderful land, from its Shinto and Buddhist temples and Zen gardens to its hypermodern cities and contemporary quirks. Explore old and new world Tokyo, understand the devastation at Hiroshima, and enjoy a week in Kyoto, discovering its temples, museums and traditions, with day trips to Nara, the ancient capital, and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama.
The contrast of a contemporary metropolis against the backdrop of Edo-period Tokyo
The serene history of some of Japan’s finest landscaped gardens and shrines
Complex military pasts: from Kanazawa’s wooden teahouses and Samurai culture to Hiroshima’s peace memorials
The floating world of the geisha in Kyoto’s Gion
An overwhelming cultural patrimony in art and history, dating back to the 6th century
A unique cuisine using the freshest produce that perfectly reflects the seasons
Hyper-modern Tokyo’s bright lights, quirky youth culture and staggering range of private and public museums
Kyoto’s Zen temples and stone gardens, colourful geisha and historic arts and crafts
Kanazawa’s famed Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s most significant and seasonal gardens
The moving display of human resilience at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial
Speeding through the countryside on the Shinkansen or bullet train
Soaring bamboo groves in Arashiyama and Japan’s early capital, Nara: ancient landscapes and cities
Kaiseki dining: a multi-course, seasonal meal perfectly complemented by traditional Japanese architecture
Days 1–4: Explore Tokyo’s KoishikawaKorakuen garden, Senso-ji Temple, Nezu and Ota museums and Ginza’s exclusive boutiques.
Days 5–6: Bullet train to Kanazawa; visit the Samurai district, wooden teahouses and Kenrokuen garden.
Days 7–8: In Hiroshima, visit the Peace Memorial and Miyajima’s Itsukushima shrine.
Days 9–12: Bullet train to Kyoto to explore its art, history and culture. Stroll through the geisha district, encounter Zen Buddhism in temples, shrines and gardens, and participate in a traditional tea ceremony.
Days 13–14: Day trips to Arashiyama and historic Nara.
Days 15–16: Free day to discover Nishiki market or Kyoto’s many traditional crafts. Departure.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Qantas, Japan Airlines and ANA have daily flights to Tokyo, with return connections through Tokyo from Osaka. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday May 10: Arrive Tokyo
The tour commences in the Tokyo hotel this evening. Your tour leader, Kathleen Olive will meet you in the lobby before a light dinner in the hotel. Overnight Tokyo (D)
Saturday May 11: Tokyo
Our touring commences with a visit to the National Museum in Ueno park which contains a large collection of Japanese artwork, cultural items and historical artefacts from ancient times to the 19th century. We continue to the Edo period garden of Koishikawa Korakuen built in the Tokyo residence of the ruling Tokugawa family. As with most traditional Japanese gardens, Korakuen seeks to reproduce famous landscapes in miniature using ponds, stones, trees and man-made hills to replicate Japanese scenery. After a welcome lunch in a Japanese restaurant, we visit the colourful and popular Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhoods. Ovenight Tokyo (B, L)
Sunday May 12: Harajuku
This morning we head to the vibrant and fashionable suburb of Harajuku where our first stop is the Nezu Museum to see its large collection of calligraphy, painting, bamboo, sculpture, ceramics and textiles. We also visit the Ota Memorial Museum of Art to view its fantastic collection of Ukiyo-e woodblock print and painting masterpieces by renowned artists such as Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro. A stroll through trendy Takeshita street uncovers the many fashion boutiques and costume shops frequented by Japan’s teen subculture, while walking back along Omotesando is more akin to the Champs-Élysées. After lunch, we visit the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto haven of peace and tranquillity in the bustling city and dedicated to the reformist Emperor Meiji who led the end of feudalisation and the modernisation and westernisation of Japan. Overnight Tokyo (B, L)
Monday May 13: Roppongi
Today we head to Roppongi to visit the Mori Art Museum which presents innovative exhibitions of modern art. The museums 52nd floor location atop the Mori Tower also affords us wonderful views of Tokyo and beyond with the possibility of seeing Mt Fuji If the weather is clear. We may head to the Ginza district this afternoon to wander through the boutique shops and glamorous department stores. This evening we have dinner in a pub style Izakaya restaurant. Overnight Tokyo (B, D)
Tuesday May 14: To Kanazawa
From Tokyo station, we take Japan’s newest bullet train west to Kanazawa, packing only hand luggage for the next two nights. Your large suitcase will be transported by road to meet you in Hiroshima. During the Edo period, it was the second largest feudal seat after Tokyo’s Tokugawa clan. The city, like Kyoto, was left untouched by air raids during World War II and the old sections remain largely intact. This afternoon we explore the Higashi Chaya tea house and entertainment district. A Chaya is a teahouse where guests are entertained by geisha who perform song and dance on traditional instruments. We also visit the samurai district with its narrow lanes, remaining wood houses and water canals. We stop at the Nomura house, a restored samurai residence displaying artefacts from the samurai era. Enjoy a multi-course traditional kaiseki dinner this evening, prepared with fresh local ingredients aligned to the season and a good opportunity to try some local sake. Overnight Kanazawa (B, D)
Wednesday May 15: Kenrokuen
This morning we visit Kenrokuen, considered one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens and designed using the six essential attributes that make a perfect garden; spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views. Located next to Kanazawa Castle, the garden would have served as the outer garden for the castle and the flowering trees are chosen to provide differing aspects according to the season. We visit the castle which was the seat of the powerful Maeda clan. The castle has burnt down several times with only two storehouses and the gate surviving the most recent fire of 1881. A project to reconstruct sections of the castle is ongoing. Overnight Kanazawa (B)
Thursday May 16: To Hiroshima
Today we board a limited express thunderbird train to Osaka before changing to the bullet train to Hiroshima. On arrival, we check in before touring Japan’s most haunting and significant memorial, the Atomic Bomb Dome. The former industrial promotion hall was closest to the hypocentre of the nuclear bomb and along with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum serves as a stark reminder of the horrors of war. This evening for dinner we try the local speciality, Okonomiyaki, a type of pancake filled with vegetables and seafood or pork. Overnight Hiroshima (B, D)
Friday May 17: Miyajima
We travel the short distance by train and ferry to Miyajima, famous for the large torii gate that appears to float on the water at high tide. The gate symbolises the entrance to Itkushima Shrine, a site sacred to both Shintoism and Buddhism. The shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a large complex of hall and pathways built on stilts so that commoners could visit without defiling the island with their footprints. We also ascend Mt Misen, travelling above the autumn foliage by cable car. There is free time to enjoy a lunch of the local oysters, a speciality of the island, before we return to Hiroshima this afternoon. Overnight Hiroshima (B)
Saturday May 18: To Kyoto
We board the bullet train to Kyoto, travelling only with our hand luggage as the large suitcases will once again be transported by road. On arrival, we visit the Kiyomizu Temple complex built entirely without using nails. The temple was first constructed in 798 but the present-day building is a re-construction from 1633. The main hall has a large veranda that juts out over the hillside and commands an excellent view of the city. From here it is a gentle walk down the hill through the shops and teahouses of the Higashiyama district. This evening we have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Kyoto (B, D)
Sunday May 19: Golden Temple
This morning we head to the spectacular Kinkakuji, Golden Pavilion. It is difficult to believe the temple was razed to the ground in 1950 by a crazed young monk whose story was told in celebrated novelist Yukio Mishima’s The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. A short distance from Kinkakuji we stop for some quiet contemplation at Ryoanji temple, the finest example of a Zen rock garden in Kyoto. After lunch we visit the Daitokuji temple complex and its two dozen sub temples and their associated Zen gardens. The complex grew into a centre for Tea Ceremony associated with the master practitioner, Sen-no Rikyu in the 15th-century. Overnight Kyoto (B)
Monday May 20: Art in Kyoto
We head to Fushimi Inari Shrine in the south of Kyoto. Famous for its thousands of vermillion gates leading up the wooded paths, the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The shrine is decorated with statues of foxes which are Inari’s messenger. Returning to the city we visit Sanjusangendo, Japan’s longest wooden structure housing 1001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. This afternoon we visit the National Museum to see the collection of archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics and costumes. We have dinner tonight in one of the many restaurants in the atmospheric Pontocho dining strip. (B, D)
Tuesday May 21: Silver Temple
Today we visit Ginkakuji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion. Original plans to cover the main structure in silver foil like the Golden Pavilion were never realised and the building is now covered in black lacquer. The wooded grounds covered in mosses feature a sand garden with a carefully structured sand mountain designed to resemble Mt Fuji. Outside the temple is the Philosophers Path, where we enjoy a pleasant stroll alongside the canal lined with flowering plants, bushes and trees. After lunch in Gion we partake in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. (B, L)
Wednesday May 22: Arashiyama
Today we venture outside of Kyoto to Arashiyama and the world class 14th-century Zen garden at Tenryuji against the backdrop of the Arashiyama mountains. Outside the temple grounds is the Sagano Bamboo Grove, forming a canopy over the footpath. This has become one of the most photographed sites in Japan. After lunch in the town and time to investigate some of the local handicrafts, we board a scenic train journey that takes us through the bamboo forests and along the Hozugawa River before returning to Kyoto. Overnight Kyoto (B, L)
Thursday May 23: Nara
We travel to Nara, Japan’s first permanent capital and second only to Kyoto in cultural significance with World Heritage status. We visit Todaiji, constructed in 752 as the main temple of all provincial Buddhist shrines in Japan. The main hall houses the 15-metre-tall bronze statue of Buddha (Daibutstu). We also visit the Kasuga Taisha, dedicated to the protection of the city and built by the powerful Fujiwara clan who ruled during the Nara and Heian periods. We return to Kyoto where the afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B, L)
Friday May 24: Free day
Today is at leisure to simply relax, shop or enjoy the many attractions of Kyoto not covered on the tour. We recommend a visit to Nishiki markets and a wander through the basement food halls of the local department stores. We gather for a farewell dinner in a local restaurant this evening. (B, D)
Saturday May 25: Depart
The tour concludes after breakfast. Transfers have been arranged to either Kansai or Itami airports in Osaka for passengers booking their flights through Academy Travel. (B)
Dr Kathleen Olive
Has a PhD in Italian Studies, speaks fluent Italian and lectures on the art, history and culture of Europe. Kathleen has an outstanding knowledge of Italy.
Dr Kathleen Olive is a literary and cultural historian with close to 15 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Japan and the United States. She has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, interior design, fashion history and contemporary fiction.
Kathleen holds a BA with first class Honours and a PhD, both from the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. For a number of years she worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, teaching Italian language, literature and history. Kathleen continues to teach, as a national lecturer for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (ADFAS), and in adult education courses in Sydney. In 2015, her edition of the Codex Rustici (a 15th-century commonplace book that Kathleen worked on with Nerida Newbigin, for her doctoral studies and for publication) was presented to Pope Francis on his first official visit to Florence.
Kathleen’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through to the early 20th century. In Italy she has led numerous tours focusing on the medieval and Renaissance periods. In Spain she has a particular concentration on the “Convivencia” of Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures in the south, and on the medieval pilgrimage routes of the north. Her tours of the USA’s north-east have focused on American collectors and their Gilded Age reinventions of European glory days, and in Japan she is particularly interested in contemporary design, from fashion to architecture. Kathleen speaks fluent Italian, is conversant in Spanish and understands French.
Kathleen was first involved on a tour to Italy in 2003 and it sparked her passion for on-the-spot communication of art and history. Since 2010 she has worked exclusively for Academy Travel, leading 6 tours a year. She has designed a number of our popular tours, from the Florence residential, to surveys of the courts of Renaissance Italy and of central Italy’s villas and gardens, as well as “twin city” tours to Palermo and Naples and to Florence and Rome. Closer to home, Kathleen is leading Academy Travel’s inaugural tour to Japan and our popular tours to Tasmania.
We asked Kathleen, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?
“I really enjoy travelling with groups who share interests in the history, culture and even food of a destination. It means that those personal connections are there right from the beginning, just waiting to be made.”
“There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding out the particular interests of my fellow travellers – an artist, a dish they love eating, their memories of a particular place – and finding a way to make an experience happen for them. That might mean recommending a particular wine bar, directing them to a museum that features artists they already like, or suggesting the best time of day for a view over a town. It’s so satisfying to be involved in making these kinds of memories for people.”
“Many of the people I travel with comment on my passion for the places I visit. It’s not just that I know my names and dates – it’s that I really enjoy bringing out the connections between history and art, for example, or between landscape and food. I never grow tired of injecting this kind of life into ‘dry’ academic knowledge.”
Hotels have been selected principally for their central location.
Tokyo, Keio Plaza Hotel (4 nights)
Kanazawa, Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel (2 nights)
Hiroshima, ANA Crowne Plaza (2 nights)
Kyoto, TheRoyal Park Hotel (7 nights)
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.