Beauty and Elegance of Japan Tour

  • $ Insider's Japan
  • Beds: Please see itinerary
  • Baths: Moderate
  • Sq Ft: 2+

Transcendent Gardens, Temples, & Artisans

Kyoto • Shirakawago • Kanazawa • Nara • Yasugi • Kyoto

Kinkakuji, Kyoto

Tour Highlights

  • Tour sacred Shinto shrines, museums and rich cultural traditions.
  • Visit Kanazawa, a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art, with 36 distinguished types of heritage skills and 400 local craftsmen plying their trade.
  • Marvel at Kinkakuji, a pavilion completely covered in gold leaf.
  • Walk the expansive Bamboo Grove behind the Tenryu-ji temple.
  • Explore the historic entertainment district of Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district.
  • Take a day trip to Nara to visit Todaji Temple, Kasuga Shrine, Horyuji Temple, and the Deer Park.

Trip Details

  • Itinerary
  • Day 1–2: Arrive Osaka

    Depart on your flight to Osaka. Cross the international dateline and arrive in Japan on the next day. Transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

    Accommodations: Tokyu Hotel Kyoto
    Meals Included: None

  • Day 3: Kyoto

    Tour Kinkakuji Temple—the Golden Pavilion, an exquisite landmark of the ancient capital surrounded by a beautiful pond.

    Slow the pace and stroll through Ryoanji, one of the most serene Zen gardens in Japan. The lovely temple is famed for its rock garden, an oblong of sand with an austere collection of 15 carefully placed rocks. The complex is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, lush trails, and charming tea houses around the lake.

    Before lunch meet with the American Buddhist priest and scholar of Zen Buddhism, Tom Kirchner, at Tenryuji Temple. Tom has spent 40 years in Japan, mostly as a priest. He has translated Buddhist classics from Japanese to English. He will touch on meditation, Buddha’s teaching and philosophy.

    Enjoy a Shojinryori, a delightful vegetarian lunch prepared by the temple staff.

    After lunch, a walk through the extensive Bamboo Grove behind the Tenryu-ji Temple is like entering another world. Massive green bamboos and the streams of lights coming through create a magic temple of Nature.

    Nearby is the beautiful Okochi Sanso, the lavish estate of the famous samurai film actor Okochi Denjiro. The sprawling stroll garden boasts bonsai pines, colorful maple trees, lush moss carpets. and the most brilliant view of the city. Enjoy a traditional Japanese sweet and cup of matcha tea in the adjacent teahouse.

    Accommodations: Tokyu Hotel Kyoto
    Meals Included: B,L,D

  • Day 4: Kyoto – Shirakawago–Kanazawa

    This morning visit Heian-jingu Shrine with its massive tori gate. The expansive garden behind the shrine features lovely ponds, a Chinese inspired bridge,  mature cherry blossom and Japanese maples trees.

    Nearby is the heart of museum district. Stop at Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts in the basement of Kyoto International Exhibition Hall. This multi-purpose hall has an excellent display of Kyoto crafts including wood-block prints, lacquerware, bamboo goods, and gold leaf work.

    At the train station you will have time to pick up a boxed-lunch for the journey. Take the express train to Kanazawa through gorgeous natural and agricultural terrains with splintered wooden villages over river-fed rice paddies. The train skirts around the Japanese Alps with dark, jagged outline glowering in the distance. As a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa displays thirty six distinguished types of heritage skills. Here four hundred local craftsmen ply their trade, carrying on the traditions passed down through generations for more than five hundred years.

    Arrive at the new glistening train terminal with geometric steel-and-glass dome. Take a private coach to the historic village of Shirakawago, declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995 .Setfar back in the Shogawa River Valley, Shirakawago is known for its preserved gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which date back two hundred and fifty years.Gassho-zukuri means, “constructed like hands in prayer” as the steep roofs represent the hands of Buddhist monks in prayer. Many of the farmhouses remain private residences, a few have been converted into restaurants, museums, and family-owned inns. .

    Return to Kanazawa in the early evening. Dinner is at leisure.

    Accommodations: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa
    Meals Included: B

  • Day 5: Kanazawa

    This morning visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens”. The spacious grounds used to be the outer garden of the Kanazawa Castle and were constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries. Opened to the public in 1871, Kenrokuen features mature flowering trees, expansive ponds, traditional architecture, and delightful landscapes. Enjoy a tea ceremony conducted by a tea master.

    Visit Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts inside the Kenrokuen Garden. Observe the traditional craftsmen skills developed over the centuries. In the permanent exhibition, objects are classified into groups as “Clothes”, Food”, “Houses”, “Praying”,meal and “Festivals.”

    Stop by D.T. Suzuki Museum designed by the famous architect Yoshio Taniguchi. The peacleful spce is a tribute to one of the foremost Buddhist philosophers of our time, who influenced a generation of westerners with Japanese Zen Buddhist teachings. You may meditate and contemplate for a moment by the water mirror garden.

    Visit Nomura Samurai residence and garden. The family successively held executive posts for generations. The house has a coffered ceiling made of Japanese cypress and fusuma-e (paintings on sliding-door panels) created by the Maeda family’s personal painter. The charming garden has a 400 year old Japanese bayberry with a running stream surrounded by ancient rocks.

    For dinner, enjoy a special Japanese Kaiseki meal prepared in many small courses served on delicate ceramic dishes.

    Accommodations: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa
    Meals Included: B,D

  • Day 6: Kanazawa–Kyoto

    In the morning, take the express train back to Kyoto.

    Wander through the famous Nishiki Market. With over 100 shops and restaurants, it’s no wonder this five block long shopping street is known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”. Learn about the ingredients on sale and how to use them. Along the way, your tour director will help pick up supplies for a picnic lunch.

    Walk to Gion and explore the historic entertainment area with Kyoto’s most famous geisha. Geishas are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills are varied used to work in the traditional merchant houses and Ochaya (teahouses). They are still well preserved in Gion today.

    Wander two of Kyoto’s most attractive streets, Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka. Lined with beautifully restored traditional shops, enjoy the pedestrian-only streets, the most atmospheric strolling in the whole city.

    At the end of the day, visit the landmark of Kyoto, the grand Kiyomizu Temple, for a panoramic view of the city from an exquisite wooden veranda built on the cliff.

    For dinner, you may go to Ponto-cho Street along the Kamo Gawa River. Few streets in Asia rival this narrow pedestrian-only walkway for atmosphere. The place comes alive by night with colorful lanterns, traditional wooden exteriors, and delicate entryways disappearing into the doorways of elite restaurants and bars.

    Accommodations: Hotel Tokyu Kyoto

    Included Meals: B

  • Day 7: Kyoto–Day Trip to Nara

    Take a short ride to Nara, the ancient capital laid out after China’s Changan (now known as Xi’an).  In 710AD, the first Japanese capital was founded here for 74 years. During this short but most significant period, Japan witnessed the birth of nation’s arts, crafts, and literature. Nara imported everything from religion to art and architecture from China. It was during the Nara period that the first historical account, first mythological chronicle, and first poetry anthology were written. Buddhism flourished together with temples, shrines, pagodas and palaces. Much has remained intact surrounded by the gardens and spacious parks where deer roam freely among the grounds.

    Todaiji Temple is the largest wooden structure in the world, even at two thirds of its original size. This UNESCO World Heritage Site houses Japan’s second largest bronze Buddha. The temple structure, an exact copy after a grand temple in China’s ancient capital Changan, is a celebrated architectural feat.

    Kasuga Taisha Shrine is a striking Shinto shrine of vermilion-colored pillars and astounding 3000 stone and bronze lanterns. It contains a botanical garden, Shin-en, famous for its wisteria and 300 varieties of native Japanese plants.

    On the way back to Kyoto, stop at the Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of Kyoto’s oldest (founded in 711 AD) and most revered Shinto shrines. Fushimi Inari serves as the headquarters for all the 40,000 shrines dedicated to Inari across Japan. Originally the god of rice, Inari now governs the modern equivalent: success and prosperity in business. The Shrine draws thousands of businessmen and tradespeople seeking blessings for their enterprises, especially at the first prayers of the New Year. Fushimi Inari is noted for its remarkable sight of some 10,000 small torii (shrine gates) that arch over a long path up the hill behind the shrine.

    Return to Kyoto in early evening. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

    Accommodations: Hotel Tokyu Kyoto

    Meals Included: B,L,D

  • Day 8: Kyoto–Yasugi

    After breakfast take the train to towards the Sea of Japan and arrive at the small town of Yasugi in Shimane Prefecture.

    This afternoon, visit the Adachi Museum exploring its collections of modern Japaese are and wandering through the immaculate gardens. Adachi Zenko ,founder of the Adachi Museum and Gardens, spent a lifetime collecting the finest Japanese art. At age 70, he decided to build a museum for his private collections. In his autobiography written at 90, he claimed he mastered three passions in his long life—Art, Women and Gardens. He spent much time designing, creating and caring for the most exquisite Japanese gardens. Every rock, white pebbles, and pine tree were brought in and placed in the perfect spots for the viewing pleasure.

    Spend the evening at Saginoyusou, a traditional Japanese Ryokan inn. Soak in the open air natural hot spring waters. Lounge in soft cotton Yukata (traditional Japanese robe) and feast on freshly prepared local seasonal delicacies, the Kaiseki dinner, served in your private room.

    Deluxe Accommodations: Saginoyusou Hotel
    Meals Included: B,D

  • Day 9: Yasugi–Kyoto

    Following breakfast, take a private coach ride to Matsue Castle, one of only 12 castles remaining in Japan.,. Matsue Castle is the second largest, the third tallest (30m) and the sixth oldest amongst the remaining castles in Japan. It was built over a period of five years and was completed in 1611. After being transferred from Matsumoto, Matsudaira Naomasa, the grandson of the former lord, began a reign that lasted 10 generations of the Matsudaira clan over a period of 234 years. The castle is a complex structure, built in a watchtower-style, that appears to be five stories from the outside, but has, in fact, six levels inside. Most of the walls of the castle are painted black. The solid structure built to withstand warfare has majestic and solemn appearance, reminiscent of the Momoyama style. The castle has been registered as a national treasure of Japan in 2015.

    Pick up a lunch box at Matsue Station. Take the trains back to Kyoto. Spend the late afternoon exploring the city on your own.

    In the evening enjoy farewell banquet at the charming Sodoh Garden Restaurant. Afterwards, take an evening walk in the famous historic Gion district where you may run into a true Geisha on her way to service call in the crooked narrow alleys lined with age old Japanese housing.

    Accommodations: Hotel Tokyu Kyoto
    Meals Included: B,D

  • Day 10: Kyoto-US

    Take the train from Kyoto station to Osaka Kansai International Airport or Osaka Itami International Airport for your return flight back to US.

Customize Your Japan Experience

Pre or Post Tour Extensions:

Hakone, Lake Ashi, & Mt. Fuji Extension – 5 days


Prices Starting From:

$XXXX per person,  Main Tour Double Occupancy
$XXXX Single Supplement

All prices are subject to change based on customization and currency fluctuation. This does not include international roundtrip airfare. For airfare pricing, please contact Airtreks directly at 415-977-7136 or at


Main Tour Includes: Double occupancy accommodations • All meals listed in itinerary • All sightseeing, entertainment, and cultural activities listed in itinerary • All ground transportation within Japan • English-speaking Japanese Guides

Not Included: Domestic U.S. and international airfare • Airport transfers and porterage • Porterage on bullet trains and other public transports • Gratuities to guides • Visa and passport processing • Meals not listed in the itinerary • Excess baggage charges • Travel insurance • Alcoholic beverages at meals • Items of a personal nature • Optional activities

To sign up for The Art & Beauty of Japan tour, please call (888) 333-2585 or (415) 334-4505
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Price:$Insider's Japan
Address:Arts and Temples Tour
State:Tokyo and Kyoto
Zip Code:Train and coach
Square Feet:2+
Bedrooms:Please see itinerary
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