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Japan is one of Val's favorite places and she yearns to share that love and growing expertise with others. Her 5 recent trips over the last 5 years, have given her an insight into not only the culture and place, but the inside scoop on traveling efficiently and economically. Unlike most tourist companies, this curated travel experience is for people interested in an off-the-beaten path structure with a knowledgeable guide that reinforces a creative, culturally immersive and respectful opportunity with an itinerary that emphasizes design, architecture, the arts, cultural heritage, and healthy living (from soaking in Onsens or foot baths to walking and forest bathing to the food) from different views of stranger, tourist and even local/native. You'll get curated cultural coordinated experience without having to pay for academic credit or do homework, although Val invites all participants to submit work to this blog and a subsequent publication that will document all of our experiences, individually and collectively.
As many aspects of Japanese culture including literature and even food are related to seasons, this trip will highlight the FALL season in urban and the natural landscape. Group size minimum 3, maximum 10. This is an affordable and non-traditional 'tourist' experience so attendees must be willing to share accommodations as we'll occasionally sleep in hostels, experience traditional Ryokans, and sometimes stay in business hotels. We'll travel by rail and spend much of our time walking so you must be able to pack lightly, lift/carry your bags – nothing larger than carry-on size, recommend large backpack for hands free and ability to sometimes navigate very crowded streets or train stations without the wheels. You may want to purchase a second small suitcase along the route to transport things you are buying or collecting.
PRICE TBA BASED ON NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS.
Flight to Japan not included, but internal transportation will be coordinated. Food not included, except for when accommodations offers meal as well as the organized food tours and outings. Can likely budget about 1,000 - 1,500 yen for breakfast and lunch each with 1,000 to 3,000 yen for evening meals depending on the place. When staying at hostels we can buy groceries. Inexpensive and quality meals are always available at local 24 hour stores like 7-11 for those on extreme budget it's possible to spend between $20 and $50 a day for meals, snacks, water or other drinks. All meals will be paid for by the individual not split.
Additional extra-curricular events not included in the agenda are not included such as an theater performances or venues that may arise on the route.
Entire 3 weeks = approximately $2100 - 2500 (this includes the most additional tours and events).
10 days = approximately $800 - 1200
14 days = approximately $1350 - 1500
This is a LONG WAY TO TRAVEL SO MAKE THE MOST OF IT.
Look at the itinerary and there will be a highlight that recommends alternative arrival or departure dates.
Arrival at Haneda on November 8 is recommended, departing U.S. on the 7th.
Can depart from either Haneda or Narita.
Date options suggestions:
- Full experience November 7 - November 29
- 10 days: November 20 - November 29 (arrive in Kyoto)
- 14 days: November 7 - November 20 - depart from Kyoto, shinkansen to Tokyo
- 17 days: November 7 - November 23 - experience Kyoto and depart from there to Tokyo
Itinerary subject to change based on number of participants, accommodation availability, and/or other aspects, elements, or situations that may arise whereby destinations may be altered. For example, if someone wants to arrive on Nov 13 and stay the rest of the trip and only one or two join in the earlier section, we may decide to venture away from Tokyo and be able to swing thru the city to meet arrivals. Please communicate via email to figure out the best agenda for yourself.
NOVEMBER 7 DEPART USA - NOVEMBER 8 ARRIVE TOKYO
NOVEMBER 8, 9, 10 > TOKYO
Orientation to Tokyo. Val will take you on walking tour throughout some of the various districts like Ueno, Harajuku, Roppongi, and Ginza which includes an orientation on using transportation. Depending on the desires of participants can explore museums, galleries, shopping districts. One evening we'll enjoy the famous, dynamic, mind-blowing, visual sensation Robot Show (sample videos here) and dinner at Monster Kawaii Cafe and another evening we'll have a guided FOOD sampling tour of various distrcits.
NOVEMBER 11 > NIKKO
Fall foliage should hopefully be in full array here in this village north of Tokyo (northern Honshu). The shrines and temples here are absolutely amazing. From wood carvings such as the three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) to the unique blend of Shinto and Buddhism in the main Temple. Check out this overview.
NOVEMBER 12 > KITAKATA
This will be the first time for Val in this area, but it's been on her list. It's a small village north of Nikko in a mountainous area that is a center for sake rice and ramen noodles. It's also known for oki-agari dolls that are like weeble-wobbles that don't fall down. This city guide provides an overview.
NOVEMBER 13 - 15 > KANAZAWA
This is a really lovely city more traditional and much slower than the metropolis of Tokyo. The train station alone is an incredible welcoming structure. Here we'll visit the traditional Geisha district which is smaller than Kyoto, but the only other place with Geisha houses still in operation. On the other side of town there's a traditional neighborhood of the ancient samurai and merchants. In between is a lovely castle and the beautiful Kenroku-en Gardens considered one of the top three gardens of Japan. Time will be open to explore any of the numerous museums or even a little bit of shopping or a fun craft session to paint your own Daruma doll which are ceremonial and made out of paper mache.
NOVEMBER 16 > TAKAYAMA vis SHIRAKAWA-GO
Depart in the morning on a standard bus trip to Takayama that stops in a traditional mountain village of Shirakawago that is listed as a UNESCO site. with unique architecture of thatched roofs. After a brief venture and walk, we'll board an afternoon bus to finish the journey in Takayama for evening accommodations.
NOVEMBER 17 > TAKAYAMA to GERO
We'll spend the day exploring this small town from the fish market which is one of the only to be open 365 days a year, a local museum with art nouveau jewelry and possibly explore the nearby Hida Folk Village. We'll take a very short train ride around dinner time to the next stop - GERO.
NOVEMBER 18 > GERO ONSEN
Val really loves this place so any excuse to return for even a day is great. Onsens or hot springs are one of the top reasons to visit Japan. This small Onsen village with over 12 footbaths and numerous Onsen of different styles will give you a true glimpse into the Japanese culture and healthy living lifestyle. You'll even be able to print your own Ukiyo-e card. This is a wonderful healthy venture. One can visit the outside public space with a bathing suit, while the numerous footbaths allow you to just remove shoes/socks. Those with tattoos that can't be covered by band-aids will not be admitted to the onsens so your only option may be a private session at the accommodation, or possibly the room we reserve.
NOVEMBER 19 > SONI VILLAGE
Val spent several days here during the Grassroots Summit family host stay summer 2017. This is a small organic farming village nestled in a luscious region that comes alive with color in the fall. I will try to coordinate a small workshop with the ceramicist as seen in the picture to the left and we'll have time to walk along the path of the plateau and other natural wonders of this area before heading to a big city of Kyoto.
NOVEMBER 20 - 22 > KYOTO
THIS IS AN OPTIONAL TIME TO ARRIVE OR DEPART. DEPENDING ON ARRIVAL DATE TO TOKYO, MAY BE ABLE TO USE YOUR RAIL PASS TO RETURN TO TOKYO. IF ARRIVING AT THIS POINT, PLEASE MAKE AIRLINE ARRANGEMENTS TO ARRIVE IN KYOTO.
Spending a few days in this former capitol you'll likely rejoice in the fall splendor at one of many shrines and temples including Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple, and Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. Venture along the philosopher's walk and thru the streets of the Geisha district. We'll have a daily bus pass to be able to get around this large city more easily. Val has been to Kyoto three times and has a good sense of navigating the place as well as times to arrive at the sights to see. Here's a glimpse at one guide that profiles the highlights. We'll celebrate Thanksgiving with a nice group dinner.
NOVEMBER 23 > HIMEJI
We'll travel south on the train to visit this wonderful little place. It has a really interesting section of a shopping district covered by an arcade with lots of various shops and restaurants. The highlight is the Himeji castle also known as the "White Egret Castle" or the "White Heron Castle" which was recently opened the day Val arrived on her sabbatical after 5 years of being closed. It really is a marvelous sight and something not to be missed.
NOVEMBER 24 > OKAYAMA
A little bit farther on the train today to reach Okayama. Here we'll visit the castle and amazing gardens - Koraku-en Garden.
NOVEMBER 25 > KURASHIKI by day, OSAKA by night
While we are in the area, a brief stop at Kurashiki is an absolute must on this venture to see a traditional edo-period town. The historic area architecture will transport you to another era and you may even see women in traditional kimono. Unique shopping such as denim crafts, purses, pouches made in the area. It's easy to store our luggage in the train station lockers during this part of the excursion. Then we'll ride the train to Osaka to arrive hopefully by dinner. This city comes alive at night. The central district is fascinating array of shops and restaurants.
NOVEMBER 26 > OSAKA
Spend the day on your own or with others venturing around this city. Spend a half-day or longer at Spa World where you can rest in the various saunas or soak in the gender specific onsens (tattoo rules apply here in onsens, the saunas you are provided with shorts and shirt in the co-ed environment). For those up for the venture of popping into a bar or two in one of the cities really dynamic hotbeds of nightlife, Val would love the company. She was here on the very last few days of her sabbatical but due to an injury wasn't able to walk much to explore. Not to mention, Japanese bars aren't quite the same as American ones so she didn't feel quite comfortable going in alone because everyone else is in groups.
NOVEMBER 27 > TOKYO
Ride the train back to Tokyo for a final few days before departure. This evening or the next we'll have a guided food tour of the Golden Gai district of unique narrow corridors and tiny venues.
NOVEMBER 28 > TOKYO
Explore this city on your own to make any final purchases or photo journeys. If you haven't experienced the first part of the trip, Val will provide an orientation for those interested. Spend time packing and tentative casual farewell dinner as people prepare to depart the next day.
NOVEMBER 29 > departure to US
if anyone is arriving mid-trip and wants to spend an additional day on your own here, that of course is an option. If anyone wants to extend a few days and have Val as a tour guide, please message to discuss options.