2021 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn
Highlighting natural and manmade beauties of Japan in blazing autumn colours, this comfort tour takes you to some of the internationally renowned Japanese gardens and art museums as well as small hidden beauties.
The 2021 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn is specifically designed to showcase exquisite Japanese gardens against the background of the gorgeous autumn colours. The tour includes some of Japan's international-standard art museums as well as small boutique galleries in Japan's iconic cities of Tokyo, Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji area), Kanazawa, Kurashiki, Okayama, Bizen, Naoshima and Kyoto.
As with the other Journey to the East's popular small group tours, this 14-day tour only accepts 8 travellers. This "Comfort" style tour offers superior comfort, extensive use of private vehicles, 4 to 5 star hotels, with western style bedrooms all the way. This tour is the perfect way to get a wonderful introduction to Japan in the peak of the autumn splendour.
Places visited: Tokyo, Kawaguchiko (Mt Fuji area), Kanazawa, Kurashiki, Okayama, Bizen, Naoshima and Kyoto
Group size: Minimum 4, Maximum 8
Transport: Bullet and express trains between cities, private minivan for sightseeing
Accommodation: Superior-level (typically 4+ star) accommodation including Japanese-style hotels with western beds
Fitness level: Basic (please refer to FAQ)
Tour type: Comfort
Experience Kyoto’s exquisite gardens and temples at autumn’s peak
See iconic Mt Fuji and soak in a traditional onsen spa bath in Kawaguchiko
Relax at Benesse House on the 'Art Islands" enjoying contemporary art
Immerse yourself in art and culture in Kurashiki
Explore Arashiyama on the back of traditional rickshaw
Experience the old and ultra-modern in Tokyo at autumns peak
Be inspired by the magnificent Miho Museum
Wander through arguably the best Japanese garden, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa
Day 1: Arrival in Tokyo
Welcome to Japan! On arrival at one of Tokyo’s international airports, you will be met by a Journey to the East guide and escorted to your hotel by private transport. After a good night’s sleep, you will be ready to start the first full day of your 2021 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn.
Day 2: Tokyo
The first day of Tokyo, and indeed of the tour, you will see a modern day Japan. We will visit Meiji Jingu Shrine in the morning followed by a stroll along Omotesando avenue. It is arguably the most fashionable street in Japan with cutting-edge architecture and houses the top brands of the world. Next on the cards is Ota Memoriam Museum which specialises in ukiyo-e (wood print) art. At wonderful Nezu Museum, you can enjoy the contemplative Japanese garden as well as one of the finest collections of Japanese and East-Asian pre-modern art.
Tonight, we have a "welcome Japan" dinner at a restaurant with great night views – a degustation meal of modern Japanese cuisine.
Day 3: Tokyo
A local train will take you to a suburb in Greater Tokyo, Omiya, to visit the Omiya Bonsai Village. Visiting an outer suburb away from central Tokyo is also a great way to learn how ordinary Japanese people live.
At Omiya, an opportunity opens up where you can learn more about the art of bonsai, and the care and preservation of these beautifully manicured miniature trees. You also get the chance to create a bonsai for yourself in a friendly workshop. (You can't bring it home, but the skills are yours to keep.)
Day 4: Kawaguchiko
Your adventure begins with a scenic train ride for a lovely overnight trip to Kawaguchiko, a hot springs resort area located at the foot of Mt Fuji. During your stay, you will visit Muse Museum displaying adorable Japanese dolls produced by Yuki Atae. You will also have plenty of opportunities to absorb the superb views of iconic Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko against the backdrop of peak autumn colours. Tonight you will have a chance to stay in a lovely boutique hotel, where you can experience a soak in a hot-spring onsen bath.
Day 5: Kawaguchiko to Kanazawa
In the morning you will visit Itchiku Kubota Kimono Art Museum. The centuries old tie-die technique is excellently reproduced by master Itchiku. The museum building and the garden are also worthy of visit, especially in autumn.
This afternoon you leave Kawaguchiko by a highway coach back to Tokyo, then the shinkansen (bullet train) whisks you away to the city of Kanazawa on the shores of the Japan Sea. Kanazawa is commonly known as “Little Kyoto” and is home to many traditional Japanese arts and cultures, most notably Kenrokuen Japanese Garden.
Day 6: Kanazawa
Today your guided tour of Kanazawa begins with Kenrokuen Garden. Kenrokuen Garden is a castle garden dating back to the 17th century and is regarded as one of the three great gardens of Japan. You will have the opportunity to explore this garden and contemplate the beauty of its sublime design. The next stop is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, noteworthy for the unusual glass cylinder structure which envelopes the building to reduce its environmental footprint.
This afternoon you have a chance to learn about one of the most well-known aspects of Japanese culture, the way of tea, in a gorgeous tea house perched atop a lovely private Japanese garden. Tonight you will sample wagyu beef at a teppanyaki restaurant.
Day 7: Okayama and Kurashiki
After a couple of days in Kanazawa, you head for Kurashiki, which was once a prosperous trading town during the feudal era. This delightfully historic and picturesque town has maintained its charming streetscape of traditional black-and-white storehouses, merchant residences and canals lined with willow trees.
On the way to Kurashiki, you stop at Okayama, for a tour of the sublime Korakuen Garden. This special garden has been recognised as being one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Initially completed in 1700, Korakuen is prized for being a great example of the “scenic promenade” garden style, which reveals a new view to the visitor on every turn along its meandering path.
Kurashiki is the home of the Ohara Museum of Art, which has a superb collection of ceramics, paintings and antiquities from Japan, China and other ancient civilizations.
Day 8: Yasugi (Adachi Museum)
For the guests of the 2021 Garden & Art Tour of Japan in Autumn, we believe memories of this day will last with you forever. You travel by train to Yasugi, a rural town on the western coast of Japan’s main island, to visit the garden at the Adachi Museum of Art. This has been nominated Japan’s most popular garden for 12 consecutive years.
Designed in the “borrowed scenery” style, the mountainous backdrop to this extensive garden makes it appear as though the mountains are a seamless part of the garden itself.
When viewed from the large plate-glass windows inside the museum building, the six separate gardens that make up the outside garden are effectively framed by the window to create six “living pictures”. The Japanese ceramics, paintings and fine wood carvings displayed in the museum’s exhibition complete a perfect day.
Day 9: Imbe (Bizen)
A short train ride will take you to the small regional town of Imbe, which has been producing Bizen ceramic-ware for some 1000 years. Bizen-ware is still highly prized among pottery enthusiasts both in Japan and overseas.
You can wander through the galleries, craft shops and working kilns and engage firsthand with one of Imbe’s most prominent potters in his own studio and private garden.
You return to Kurashiki to spend the evening at your leisure.
Day 10: Teshima
Another great adventure awaits today. Leaving Kurashiki behind, you hop on a ferry across Seto Inland Sea and visit an art island, Teshima. This small island has a fascinating art museum that blows anyone's imagination. The picturesque island offers a tranquil beauty of its own.
Later, you will take a ferry to another, more famous art island, Naoshima, where you will enjoy an evening viewing of Benesse House Museum. While we guarantee the installations will spark debate, you will also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural scenery of the Inland Sea.
Day 11: Naoshima
Once home to just a few remote fishing villages, Naoshima is now known colloquially as the "Art Island" in Japan’s magical Seto Inland Sea. Thanks to Benesse Corporation and the visionary Naoshima Art Project, Naoshima has been transformed into a cutting-edge contemporary art island and it is visited by leading architects and artists from all over the world. You will spend time on the island visiting the galleries, architecture and sculptures of Ando Tadao, Lee Ufan and many others.
This evening you will cross back to the mainland, and take a shinkansen to your final destination, Kyoto.
Day 12: Arashiyama (Kyoto)
Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan and the guardian of many of its ancient traditions. Today you will start your exploration of Kyoto at Arashiyama in the peak of autumn colours. Arashiyama and Sagano are at the foot of the mountains to Kyoto’s west. You visit superb examples of Japanese gardens and bamboo groves here. An authentic Kyoto rickshaw, a two-passenger wagon pulled by energetic young men in traditional garb, makes getting around the undulating hills that little bit easier.
Lunch is a classic Kyoto-style lunch of yudofu, freshly made from local tofu. On the way back to the hotel, we visit Kinkakuji Temple , Kyoto’s famed Golden Pavilion to see the stunning three-storied pavilion covered in dazzling gold leaf.
This evening is at your leisure to explore superb selections of restaurants in Kyoto.
Day 13: Kyoto
Today you visit the stunning Miho Museum. Here you can experience a thorough immersion into the world of art, architecture and landscape design. Renowned architect I.M. Pei designed this museum with much of the site built into a forested hillside. It was built to house an extensive private collection of some 2,000 antiquities from ancient civilizations.
The contrast of the glass and steel structure of the museum’s roof against the surrounding natural environment is spectacular. It is this seamless integration of the man-made and the natural which creates today's indelible memory. Past guests have said this visit ranks as one of the most impressive days of the tour.
Back in Kyoto tonight you will gather together one last time for a "farewell Japan" dinner with the group. Tonight you experience a special performance by a maiko (apprentice geisha), and have the opportunity to learn more about this enigmatic art form and the life of a modern-day geisha.
Day 14: Kyoto and Bon Voyage
This morning after breakfast, your 2021 Garden and Art Tour of Japan in Autumn concludes.
You can return to Tokyo by train or air to fly home, or depart from Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Perhaps you might like to linger in Japan for a little longer. We will be delighted to plan your personal post-tour extension to show you a different part of Japan.
Note: The cost of an escorted transfer to your departure airport is not included in our Small Group Tours (as we found many guests choose to stay in Japan a bit longer), but we will be happy to arrange your transfer to next destination or to exit airport. Please see our FAQ for more details.
Please note that there may be slight changes to the itinerary described above to accommodate changes in train timetables, opening hours, and hotel and restaurant availability.
All photographs on this web site are representative and are not a commitment to what may be on view on the day.
- 13 nights accommodation with daily breakfast
- Lunches and dinners as specified
- All public and private transport for the group itinerary
- SUICA IC card pre-loaded with starter credit
- Airport meet & greet and private transfer to hotel upon arrival
- Government qualified English speaking local tour guides
- Cultural activities and entry fees as included in the group itinerary
- Luggage transfers (1 piece per person)
- International and domestic airfare (unless otherwise stated)
- Transfer to airport on the last day
- Travel insurance
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips and gratuities (not routinely expected in Japan)
- Transport when not travelling with the group
- Personal expenses (laundry, internet, telephone, coin lockers etc.)
- Visa (if required)
Had a fabulous time with a great group of people. I loved the country, the culture, the people and everything about the tour – hope to do another tour with JTTE – maybe Hokkaido or Kyushu next time
Vivien Hewitt, Western Australia
This was my first trip with JTTE and already I am looking at the program for next year thinking about another one. I liked the fact that it was a small group, the organisation was spot on and the food everywhere was outstanding.
Dee Mason – NSW Australia