Arts and Traditions of Japan

Trace Japan’s marvellous history and heritage from the modern era back through the feudal period of warlords and shogun to the culture of the 8th century.

Journey Overview

Trace Japan’s marvellous history and heritage from the modern era back through the feudal period of warlords and shogun to the culture of the 8th century. Experience some of the country’s most fascinating customs at a traditional tea ceremony and a maiko-hosted kaiseki dinner. Walk the scenic Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto, discover charming mountain villages, captivating arts and crafts and see some of the country’s most important Shinto shrines.


  • Marvel at the many attractions of Tokyo – old and new
  • Understand the revered customs of the traditional Tea Ceremony in private temple surrounds
  • Visit Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage site famous for its traditional thatched gassho-zukuri farmhouses
  • Interact with traditional maiko at an exclusive performance and kaiseki ryori dinner
  • Walk the scenic Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto
  • Discover Kanazawa, Japan’s emerging arts and culture capital

Journey Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Tokyo

Arrive into the Japanese capital and transfer privately to the hotel.
Hilton Tokyo (Guest Room) 

Day 2: Tokyo

Start your journey with a stroll in the beautiful Edo period garden, Hamarikyu, one of the most visited in the city thanks to its year-round botanical attractions. Pause to admire the surrounds over green tea at the Nakajima-no-Ochaya tea house on an island in the gardens. Next, visit Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of the city’s most venerated temple sites dedicated to the Bodhisattva, Guan Yin, the Chinese deity of mercy and benevolence that has its origins in Hindu belief from India. The restaurants around Asakusa are some of the best for traditional Japanese cuisine, including the ever-popular tempura. Or perhaps learn to make sushi with an expert followed by lunch (additional cost). Afterwards, visit Meiji Shrine, a sanctuary for Shinto followers and a popular venue for traditional Japanese weddings. You may like to take part in a solemn Shinto ceremony, full of ritual and offerings (additional cost). 
Hilton Tokyo (Guest Room) | Meals: B

Day 3: Tokyo

An up-close ‘behind the ring’ encounter this morning when you visit one of Tokyo’s sumo stables for an appreciation of Japan’s national sport. Housing anywhere between two and forty young men a time, these living and training quarters demand absolute loyalty and discipline from the wrestlers, with daily training commencing at dawn for beginners and 8am for seniors.

Next visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum which depicts Tokyo’s 400-year-old history - from the Edo Period to the present-day - through vivid exhibitions, imagery, scaled models and life-size replicas. Conclude your sightseeing with a taiko drum experience. Taiko is a more recent tradition of Japanese drum playing that has roots in ancient Japanese religious ceremonies and folk music. Take part in a class to learn about its history and the drumming technique before putting it to the test behind your own drum.

Enjoy this afternoon at leisure or explore the city at your own pace.
Hilton Tokyo (Guest Room) | Meals: B

Day 4: Tokyo – Takayama

Transfer to the station where the high-speed bullet train delivers you west to Nagoya. Change to another service to reach Takayama where you are met and transferred to your hotel.
Hotel Associa Takayama Resort (Standard Room) | Meals: B

Day 5: Takayama

Home to one of Japan’s biggest morning markets, you’ll spend the morning hopping from stall to stall, sampling some of Takayama’s finest produce, perhaps most notably the pickles which come in all shapes, sizes and preparations. Next visit Takayama’s Festival Floats Exhibition Hall. During spring and autumn, brightly colored floats flood the city streets to welcome the changing of the season. The hall exhibits several of these floats, allowing those who are unable to witness the fanfare firsthand an up-close look at these festive creations, each diversely decorated to reflect the traditions of its home district.

Step back in time when you stroll through Sanmachi, in the heart of Takayama’s old town, where beautifully preserved buildings and whole streets date to the Edo Period (1600-1868), when the city thrived as a wealthy merchant’s town. Browse craft shops for a memento of your visit and sample local tea and treats like wagyu sushi. Several old sake breweries are also located in the area and can be identified by the sugidama (balls made of cedar branches) which hang above their entrances. Drop into a few and taste the local drop. This afternoon is at leisure. 
Hotel Associa Takayama Resort (Standard Room) | Meals: B

Day 6: Takayama – Kanazawa

Today you are driven to Kanazawa passing through the mountainous areas which line the Shogawa River Valley. Explore Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage site, famous for its traditional thatched gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. The unique architectural style developed over many generations and is designed to withstand the large amounts of heavy snow that fall in the region during winter. The roofs, made without nails, provided a large attic space used for cultivating silkworms.  

Venture into the neighbouring Gokayama region which is known for the production of washi paper, made from the pulp of the mulberry tree which grows in abundance here. The tradition was brought here by refugees of the Taira samurai clan from Kyoto in the 12th century. Visit a factory to see paper makers at work with a chance to put your own skills to the test (additional cost).
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 7: Kanazawa

Gain an understanding of Japan’s captivating samurai heritage at Nagamachi, a district at the foot of the former Kanazawa Castle, where samurai and their families used to reside. Stroll the atmospheric streets admiring the earthen walled residences, pretty gates, narrow lanes and canals. And step inside Nomura-ke, a restored samurai residence which portrays the prosperous lifestyle enjoyed by the warrior clan. Continue to the geisha district, Higashi Chaya-gai, where the tradition has been popular since the Edo period. Visit an old wooden chaya, or teahouse, dating back to the 1820s and pause for a freshly brewed tisane and traditional sweets.

This afternoon, pay a visit to 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, a starkly modern contrast to Kanazawa’s largely traditional cityscape. The circular structure, designed by award-winning architects SANAA, is void of designated entry points, allowing visitors to literally approach the museum, and its artworks, any way they choose. Installations by Leandro Erlich and James Turrell are interspersed throughout the museum’s public spaces, seamlessly integrating art into everyday life.

Finally, proceed to the Kutani pottery kiln where you’ll gain an exclusive look into the making of this fine porcelain and have the chance to test your skills at a hands-on pottery and painting experience.
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B                 

Day 8: Kanazawa

Venture into the Omicho covered market this morning. Established in the early 18th century, it is known as “Kanazawa’s kitchen” and is home to over 180 stores selling seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables, confectionery and flowers. Spend time experiencing Kanazawa’s gastronomic scene and get in line for a rice bowl topped with freshly caught Kanazawa seafood, the local speciality. 

Later this morning, step into the stunning Kenroku-en gardens, ranked in the top three in Japan. Breathtaking in any season, wander past stone lanterns, ponds, lakes and over traditional wooden bridges admiring the collection of seasonal flora. Get another glimpse into samurai culture at Seisonkaku Villa in the grounds of Kenroku-en. Built by a Maeda lord for his mother, it is one of the most elegant surviving samurai villas in Japan and features large tatami rooms, ornate carvings and personal effects that speaks to its owner’s wealth and status. Return to the hotel with the afternoon at leisure.
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Deluxe Room) | Meals: B

Day 9: Kanazawa – Kyoto

Travel onwards today by rail to Kyoto and your hotel. Late this afternoon, join your guide for a glimpse into culinary Kyoto. Visit Nishiki market where shops, restaurants, snack stalls and fresh food stands feature a dizzying array of delectable Japanese foods. Then seek out local delicacies at Shin-Kyogoku shopping arcade, popular with residents and visitors alike. Be sure to make room for the tastiest ramen, gyoza and tonkatsu (crumbed pork cutlet) before your final foodie fling of the day in the Gion and Pontocho geisha district where, amid the bustling crowds, you can enjoy delicate mochi, botamachi and ohagi (glutinous rice sweets).
Hyatt Regency Kyoto (Guest Room) | Meals: BD

Day 10: Kyoto

This morning visit the ornamental Nijo Castle. Built in 1603 by the first shogun of the Edo Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu, as his Kyoto residence, Nijo Castle is one of the finest examples of feudal era Momoyama architecture. Beyond its massive stone walls and sprawling palace grounds, thick with cherry trees, stands the castle’s centrepiece: the ornately embellished Ninomaru Palace. Next stop, the Golden Pavilion, one of Kyoto’s most famous temples with its gold leaf adornment. The temple was originally the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and upon his death in 1408 it became a Zen temple. Burned numerous times in its history, most recently in 1950, the temple was rebuilt in 1955 and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics. 

This afternoon, travel to Arashiyama and stroll through the impressive bamboo grove, one of Kyoto’s top sights. Wandering along the path between the soaring stands of bamboo is an ethereal experience. The bamboo is still used in local workshops to produce baskets, cups, boxes, mats and pieces of art.

Later today, ride like a local on a rickshaw admiring the surrounding scenery from a different perspective (additional cost). Finally, stop by Tenryuji Temple, one of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the head temple of the Tenryu sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. It is the largest and most frequented temple in Arashiyama.
Hyatt Regency Kyoto (Guest Room) | Meals: B

Day 11: Kyoto

This morning take a leisurely walk along the cherry-lined Philosopher’s Path admiring the ever-changing vistas, the temples and shrines along the way and pausing for a refreshment at one of the cafés along the two-kilometre trail. Then a chance to experience the ancient Japanese ritual of the tea ceremony. Take part in a traditional ceremony in a nearby temple or be welcomed into the home of an apprentice geisha (maiko) who will lead the tea ceremony and explain the importance of this age-old custom.

Finish the morning at Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko entertain.

The afternoon is at leisure before taking your seat for an unforgettable meal in the company of a maiko, or geisha. Treat your tastebuds to a kaiseki ryori (multi-course) dinner and sip sake as you learn more about your host’s world. Then, enjoy traditional dance and musical entertainment performed by your maiko (additional cost).
Hyatt Regency Kyoto (Guest Room) | Meals: B

Day 12: Depart Kyoto

Transfer to Osaka Kansai International Airport by private vehicle for your onward flight.
Meals: B

Show Full Itinerary


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Journey Dates & Prices

As this suggested itinerary can be personalised to your specific requirements, it is not available for online booking.

Depending on your preferred dates and arrangements, final pricing will vary from low season to peak season travel.

Please call A&K on 1300 851 800 or send us a booking enquiry to book this journey.


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