Seasonal Gardens of Japan 2018
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Surround yourself with the splendours of the Far East with an action-packed itinerary of rare gardens, bamboo forests, ancient temples, golden Buddhas and, of course, the majestic Mount Fuji.
The origin of the Japanese garden lies in simple, gravel-covered forest clearings – created to provide the gods with space to manifest. Over the centuries the gardens have evolved into an idealised reflection of the natural landscape. This is typified by the careful use of stone and water features, trees, plants and moss. These gardens are places of exquisite beauty. Natural galleries, where the eye is gently led to perfectly framed views of enchanting distant landscapes.
No detail is too small for consideration. Trees and plants are carefully chosen for their qualities of form, colour and texture – combining to create an atmosphere of calm and contemplation. The perfect environment for a holiday.
Autumn foliage is a highly prized Japanese commodity. It perfectly complements the gardens and ponds we encounter – each with its own particular charm and beauty. Many of the most notable gardens are found in and around the former capital of Kyoto. Join us for three full days exploring both public and private gardens here. Kinkaku-ji, with a three-tiered Golden Pavilion at its heart, is perhaps the best known – and is a true highlight of our tour.
Days 1 & 2
We fly overnight from London Heathrow to Kansai International Airport (Osaka). On arrival in Osaka on Day 2, we transfer to Kyoto and the four-star Crowne Plaza ANA Hotel Kyoto. The rest of the day is at leisure. This evening a welcome drink and dinner are included.
We begin with a visit to the dry landscape garden at Ginkaku-ji or ‘Silver Pavilion’, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Our next visit is to Kyoto Botanical Garden which displays over 120,000 plants covering more than 13,000 species. We continue to the stunning garden of Saiho-ji temple, noted for over 120 different species of moss which grow around a large heart-shaped pond in the lower garden. Our final visit is to the private garden of Hakusasonsou in the site of an old paddy field. The garden was created by a painter, Hashimoto Kansetsu, who visited China on more than forty occasions.
Following breakfast, we depart today on a full day excursion to the Prefecture of Shiga, to the east of Kyoto. We begin in Otsu, on the southwest edge of Lake Biwa-ko, the largest lake in Japan. We visit the ancient temple of Ishiyamadera, which was established around the middle of the 8th century by Roben Osho. From here we continue along the shores of Lake Biwa-ko to the historic town of Omi Hachiman, which has a castle dating from 1585 and was the base town for wealthy merchants.
We return to Kyoto for the evening.
Today we are free to explore Kyoto at leisure. Alternatively, we offer an optional excursion, by train to Hiroshima. This was the first city to experience the destruction of an atomic bomb in 1945 and the city is now symbolised by the Peace Memorial Park, which is included in our visit. In the Park there is a museum, the Memorial Cenotaph, the Children’s Peace Monument and the Flame of Peace.
Following breakfast, we have another full day in Kyoto today, visiting some outstanding gardens. Daisen-in temple is a dry-landscape garden of the Muromachi period, featuring some classic white gravel abstract forms and containing a famous boat-shaped rock. Our next visit is to Kinkakuji temple, the three-tiered Golden Pavilion was constructed originally in 1397 as a retirement villa for the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and it was then converted into a temple by his son. We conclude at Ryoan-ji temple, a famous and enigmatic dry landscape garden that often baffles the Western visitor.
A real highlight of the day, and of our tour as a whole, is tonight's dinner. Here, our company is a maiko (an apprentice geiko, the Kyoto equivalent of Tokyo's geisha), who will teach us the history of the traditional female entertainer in Japan.
This morning, we transfer to Nara, the first real capital of Japan. We visit Kasuga Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines, before continuing to one of Nara’s Unesco World Heritage Sites - the Todaiji temple. It is famous for housing the world’s largest bronze statue of Buddha. After lunch, we enjoy Nara Park, where over a thousand tame deer roam free. We return to our hotel in the late afternoon, where we freshen up before transferring to the Kodaiji Temple for an evening visit. At night this seventeenth century stroll garden is illuminated in different colours to magical effect.
This morning, we check out of the hotel and visit the Heian Shrine, a rare example of an extensive pond garden in the grounds of a Shinto shrine. Some of the trees in the garden are over 100 years old. We continue to Nanzen-ji Temple complex, a quintessential Zen temple that exudes an air of serenity. Nanzen-ji has been at the centre of Japanese Zen history since 1386, when it was placed in control of Kyoto’s Gozan, of five great Zen temples. This afternoon we leave Kyoto, taking the famous ‘Shinkansen’ or Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, we transfer to the five-star Prince Park Tower Hotel.
We depart by coach for a full day excursion after breakfast, to the historic seaside town of Kamakura, which was the capital of Japan from 1185 until 1333. We continue to the Hase Kannon Temple. Simple and elegant, the temple is home to a superb 11-faced Kannon, Goddess of Mercy, which is said to date from the 8th century. After lunch in a local restaurant in Kamakura, our next visit is to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, one of the biggest attractions in Kamakura, its approach running between two lotus ponds. The shrine features a gingko tree which dates from the 13th century, beneath which a famous political assassination was carried out in 1219.
We depart today after breakfast, on a full day excursion to Hakone and Mount Fuji, which begins with a visit to Onshi Hakone National Park, an area of forested mountains and deep ravines. After lunch in a local restaurant, we take to the water for a cruise on Lake Ashi, the principal attraction of Hakone, 723m above sea-level. The views are dominated by Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan at 3776m and instantly recognisable. We will have a further photo stop at Mount Fuji before returning to Tokyo and our hotel.
Following breakfast we have a full day sightseeing in Tokyo today, beginning with a visit to the garden of Kyu Furukawa. This is a masterpiece of modern design, combining the authentic Japanese-style with an Italian terraced style garden full of roses. We continue to Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden established in the 1800s by Sahara Kiku-u, a wealthy dealer in antiques. When first opened, its main feature was 360 ume trees. The garden is the only surviving flower garden from the Edo Period. We return to the hotel where your afternoon is free to enjoy Tokyo at your leisure.
Following breakfast, we have a full day sightseeing in Tokyo. We visit the Hamarikyu Garden – it is hard to imagine such a place of tranquility right in the heart of the hustle and bustle that is Tokyo. We take a cruise on the Sumida River from Hamarikyu to Asakusa. We then visit the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo’s most sacred temple. We continue to the Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, one of Tokyo’s best stroll gardens. Our final visit is to the Imperial Palace East Gardens, which has a fine collection of bamboo and Japanese spring blossom.
This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Sadly, we must check out of our hotel today and transfer by coach to Narita Airport, for our return flight home, due to arrive at London Heathrow in the evening.
- Six nights on a bed and breakfast basis at the Crowne Plaza ANA Hotel, Kyoto; five nights at the Grand Prince Hotel, Takanawa, Tokyo
- Visits to gardens of Kinkakuji, Ginkakakuji Temple, Daisen-in, Zuiho-in, Ryogen-in, Heian Shrine; Hamarikyu; Sensoji Temple
- Three lunches; three dinners; welcome drink at Crowne Plaza ANA Hotel
- All bullet train transfers
- Services of a professional tour manager
Supplements per person
- Single room supplement: £1,390