Japan: Archaeology & Tradition

This “off the beaten path” tour explores outlying areas like Tohoku in northern Honshu and the Sea of Japan coast on the north side of Honshu. We will experience Japan as it was in the 19th century before modernization forever changed its landscapes and cities.

<strong>THIS TOUR HAS PASSED</strong>

Tour Description


  • Escape into Japan’s past on an exploration of early castles, samurai mansions, and pleasure quarters
  • Explore famed temples, including Nagano Prefecture’s Zenkoji — home to the first ever Buddhist statue brought to Japan

  • Encounter the beauty of imposing castle towns developed by the daimyo and the Tokugawa shoguns
  • Visit Shima Chaya, an elegant 19th century teahouse exhibiting traditional musical instruments and geisha tools

Meals: 15 breakfasts, 13 lunches & 8 dinners


Dr Christine Guth is Senior Tutor of History of Design at the Royal College of Art in London. She received her PhD in Fine Arts at Harvard University. She specializes in Asian material culture and design history, and is interested in many aspects of material culture, with Japan a particular focal point.


Friday, October 5 & 6:
We depart from the US on Thursday arriving in to Tokyo on Friday.
Hotel: Marriott Courtyard Station, Tokyo.

October7: TOKYO
We begin with a city tour of Tokyo. The rest of the day will be at leisure or you may wish to join a tour of Tokyo National Museum.
Hotel: Marriott Courtyard Station, Tokyo.

October 8: AOMORI
A morning ‘bullet train’ takes us to Aomori. We tour Sannai Maruyama, where prehistoric dwellings and thousands of artifacts have been found. This evening we will gather for a lecture and dinner.
Hotel: Hotel Aomori.

October 9: HONSHU
We travel to Lake Towada, Honshu’s largest volcanic crater lake. Continue to one of the best preserved Jomon megalithic complexes in the north east: the Oyu Stone Circles. We then visit the old castle-town of Morioka,
Hotel: Hotel Metropolitan, Morioke New Wing.

October 10: HIRAIZUMI
We spend the day touring Hiraizumi, home to the Fujiwaras who ruled the Tōhoku region for centuries. We view the temples of Chuson-ji, renowned for extravagant gold and inlay mother-of-pearl in its worship hall; and Motsu-ji, and its classic preserved Jodo garden.
Hotel: Hotel Metropolitan, Morioke New Wing.

October 11: KARASU-JO
We explore Karasu-jo, one of Japan’s oldest intact castles. We stop at Nihon Ukiyoe Hakubutsukan, a museum devoted to a comprehensive collection of ukiyo-e, Edoperiod wood-block prints.
Hotel: Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto.

October 12: NAGANO
We explore Nagano, where we begin with a visit to the Haniwa terracotta figurines, housed in Nagano Museum. After, we continue to the Zenko-ji, temple and visit the small town of Obuse and Hokusai-kan Museum, dedicated to the leading ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai.
Hotel: Hotel Buena Vista, Matsumoto.

October 13: TAKAYAMA
We travel through the Japanese Alps and stop at the morning market and Jinya, the shogun’s headquarters, in the picturesque village of Takayama. We continue to Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The traditional thatched houses still stand proudly here, preserved by their isolated mountain setting.
Hotel: Kanazawa Excel Tokyu Hotel.

October 14 &15: KANAZAWA
We spend two days exploring the old quarters and museums of Kanazawa. We stop in Nagamachi, the Samurai Residence District, with its earthen walls, twisting streets and canals and D.T. Suzuki Museum. We also visit the Shima Chaya, an elegant geisha house. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to watch a Noh play or visit Kanazawa’s galleries.
Hotel: Kanazawa Excel Tokyu Hotel.

October 16: ICHIJOTANI
We begin at Eihei-ji an active Soto-Zen monastery. This atmospheric temple has beautiful gardens that climb upto a thickly forested mountainside. At Ichijotani we see the excavated ruins of the castle-town ruled by five generations of the Asakura clan. We continue to Fukui, to visit Maruoka-jo, Japan’s oldest castle keep.
Hotel: Hotel Fujita Fukui.

October 17: TORIHAMA
We travel along the San’in coast of the Sea of Japan, stopping at the Mikata Jomon Museum and a shell midden at Torihama. We continue to Obama, a small fishing village called the “Nara of the Sea” for its ancient temples. We tour Jingu-ji temple, in which Shinto deities are worshipped alongside Buddhist images.
Hotel: Hotel New Otani, Tottori.

October 18 & 19:

We continue to Matsue. We start with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art, where great works by such 20th-century Nihon-ga painters are displayed. In the afternoon, we continue to Yakumotatsu Fudoki-no-Oka and its site museum. On Thursday, we begin with a visit to the imposing Izumo Taisha Shrine. We spend the remainder of the day visiting the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, where spectacular bronze halberds and other remains are displayed.
Hotel: Hotel Tokyu, Matsue.

October 20: MATSUE
We will complete our touring this morning with visits to Gesshoji temple, Matsue Castle and local sites associated with the expatriate writer Lafcadio Hearn, whose essays popularized a romanticized view of pre-modern Japan. This evening we will met for our farewell dinner.
Hotel: Hotel Tokyu, Matsue.

October 21: OSAKA
We board the train for the port city of Osaka, where we visit the Oriental Ceramics Museum to round off our tour.
Hotel: Hotel ANA Crowne Plaza, Osaka.

Sunday, October 22: OSAKA
This morning we transfer to the airport for our flights home.



Additional Information


Dr Christine Guth is Senior Tutor of History of Design at the Royal College of Art in London. She received her PhD in Fine Arts at Harvard University. She specializes in Asian material culture and design history, and is interested in many aspects of material culture, with Japan a particular focal point.

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