Themed Tours

Gardens: The Art of Sculpted Landscapes (14 days)

For those who find beauty in nature and how we co-exist with it, we have crafted a tour that will take you through Japan’s most beautiful and renowned sculpted landscapes. This tour highlights the history, cultural influences, and aesthetics of Japan’s beautiful gardens, while also giving you an excellent overview of Japan as a country. From cityscapes to countrysides, you will see it all.

  • Tokyo
  • Hakone: Mt. Fuji view
  • Matsue: Adachi Museum of Art
  • Kyoto: Ginkakuji
  • Kyoto: Ginkakuji
  • Kyoto
  • Kyoto
  • Kyoto
  • Kyoto
  • Kyoto: Ryoanji
  • Kyoto: Shugakuin
  • Takamatsu: Ritsurin
  • Japan’s most renowned garden and landscape masterpieces
  • Visits to some of Kyoto’s finest gardens
  • An up-close experience with the esoteric art of bonsai
  • Journeys off the beaten path to Takamatsu and Matsue
  • Visits to some of Tokyo’s best hidden-gem gardens
  • The remote and breathtaking countryside of the Japanese Alps
  • The Five Lakes area of Mt. Fuji and volcanically beautiful Hakone
  • Rides on the famed shinkansen bullet train

*Highlights are subject to permission/availability, and may change season to season.

The following tour is an example of what we can offer you as a garden-filled tour of Japan. Feel free to contact us to find out what we can add to this schedule to make it special for you. We look forward to making a custom tour for you!

Day 1 Yokoso, and Welcome to Japan

Overnight in Kyoto City

After arriving in Japan, you will transfer to you accommodation in historic Kyoto City. Itinerary will be tailored according to your flight schedule.

Day 2 The Ancient Capital

Overnight in Kyoto City

Today is just one of the days dedicated to the old imperial capital of Japan. As the hub of traditional culture, Kyoto is home to some of the best examples of Japanese aesthetics, craftsmanship, and artistic performance. That combined with some of Kyoto’s 17 World Heritage Sites – the most properties within one city in the world – will make your time in Kyoto unforgettable. Today you will visit distinguished sites such as the stone garden of Ryoanji Temple, the Golden Pavilion, a shogun general’s castle, and the neighborhoods Kyoto’s geisha call home.

Days 3 and 4 Kyoto’s Gardens and the Stories Within

Overnights in Kyoto City

On these days you will find yourself swept away into a world of beautiful landscapes. From well-known gardens to those more hidden, you will visit a wide selection of the best examples of Japan’s garden architecture. The differences and original beauty between landscape gardens, tea ceremony havens, and gardens of stone will become apparent as you go from one to the other, appreciating the craftsmanship that went into each. These days, you will also compare and contrast eastern and western Kyoto City as you explore the charming neighborhoods of the Higashiyama district followed by the temples and bamboo forest of Arashiyama.

Days 5 and 6 Island Hopping through Temples and Gardens

Overnights in Takamatsu

Now you travel off the beaten path, over the Seto Inland Sea and on to the countryside island of Shikoku. As your adventure unfolds today, you will make stops on Japan’s Awaji Island where you will see for yourself the fascinating Water Temple created by architect Tadao Ando. Getting your fill of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, you will move on to the island of Shikoku and the city of Takamatsu. Calling Takamatsu home is a garden that incorporates sculpture with the key aesthetics of Japanese gardening. Takamatsu is also home to one of Japan’s most renowned landscape gardens, which you will have time to stroll at leisure as you learn more and more about the concepts of each botanical placement. In this area off the beaten path, you will also get the chance to delve deep into the practice of bonsai. You will visit artists who have devoted themselves to the craft, see their works, and come to understand more about this fascinating pastime.

Day 7 Willows and Wonders

Overnight in Matsue

Leaving Shikoku, you will make your way to the lovely town of Kurashiki. Kurashiki is proud of its preserved historic neighborhoods and atmosphere. You’ll find here a charming quarter of white-walled warehouses once used in the feudal era that now house a collection of museums, galleries, cafes, and specialty shops. The neighboring aqueduct is also not to be missed as it is lined with willow trees, making for a terrific sight to behold indeed. From Kurashiki, you will continue onward to experience one of the highlights of this tour: the critically acclaimed Adachi Museum Garden. After visiting the garden and its museum, you will continue to the Water City of Matsue, so called for its beautiful canals and scenic Shinjiko Lake. Watching the sunset at the lake is something not to be missed.

Day 8 Serene Spirituality to Colorful Nightlife Vibes

Overnight in Osaka

Starting the day with a visit to Matsue’s castle and its historic district with buildings dating back to the feudal era, you will move on to visit the grand shrine of Izumo Taisha – one of the most sacred shrines in Japan. Built in the oldest style of shrine architecture, you will surely come to appreciate the differences between Japan’s religious grounds as you discover what is unique about Izumo Taisha itself. Moving on from the spiritual serenity, you will head towards the city of comedians and neon lights known as Osaka. Famed for its unique brand of nightlife, a walk through downtown Osaka at night will leave you astonished at just how lively, delicious, and unique downtown city life can be.

Day 9 West Coast City of Gold

Overnight in Kanazawa

Bidding farewell to Osaka, you will head north to the golden city of Kanazawa, so called as it is home to the most skilled artisans of gold leaf. With its rich culture of artisans and craftsmen, Kanazawa also boasts its skills of cloth dyeing, ceramics, lacquerware and so much more, not to mention its foray into more contemporary art with its 21st Century Art Museum. In this city of gold, another one of Japan’s top three gardens awaits you here, right next to a historic samurai quarter and geisha district. Take your time, and explore this tucked-away cultural hub.

Day 10 Bright Country Skies and a Dark Castle

Overnight in Matsumoto

Today is a day of countryside scenes and travel. Leaving Kanazawa, you will head first to the farming village of Shirakawago. A World Heritage Site, Shirakawago is so well preserved that you are sure to see and feel how life was in that same village centuries ago. Walk around and in some of the many gassho-zukuri-style farmhouses that dot the landscape, making sure to stop at the many charming shops as you make your way through the town. And prepare your camera for panoramic shots of the town from its scenic overlook. From Shirakawago you will head to Takayama, a feudal-era town famous for its festival carts and delicious beef that is only rivaled by the beef of Kobe. After exploring the charms of Takayama, you will move on through scenic roads to Matsumoto – the city of the black crow castle. The evening will see you touring the markets, galleries, and shops of Nakamachi. The night holds relaxation, and stories of the day.

Day 11 Feudal-Era Towns to Volcanic and Artistic Landscapes

Overnight in Tokyo

Sun rising over the dark castle, the day dawns and after breakfast you will make your way to volcanically beautiful Hakone. If you choose to go by car, more beautiful countryside roads, and even more importantly, a must-see kimono museum known for its cloth dyeing technique and impressive garden await. If you venture by train, you will simply get to the beauty that is Hakone earlier, giving you more time to enjoy the area. Hakone holds for you fantastic views of Fuji (on a clear day) and the beautiful Open Air Museum of sculpture and natural scenery. Later in the day, you will make your way to Tokyo, readying yourself for your encounter with the modern metropolis.

Days 12 and 13 Gardens in the Urban Labyrinth

Overnights in Tokyo

These days are days to explore Tokyo – the center of modern Japan. You will discover sights main and little known as you explore the urban labyrinth. Every experience with Tokyo is unique as travelers fit the city to what interests them most. What you find through your own exploration and our help is up to you and the rhythm of the city. As different as day and night, the city changes moods as the sun rises and sets leaving even more to be discovered between the early birds and night owls.

Day 14 Farewell and Sayonara

We wish you pleasant travels as you leave this land of the rising sun. We hope that you are taking with you lasting memories of the times you had here, and hope that you can return one day to discover even more. Farewell from all of us at Windows to Japan, and sayonara.