Japanese Gardens in Autumn

  • November 10 - 21, 2023
  • $7,575 USD per person
  • Join our exploration of Japan's enchanting gardens, where the vibrant autumn hues enrich and enhance beautifully designed spaces.
Japanese Gardens in Autumn

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Lovely experience, lovely gardens with like-minded people. These tours are a masterclass in garden appreciation!

2023 Tour Member

Japanese Gardens in Autumn

November 10 - 21, 2023


Welcome to the serene world of Japanese Gardens in Autumn. As summer surrenders to autumn, these meticulously designed spaces come alive with fiery foliage. Immerse yourself in garden artistry as you stroll along meandering paths around quiet ponds, admire meticulously pruned trees, and witness the interplay of moss-covered rocks and trickling water. Join us as we explore the allure of Japan's exceptionally refined gardens, where time seems to stand still and serenity awaits us at every turn.


November 10, Friday – Arrive at Tokyo Haneda Airport
November 11, Saturday – Tokyo
November 12, Sunday – Tokyo
November 13, Monday – Tokyo to Kanazawa
November 14, Tuesday – Kanazawa
November 15, Wednesday – Kanazawa to Okayama
November 16, Thursday – Shimane
November 17, Friday – Okayama to Kyoto
November 18, Saturday – Kyoto
November 19, Sunday – Ohara
November 20, Monday – Kyoto
November 21, Tuesday – Depart Kansai International Airport

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, adjustments may be necessary if unforeseen circumstances beyond our control occur or opportunities arise that would enhance the itinerary.


Day 1, November 10, Friday -- ARRIVE IN JAPAN

  • Tour members independently arrange travel to Tokyo International Airport-HND (Haneda), transfer by taxi to the Park Hotel Tokyo (transfer cost not included), and check into the room booked for them (included in the tour price). We'll gather in the hotel lobby at 6:30 PM for a Welcome Dinner in a restaurant TBD (included).

Day 2, November 11, Saturday -- TOKYO GARDENS

  • The first garden of our tour is a Stroll Garden nestled within the hustle and bustle of Tokyo: Kiyosumi Garden. Stroll Gardens primarily emphasize a journey through a designed landscape based on Japanese concepts of nature and beauty. So it is with Kiyosumi where paths meander around and over a pond at the heart of the garden, leading to various vantage points. Originally an aristocrat’s garden exclusive to the elite, the garden we admire today was crafted in the 19th century by Iwasaki Yatarō, the founder of Mitsubishi. He opened its gates to the public in 1932, and in 1979 the Tokyo Metropolitan Government recognized it as a designated place of scenic beauty.
  • This morning's second garden is a hotel garden, the New Otani Garden, a 20th-century interpretation of a traditional Stroll Garden with a 400-year history as a Samurai garden. After World War II, Yonetaro Otani purchased the property and hired Iwaki Sentarō, a renowned garden designer, to renovate it. The garden features a path encircling a pond with 350 koi and a striking red bridge. There is also a Karesansui garden with carefully arranged rocks and raked sand, as well as antique stone lanterns from the 1600s. In preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the government asked Otani to build a hotel on the property, and in 1974, 80 massive boulders were fashioned into a remarkable 20-foot waterfall. The 10-acre garden we see today is part of the New Otani Hotel complex.
  • We’ll have lunch at Ginza Mitsukoshi (not included), Japan's oldest surviving department store chain founded in 1673. The store has two restaurants and is best known for its Food Court with a wide selection of Japanese and Western food.
  • This afternoon we get an introduction to one of the Japanese arts with a visit to a Sumi Artist. Sumi is the traditional art of monochrome black ink painting, usually on handmade paper, where only one expressive brushstroke is allowed for each mark.
  • We return to the Park Hotel Tokyo for the night. Dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in Tokyo (not included).

Day 3, November 12, Sunday -- MORE TOKYO GARDENS

  • Today, we start at the Nezu Museum, delving into pre-modern Japanese and Asian art collected by Nezu Kaichirō (1860-1940), a Japanese industrialist and passionate art lover. The collection, now approximately 7400 works, includes painting and calligraphy, sculpture and ceramics, wooden and bamboo crafts, and tea wares for the tea ceremony. It is housed in a 2009 building designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Kuma and has been called a serene contemporary temple for traditional art. Also on the grounds is a noteworthy garden made in the shinzan-yūkoku style, which means deep mountains and mysterious valleys. Following the path leads one deeper and deeper into the lush garden revealing teahouses, two ponds, and stone sculptures.
  • We’ll have lunch on our way to our afternoon gardens (not included).
  • This afternoon, we visit another Stroll Garden, Rikugien Garden. In 1702, aristocrat Yanagisawa Yoshiyasuis began making Rikugien on land the ruling Shogun gave him. He dedicated seven years to transforming the flat site into a garden with a large central pond, picturesque islands, multiple hills adorned with groves of trees, and several teahouses, all connected by a network of paths. Along the paths, Yoshiyasuis recreated scenes in miniature from famous Chinese and Japanese poems that he loved, giving the garden its alternate name, the "six poems garden." After falling into disrepair, the garden was restored in 1878 by Mitsubishi founder Iwasaki Yatoro and later donated to Tokyo in 1938. Today, Rikugien Garden is a 25-acre public park, a beautiful refuge and national cultural property in the middle of the modern city.
  • We return to our hotel for our last night. Dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in Tokyo (not included).

Day 4, November 13, Monday -- TOKYO to KANAZAWA

  • This morning, we travel by Bullet Train to Kanazawa Station, a journey of approximately 2.5 hours.
  • On arrival, we’ll have lunch (not included) and then explore Kenrokuen Garden, often listed as one of Japan's three most beautiful gardens, alongside Korakuen in Okayama (which we visit on Wednesday) and Kairakuen in Mito. The daimyos of the Maeda clan built the garden over a period of 150 years, starting in 1620. Kenrokuen translates to "garden of the six sublimities," which are spaciousness, seclusion, human artistry, antique elegance, flowing water, and magnificent views. In addition to water features, bridges, teahouses, stones, and viewpoints, there are approximately 8,750 trees and 183 plant species. Noteworthy attractions we won’t want to miss are the oldest fountain in Japan, operating on natural water pressure; the iconic Kotojitoro Lantern with its unique two-legged design; and the Flying Geese Bridge (Gankō-bashi), crafted from eleven red stones arranged to resemble geese in flight.
  • For the night, we check into Hotel Forza Kanazawa for two nights. Dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in Kanazawa (not included).

Day 5, November 14, Tuesday -- KANAZAWA

  • We start the day with a visit to the National Crafts Museum, dedicated to preserving and promoting Japanese crafts. Kanazawa is titled the "City of Crafts." In 2009, UNESCO recognized it as part of its Creative Cities Network for Crafts and Folk Art. In 2020, this recognition led to the relocation of the National Crafts Museum from the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo to Kanazawa. As the only national museum focused on crafts, it houses a collection of 4,000 works, mainly made since World War II, including ceramics, glass, lacquerware, woodwork, bamboo crafts, dyeing and weaving, dolls, metalwork, industrial and graphic design. The museum's collection is particularly notable for including works by artisans designated as Living National Treasures, who are honored for their exceptional craftsmanship. One of the museum's highlights is the faithful recreation of the working area used by Matsuda Gonroku (1896–1986), a Living National Treasure renowned for his mastery of Maki-e, a traditional Japanese lacquer technique.
  • We’ll have lunch at a cafe of your choosing (not included) in the Omicho Market, which has been at the heart of Kanazawa's food culture for over three centuries, bustling with life under its iconic covered walkways. With more than 170 stores, the market is a gastronomic paradise, featuring abundant seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, confectionery, and even a variety of grocery and clothing stores interspersed with colorful flower stalls and restaurants. The market's cheerful atmosphere makes it a must-visit spot, with many vendors offering tantalizing samples to passersby.
  • This afternoon, we visit Nomura House and Garden to get a glimpse into the life of a wealthy samurai family in the Edo Period. The beautifully crafted dwelling, which housed eleven generations, includes sliding doors with paintings by 17th-century artist Senkei Sasaki, a coffered ceiling made from Japanese cypress, and samurai armor and weapons. Despite its modest size, the surrounding garden is lush, featuring a meandering stream with a waterfall that adds a gentle soundtrack to the tranquil space. We’ll take in the view from the veranda and then follow the narrow paths that wind through the garden, over stepping stones and a granite bridge, past ancient lanterns, rare stone formations, and a 400-year-old bayberry tree. At the end of the exploration, a rest in the upstairs tea room will give us a unique overview of the garden, best enjoyed with a cup of traditional matcha tea.
  • For the rest of the afternoon, we explore scenic Higashi Chaya. Situated adjacent to the Asano River, the district was established in 1820 as a sanctuary where geiko—local geishas—entertained wealthy nobility and merchants with music, dance, and games. This area reveals well-preserved traditional wooden structures with intricate lattice-work windows. Today, the delicate strum of the shamisen (a guitar) and the rhythmic beat of drums can still be heard from the teahouses in the evenings, confirming the enduring presence of geisha entertainment. While most teahouses maintain exclusivity, only accessible through referral, a few are open to the curious visitor during the day. Alongside these, many of the original buildings have been transformed into charming cafes, restaurants, sweet shops, and craft shops. Don't miss the opportunity to stop by a gold leaf gallery, a nod to Kanazawa's industry that produces 99% of Japan's gold leaf, or to enjoy a tranquil moment with a cup of tea and wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets, in one of the welcoming establishments.
  • We return to Hotel Forza Kanazawa for our last night in Kanazawa. Dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in the city (not included).

Day 6, November 15, Wednesday -- KANAZAWA to OKAYAMA

  • We take the Limited Express train to Kyoto station this morning and transfer to the Bullet Train for Okayama.
  • Upon arrival in Okayama, we’ll have lunch at a cafe (not included) and then visit Okayama Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's most highly regarded gardens on par with the Kenrokuen Garden we saw in Kanazawa. Located on a sandbar in the Asahi River, the garden is a splendid relic of the Edo Period. Open to the public since 1884, this garden endured significant damage during the 1934 floods and World War II but has been carefully restored based on historical records. The sprawling garden features classic elements like large ponds, streams, and paths, along with unique spacious lawns. Groves of plum, cherry, maple trees, and tea and rice fields are just some of the plantings we’ll see. A highlight is the 2100’ winding stream that flows through a two-story open rest house called Ryuten, framing views of the garden, all set against the backdrop of the rooflines of Okayama Castle, which we visit next.
  • Okayama Castle, often called "Crow Castle" due to its striking black exterior, is next on our itinerary. It stands on the shores of the Asahi River across from Korakuen Garden. Initially built in the 16th century with gigantic stones in the retaining walls at its base, the castle was reconstructed in 1966 after being destroyed during World War II. Its unique facade contrasts with the typical white plaster of many Japanese castles, lending it a distinctive and imposing presence. The castle houses a history display within its six-story donjon—the most heavily fortified area where the occupants could shelter during a siege. From its upper floors, we’ll see panoramic views of the city and Korakuen Garden.
  • We check into the Okayama International Hotel for two nights. Dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in the city (not included).

Day 7, November 16, Thursday -- ADACHI MUSEUM OF ART

  • This morning we travel to the Adachi Museum of Art, a renowned contemporary cultural gem. Established by local businessman and passionate art collector Zenko Adachi in 1970, the museum is famed for its exceptional collection of modern Japanese art. The museum's charm, however, is also deeply embedded in its breathtaking gardens, which are viewed from the museum building and not entered. Often cited as one of the most beautiful in Japan, the gardens cover 40 acres, designed in various styles, including a dry landscape garden, a white gravel and pine garden, and a moss garden. Every view from the museum building is meticulously curated, presenting the gardens as live paintings. This blend of art and nature encapsulates Zenko Adachi's philosophy, making our visit to the Adachi Museum an immersive aesthetic experience.
  • Lunch will be at a cafe of your choice (not included).
  • This afternoon we travel into the Chūgoku Mountains to the village of Kuse to visit Mairai-ji Temple, which houses a striking collection of modern woodblock prints. This temple, brought back to life by Shodo Iwagaki, a Zen Buddhist priest, woodblock print artist, and the temple's presiding figure since 1976, is a testament to his spirit and talent. After arriving at the then-dilapidated and abandoned temple, Iwagaki decided to use the space as a vibrant canvas. Since then, this self-taught artist has adorned the temple's sliding paper walls with his bold, graphic, and decidedly modern woodblock prints, infusing the entire temple with dynamism and energy. Accentuating the prints is nuanced Isamu Noguchi lighting, adding a layer of modern aesthetic to this revitalized spiritual sanctuary.
  • We return to our Okayama hotel for our last night. As usual, dinner this evening will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in the city (not included).

Day 8, November 17, Friday -- OKAYAMA to KYOTO

  • This morning we take a one-hour ride on the Bullet Train to Kyoto, renowned for its rich cultural heritage.
  • Our first Kyoto garden gives us an introduction to Zen gardens. Nestled at the foot of a mountain, Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion, was built as a retirement villa and garden in 1482 by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. The complex became a Zen temple as Yoshimasa had wished upon his death in 1490. Contrary to its name, the Silver Pavilion lacks the anticipated silver exterior. Rather its unadorned facade embodies 'wabi-sabi' — the Japanese aesthetic, appreciating beauty in imperfection. The temple garden has a distinct raked dry sand garden, the "Sea of Silver Sand," featuring a 6’ sand cone called "Moon Viewing Platform," metaphorically representing Mt. Fuji. There is also a forested moss garden with ponds, islands, bridges, and streams. Moss is associated with the Zen concept of impermanence and the transience of life. In 1994, Ginkaku-ji's distinctive aesthetics earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, and it remains an official National Treasure of Japan.
  • Next, we visit Murin-an, a late 19th-century villa built by Yamagata Aritomo, a pivotal statesman in modern Japan's history and twice its Prime Minister. The property, enclosed within plain walls, includes a traditional main house, a Western-style building, and a teahouse. However, the villa's piece de resistance is its 3/4 acre garden, often likened to a jewel box. Designed by Ogawa Jihei, the garden is an example of the shift in garden design from the dominance of symbolic elements before the Meiji Period (such as a rock denoting a mountain and sand, the ocean) to a more naturalistic vision. At Murin-an, the goal was to create a landscape reminiscent of what one would see in a mountain village by using the 'borrowed scenery' of the Higashiyama mountains and mimicking a natural brook's vitality with a winding, dynamic stream. Also of note are the garden’s open lawn and woodland underplanted with over 50 species of meticulously maintained moss. Donated to Kyoto City in 1941, Murin-an was deemed a Scenic Place of Beauty in 1951.
  • Today we’ll have lunch at Nishiki Market (not included), often dubbed "Kyoto's Kitchen." It’s a lively gastronomic haven five blocks long, packed with over a hundred shops and eateries. This bustling avenue offers an array of Kyoto's food specialties, from fresh seafood and pickled vegetables to matcha-infused sweets. We may sample delicacies from various stalls and then enjoy a meal at a small restaurant while soaking up the market's lively atmosphere.
  • Our final stop today is Zohiko Lacquer Shop, a store with a 300-year history specializing in the art of Urushi lacquerware, which involves sprinkling gold and silver powder on lacquer. Housed in a traditional building, Zohiko offers handcrafted lacquer pieces, ranging from elegant tableware and decorative boxes to intricate accessories. Every item showcases the detailed craftsmanship and dedication to maintaining the heritage of this traditional Japanese art form.
  • We check into Hyatt Place Kyoto for 4 nights. Once again, dinner will be at a restaurant of your choice, either in the hotel or elsewhere in the city (not included).

Day 9, November 18, Saturday -- KYOTO

  • This morning, we travel to the celebrated Ryōan-ji Temple, a Zen Buddhist monastery and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see the most famous example of a Dry Landscape Garden, Karesansui. Although the garden's original designer and appearance remain unclear, it is believed to have been created in the fifteenth century and received its current design during the Edo period. It consists of carefully arranged rocks and gravel in an 82’ by 23’ rectangle enclosed by clay walls. Fifteen stones are placed in carefully composed groups surrounded by white gravel, which is raked daily by the monks. The only touch of greenery is small pads of moss around the stones. The garden's meaning has sparked numerous theories, including interpretations such as islands floating on an ocean, a symbolic expression of wabi-sabi, or an embodiment of the fundamental ideals of Zen philosophy. Or perhaps its most important meaning is as a purely abstract composition, inviting contemplation.
  • Next, we explore Saihō-ji Temple, belonging to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. It is also called "The Moss Temple" due to its lush carpets of moss, which have become an important influence in Japanese gardens., The temple was founded in 731 and eventually faced neglect until the renowned Japanese gardener Musō Soseki revived it in 1339, turning it into his masterpiece. The garden features two floors—the upper floor showcases a Karesansui-style garden, while the lower floor presents a classical-style garden surrounding a pond with islands. The garden is home to approximately 120 varieties of moss, which emerged naturally over time due to the moist, humid climate during a time when the temple lacked funds for upkeep. Visitors must copy a sutra, a Buddhist text, before being granted access to stroll the 8.5-acre garden. Saihō-ji is listed among Japan's Historic Sites and Places of Scenic Beauty and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Lunch today is at an establishment of your choice (not included) in Arashiyama, a district in western Kyoto on the Katsura River close to the mountains. Here, we can have lunch while enjoying the area's natural beauty. This popular spot showcases a broad array of Japanese culinary offerings, ranging from rich Kobbe beef to ascetic Buddhist vegetarian fare, from hearty soba noodles to crispy tempura, and from silky tofu to sizzling grilled seafood. Alternatively, we may prefer to grab a sandwich or savor a sweet treat while we walk across the iconic Togetsukyo Bridg, a venerable wooden structure four centuries old.
  • We stay in Arashiyama for our next garden, which is in Tenryu-ji Temple, a sprawling Zen temple established in 1339 that serves as one of the headquarters of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism. Historically ranked among the five most important Zen temples in Kyoto, Tenryu-ji Temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ancient Kyoto. The temple's Sogenchi Garden, designed by Zen master Muso Soseki, is a Stroll Garden and was the first garden to incorporate the concept of "borrowed scenery" (shakkei) by using the nearby mountains to enhance the garden's depth. Another garden highlight is the Dragon Gate Waterfall, an arrangement of rugged stones that suggest a powerful water cascade but is completely dry.
  • Close to Tenryu-ji Temple is the world-famous Sagano Bamboo Forest, a natural wonder of towering Phyllostachus edulis, some 100’ tall. As sunlight filters through the stalks, they cast beautiful shadows and create gentle sounds — rustling, creaking, and knocking together. Wooden pathways weave through the serene forest, allowing us to experience this magical place.
  • Our final stop today is atop one of the foothills of Mt. Ogura, nestled at the end of the bamboo forest. Ōkōchi Sansō is a villa with a five-acre garden. It was once the estate of celebrated film actor Ōkōchi Denjirō, famed for his period samurai and war films. Built in the 1930s and 1940s, this epitome of traditional Japanese residential architecture was opened to the public following Ōkōchi's death in 1962. We’ll walk the suggested path that presents the garden as a shifting tableau, capturing the exquisite beauty of autumn. This journey over stepping-stones, through maze-like hedges, past bamboo fences, and mossy ground cover, reveals views of Kyoto, Mt. Hiei, and the Hozu River gorge. The pathway eventually leads to a teahouse, a jewel of wabi-sabi aesthetics, where we are welcome to have tea.
  • We return to our hotel for the night and dine together privately for a Geisha Dinner (included) at a casual restaurant for a kaiseki meal, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The first half of the evening will be a dance performance, after which the geisha will converse with us over dinner.

Day 10, November 19, Sunday -- OHARA

  • This morning, we travel to Ohara, an ancient farming village in the mountains north of Kyoto, to visit Hosen-in Temple. Established 800 years ago as priest quarters for a larger temple, Hosen-in has two distinctive gardens. The first garden surrounds the main hall showcasing an impressive 700-year-old pine tree. Carefully shaped to echo the silhouette of Mt. Fuji, the tree lends the garden an air of quiet grandeur. We will observe this unique feature with framed views from the veranda while being served tea. The second garden is Hōraku-en, meaning "garden of the crane and turtle," both symbols of longevity, offering a contrasting aesthetic. With familiar elements such as a stone bridge, patterned raked gravel, conical gravel mounds, a water basin, and a swirl of rock slabs, this garden conjures a different aspect of Zen tranquility, making Hosen-in a sanctuary of dual yet harmonious moods.
  • Our next stop is Entsu-ji Temple's small garden, a masterful example of Shakkei, or borrowed scenery. The garden seamlessly merges with the surrounding natural scene, offering an uninterrupted view of Mt. Hiei from the veranda. Once part of an emperor's villa in the 17th century, low hedges enclose the garden on three sides, and 40 stones and low round-trimmed shrubs punctuate its moss-covered ground. Mature Japanese cedar trees, their trunks trimmed high, rise straight up on the perimeter, breaking the horizontal lines of the hedges. Bamboo groves and the mountain stretch beyond, creating a mesmerizing tableau. The selective arrangement of common natural elements—moss, stones, shrubs, trees, bamboo groves, and mountains—while excluding all other distractions make this garden an archetype of Zen aesthetics.
  • We’ll stop for lunch on our way to our next garden (not included).
  • This afternoon, we’ll explore Kōtō-in Temple, a serene 17th-century sub-temple of the illustrious Daitoku-ji Temple. It has two atmospheric gardens that showcase the aesthetic philosophy of its founder, warrior-turned-Zen priest Hosokawa Tadaoki. We will first be drawn into the temple's ambiance by its exquisitely crafted long, narrow entrance path, unrivaled in Kyoto. The main garden, viewed from the veranda of the principal hall, is a masterful exercise in Zen simplicity - a flat expanse of vibrant moss, punctuated by a solitary lantern and graceful maples, set against a bamboo backdrop. On the other side of the main hall, a winding path invites exploration of the intimate tea garden. Walking past clipped clumps of bamboo, camellias, hornbeam, and rhododendron, and a rugged water basin, culminating in a quaint tea house - a tranquil hideaway steeped in the meditative spirit of Zen.
  • We return to our hotel for the night, then gather for dinner (included) at a local restaurant, including a Sake Tasting.

Day 11, November 20, Monday -- KYOTO

  • We start our last day of garden touring in the sprawling Nanzen-ji temple complex at Tenju-an Temple. It was initially a 13th-century emperor's country villa before converting to a Zen temple. The gardens at Tenju-an are unusual in their incorporation of elements from many periods of Japanese garden design. The temple's dry garden, likely hailing from the 17th century, presents a serene picture from the main hall veranda, featuring a rectangular sea of light-colored, raked gravel punctuated by flat-topped rocks set against a verdant backdrop of trees. This garden's standout feature is a striking, fish-scale path paralleling the veranda, composed of square paving stones set diagonally in moss. Adjoining the dry garden is the stroll garden with a pair of ponds, separated by a picturesque peninsula, and two bridges: one made of staggered planks and the other, flat stepping-stones.
  • We take a break from gardens to visit Eriko Horiki’s Washi Gallery. Washi is the traditional form of Japanese paper making with a history dating back over a thousand years, revered for its warmth, texture, strength, and translucency. Eriko Horiki is a contemporary artist renowned for her exquisite work in this medium. Her work, infused with a delicate balance of light and shadow, challenges conventional perceptions of paper and space and creates transcendently beautiful objects.
  • We’ll stop for lunch on our way to our next garden (not included).
  • The last temple gardens of our tour bring our inquiry into Japanese gardens up to modern times with a visit to Tofuku-ji Temple. It is one of the Five Great Zen Temples in Kyoto and was founded in 1236, but the gardens we see today were not made until 1939. Encircling the temple's main building are four distinct gardens that fuse the simplicity of 13th-century design with a modernist sensibility. Mirei Shigemori, a renowned landscape architect, designed them. The southern garden, a dry landscape garden, interprets elements of Chinese mythology with swirling gravel in front as the sea, unusually detailed rocks as legendary islands, and five mossy hillocks crowned with a single pine, representing Kyoto's five notable Zen temples. The western garden contrasts squares of white gravel with clipped azaleas, a design possibly inspired by land division methods. In the east, seven round recycled bridge piers stand in raked sand and moss, echoing the celestial pattern of Ursa Major (the big dipper), with the raked gravel symbolizing the night sky. The northern garden displays a checkerboard pattern of square stones amid moss, gradually fading into a backdrop of azaleas. Revered as the zenith of contemporary Japanese garden design, these gardens' abstract expressions, particularly the arrangement of square stones within the lush moss, have achieved iconic status, inspiring garden makers worldwide.
  • We end our tour with a Tea Ceremony called chadō, meaning the way of tea. It is a tradition steeped in history, where experts trained in elegant hand movements serve a bowl of matcha (powdered green tea). These gestures aid in appreciating the healing brew and the hand-crafted bowls it is served in. We’ll learn to appreciate the subtle depth of a tea ceremony, often considered the key to Japanese culture. While sipping the rich flavor of matcha green tea, a master of the tea ceremony will give you an insider look into the small details that make the ceremony a serene moment of contemplation and the ceremony’s connections to Zen and Buddhism.
  • We return to our hotel for the last night, then gather at a local restaurant TBD (included) for our Farewell Dinner included.

Day 12, November 21, Tuesday -- Sayonara

  • Our time together ends, but garden lovers will likely find inspiration wherever they are. Tour members can choose to return home or carry on the adventure.
  • We’ll provide coach transfer to Kansai International Airport-KIX at 7:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you may take a Limousine Airport Bus, Taxi, or Hotel Limousine Car on your own at your chosen time, with costs ranging from $12 - $155.
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