In a country that is slightly smaller than the state of California but home to 130 million residents, there is always yin and yang. One side of Japan centers on thriving industry, urban centers, bustling bullet trains, and bombastic modern art; the other is a patchwork of motionless cedar forests, terraced tea farms, and tendrils of incense emanating from Buddhist temples. The eclectic attractions packed between the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara draw from each side—giant Buddhas, a park filled with fearless, friendly deer, sake distilleries, and Imperial Palace ruins.
Outside the city centers, tiny, twisting bike paths lead to villages that seem to have more Shinto shrines than people and towns where wild rivers surge past sprouting bamboo. A pink carpet of cherry blossoms cascades from the crown of Mount Yoshino. There’s a shift to simplicity, and a focus on tradition and etiquette. In the ryokans where you’ll stay, the philosophy is pure Zen—trade your kit for a plain yukata robe, sleep simply on a tatami mat, and take a cue from the Buddhist pilgrims who traipse between temples, contemplating the country’s beauty anew each day.
Sushi and sashimi are staples; udon, ramen, tempura, yakitori, and traditional kaiseki (small plates including miso soup, rice, fish, fermented vegetables, and seaweed); mochi
Sake, tea, Koshu wine, and Japanese beers like Asahi, Kirin, and Sapporo
A Cultural Journey in Temples and Tea Leaves2019
- Apr 2 – 8
- May 27 – Jun 2
- Sep 30 – Oct 6
- Oct 21 – 27
Any scheduled tour can be made private. Your group, your dates.