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Japan Tours

Travel to Japan to explore both historic and ultra-modern cities, traditional and cutting-edge architecture, and a unique creative balance between the country’s beautiful natural environment and human culture in exquisite manicured traditional and modern gardens.

Japan’s visual culture contrasts time-honoured, traditional cities like Kyoto and Nara with thriving modern cities such as Tokyo. The Kiso Valley’s historic Nakasendo Way passes through wooded groves and villages with distinctive Edo period (1603 – 1868) wooden architecture. In stark contrast is Japan’s great contemporary architect Tadao Ando’s Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka, (2001). This, and his magnificent 21-21 Design Sight Museum in Tokyo (2007), are modernist masterpieces. They nevertheless maintain an exquisite traditional relation to surrounding nature. Frank Lloyd Wright lived in Japan for a time. Its architecture inspired his beautiful Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School, Tokyo (1921). Restored traditional machiya town houses are used as the most contemporary design stores, blending classic building techniques with powerful modernism.

Japan’s incredibly diverse gardens all nevertheless subtly combine artifice and nature. They blur the boundaries between garden and landscape. Traditional gardens include Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) & Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple), Kyoto, Isui-en, Nara, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Koraku-en, Okayama. Other gardens are tiny and minimalist. They convey subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water.

Japan’s many, various art museums have magnificent traditional to ultra-modern collections. These include Tokyo’s National Museum and the Nara Museum. The Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto, has an impressive woodblock collection. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji has a magnificent collection of kimonos. Naoshima, Japan’s ‘art island’, is renowned for its contemporary art museums and outdoor sculptures. At the Adachi Museum of Art, contemporary Japanese artworks are set harmoniously within beautiful contemplative gardens. The Mori Art Museum, in contrast, occupies the top five floors of Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 54-storey Mori Tower.

Japan’s unique culinary delights often combine flavoursome tastes with time-honoured rituals and aesthetics. An example is a tea ceremony in Kanazawa. Special dishes include shabu-shabuteppan-yakioskashi and kaiseki. They are often enjoyed in exquisite settings. You can eat kaiseki dishes at the historic Awata Sanso in Kyoto, overlooking a charming traditional garden.  The sleek, modern Tateru Yoshino restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, offers mouth-watering food.