The following itinerary lists a range of museums, galleries, buildings and design projects which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in museum opening hours and privately hosted visits. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Day 1: Saturday 18 January, Arrive Kyoto
- Welcome Meeting at the hotel
This tour starts at the Mitsui Garden Hotel Shinmachi Bettei in Kyoto. Please make your own way the the hotel. The the late afternoon we will gather for a welcome meeting.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. The city is renowned for its aesthetic that merges the highly respected traditions of the past with contemporary design. (Overnight Kyoto)
Day 2: Sunday 19 January, Kyoto
- Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
- Nishiki Market
- Issey Miyake store (Naoto Fukasawa)
- Aesop (Torafu Architects)
- Zohiko Lacquer store
- Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. We start our exploration of Kyoto with a visit to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). The pavilion was begun in 1394 by the shogun Yoshimitsu. It recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, the original having been burned down in the 1950s. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake, while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees, and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and background.
We shall then walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor.
After time at leisure for lunch, we shall visit three nearby stores. The Issey Miyake store in Kyoto is situated within a machiya house (a traditional wooden townhouse), with a restoration and interior design by Naoto Fukasawa. The space is a harmonious melding of the traditional and contemporary. A short walk away is the Aesop store in a building designed by Torafu Architects. Here, the inspiration for the store’s interior design was the laboratory; metal pipe light fittings with bare globes descend from the high ceiling, bathing the elongated narrow space with light. We finish our walk at Zohiko Lacquer, one of the city’s best showrooms of fine lacquer work. Zohiko has been in operation for centuries, and the traditions of this ancient craft are respected by contemporary designers whose work is represented here.
This evening we enjoy a Welcome Dinner of keiseki cuisine, a feast of many small artistically presented dishes. (Overnight Kyoto) BD
Day 3: Monday 20 January, Kyoto
- Machiya Guesthouses
- Ateliers of transitional craft artisans
Today we will visit a selection of fine ateliers belonging to craftspeople who are dedicated to juxtaposing ancient and traditional materials and techniques with contemporary design. Their skills, and often the business itself, have been passed down through families for generations, and the items they create retain the beauty and quality of a bygone era. However, their survival and relevance in the modern world is dependent on them maintaining an innovative approach to design. We will visit the showrooms and workshops of metal workers, bamboo weavers, textile designers and papermakers.
We will also take the opportunity to explore a sample of Kyoto’s machiya – the traditional wooden townhouses that were popular with Kyoto merchants and craftspeople until just before World War II. Kyoto was not bombed during the war, and many fine machiya have survived and been converted into restaurants, shops and guest houses. Traditionally machiya are long and narrow, often with an enclosed courtyard garden towards the rear of the property, and created with organic materials – wooden beams, tatami mats and sliding paper screen doors. The examples we will visit have been renovated by some of the city’s leading architecture firms who have maintained the simplicity and beauty of the house while introducing innovate design elements to create attractive, modern accommodation. (Overnight Kyoto) B
Day 4: Tuesday 21 January, Kyoto
- Kyoto Costume Institute
- Arts & Science Central store
- Garden of Fine Arts (Tadao Ando)
- Kyoto Concert Hall (Arata Isozaki)
This morning we visit the Kyoto Costume Institute. This collection is not generally open to the public and our visit will be subject to obtaining special permission. The Institute houses a remarkable collection of western style garments from around the world, with samples from each era from the 17th century to today. The world’s greatest fashion houses have contributed to the collection, including Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton. Most importantly, however, the garments from the 20th and 21st centuries include designs by leading Japanese fashion designers, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons fame.
We make a brief visit to the Arts & Science store, a business owned by Sonya Park with shops in Kyoto and Tokyo. The store is filled with goods selected by Park who said “I’m opening a shop, and I’m stocking it only with things I love.” The business specialises in craftworks by local and international artisans, creating clothing, jewellery, food and daily items.
The Garden of Fine Arts is a creation of architect Tadao Ando, who has created a traditional Japanese stroll garden using architecture. Located on the edge of the city, it is an outdoor museum where Ando has used light, water, glass and concrete to evoke the serenity of traditional Japanese architecture. Spread over several levels connected by ramps and utilising the narrow area of the site, the museum itself presents reproductions of European artworks on ceramic panels, including a representation of Monet’s Waterlilies that forms the base of a reflection pool.
A short stroll away is the Kyoto Concert Hall by Arata Isozaki. The building was opened in 1995 as part of the 1200th anniversary celebrations for the foundation of Heian-kyo (Kyoto). The exterior of this striking building is clad in dark silver terracotta panels. Isozaki limited the range of materials used on the project, selecting only those that can withstand the passing of time.
“I use ceramic panels in a way that is unusual. Because of glazing ceramics never have perfectly flat surfaces or edges. This tolerance for slight imperfections might be said to be the architectural equivalent of that quality people in Kyoto refer to by the word hannari which is the highest compliment one can pay to a woman in the prime of life. I felt that people in Kyoto would not accept something that did not possess that quality.”
The interior spaces are deliberately complex, and again Isozaki has drawn on Kyoto’s architectural traditions. For example, the decision to have a long and bending hall reflects the approach to a temple. Such techniques also serve to make the space appear more generous than it is, and are coupled with giving spaces a dual purpose (the open floor area at the foot of the stairs is designed to serve as a stage for lectures), and windows allowing views across to the adjacent Botanical Gardens. (Overnight Kyoto) B
Day 5: Wednesday 22 January, Kyoto
- Ateliers of transitional craft artisans
- Afternoon at leisure
This morning we continue our exploration of the traditional yet modern ateliers of Kyoto. The afternoon is at leisure to further explore this fascinating city. (Overnight Kyoto) B
Day 6: Thursday 23 January, Kyoto – Osaka – Kurashiki
- Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art, Kyoto, including Underground Jewelry Box annex (Tadao Ando)
- Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka (Tadao Ando)
- National Museum of Art, Osaka (Cesar Pelli)
- Shinkansen (bullet train) Osaka to Okayama
This morning we depart Kyoto and drive to the Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art. The Oyamazaki Villa was built in the early years of the 20th century as a British-style mountain villa for businessman Shotaro Kaga. This historic building serves as the main building of the museum. Two annexes – the Underground Jewelry box and the Dream Box – were later designed by Tadao Ando when the villa was being saved from demolition by the Asahi Beer company. The collection of artworks include fine paintings by Claude Monet, including several Waterlilies, ceramics by Kanjiro Kawai and a sculpture by Henry Moore. Ando’s annexes serve to unite the spaces of the museum and are partly submerged and covered with greenery in order for them to maintain harmony with the surrounding mountainside.
We continue towards Osaka where we visit the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum by Tadao Ando. Shiba Ryotaro was an important writer of the post-war period. The museum incorporates his home and Ando’s building which was inspired by the writer’s expentive library. The use of light plays an important part in the design, and reflects the way Shiba’s work cast light and hope into Japan’s dark post-war years.
In the heart of Osaka is the National Museum of Art. While the collection is world class, it is the architecture by Cesar Pelli that is truly remarkable. The museum itself is underground; all that can be seen on the surface is the delicate metal framework that Pelli created to resemble reeds in the wind – a suitable allusion given the museum’s location on the little island of Nakanoshima.
After a short visit to the museum we transfer to Osaka station to take the shinkansen to Okayama and then on to Kurashiki where we will be based for 2 nights. (Overnight Kurashiki) BLD
Note: Our luggage will be transported directly to our hotel in Tokyo and be ready for our arrival on Saturday. An ‘overnight bag’ will be needed for use in Kurashiki.
Day 7: Friday 24 January, Kurashiki – Naoshima – Kurashiki
- Ferry to Naoshima Island
- Tour of Naoshima Island including Benesse House Art Museum (Tadao Ando) and outdoor art installations
- Return to mainland by ferry
The island of Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea is home to a number of contemporary art museums and outdoor sculpture exhibitions. The Benesse Corporation installed much of the art on Naoshima and the neighbouring islands, and commissioned the design and construction of several museums by Tadao Ando. This commission included the Benesse House Museum, the Chichu Art Museum and the Lee Ufan Museum.
This morning we take a ferry from the mainland to Naoshima Island and spend a day visiting some of the remarkable art exhibitions, sculpture and architecture the island has to offer. In the late afternoon, we return to the mainland by ferry. (Overnight Kurashiki) B
Day 8: Saturday 25 January, Kurashiki – Tokyo
- Shinkansen (bullet train) Okayama to Tokyo
- International Library of Children’s Literature Tokyo (Tadao Ando)
- Gallery of Horyuji Treasures (Yoshio Taniguchi)
- Architecture tour of The National Museum of Western Art (Le Corbusier with Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Takamasa Yoshizaka; extension Kunio Maekawa)
This morning we travel by Shinkansen to Tokyo. After time at leisure for lunch on arrival, we transfer to Ueno Park. We first view the exterior of Tadeo Ando’s International Library of Children’s Literature, a renovation and expansion of the former Imperial Library built in 1906. Ando’s subtle interventions create a dynamic juxtaposition between the old and the new. They are simple but elegant, comprising a glass volume that pierces the earlier Renaissance-style street façade at a slight angle to form an entry. This glass volume then continues along a courtyard to form a full height glass façade, as well as a lounge space between it and the original façade. It is flanked on each end by a concrete volume containing staircases.
Nearby, we also view the exterior of the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures designed by Yoshio Taniguchi in 1999. The character of this refined, minimalist gallery building is subtly defined through a spatial play of transparency, opacity, and reflection and the relationship between vertical and horizontal planes, solid and void, and interior and exterior.
We finish with a visit to Le Corbusier’s masterpiece, the National Museum of Western Art, Japan’s premier Western art museum. The museum is square in plan with the main body of its galleries raised on piles to first floor level; its layout is similar to Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra museum in Ahmedabad, India, which was designed at the same time. A glazed pyramidal skylight intersected with reinforced concrete beams and a column lights Corbusier’s double-storey space. Visitors ascend to the paintings gallery via a promenade ramp that affords excellent views of Rodin’s sculptures.
At the conclusion of the tour we transfer to the Hotel Cerulean Tower, where we will stay for 6 nights. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 9: Sunday 26 January, Tokyo
- Mori Art Gallery (designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox)
- Nakagin Capsule Tower
- Visit the Ginza district, including Maison Hermès (by Renzo Piano), Mikimoto 2 (Toyo Ito), San-Ai Dream Center (Nikken Sekkei), Dover Street Market, and Nicholas Hayak Center (Shigeru Ban)
This morning we visit the Mori Art Gallery in the Roppongi Hills district, occupying the top five floors of Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 54-storey Mori Tower. Gluckman Mayner Architects designed its Atrium Lobby, Art Museum, and the Tokyo City View, offering a panorama of the city. Mori’s ambitious solo shows and thematic exhibitions range from the eccentric to the cerebral.
We then travel by subway to Ginza, one of Tokyo’s centres for contemporary architecture and home to the city’s Dover Street Market.
We visit Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) – an amazing mixed-use residential and office tower, and a rare extant example of Japanese Metabolism. Although it has fallen somewhat into disrepair, it is important as the world’s first example of capsule architecture built for permanent, practical use.
We shall then have the opportunity to explore this vibrant district and see extraordinary examples of high-end design companies housed in stores designed by the world’s ‘starchitects’, such asToyo Ito’s Mikimoto 2, Renzo Piano’s Maison Hermès, Nikken Sekkei’s extraordinary cylindrical San-Ai Dream Centre and Shigeru Ban’s Nicholas Hayak Centre.
Piano’s corporate headquarters and retail store for Hermès Japan includes offices, workshops, retail and exhibition spaces, multimedia areas and a roof garden. This elegant, glowing, rectangular building, carefully crafted from specially designed glass blocks, giving the impression of a precious object, was inspired by traditional Japanese lanterns. The thick glass façade blurs activity within during the day and at night the building glows from the light within, whilst the thick glass insulates the interior from the noisy, bustling Ginza streets. Hermès products are displayed in clear glass boxes at street level.
Kawakubo Rei of Comme des Garçons envisioned Ginza’s seven-storied Dover Street Market Department store. Each floor has a different theme, linked by the recurring motif of Kyoto sculptor Kohei Nawa‘s Pulse, a series of whirling white pillars providing an escalator screen on every floor. Elsewhere, Vancouver firm Patkau Architects’ sculptural steel skating shelters sit in the centre of a circular, skating rink-like space, while the surreal ‘Wasp Factory’, an installation by the production designer Michael Howells, dominates the top floor. Japanese labels such as A Bathing Ape, Kolor, Mastermind, Sacai and Visvim occupy the building. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 10: Monday 27 January, Tokyo
- Morning visits to local design studios and ateliers with Joni Waka of the ART Foundation
- Maison Koichiro Kimura
- Ayoyama district area, with stores including Tod’s Omotesando Building (Toyo Ito), Dior (SAANA), Yamamoto Yohji Flagship Store, Marc Jacob Flagship Store (Stephen Jaklitsch), Prado Aoyama (Herzog & de Meuron), Sfera store
We spend the morning with Mr Joni Waka, the Director of Tokyo’s ART Foundation. He will accompany us on a special tour of a selection of studios belonging to some of Tokyo’s contemporary designers.
We spend the afternoon in Omotesando, a tree-lined avenue located in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Minato wards. It is famous for its excellent contemporary architecture including SANAA’s Dior Building, Toyo Ito’s Tod’s Omotesando Building and the Hertzog & de Meuron Prada Building. It also has a number of designer flagship stores.
We start with a formal visit to Maison Koichiro Kimura, and then there is time to independently explore this area’s extraordinary retail architecture and fittings.
“Looking more like a set from a Lady Gaga video than a shop”, Koichiro Kimura’s Tokyo HQ is as much a futuristic exhibition space for his sensational furniture and tableware designs as it is a shop. The former punk-turned-designer and lacquerware master has transformed a two-storey 1950s house into a white palace fronted by a large gold pyramid. A hot pink back wall provides the only splash of colour in the ground-floor shop whilst upstairs, the walls and ceilings of the showroom are covered with 4000 white lacquered pyramids. Kimura’s family has run a lacquerware business for more than 400 years and he seamlessly combines ancestral techniques with unique contemporary forms.
The Dior building of Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (partners at SANAA) has a distinct multi-layered, translucent façade of clear glass covering a second inner skin of translucent acrylic, giving the gentlest of hints at what is inside. The outer skin is perforated with thousands of large and small holes that subtly reveal the illuminated inner skin (which is also patterned). In combination, they replicate the woven pattern of Thonet’s famous chair that Christian Dior adopted as his signature motif.
Toyo Ito’s slender, seven-storey L-shaped Tod’s Omotesando Building contains the Italian footwear retailer’s offices and a boutique fronting the chic Omotesando Avenue. Ito explores ideas of surface – the building’s dramatic structure mimicking the shapes of the tall elm trees that stretch along the avenue – reinterpreting them in its façade as a series of crisscrossing geometric forms, a smooth blend of concrete and glass. Nearby is Yamamoto Yohji’s stark and industrial flagship store. In the 1980s, his bold and often romantic designs contributed crucially to Tokyo’s high reputation in world fashion.
Marc Jacobs’ flagship store combines New York glamour with a Japanese lantern-inspired building designed by Stephan Jaklitsch, the American architect who has designed Marc Jacobs stores worldwide. It won an award of excellence from the American Institute of Architects in 2010. A completely transparent street-level ‘void’ houses the designer’s highly desirable bags, perfumes and ‘Marc Jacobs Aoyama’ T-shirts. One level up, the ‘rock’ zone is decorated with striated terracotta tiles. Above, the ‘lantern’ lights up to create a striking beacon at night. A selection of Jacobs’ stylish menswear is available in the basement. The interiors throughout are a sophisticated blend of warm wood, modern metal, sleek shelves and huge mirrors. It holds its own against its architecturally famous neighbours, Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada building and Jun Mitsui’s ‘The Jewels of Aoyama’ Wallpaper. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 11: Tuesday 28 January, Tokyo
- Full day tour of design ateliers and contemporary architecture projects with Joni Waka of the ART Foundation
We spend today with Joni Waka who will again accompany us on a specially curated tour to ateliers and contemporary architecture projects that he has selected for our program. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 12: Wednesday 29 January, Tokyo
- St Mary’s Cathedral
- Architecture tour of Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School, Myonichikan (Frank Lloyd Wright)
- Asakura Museum of Sculpture
- Kusuo Yasuda’s Former Residence
This morning we visit St Mary’s Cathedral. The original 19th century structure was destroyed during World War II, and the building we see today was completed in 1964. Designed by architect Kenzo Tange, this fascinating soaring building features eight hyperbolic parabolas that open upwards to form a cross of light, which in turn continues vertically along the length of the four facades.
We then transfer to the Toshima district, where we shall take a guided tour of the beautiful Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School, Myonichikan, designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Myonichikan consists of four buildings whose extended horizontal lines blend with the landscape, like Wright’s famous ‘Prairie House’ designs. Arato Endo designed one of the four buildings – the auditorium. Myonichikan was designated an Important Cultural Property in May 1997 for its historic and artistic values.
We then visit the small Asakura Sculpture Museum, which is dedicated to the life and work of Fumio Asakura. The museum is located in the historic neighbourhood of Taito. It was opened in 1967 and preserves the sculptor’s home and studio, including a beautiful garden.
We finish the day with a visit to Kusuo Yasuda’s Former Residence (1919), a stunning early modern interpretation of a traditional Japanese house. This elegant wooden house looks out through large windows upon a lovely garden. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 13: Thursday 30 January, Tokyo
- Nezu Museum
- 21-21 Design Sight (Tadao Ando)
- Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant
Our day begins with a visit to the Nezu Museum, showing traditional Japanese and Asian works of art once owned by Kaichiro Nezu, a railroad magnate and politician. Architect Kengo Kuma designed an arched roof that rises two floors and extends roughly half a block through the Minami Aoyama neighborhood. The vast space houses over 7000 objects, including works of calligraphy, paintings, sculptures, bronzes, and lacquerware. We also explore the building’s surroundings – one of Tokyo’s finest gardens with 5 acres of ponds, rolling paths, waterfalls and teahouses.
We next visit Tadeo Ando’s and fashion designer Issey Miyake’s amazing 21-21 Design Sight Museum (2007). Ando has said of it: “The idea was to create not only a museum that shows exhibits, but also a place for researching the potentiality of design as an element that enriches our daily life, a place that fosters the public’s interest in design by arousing in them different sights and perspectives on how we can view the world and the objects surrounding us”. The building includes two galleries and a café run by chef and restaurateur Takamasa Uetake. This split-level concrete structure has a hand-sanded steel roof inspired by Issey Miyake’s A-POC ‘A Piece of Cloth’ concept as well as 14-metre long glass panels.
This evening we gather for a Farewell Dinner at one of Tokyo’s fine restaurants. (Overnight Tokyo) BD
Day 14: Friday 31 January, Depart Tokyo
Our tour ends in Tokyo. You may wish to extend your stay in Japan or return home. You should find your own way to the airport or consult ASA for transfer assistance. B