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.
Kyoto - 2 nights
Day 1: Monday 3 February, Arrive Kyoto
- Tour commences at 1.00pm in the foyer of the Ace Hotel Kyoto
- Welcome Meeting
- Issey Miyake store (Naoto Fukasawa)
- Gion District
- Welcome keiseki dinner
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 1.00pm in the foyer of the Ace Hotel.
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.
Following a short welcome meeting we walk to the nearby Issey Miyake store, 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.
We then take a walking tour of the historic Gion District, before enjoying a Welcome Dinner of keiseki cuisine, a feast of many small artistically presented dishes. (Overnight Kyoto) D
Day 2: Tuesday 4 February, Kyoto, Kyoto
- Nishiki Market
- House of Hosoo Flagship Store
- Nanzen-ji Temple Complex
- Kawai Kanjiro’s House Memorial Museum
We begin the day with a 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 tea-bowls from a traditional vendor.
Hosoo is a Kyoto-based textile company. Working with world-acclaimed designers, Hosoo uses silk, hand-made washi paper products, and other premium materials to create beautifully coloured contemporary woven fabrics and wallpaper.
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples.
Our day concludes with a visit to Kawai Kanjiro’s House Memorial Museum. The property was designed by the celebrated ceramic artist in 1937 as a residence and studio. His collection of art and furnishings, and many of his own art pieces of ceramic, sculpture and calligraphy are displayed throughout the house. (Overnight Kyoto) BL
Kobe - 2 nights
Day 3: Wednesday 5 February, Kyoto – Osaka – Kobe
- Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
- Arts & Science Central store
- Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art, Kyoto, including Underground Jewelry Box annex (Tadao Ando)
- Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, Osaka (Tadao Ando)
Our first visit is to Ryoan-ji – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary.
We then visit 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.
In the hills outside Kyoto is 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 extensive 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. (Overnight Kobe) B
Day 4: Thursday 6 February, Kobe – Awaji – Ashiya – Kobe
- Honpukuji (The Water Temple), Awaji Island (Tadao Ando)
- Yumebutai Memorial Garden & Observation Terrace Research Centre, Awaji Island (Tadao Ando)
- Koshino Hiroko House (KH Gallery), Ashiya
This morning we drive a short distance to Awaji Island where we encounter two beautiful structures by Tadao Ando. First we visit the modern Buddhist Honpukuji (Water Temple), an oval pool filled with water lilies, and a concrete-walled staircase that leads you down to the vermilion coloured sanctuary beneath.
Nearby is the Yumebutai Memorial Garden and Observation terrace, built to commemorate the victims of the 1995 earthquake that struck the Kobe area. Located near the earthquake’s epicentre, the complex includes a conference centre, open-air theatre and the Hyakudan-en garden that descend the site’s slope in one hundred 5×5 meter terraces.
Returning to the mainland, we continue to Ashiya to visit the Koshina Hiroko House, now the KH Gallery – a house Tadao Ando built for fashion designer Hiroko Koshino. With his signature use of concrete and underground corridors, Ando created a structure that, while joined internally by a corridor, appears from the outside as two separate buildings. The use of light is carefully controlled to allow a constant play of shadow. (Overnight Kobe) B
Kurashiki - 2 nights
Day 5: Friday 7 February, Kobe – Okayama – Kurashiki
- Shinkansen (bullet train) Kobe to Okayama
- Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter
- Ohara Museum, Kurashiki
This morning we transfer to Kobe station to take the shinkansen to Okayama and then on to Kurashiki where we will be based for 2 nights.
Kurashiki has a very well-preserved historic centre, with a network or willow-lined canals, stone bridges and kominka – traditional warehouse buildings that once served as rice distribution centre and are now converted into museums, galleries and cafes.
We will visit the Ohara Museum, Japan’s first Western Art Museum founded by Magosaburo Ohara, a local entrepreneur in 1930. This impressive collection includes works by El Greco, Monet, Cezanne, Rodin, Gauguin, Picasso and Pollock, as well as a fine collection of Japanese art. (Overnight Kurashiki) B
Note: Our luggage will be transported by courier service from Kobe to our hotel in Kurashiki.
Day 6: Saturday 8 February, Kurashiki – Naoshima – Kurashiki
- Ferry to Naoshima Island
- Chichu Art Museum
- Lee Ufan Museum
- Benesse House Museum and Lunch at Issen Restaurant
- 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. We enjoy lunch at the Issen Restaurant at Benesse House Museum, where the focus of the cuisine is on the sustainability and exquisite presentation of each dish.
In the late afternoon, we return to the mainland by ferry. (Overnight Kurashiki) BL
Tokyo - 5 nights
Day 7: Sunday 9 February, Kurashiki – Okayama – Nagoya – Tokyo
- Shinkansen (bullet train) Okayama to Nagoya
- Vermicular Village: Lunch, cooking demonstration and tour
- Shinkansen Nagoya to Tokyo
We depart Kurashiki early this morning and drive to Okayama to take the shinkansen to Nagoya. On our arrival we will transfer to Vermicular Village, home of a cast iron cookware company. The 80-year-old company’s focus is on quality craftsmanship and clever design that combines traditional and practical uses in the modern world. It has recently introduced the first cast iron induction cookware.
At Vermicular Village we will enjoy a tour of the store to learn about the history and design of the cookware, as well as a cooking demonstration and a delicious lunch.
At the conclusion of the visit we transfer to the station to take the shinkansen to Tokyo where we will stay for 5 nights. (Overnight Tokyo) BL
Note: Our luggage will be transported by courier service from Kurashiki to our hotel in Tokyo.
Day 8: Monday 10 February, Tokyo
- Morning visits to local design studios and ateliers with Joni Waka of the ART Foundation
- 21-21 Design Sight (Tadeo Ando and Issey Miyake)
- Nuno Works Warehouse
We spend the morning with Mr Joni Waka, the Director of Tokyo’s ART Foundation. He will accompany us on an architecture tour of Kyu Yamate Dori in Daikanyama, home to T-site Bookstore by Klein & Dytham Architecture and the Bauhaus inspired Hillside Terrace complex by Fumihiko Maki, the architect behind New York’s new WTC.
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”. 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.
We finish the day with a visit to Nuno Works Warehouse, a textile company that combines traditional Japanese aesthetic with computer technology to create fabric that are beautiful, usable and modern. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 9: Tuesday 11 February, Tokyo
- Asakura Museum of Sculpture
- Kusuo Yasuda’s Former Residence
- Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
We first 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 then walk to the nearby 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.
Our day concludes with a visit to another historic building, this time the Art Deco building that houses the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. Commissioned by Prince Asaka and completed in 1933, the building’s interiors were designed by Henri Rapin and features decorative glass work by René Lalique. The museum’s collection focuses on Art Deco decorative art and furniture from the 1920s and 1930s (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 10: Wednesday 12 February, Tokyo
- Architecture tour of The National Museum of Western Art (Le Corbusier with Kunio Maekawa, Junzo Sakakura, Takamasa Yoshizaka; extension Kunio Maekawa)
- Nezu Museum
- Ayoyama district area: COMME des Garcons, Prado Aoyama (Herzog & de Meuron), Yamamoto Yohji Flagship Store; Shiro Sakai
This morning we transfer to Ueno Park to see 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.
After lunch we visit 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 finish the afternoon with a walking tour of Aoyama to see some of the architect-designed stores for which the area is renowned. These include the COMME des garcons store, the Prada Store by Herzog & de Meuron, Yamamoto Yohji’s stark and industrial flagship store and Shiro Sakai’s store. (Overnight Tokyo) B
Day 11: Thursday 13 February, Tokyo
- St Mary’s Cathedral
- Architecture tour of Jiyu Gakuen Girls’ School, Myonichikan (Frank Lloyd Wright)
- Kintsugi Demonstration by Kunio Nakamura
- Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant
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.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and, rather than hiding the mended edges, enhancing them with gold or silver to create a new and enhanced beauty. This afternoon we enjoy a very special private demonstration of kintsugi by master craftsman Kunio Nakumura, who will show us the methods used to transform what may be broken into the ‘perfect imperfection’.
This evening we gather for a Farewell Dinner at one of Tokyo’s fine restaurants. (Overnight Tokyo) BD
Day 12: Friday 14 February, Depart Tokyo
Our tour ends in Tokyo after breakfast. 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