Art Tours Japan

Art Tours Japan

Traditional and Modern Japan: October 2021 & 2022

  • 2021 October Tour
    (Mon 4 - Sat 16 October)
    bookings close 15 May 2021

  • 2022 October Tour
    (Mon 3 - Sat 15 October)
    as per 2021 itinerary (with date changes)

n.b. breakfast, lunch, dinner and talk as indicated are included as part of the tour cost

Shirakawa-go traditional house

Many visitors to Japan see it as a country with either modern western or traditional Japanese elements. The truth is however more interesting for, in a process known as Japanisation, western ideas have been adapted to cater to traditional taste. In the cultural sphere this resulted in a unique artistic expression that has had a formative influence on modern art. In this tour we will explore this idea through visits to important traditional and modern art sites. 

View from Kyoto Station1. Monday  Kyoto

Our tour begins in in the old imperial capital of Kyoto. After meeting in the hotel foyer we will explore together the area around Kyoto Station, a site of great historical significance that has in recent times been transformed by modernist buildings that stand in contrast to the centuries-old temples that abound in this area.  After a talk from Gary about traditional and modern Japanese art we will enjoy dinner together.  

Higashi Hongaji Temple, Kyoto

Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto2. Tuesday Kyoto

After breakfast we will travel to the eastern hills area of Kyoto to visit the prominent Zen Buddhist temple Nanzenji. Dating back to the thirteenth century this temple and grounds with its impressive buildings, towering main gate, sub-temples and gardens will provide the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the tradition of Zen. Here Gary will give a talk about Buddhism and art.  After a short stroll around this fascinating part of Kyoto we will visit the nearby the modernist building of the National Museum of Modern Art. Here we will view its collection of contemporary Japanese art.  



House on Naoshima Island3. Wednesday Kyoto-Naoshima

After breakfast we will board the high-speed Shinkansen ‘bullet train’ to travel to Okayama, south of Kyoto from where we will take local trains and a ferry to the island of Naoshima, one of small group of islands on the Seto Inland Sea. From the 1980s onwards this isolated island was renewed by its development as an art destination with numerous art installations and cutting edge art museums designed mostly by the distinguished Japanese architect Ando Tadao. Here we will visit Honmura, a sixteenth century village that has been transformed into a site for modern art works. Before breaking for dinner Gary will give a talk about how this ancient island has been transformed by modern art. 



Dinner at Benesse House Museum4. Thursday Naoshima

Following breakfast overlooking the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Gary will give a talk about how Japanese art was transformed by its adoption of western ideas and how in turn modern art was inspired by Japanese art. Following the talk we travel to the nearby Chichu Art Museum where you can see art works by James Turrell, Walter De Maria and Claude Monet. On our return to the hotel we will visit the Lee Ufan Museum, a gallery dedicated to the work of the renowned Korean minimalist painter and sculptor.  In the afternoon there will be time to explore the art works dotting the landscape around our hotel and the internationally renowned art collection at the Bennesse House Art Museum. It is there, surrounded by major art works, that we will enjoy a beautifully crafted Japanese dinner together.



5. Friday Naoshima-Kurashiki-Okayama

Kurashiki canalFollowing breakfast we will travel back to Okayama and from there to the old mercantile city of Kurashiki. It is famous for its centuries-old buildings and shops of the Bikan Historical Quarter as well as the Ohara Museum of Art, the oldest museum dedicated to western art with masterworks by European masters such as El Greco and Monet. Before returning to our hotel in Okayama we will also have time to explore the Ohara Museum’s fine collection of modern art, Japanese Mingei ceramics and woodblock prints by the modern master Munakata Shikō. 

Kurashiki at night

Geisha district in Kanazawa6. Saturday Okayama-Kanazawa

After breakfast we will again board the high-speed train heading to the former castle town of Kanazawa. Here you will be immediately struck by the contrast between the modern railway station, selected as one of the most beautiful stations in the world, and the nearby seventeenth century geisha district known as Higashi Chaya.


7. Sunday Kanazawa

After breakfast Gary will present a talk about Zen Buddhism, a tradition that has had such a profound influence on artistic expression in Japan. Following the talk we will travel to a modern interpretation of Zen philosophy at the D.T.Suzuki Museum with its minimalist garden and modern architecture. We will then walk across to the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art and view its collection of modern and traditional art. The final part of the day will be spent meandering through the spacious gardens of the Kenroku-en, a garden developed from the seventeenth century onwards and designated as one of the three great traditional gardens of Japan.  

Garden in Kanazawa Modern art in Kanazawa


Shirakawa-go houses8. Monday Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Kanazawa

Following breakfast we will take a bus to picturesque Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO heritage site famous for its traditional thatched roofed farm houses. This style of traditional architecture inspired a modern interpretation of the same at the Miho Museum which we will visit later in the tour.


Traditional building in Gion, Kyoto9. Tuesday 8/10 Kanazawa-Kyoto

After breakfast we will return to Kyoto and then to the eastern hills to wander through the scenic narrow streets that connect Yasaka-no-to Pagoda to the geisha district in Gion.


10. Wednesday 9/10 Kyoto-Miho Museum-Kyoto

Breakfast. Built in 1997 in an isolated mountainous region in nearby Shiga prefecture the Miho Museum designed by I.M.Pei is embedded into the landscape and provides a space-age gallery space for its display of traditional art. Lunch. With its innovative interpretation of Japanese cultural traditions this ultra-modern building provides a fitting context for our tour exploring traditional and modern art.

Miho Museum doorMiho Museum entrance

11. Thursday 10/10 Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto

Breakfast. Today we will take the train to the ancient capital of Nara. Passing through Nara Park we will move to the Buddhist temple complex of Tōdaiji. One of the most historically important temples in Japan it is always full of visitors but after viewing its cultural treasures we will explore the less visited parts of this complex dropping into smaller sub-temples and viewing secluded gardens along the way.  

Giant Buddha,Nara Nigatsu-do sub-temple, Todaiji, Nara

Meal at Yufuin ryokan12. Friday 11/10 Kyoto

After breakfast we will travel to downtown Kyoto and explore the Nishiki Ichiba, a marketplace rich with history and tradition. After the market there will be free time to walk around the downtown area.


13.Saturday 12/10 Kyoto

Breakfast. a.m. Tour break-up 

Contact us if you have any queries, or book online.


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