Art Tours Japan

Art Tours Japan

Unseen Japan: May 2021 & 2022

  • 2021 May Tour
    (Mon 10 - Sat 22 May)
    bookings close 1 November 2020

  • 2022 May Tour
    (Mon 9 - Sat 21 May)
    as per 2021 itinerary (with date changes)

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

traditional kabuki theatre

Most tours of Japan follow a well-worn tourist route. Our tour leaders have spent a lifetime travelling Japan and are well aware of how crowds can mar one’s experience of a place. We have carefully designed this tour to provide an opportunity to see art sites in Japan that are seldom included in large tours. Our bespoke tours of genuinely small groups allow for a personalized experience of Japan’s hidden art treasures led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour leaders.

Kyoto Station

1. Monday arrive Kyoto

The tour begins in the old imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto. Your tour leaders Gary & Haruyo Hickey will meet you in the hotel lobby before touring the futuristic Kyoto Station building and the nearby Higashi Honganji temple where Gary will talk about the history of Japanese art. In the evening we will enjoy dinner together.

2. Tuesday 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 outlining the history of the island and its art.

Naoshima Art IslandTatsuo Miyajima

3. Wednesday Naoshima 

Following breakfast overlooking the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Gary will give a talk about Japanonism, the influence of Japanese art on the west. 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 this 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.

Kusama Yayoi PumpkinNaoshima Art Installation

4.Thursday  Naoshima – Takamatsu

After breakfast we will take a ferry to the city of Takamastu on the nearby island of Shikoku. We will leave our luggage at our hotel before visiting the Ritsurin Garden, one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan. Here we will have time to explore its perfectly manicured and spacious gardens and visit its tea house and Sanuki Folk Craft Museum. 

Ritsurin GardenSanuki Folk Craft Museum

traditional kabuki theatre

5. Friday  Takamatsu – Teshima – Takamatsu

An early breakfast will be followed by a short ferry trip to the island of Teshima. Along with Naoshima this island has become an exciting destination for contemporary art. Here you will have the opportunity to either take a local bus or explore the island on electric bikes. The main attractions we will be visiting here are the Teshima Art Museum and the Teshima Yokoo House. We will return to Takamatsu in the evening.

Teshima Art Museum Tadanori Yokoo House, Teshima

6. Saturday  Takamatsu

Today we will spend time in Takamastu. Following breakfast we will travel to the former studio of the Japanese-American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, now known as the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. One of the luminaries of modern sculpture, a student of Constantin Brancussi and a confidant of leading art figures in Europe and America Noguchi divided his time between his studio near Takamastu and New York. Festooned with finished and incomplete sculptures his Takamastu studio is just as he left it. It is one of the artistic treasures of Japan and is seldom visited by foreigners. After a lunch of hot noodles we will later visit the nearby Shikoku Mura, an architectural park that houses buildings from the seventeenth century onwards as well as an art museum designed by Ando Tadao.

Noguchi Garden MuseumNoguchi Garden Museum

7. Sunday Takamatsu – Kurashiki – Okayama

Following 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 Japanese 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 Japanese Mingei ceramics and woodblock prints by the modern master Munakata Shikō.

Kurashiki streetOhara Art Museum, Kurashiki

8. Monday  Okayama – Yasugi – Matsue

Breakfast will be followed by a train trip through scenic hills and villages to the town of Yasugi. A short bus trip from here is one of the hidden gems of Japan, the Adachi Museum known for its collection of Japanese-style nihonga painting and its astounding garden, consistently ranked by an international garden magazine as the best in Japan. After the Adachi we will travel to the nearby seaside town of Matsue where we can rest at a traditional hot springs ryokan.

Adachi Art Musem garden view
Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958), Adachi Art Museum collection 2

9. Tuesday Matsue – Okayama

After a traditional breakfast in our ryokan overlooking the fishing fleet at work in the adjoining Lake Shinji we will visit the famous Matsue ‘black’ Castle and Shimane Prefectural Museum before travelling back to Okayama by train.

Breakfast at Minanimakan inn, MatsueNaoshima Island art village
Lake Shinji, MatsueMatsue Castle
Yoshida Hiroshi Chion'in temple gate 1935

10. Wednesday Okayama – Hagi

Breakfast will be followed by a train trip to the southern most regions of the main island of Japan and the coastal city of Hagi where we will be staying for two nights. In the evening Gary will present a talk about the Japanese woodblock print.


Hagi Castle

11. Thursday Hagi

Picturesque Hagi is a former castle town overlooking the Sea of Japan. Western tourists seldom visit this area and after breakfast we will have ample time to explore the area’s narrow streets lined with samurai-era residences and pottery studios displaying the ceramics that this area is known for. We will also visit the Hagi Uragami Museum where ukiyo-e woodblock prints are on display. 

Meal at Yufuin ryokan

12. Friday Hagi-Kyoto

Following breakfast we will travel by train back to Kyoto where, if time permits you will be able to explore the restaurants and shops in and around Kyoto Station.

13. Saturday Kyoto

Breakfast. a.m. Tour break-up 

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


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