Japan art and architecture tour
- Duration : 14 days
- Locations : Tokyo, Osaka, Awaji, Takamatsu, Kurashiki, Kyoto
This trip to Japan offers many architectural discoveries, many of them by Tadao Ando.
After discovering Japan's two tourist cities - Tokyo and Kyoto - continue your tour by car to the islands of Shikoku and the Inland Sea.
Visit the artists' island of Naoshima, the Awaji Yumebutai hotel or the Church of Light in Osaka.
2 week itinerary
- Tokyo (3 days)
- Osaka (1 day)
- Awaji (1 day)
- Takamatsu (3 days)
- Kurashiki (1 day)
- Kyoto (3 days)
The first and last day are reserved for your arrival and departure from Japan (and for the last bit of souvenir shopping!).
Please find below the itinerary details.
WARNING : The tour departure and end dates presented on this page relate to your stay in Japan. On departure, you will have to leave Europe on the day before. The return flight is on the same day due to the time difference. For further details, refer to "More about your trip".
Why this trip to Japan ?
- A tour designed for fans of architecture with an itinerary and activity adapted to the theme!!
- Welcomed at the airport by our team, you will be taken to your hotel in Tokyo by shuttle bus
- Enjoy a private guided day in Tokyo with a specialist in architecture!
- Take the Shinkansen to Osaka, to discover the city of Ando Tadao
- With your car, you can discover the architectural wonders of the islands of Awaji and Shikoku
- Enjoy the architecture and museum collections on show on Naoshima Island
- A traditional ryokan welcomes you in Kurashiki, city of art and history
- The trip ends in Kyoto, where a guided tour of the traditional district of Gion awaits you
- Recommendations available in your travel diary
- Enjoy unlimited internet access thanks to your pocket Wi-Fi
- If necessary, contact our Japanese bilingual English-speaking assistance 24/7
- Benefit from the expertise of Japan Experience, European leading travel agency in Japan.
Your trip in detail
Day 1 : Wake up in Tokyo 東京
Arrival at Tokyo airport (Narita or Haneda).
Welcome to Japan! Yokoso 日本へようこそ！
Reception at the exit from Customs in English by our airport assistant, who will give you all your travel documents.
Unaccompanied transfer from the airport to Tokyo (see details).
Check-in at Hotel B Akasaka Mitsuke or equivalent 3* (rooms available from 3:00pm).
You can pick up your pocket Wi-Fi at the hotel reception desk.
Day 2 : First steps in the capital
What is there to do in Tokyo on the first day?
We advise you to slowly start visiting Tokyo from its western districts:
- Harajuku: the avant-garde district
- Meiji Jingû, the imperial shrine
- Takeshita-Dori: the most famous street in Japan
- Omotesando: Tokyo's Champs-Élysées
- Shibuya and its unmistakable "crossroads"
One of our many experienced English-speaking guides can also accompany you to visit the classic sights of Tokyo (optional, from 9:00 to 17:00).
For lovers of Japanese art, head for the Tokyo National Museum, the oldest and largest in Japan.
Day 3 : The big loop
For this second day of visiting Tokyo, we recommend the following "loop".
Start from Tokyo Central Station, with its original architecture, then go to visit:
- Ginza, Tokyo's chic district
- Tsukiji, the small outdoor food market
- Hamarikyu, the Japanese garden between Tokyo's buildings
- Asakusa, a traditional district and place of pilgrimage, accessible by a cruise on the Sumida River
- Sensô-ji Buddhist temple, one of the oldest in the city
- Tokyo Sky Tree reaching a height of 643m, and its panoramic view of Tokyo at sunset
Enjoy a cruise on the Sumida River between Hamarikyu and Asakusa..
In terms of architecture, you may come across buildings by Kengo Kuma, Takamitsu Azuma's Tower House or his daughter Rie's Hoshinoya Palace (details in your travel diary).
Day 4 : Architectural exploration
From the cellars of the past to the heights of the future, a guided tour on architecture through the vastness of Tokyo.
Your English-speaking guide will pick you up at your hotel at 9am, to start the tour, which lasts until 5pm.
From Shiodome, the heart of international business, to Ginza, Tokyo's 5th Avenue, and finally Omotesando, the most elegant, embrace the city with all our senses, from the underground to the clouds. You will never again see the city as you did before.
Last night in Tokyo.
Day 5 : First steps in the capital of Kansai
Depart for Osaka by train (2,5 hour direct journey until Shin-Osaka, included in your package).
Check-in at Hotel Intergate Osaka Umeda or equivalent 3* (rooms available from 15:00).
- The medieval castle of Osaka, with its park full of plum and cherry trees
- The city centre and its Nakanoshima Island, with its rose park in the middle of the buildings
- Utsubo Park, an oasis of freshness in the business district
- Rendezvous in Umeda, temple of Japanese style shopping
- End up at the Umeda Sky building at dusk for a 360° view of Kansai (including Kyoto on a clear day!)
And for architecture lovers, the Church of Light in Ibaraki, designed by Tado Ando.
As an option, you can book a river cruise between the different parts of the day.
Day 6 : A condensed version of Japan
For the next 3 days, you can only explore the islands of Awaji and Shikoku by car, as the rail network is not developed enough to reach the various points of interest on the island. Don't be put off by the idea of driving a car in Japan! If in your country you are used to driving on the right, after a few minutes of apprehension about driving on the other side you will be impressed by the ease of driving on Japan's roads. Indeed, the Japanese/English bilingualism of most of the signs and GPS, very good road conditions, automatic cars, low traffic jams and the courtesy of Japanese people behind the wheel will make this visit of an unusual Japan pleasant! Remember that petrol in Japan is slightly cheaper than in the UK and many other countries. Highway tolls are however more expensive.
Pick up your rental car in the morning near your hotel in Osaka and drive to Awaji Island via the world's longest suspension bridge! (1 hour journey, mostly highway). In your travel diary you will find details of the options for visiting the route:
- Kobe, famous for its futuristic harbour, its Chinese district and its district of beautiful colonial merchant houses
- The "paper church" designed by Shigeru Ban
- Long sandy beach on the inland sea
- Huge flower park popular with the Japanese
- Amphitheatre restaurant facing the sea
- Monumental Buddha statue overlooking the coast
- A masterpiece on the water designed by Tadao Ando
Eventually, you will arrive at Awaji Yumebutai, a seaside complex designed by Tadao Ando. Available parking and overnight stay in the 4* hotel on site.
Day 7 : Artistic landing in Shikoku
Breakfast at the hotel.
Drive to Takamatsu with your rental car (1 hour 45, mainly highway). There are several stops along the way, including:
- The oldest shrine in Japan
- Naruto's whirlpools, an amazing phenomenon under the bridge leading to Shikoku Island
- A museum with a life-size reproduction of the Sistine Chapel
- The starting temple of the pilgrimage of the 88 temples of Shikoku
- Two museums of two world famous Japanese sculptors
- And finally, the incredible museum of teeth
Unfortunately you won't be able to do everything, so you'll have to make your choice!
Arrive in the late afternoon in the pleasant town of Takamatsu, on the Sea of Japan.
Settle into your 3* hotel with parking.
Day 8 : Garden and bonsai
Breakfast at the hotel.
Garden lover or not, the large Japanese garden in Takamatsu is a must-see. The Ritsurin koen, covering more than 16 hectares, is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan.
You can use your car as it is located a little outside the city centre.
Don't hesitate to visit the museums at the entrance of Takamatsu, which you couldn't do the day before.
The car must be returned before 5pm the same day. You can of course return it earlier, or even the day before when you arrive in Takamatsu.
There is information in your travel diary on Takamatsu and its region. There are some great sights, such as the bonsai village south of the city. There are also many unusual restaurants and bar/café addresses in Takamatsu.
Night in your hotel in Takamatsu.
Day 9 : The Art Island
Breakfast at the hotel.
We recommend that you spend the day visiting Naoshima Island on foot. The ferry terminal is a 20 minute walk from the centre, and it only takes 50 minutes to reach the island. (Purchase on site, about 8€/pers round trip). Details in your travel diary. On the island, we advise you to rent a bicycle (optional on this trip).
Naoshima Island is world-famous for its modern art museums, the architecture of some of its buildings, and the scattered outdoor sculptures throughout its territory. These numerous museums and buildings were designed by the architect Ando Tadao. You will be impressed, among other things, by Monet's water lilies, displayed in a simple room where you enter without shoes!
N.B.: access to one of the museums of Naoshima, the Chichu Art Museum, is subject to reservation.
Return to Takamatsu at the end of the day by the same route as in the morning.
Day 10 : THE romantic city of Japan
Breakfast at the hotel.
Head to Kurashiki by train (1h10, 1 change, included in your offer). You will reach the island of Honshu via the longest bridge in the world comprising a road and a railway.
Check-in at your ryokan 3* Tsurugata Ryokan or equivalent 3* in Kurashiki.
Kurashiki, an old commercial metropolis lined with canals, will seduce you:
- Bikan, a district with typical architecture
- The Ohara Museum, keeper of paintings by Monet, Matisse, Renoir...
- The Museum of Popular Arts dedicated to regional history
At night at the ryokan, you will be treated to a tasty traditional Japanese dinner before retiring to your tatami room.
Day 11 : The White Heron Castle
Traditional Japanese breakfast at the ryokan.
The aim of the day is to reach Kyoto (train and Shinkansen, 2 hours, 1 change, included in your package). Halfway there, we advise you to stop at Himeji, to visit the largest feudal castle in Japan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When you arrive in Kyoto, don't hesitate to admire the central station, a true glass and steel temple designed by the architect Hiroshi Hara in 1997.
In Kyoto, check into the Tsugu 京都三条 Hotel or equivalent 3*.
Day 12 : The former capital
We advise you to start your visit to Kyoto slowly by visiting the city centre and the Gion district:
- The Nijo castle, former shogun's residence
- Nishiki, Kyoto's culinary market
- Kiyomizu-Dera, the great water temple
- The historical streets of Sannen-zaka & Ninnen-zaka
- Kodai-ji, the maple and bamboo temple of Kyoto
Finish off seeing the sunset in Gion.
Meet your guide at 19:00 to start your late stroll around Gion, Kyoto's historic district.
More details on the exact time and location in your travel diary.
This walk will be an opportunity to dive into most of the Japanese architectural styles, from the machiya of the Heian period to the kura of the Meiji era. A great discovery!
At the end of this 1 hour 30 walk, your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to eat out!
Please note that it is strictly forbidden to take photographs in the historic district of Gion.
Day 13 : Gold and Silver Treasures
We recommend the following itinerary for this second day's visit to Kyoto:
- Ryoan-ji Zen Garden
- The Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
- Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion)
- The bewitching path of philosophy
- The Nanzen-ji temple
One of our many experienced English-speaking guides can accompany you on a tour of these symbolic sites (optional, from 9:00 to 17:00).
For this last day, if you want a final touch of contemporary architecture, head for the Miho Museum, the work of Ieoh Ming Pei, designer of the Louvre pyramid in Paris. Details of the trip in your travel diary.
Day 14 : Sayonara, and see you next time!
Direct transfer to Kansai International Airport (included but not accompanied).
Return flight to Europe, North America, Australia.
Do not hesitate to extend your trip by one or more days to Kansai or elsewhere... We will be able to advise you!
- 4 nights in a 3* hotel in the heart of Tokyo, close to public transport
- 1 night in a 3* hotel in Osaka
- 1 night in a 4* hotel in Awaji
- 3 nights in a 3* hotel in Takamatsu
- 1 night in a 3* ryokan in Kurashiki, traditional half-board
- 3 nights in a 3* hotel in the heart of Kyoto, close to public transport
The basic rate includes a twin room for two people.
- Airport transfers
- Prepaid public transport card
- Japan Rail Pass for 7 days
- Licence translation for 1 person (see details below)
- 7-day rental car, English GPS and basic insurance
Experiences and meals
- Airport welcome
- Traditional dinner and breakfast in the ryokan at Kurashiki
- All breakfasts except in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
- Private guided architectural tour in Tokyo
- Guided night tour of Gion (1h30)
Included in your self-guided tour
- Unlimited Wi-Fi access with pocket Wi-Fi
- Complete e-travel diary sent 20 days before your departure
- 24/7 telephone assistance in English and bilingual Japanese
Not included in the price of your trip
- Flights Europe <> Japan
- Optional insurance policies
- Personal expenses including meals (breakfast optional)
- Public transport when your transport cards have run out (see details)
- Fuel for the car
- Anything not included in the "included in your tour" section
Your tour :
- The prices displayed on this page may vary according to the exchange rate of the Japanese ¥.
- Unfortunately, this tour is not accessible to people with reduced mobility.
- Pets are not allowed.
- Children over 3 years of age are allowed. Rates for children are available for people from 3 to 11 years old inclusive.
- This programme is subject to change due to circumstances such as weather conditions or any other case of force majeure. Please note that due to the current circumstances, any information mentioned is subject to change or modification.
- Your travel documents will be given to you as follows:
- Travel diary by email 3 weeks before departure, and other electronic documents
- Paper documents (airport transfer tickets, transport cards) when you arrive at the airport by our airport assistant.
- Your pocket Wi-Fi at the hotel reception upon arrival.
- At least one person participating in the trip must have a valid driving licence in their country
Your accommodation :
- Some hotels may ask you to pay a tourist tax on arrival. This depends on the city and even the hotel, as some do not include it in the booking price. Normally, it is 200¥/night/person (about £1.37/1.93$) but can be slightly higher in 4* hotels. It must be paid in cash at the hotel reception. For traditional Japan Experience accommodations, it is included in the initial tour price.
- Room size: in Japan, a densely populated country where everything is compact, 3-star luxury hotels are of very good quality but the rooms are often quite narrow (12 to 20m2/129 sq ft to 215 sq ft) depending on the hotel. Please note the size of the single room, between 10 and 16m2 (107sq ft and 172 fq ft). For more comfort, you can choose our luxury 4* accommodation upgrade option.
- Double room: Rooms for two people in western hotels have 2 single beds (twin rooms) by default, which can usually be joined together. As an option, you can select a double room instead of a twin if you prefer a double bed.
- Single room: People travelling alone and wishing to book a single room must pay a supplement at the time of booking. The single room supplement is compulsory for orders with an odd number of participants. Please note that if you request more than two people in a single room, the single room supplement will be applied to all accommodation except for the ryokans (3 and 4*). In fact, as this is traditional accommodation, people with the same reservation are grouped together in spacious rooms for up to 5 people.
- 3-person room: If there are 3, 5 or more of you and you do not select the single supplement, a triple room will be allocated to you.
- In the case of a group order (> 5 people), it is possible, depending on hotel availability, that not all members of the group will be accommodated in the same hotel. Nevertheless, we aim to keep you close.
- Names of the hotels : The names given on the site are for information only. In the event of unavailability, an establishment of equivalent standing will be scheduled. Hotels, corresponding to local standards, are given as an indication and may be changed on site for hotels of a similar category. The hotel in Awaji (Nikko Awaji Yumebutai) is also given as a information only. If unfortunately it turns out to be full on your travel dates, we will book a lower quality hotel in Awaji, but higher in Osaka.
- In the ryokan in Kurashiki, the rooms have a private sink and toilet. The single-sex collective Japanese baths ("onsen") then act as shared bathrooms, with showers and thermal baths. They are freely accessible, at the times in force on the site. These baths are often not accessible to people with clearly visible tattoo (s). The latter are invited to contact us to evaluate the possibilities of accommodation with private baths or shared baths that can be reserved. The 4* ryokan (see 4* option) have comfortable futons raised on either western beds in a traditional tatami room. The bathrooms and toilets of the 4* ryokans are private
Your transport :
- Flights are not included in this tour. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to include flights in your order: Flights in economy class with stopovers or direct flights, eco-premium or business air upgrades, provincial departures or abroad: we will be able to advise you.
- The tour departure and end dates presented on this page relate to your stay in Japan. You will arrive in Japan via Tokyo (Narita or Haneda airports) and depart from Kansai airport (KIX, not Itami ITM). On departure, you will have to leave Europe the day before and land at 6:30 p.m. at the most to make the most of the airport services of your circuit (reception and transfer to Tokyo).
The return flight is on the same day due to the time difference, with a departure time of 9am at the earliest. Please do not hesitate to consult us for any uncertainty or need for precision in the choice of international flights.
- Airport transfers: The shared shuttle bus leaves from the airport and stops either in front of your hotel or at a stop located between 1 and 15 min walk from your hotel. Our airport assistant in Tokyo will drive you to the platform to take the airport transfer. Afterwards, this hotel transfer is unassisted. If you would like to be accompanied from the airport to your hotel reception please choose the option "Accompanied Airport Transfer". The same applies to the return trip from Osaka to KIX airport.
- Included in your tour is a pre-charged transport prepayment card of ¥ 1,500 (around £10.30 / 14.54$) (suica or Pasmo brand); and a 7-day Japan Rail Pass. These cards should cover a large part of your trips during the stay. Upon expiry of the 1,500¥ Transport Prepayment Card, or if the line you are travelling on is not covered by your Japan Rail Pass, any travel will be at your own expense by recharging your pre-paid transport card (at vending machines in all stations and metro stations).
- The Japan Rail Pass is a personal train pass for foreign travellers who wish to visit Japan. This pass allows unlimited travel for 7 consecutive days on all Japan Railways (JR) trains throughout Japan. You will receive a voucher to be exchanged at a JR office when you are welcomed at the airport by our assistant (list of addresses provided in your travel guide). You will be asked to show your passport and fill in a form. During this exchange, you will select the start date of your pass. Once your Pass has been activated, it will be valid for 7 consecutive days from the date chosen. To prevent wasting time when you arrive at the airport, you are requested to exchange your voucher upon arrival in Tokyo City. This is because exchanging it at the airport could delay your airport shuttle. With your Japan Rail Pass in hand, just go to the station, show your pass to the ticket inspector at the entrance gates and board any JR train. Trains in Japan are almost all open seating. If you are worried about not having a seat (on a shinkansen for example), simply go to a ticket office and reserve your seat at no extra charge. The Japan Rail Pass covers all JR and Shinkansen lines in Japan. The following journeys are not covered:
- Travel by metro and bus in the cities (payable by pre-paid transport card, included in your package)
- Transfers from the train station to the hotels (by foot, bus, metro or taxi)
- Travel on private train lines (other than JR)
- Travel on Nozomi and Mizuho high-speed trains (shinkansen)
- Trips made outside the validity period of the Japan Rail Pass
- Japan Rail Pass: It is not necessary to possess a Japan Rail Pass which covers your entire stay. This is only cost-effective if it is used for long journeys between the different stages of your stay (especially in shinkansen) which are very expensive. In large cities like Tokyo, only about ⅓ of public transport is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and getting around is relatively cheap (Tokyo metro tickets: £1.71 / 2.42$; Kyoto daily bus card: £4.28 / 5.97$). Thus, providing you with a Japan Rail Pass for more than 7 days (14 or 21) would not be cost-effective and, on the contrary, would significantly increase the cost of your trip.
- If a person taking part in the tour is a Japanese national and a resident of Japan, or a foreigner with tax residence in Japan (including a student), then that person is not eligible for the Japan Rail Pass. Please contact us to get the price of the tour without a Japan Rail Pass. They will have to buy the train tickets for the tour directly in Japan. The Kansai Thru Pass is also subject to the same nationality/residency requirements. This is not the case for the Hakone Free pass. If this person is a Japanese citizen but not a resident of Japan, then he/she can benefit from the Japan Rail Pass under certain conditions (see https://www.japan-experience.com/frequently-asked-questions.
- Licence translation for car rental: The translation of the driving licence into Japanese is included in your tour: we take care of all the necessary steps once you have sent us a valid driving licence. Once in Japan, the translation of the driving licence along with the original license allows you to drive legally and easily.
This translation is only necessary for driving licences from the following countries France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco and Taiwan. For licences issued from other countries, you must obtain an international licence.
- We have one car for every 1 to 5 travellers. If you would like an extra car, please contact us.
Your activities :
- Airport reception is in English. Your airport assistant will be waiting for you at the customs exit holding a sign with the name of the reservation. They will give you your travel documents and take you to your airport transfer. They will not accompany you to Kyoto (this is possible, but optional).
- The guided tour of Gion takes place in groups of 12 people maximum, from 6pm to 7:30/8:00pm. In English. More details on the meeting place in your travel journal. Dinner is not planned but your guide will be able to give you their best spots.
- Tokyo Architecture Tour: Your guide will pick you up at your hotel at 9am, and the day will last until 5pm. Your meals, transport and visits are at your own expense. The guide's meals are included in your tour. More details in your travel diary.
Your meals :
- Traditional Japanese dinner and Japanese breakfast (mostly savoury) are included in your ryokan. Do not hesitate to indicate any dietary requirements you may have, we will pass them on to the ryokan so that they can take them into account when planning the meals. If the ryokan does not take any of these dietary requirements into account, we cannot be held responsible and no compensation will be issued.
- Breakfasts which are not included in your package can be added at the reception when you arrive at the hotel. However, you will find many cafés near your hotel serving copious breakfasts, often tastier than those in the hotels, which sometimes have tight schedules and are predominantly savoury. However, if you would like to add breakfast to your offer when you make your reservation, you can select it as an option.
Your additional services:
- A pocket wifi is included in your tour. It allows unlimited high-speed internet access. Your pocket wifi will be delivered to you on arrival at the first hotel on your tour, in the name of your tour reservation.
- It comes with a small booklet to operate your device (don't panic: simple operation) and a prepaid envelope to return your device at the end of your stay. Your pocket wifi will work naturally until the last day of your trip to Japan.
- A maximum of 5 devices can be connected to a pocket wifi (phone, tablet, computer).
- A single pocket wifi is provided for a circuit order of 1 to 5 people. For an order of 6 people or more, a second pocket wifi will be added automatically and at no extra cost to your reservation.
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