All our tours are tailor-made to suit the needs of your group, but here are several examples of some tours and their approximate cost.
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The customers and their requirements: a group of 6 amateur artists were seeking to have a 2-week cultural tour to learn and practice washi and nuno making techniques and visit places associated with washi and nuno. They were fully guided throughout the tour by Phil and Kazuko.
The location and timing: we researched places around Japan where the group could engage in their shumi. These included Kochi for washi, Takayama and Nagoya for nuno and Tokyo and Kyoto for both. They were keen to come in the Spring to see the cherry blossoms. We suggested they avoid the cherry blossoms in the big cities and come from mid-April to view them in the less crowded mountainous areas of central Honshu.
The accommodation: the group stayed in a mixture of 2-3-star western hotels, B&Bs and spent one night in a traditional ryokan at the hot spring town of Gero.
The daily program: the tour started in Tokyo with a visit to Nippori textile town in the morning and an Edo Sarasa textile stencil workshop in the afternoon. Then a day trip to Mt Fuji to gaze at the cherry blossoms at the foot of the iconic snow-capped peak and a visit to the spectacular Itchiku Kubota Kimono Museum. The group then took the bullet train and stayed at a ryokan in Gero to enjoy the hot springs and more cherry blossoms. That was followed by a day in Takayama doing a sashiko workshop and exploring the arts and crafts of the town. In the evening we attended one of the 3 famous ‘naked festivals’ which was exciting. The tour continued to Arimatsu for a dyeing workshop and then by bullet train again to Matsuyama in Shikoku to explore its magnificent castle and on to the picturesque old town of Uchiko to watch traditional washi being made. The highlight was staying in a mountain village at the home of a professional washi maker and doing a full day workshop, from plant gathering to finished paper. We then drove through Shikoku to visit a washi town and museum and then to Takamatsu to explore one of Japan’s most famous gardens, the Ritsurin. The next day we took the ferry through the beautiful Inland Sea to explore the art island of Naoshima. We then went to Kyoto to spend the last two days of the tour doing a silk weaving, book-binding and braid workshops, and discovering some of the scenic spots of this captivating city.
The cost: Approximate cost (twin share) for the 14 day tour was Yen 410,000 per person including our fee for arranging the program and guiding, all workshops and museum entries, accommodation, 3 meals a day and all ground and train transport, but not including air fares to and from Japan.
The customer and their requirements: a group of 12 regular hikers, mostly married couples who wanted to do a major trail walk with few or little tourists, carrying only day packs with their luggage being delivered ahead of them. They wanted to do some cultural sightseeing and eat mainly the local cuisine. They were happy to stay in B&B style accommodation. They were flexible as to timing and wanted Phil and Kazuko to guide them.
The location and timing: we recommended that the group come to Japan during the autumn, from September to November, as this is when the weather is best for walking and the autumn colours are superb. We suggested that the Shionomichi (Salt Trail) and Shinetsu Trails, both in Nagano Prefecture, would meet their requirements for cultural sightseeing and beautiful nature without any crowds, and virtually no other foreign tourists.
The accommodation: we stayed in a mix of accommodation including western style hotels, B&Bs, chalets, Japanese inns and ryokan. Every place had hot springs to relax in after each day’s walk.
The daily program: The first week of the tour was to walk about 70km from the coastal town of Itoigawa following the ancient Salt road through rugged gorges, over mountain passes and through picturesque valleys with thatched roof villages and stepped rice fields. We stopped along the way to see shrines, temples, statues and museums related to the trail’s history. On one day we took a gondola high up into the North Alps and then climbed a 2,500m alpine peak. On another day we walked along beautiful alpine lakes and stopped for a luncheon picnic. On the way to the start of the second week’s walk we stopped in Matsumoto to visit its magnificent castle. The Shinetsu Trail walk was in beautiful autumnal native forests along the top of an up and down 1,000m+ mountain range. We were driven to and from the trailhead every day and took obento lunch boxes with us. We had great views and hardly met any other hikers. A small part of the group wanted to explore the local towns and so Kazuko took them on excursions to the famous Zenkoji Temple in Nagano, and the historical towns of Iiyama and Obuse.
The cost: Approximate cost per person (twin share) for the 14 days stay in Japan was about Yen 250,000 per person including our fee for arranging the program and guiding, 3 meals a day and local transport (but not including air fares to Japan, transport to the start and finish places).
The customer and their requirements: a group of 10 amateur photographers and their two teachers who wanted to photograph the essence of traditional Japan and who wanted a leisurely pace to their day and wanted a variety of scenery and things to photograph. They were happy to stay in B&B style accommodation in shared Japanese tatami rooms. They wanted Kazuko and Phil to be their bilingual guides throughout.
The location and timing: we recommended that the group come to Japan from mid-April as this is when the cherry blossoms and new green shoots are coming out, and the temperatures are mild.
The accommodation: the group would stay in a mixture of Western style hotels and experienced one night in traditional ryokan with onsen baths.
The daily program: the group started the tour in Tokyo with a workshop visiting iconic places such as Shinjuku Park and Shibuya crossing and capturing the sun setting over the neon-lights of the city. We then moved to Nagano and rented luxury vans to spend the next 10 days exploring the central mountainous area of Honshu. One day we drove to the foot of Mt Fuji to take photos of the iconic mountain with cherry blossoms, another day we visited the castle town of Takato to capture its 2,000 cherry trees during twilight and lit up at night. We stayed in the delightful well-preserved town of Takayama to capture its atmosphere and then we joined the famous Naked Festival during the day and night to take some great shots of half-naked men battling each other with their floats. On another day we explored the wonderful steeply thatched roofs of the UNESCO World Heritage listed village of Shirakawago. On another day we went to Kamikochi, in a deep valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains where wild monkeys, deer and bears were roaming. We spent two days in Matsumoto, capturing Japan’s oldest and most beautiful castle and surrounding district. We visited Japan’s oldest bird watching park in Karuizawa and then went to capture the cute snow monkeys and stay at the famous hot springs resort nearby. The tour ended with a bullet train ride to Tokyo and one more day capturing the essence of the old downtown areas of Ueno and Asakusa.
The cost: Approximate cost per person (twin share) for the 14 days stay in Japan was Yen 500,000 including our fee for arranging the program and guiding and driving the vehicles, 3 meals and local ground and train transport from the start and finish in Tokyo but not including air fares to Japan.
The customer and their requirements: a professional weaver sought a unique two-week shumi-stay in an authentic Japanese farmhouse where she could learn about traditional Japanese weaving and textiles, meet local weavers, experience the local culture and explore the surrounding region.
The location and timing: we recommended that our visitor come to the Suwa Region in Central Nagano which is famous for silk making and sakiori (rags) weaving. We suggested to come in May, in the middle of Spring when the weather is warm, the rice fields are being planted and there is an abundance of flowers.
The accommodation: We arranged for them to stay one week in our beautifully restored 270 year old farmhouse in a small farming village on the slopes of a stunning mountain range in central Nagano, and a second week in a B&B lodge with great food surrounded by lush forests. On the last evening we took her to stay in a traditional ryokan at a hot springs town near Mt Fuji.
The daily program: because the shumi-stay was based in one area and accommodation was in only two places, the daily itinerary was very flexible, apart from the weaving lessons that were booked in advance. Accordingly, outside of the time spent weaving, the customer was able to pick and choose what to do each day. We took her on a number of day tours, including a trip to Matsumoto to explore its famous black castle; a visit to a famous silk museum to look at how silk is produced; and a visit to a traditional thatched roof village at the foot of Mt Fuji. We also took her on drives and hikes to mountain lakes and alpine wildflower fields and ate at a wide variety of country style restaurants.
The cost: Approximate cost per person (twin share) for this 14 day tour was around Yen 350,000 including our fee for arranging the program and providing the leader, accommodation and 3 meals a day and local ground and train transport, and all activities, including weaving lessons. Air fares to Japan and transport to and from Nagano were not included.