welcome to Japan!!
"Japanese Odyssey October"
You may find Japanese traditional culture unique at first
glance, however, in most cases, 'what is hidden' is as important
as 'what is seen'. Reading the hidden messages is the true
virtue of Japanese traditional culture. Through this program,
we try to unveil the unseen.
The uniqueness of Japan is often explained by terms as
'wabi' 'sabi', the heart of the solemn tea ceremony relating
to the samurai warrior's code. In the program we will together
experience this traditional art and discover the hidden
messages. The many visits to historical shrines and temples
aim to feature native religion Shinto along with Buddhism,
which also characterizes Japan.
Contemporary Japan will also be an interesting theme for
us as we realize what the people of Japan today left behind
and what it has inherited by skillfully mixing it with the
modern western culture.
Many activities and sites of the program are included to introduce
a wide range of cultural aspects and historical ages that
help you get a deeper insight of Japan. We will also take
a brief look at its nature, also essential for nurturing the
culture by its blessings and spirituality.
Talks, demonstrations, informal exchanges with your local
hosts and citizens will surely enhance our understanding
of this country.
This Preparation Material contains a lot of useful information
about the program and we ask that you read this so that
you are aware of the program content and the sequencing
of events. There is also information about the sites along
with an overview of Japanese history, some geography and
a reading list. If you are unsure about any of the contents
please contact one of your Odyssey Travel Advisors for clarification.
Over 1200 years ago, Kyoto was formed as home of the Emperor
prevailing 11 centuries long. Numerous temples and shrines
of poignant historical beauty display the most refined architecture
of Japan. Aristocratic art and culture flourished among
the people, and the air still here, making Kyoto unique
to other cities of Japan.
On arrival in Kyoto, we will first visit specialists of
this World Heritage to catch the overview; it's aristocratic
history, reason of it's structure like a chessboard, and
Japanese religion, an essential viewpoint to fully appreciate
the city that counts close to 2000 shrines and temples.
In total we will spend 4 days in Kyoto visiting selected
sites including the glimmering Golden Pavilion gilded with
real gold, the solemn 'Zen' rock garden of Ryoan-ji, and
quiet bamboo groves of poetic hillsides. One of the highlights
is the hands-on cultural activity; we'll challenge to whip
up our own fluffy bowl of green tea and enjoy the art and
unique ambience of tea ceremony, silky kimono gowns, and
live performance of the 'koto (Japanese harp)'.
Nara was once the capital city before Kyoto, where Buddhism
first settled on this island. Dating over 1300 years ago,
it was built by the strong desire for peace under the divine
grace of the Buddha. Along with Buddhism came the advanced
culture and treasures of the continent; Nara is in some
terms recognized as the eastern end of the Silk Road. Also,
this was the land where the tribal lords roamed during the
tumulus period around the 4th century A.D.
Our one-day visit to Nara will be a travel back of time.
Upon arrival, the nation-wide famous sacred deer of Nara
Park will greet us. The highlight of fieldtrip to this World
Heritage site, is the great Buddha, housed under the largest
wooden structure in the world, and Horyu-ji Temple, the
oldest wooden structure in the world.
The program will move on tracing history from the aristocratic
days of Kyoto to the Samurai era, time of the feudal lords.
Leaving Kyoto, by bus we head for the mountainous region
that runs like a spine through the center of Japan. En-route
stops will include a castle city once ruled by a feudal
The city displays a good example of how Japan is blessed
with abundant rainfall and water resource. Here we will
ponder the streets with waterways built throughout the town.
For centuries, and even today, these waterways are used
in daily life, from washing vegetables for winter pickles
to household laundry. Plentiful water made these regions
famous for indigo dyeing, silk weaving and dyeing, 'washi
(Japanese paper)' industries.
Once a major castle town of the mountains of Hida, in Takayama
we find the lively culture of the townspeople inherited
over centuries. Takayama also prospered under the feudal
lords of the Edo period, and is known nation wide for its
medieval city and artistic folk woodcraft. Along the cobbled
streets, merchants' houses with latticed bay windows and
linked eaves line just as they did 200 years ago.
Japan is frequently mentioned as 'a country of paper and
wood'. The two days in Takayama and nearby Furukawa we witness
this; a rich culture embedded in rural cities deeply related
with wood and nature. Wooden masterpieces of skillful craftsmen
range from the gorgeous 'Matsuri' floats to 'karakuri (automated)'
toys (discover the wonder of how the toys moves!). Let us
visit family run workshops that inherit handmade candles
from centuries ago, join toasting rice crackers -'Senbei',
the best-loved townspeople's snack over ages.
We take one day's luggage with us on the bus to the small
picturesque countryside community of Shirakawa-go. This World
Heritage village was introduced to the world by a German architect
Bruno Taut (1880-1938), for it's unique thick-thatched-roof
farmhouses. Here, people still live in harmony with nature,
a lifestyle once found in many farm villages.
We will enter one of the thatched-roof houses and learn
it's remarkable structure, how it stands firmly without
any help of nails. Our special plan is to stay overnight
in the World Heritage village, under the roof of the traditional
architecture. "Futon" mattresses will be our beds,
we sleep in shared rooms, use shared facilities, and dine
together sitting on floor, following the rural family tradition.
We also hold an evening session, to see slides and hear
stories from the locals.
Departing Shirakawa-go, we coach out of the mountains heading
for Tokyo. En-route we stop at Mino, famous for handmade
paper, 'washi'. At Nagoya we change to rails, board the
'Shinkansen (Bullet Train)' the world's first high speed
train, and zip to Tokyo. If weather is fair, we will have
a chance to see Mt. Fuji, the icon of Japan, capped with
The capital of Japan, metropolitan Tokyo is the center
of population, politics, finance, and culture. Approximately
12 million people reside within Tokyo, and almost one-fourth
of Japan's total population lives within commuting distance
of the city. Tokyo was formerly called Edo (1603-1868),
center of the Samurai-ruling feudal government of the Tokugawa
Shogunate. During the 300 years of peace, the stylish Edo
culture was nurtured by the townspeople.
We will visit the Ukiyoe woodblock prints exhibition to
see close at hand some of the original prints. In Asakusa
we will stroll along the alley to Senso-ji Temple, most
famous temple in Tokyo, and enjoy the lively bustling air
of Edo that still lingers today.
Our hotel is conveniently located close to Shinjuku Station,
and next to the Metropolitan government building. First
we will have a simple orientation about the modern city,
and visit a junior high school to see more aspects of the
cotemporary society. One afternoon and departure day will
be free hours to venture areas of your own interest; electronics,
Kabuki, downtown alleys of Nezu, you name it. We will be
joined by volunteers who will help us get around the city.
From Tokyo, we coach for 2-3 hours to Nikko for a one-night
trip. A highland 130km north of Tokyo, Nikko prides the
UNESCO World Heritage, Toshogu Shrine, the mausoleum of
most powerful Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 - 1616). Colorful
sumptuous carvings, gold tinted designs decorate the sacred
buildings on mountainside. We drive up to Lake Chuzen-ji,
hoping for a good view of the mountains in autumn color.
Our hotel is located near the lake, enabling us to take
walks freely to great falls and quiet shores. Also, there
is an onsen (hot spring bath) at the hotel to relax in.
Next morning, we will take a mini cruise on the lake and
a short walk through the forest of the national park.
On our way back to Tokyo, we take a brief stop at a traditional
'Sakagura' (Japanese rice wine brewery), where we can enjoy