Custom Independent Tour Sample Itinerary

This custom tour was created for travelers interested in the traditional and contemporary fine arts of Japan, both as enthusiasts and collectors. The carefully crafted itinerary allows you to meet Japanese artists one-on-one, in their studios and homes. Not only were the days enlightening, they were also designed to flow effortlessly from one beautiful temple garden, art studio, gallery, museum, tea ceremony and neighborhood to another. This itinerary also includes travel to the Benesse Art Site – three islands of museums and installation art located in the Inland Sea of Japan. A visit to this continually evolving site is often a highlight for museums, curators, docents and art enthusiasts.  In addition to some of the classic Japanese travel experiences, such as ride on the Shinkansen (bullet) train, each step of the way offers special moments with the people who make up the living culture of Japan in all its rich history and vibrant expressions.

Emperor Juntoku (1197 – 1242)

The hundredfold palace!
even in the shinobu grass
on its old eaves
I find a past for which
I long yet ever more.

Daily Itinerary


Depart for Japan on your individually arranged flight.


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts-Kiyomizu

Transfer via reserved shuttle service directly to Kyoto and your hotel.


Accommodations: Western-style hotel


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day3-Gold Leaf Obi-Sally Fowler

Tour with your Kyoto-based guide, not including transportation and admissions. Spend the morning at Daitoku-ji Zen monastery, for a private experience of the Way of Tea with the abbot of Zuiho-in subtemple and visits on foot to some of the lovely gardens there. After a Zen style vegetarian lunch, we think that you might enjoy meeting Noguchi-san, a 5th generation master of gold leaf. In his beautifully preserved, traditional Kyoto-style merchant house, he will introduce you to the world of gold leaf, and show you how his obi designs are transferred to the actual garments. Follow this visit in the Nishijin neighborhood with a walking tour of this traditional Kyoto textile area and a stop to see either an indigo dyer or a weaver of contemporary textiles based on ancient designs. From here we suggest a visit to one of the many traditional gardens such as Ryoan-ji, best known for its stark, 15-rock simplicity or we will tailor the rest of the day to your interests.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts-Maiko

Tour with your Kyoto-based guide for the day. Start with a visit the studio of performance calligrapher for a demonstration of his “giant brush” technique. Then travel to the Miyagawa-cho area for a walking tour of the charming, architecturally preserved geisha district with its 19th century-style wooden buildings, cut granite streets and geisha-related shops. End the walking tour with a private meeting with an authentic maiko (young geisha) over lunch in your own, intimate dining room. This afternoon your guide might suggest a number of different options, including a walk through Nishiki market, a visit to a washi-paper studio artist or even a traditional lantern-maker.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day5-Ginkakuji-EB

Start the day with a visit to Sanjusangendo, the Hall of the Lotus King, and well-known as the subject of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Hall of Thirty-Three Bays”. Then head to the eastern hills for a stroll along the Philosopher’s Walk. Stop in at Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavillion). We would be happy to arrange a stop to see with one of Kyoto’s leading ceramics experts for an introduction to Japanese ceramics in his fully restored machiya.  Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions for the rest of the day. Tonight might be a good night to visit one of our favorite Sake bars in Kyoto, serving premium sakes from micro-breweries throughout the country.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day6-Saiho-ji Moss Floor-Milo Meland

Tour on your own with Esprit’s suggestions. Head to western Kyoto and the Arashiyama area. Start a walk through the charming Sagano strolling area (village) ending at the preserved area of Sagano Toriimoto (bamboo forest). Stop into Tenryuji, one of the oldest gardens in Kyoto, dating from the early 14th century for an in-depth exploration. The garden was the design work of Muso Kokushi, a renowned priest, diplomat, meditation teacher and garden designer of the 1300’s. After a light lunch, head to Saiho-ji (Moss Garden Temple), which provides an experience of a completely different type of garden, known as a natural strolling garden. After a brief chanting ceremony by the resident monks, try your hand at an optional calligraphy exercise before taking a leisurely stroll through the mystical 1300-year-old site. For dinner tonight, we might suggest a shabu-shabu dinner of luxurious Wagyu beef and crisp vegetables dipped into bubbling broth tableside and served with traditional condiments and dipping sauces.

Accomodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day7-Benesse Oval-Arnold Caplan

This morning, travel via train, private car and ferry to Naoshima Island and the Benesse Art Site. Your hotel is on the island is one of the four hotels designed by Tadao Andoh. You will arrive in mid-afternoon and have time to tour the museum, walk on the beach, take advantage of the hotel spa services, etc. after arrival. This evening enjoy a reservation for James Turrell’s Night Sky installation, available only on weekends, preceded by a visit to the Chichu Museum. For dinner tonight, enjoy the fabulous continental inspired cuisine at the Terrace Restaurant.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts-Chichu Museum

Explore this quiet island on the Inland Sea on your own, including the Chichu Museum, the Lee Ufan Museum, the Tadao Ando and the Art House Projects. For dinner this evening, you might enjoy the specialty of the house: a contemporary interpretation of traditional kaiseki (multi-course, exquisitely presented meal) served on an array of artistic functional ware from kilns all over Japan. Afterwards, explore the art in the Benesse Museum, open only to hotel guests on this evening.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast


Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day9-Inujima Art-Peter Davies

Today, travel by private ferry to visit nearby Teshima Island to experience Christian Boltanski’s Archive and the new Teshima Museum. Then travel on via ferry to Inujima Island to see the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum and the F-Art House. Return at the end of the day to Naoshima Island.

Accommodations: Western-style hotel
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 10

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day10-Asaba Noh Stage

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DAY 11

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day11-Shuzenji Temple

Explore the town of Shuzen-ji this morning, enjoying their beautifully preserved bamboo forest, bright red bridges over a flowing river, small walking streets lined with shops and the numerous small temples and shrines in the hills beyond the town. Afterwards, head to the exciting cosmopolitan city of Tokyo. This afternoon, explore the area around your hotel, the Marunouchi area and Nihonbashi, on your own with Esprit’s suggestions.

Accommodationst: Western-style Hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 12

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day12-Shinto Procession - NC

Tour with your Tokyo-based guide, starting with an introduction to Shinto at Meiji Shrine with an experience of sacred kagura dance and music. Afterwards, take a contemporary architectural walking tour through the exciting Omotesando area or see the youth culture in Harujuku. After lunch, we suggest a visit to one of Tokyo’s quieter neighborhoods, Yanaka, where your guide can show you local life and you can meet with a Nihonga artist. Alternatively, your guide can introduce you to some of the contemporary art options around Tokyo, either museums, small private galleries or unique stores, such as Nuno fabrics, internationally renowned textile designers. The day is customized totally to your interests.

Accommodations: Western-style Hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 13

Japan Custom Travel Sample-Arts - Day13-Tokyo International-D7497793

Tour with your Tokyo-based guide, starting with a walking tour of the Ginza district, ending at the fascinating opening ceremony of one of Japan’s flagship department stores. Follow this with a visit to a private bamboo art gallery for an introduction to this classic Japanese art form. You might explore cutting edge architecture and interior design throughout the city. Stop at various galleries featuring Japan’s leading ceramic and textile artists. You may want to visit Ueno Park, one of Tokyo’s largest, and site of the Tokyo National Museum.  After returning to your hotel for a rest, head out for dinner tonight and then take in some views of the city from atop one of its many skyscrapers for your final night in Japan.

Accomodations: Western-style Hotel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 14

Tour Tokyo on your own today with Esprit’s suggestions. Since your flight is in the afternoon, you will be able to get a full morning of touring in before departing for the airport. Travel via private hire car to the airport for your departure.

Depart from the Tokyo Narita Airport. 
Meals: Breakfast

Note: The itinerary(s) will be finalized approximately 30 days prior to departure.  Artist visits are subject to availability and the schedules of our Japanese colleagues.  A final itinerary will be sent to you about two weeks prior to departure.   The itinerary and visits are subject to change at any time.

Sample Itinerary Destinations and Visits


For more information about current pricing for an itinerary like this, please contact us directly.

During an initial phone call or exchange by email we try to get a feel for what kind of trip and services you are looking for, your dates, your style of travel, your budget and any special needs and interests which we can accommodate. Based on that initial information, we give you a Sketch Itinerary outlining a route, types of accommodations, and other services we can provide. After getting your feedback, the Sketch Itinerary is revised if necessary and we are now able to give you a ballpark price.

The estimated price that you will be quoted will include the actual cost of the services: hotels, transportation, guides, tours etc, plus a tour planning fee. This fee includes all the expenses involved in making the arrangements (e.g., phone, fax, FedEx and currency transfer fees) and our time in making your arrangements. Please note that all trips are quoted and sold a package basis. We cannot provide detailed cost breakdowns.

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