Japan

A Walking Tour of Ancient Japan with Vasana Spagliarich

Temples, Gardens & Spa on the Trail of Re-enCHANTment November 4 - 24, 2006

Journey to Japan with Vasana Spogliarich to explore ancient traditions, gardens, and temples as well as the vibrant cities of Kyoto and Tokyo on this sacred walking tour.

This is a participatory and experiential trip as we have a multitude of different daily experiences which will stimulate all our senses. There will be plenty of time for sharing and contemplation. Also, there are 2 luxurious spas on the trip to relax in and get a feel for the national pastime enjoyed by the Japanese for thousands of years. This tour will take us from the ancient to the ultra-modern, from the fast-paced cities to places such as Kamakura on the coast where we can see Japan’s rich culture and history. We can also try our hand at Ikebana & other creative pursuits. READ MORE

Tour Leader Vasana Spogliarich

Vasana Spogliarich, EleCT, MBRCP, has travelled and lived abroad for 22 years in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. She is drawn to Japan through its qualities of religiousness and respect towards life.

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Our tour was well conceived and designed by Sacred Earth Journeys and our wonderful guide Vasana, to provide a look at the incredible variety and diversity of spiritual life and practice in ancient Japan. Sue Mirialakis, White Plains, NY

TESTIMONIALS

Tour Description

Over the millennia pilgrims have etched well worn paths over the landscape. Walking these same routes is a unique and relaxing way to experience “old Japan”. While modern life bustles ever onwards, this tour will slow us down, enabling us to experience a bygone age. There will be times when walking is done in silence to leave each one to experience these precious moments as fully as possible. There will also be time to experience meditations using sound as well as opportunities to observe monks chanting in their monasteries.

Gardens in Japan

While in many countries one goes to a museum to see the past culture, Japan is a “living museum” of art, architecture, gardens and religion and hence a “walking tour”. This tour will take us from the ancient to the ultra-modern. Beginning in Tokyo we will bypass the hustle and bustle and begin our journey behind the “bamboo curtain”. From there our enjoyable journey to the Spa Hotel in the mountains is done in several hours whereas it took many weeks for the shoguns to travel there from Edo.

We will journey to such places as Kamakura on the coast which holds claim to a rich period in Japan’s history. We will see the splendors of Kyoto, going back in history to approximately 700AD all the while taking advantage of everything that modern Japan has to offer.

Buddha statue, Japan

This is a participatory and experiential trip as we have a multitude of different daily experiences which will stimulate all our senses. There will be plenty of time for sharing and contemplation. Also, there are 2 luxurious spas on the trip to relax in and get a feel for the national pastime enjoyed by the Japanese for thousands of years. 

Participants are encouraged and will be given time to speak to the group on a subject of your passion relating to Japan or on something that you would like to research about Japan or Japanese culture before coming.

(Photos on the Overview page: Kyoto, Toji Pagoda: Simone Urbinati, GNU Free Documentation License; Kyoto, Saihouji Kokedera: Ivanoff, CCLicense; Kyoto, Ginkakuji Temple: Stephane D'Alu, Wikimedia Commons) 

Depart your home city on your international flight to Tokyo.

Japanese Gardens in Japan

Arrive Tokyo.  Airport Limo Bus to Hotel seeing the Tokyo skyline illuminated at night. Early dinner.
 
As Japan has such a rich history it is valuable to understand it in context as we travel in the upcoming weeks therefore you will receive a handout during the flight on the historical timelines and we would ask that you study this before arrival.
(Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Asakusa or similar, Tokyo, 3 nights)

(Photo: Cors, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Tokyo in Japan

The first morning we spend walking and relaxing in the magnificent and tranquil forest of Meiji Shrine, the most important Shinto Shrine in Tokyo. We will also see the secluded Naien Garden, a favorite of the Imperial family, with its pond, carp and sunken iris beds.  Enjoy a Welcome Lunch at Meiji (included) where we can all get to know each other a little better and learn about the journey ahead of us. Later on we visit The Nezu Institute of Fine Arts which is a superb private art collection set in 5 acres of Tokyo’s finest gardens with 7 types of tea pavilions and waterfalls. Evening at leisure.
 
By the carp pond we will pose the question to be answered later on in the tour “What are the qualities of Japanese society which, if we took them back to our home, would improve our society as a whole”? These qualities are very apparent in the daily life of our host country; we will be looking for the most obvious but also for the most subtle.

(Photo: Kentin,Wikimedia Commons)

 

Nezu Museum in Japan

The first morning we spend walking and relaxing in the magnificent and tranquil forest of Meiji Shrine, the most important Shinto Shrine in Tokyo. We will also see the secluded Naien Garden, a favorite of the Imperial family, with its pond, carp and sunken iris beds.

Enjoy a Welcome Lunch at Meiji (included) where we can all get to know each other a little better and learn about the journey ahead of us. Later on we visit The Nezu Institute of Fine Arts which is a superb private art collection set in 5 acres of Tokyo’s finest gardens with 7 types of tea pavilions and waterfalls. Evening at leisure.
 
By the carp pond we will pose the question to be answered later on in the tour “What are the qualities of Japanese society which, if we took them back to our home, would improve our society as a whole”? These qualities are very apparent in the daily life of our host country; we will be looking for the most obvious but also for the most subtle.

 

Tokyo Meiji Shrine in Japan

A mountainous ski and spa region approximately 2 hours north of Tokyo where one may hear the sound of rushing water at every step.  After checking into our Spa Hotel we will float down a river gorge taking in the tranquility of autumn in the mountains.  Spa experience evening.
 
A meditation using sound will be experienced before dinner. After dinner, Vasana will give a short explanation on “Mudras” which are symbolic hand gestures used throughout history in Buddhist meditations and with Buddhist statuary so that you will begin to recognize and understand them. Several mudras, useful for our daily life, will also be taught.
(Overnight: Spa Hotel at Kinugawa, 2 nights)

 

Buddha in Japan

Early mornings at the temples nestled in amongst the valleys are a special experience as we visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites with a local guide. Lunch at a forest Tea Shop before walking The Takino Path along the Inari River. As night descends in the cedar forest you may hear temple bells nearby. Spa experience evening.
 
Handouts with explanations on the symbolism used in Japan will be given so that you will be able to  understand these more fully when you see them. With a little serendipity we will see a ceremony in which a priest will burn prayer sticks while chanting sacred scriptures and using mudras. After dinner enjoy a short lecture with Vasana on Masuru Emoto’s work,”The Message from Water” and its significance to humanity. This will take place before everyone retires to the hot springs of their choice.

(Photo of Kinugawa: æŽ¬èŒ¶, Wikimedia Commons) 

Kinugawa in Japan

An early morning walk along the river enjoying the quietness of the mountains to see the hundreds of elusive, moss covered guardian deities marks the beginning of the day. After a picnic lunch we will take the train back to Tokyo stopping in at the ultra-modern Ueno Station with its immense stained glass panels.
 
Option of colouring/painting mandalas, geisha or freestyle will take place by the river.  
(Overnight: Hotel Sunroute Asakusa or similar, 2 nights)

 

Japan

A day trip to this quaint, seaside town which backs onto forested hills and bamboo groves where we will visit an artist’s residence and shop before “The Hydrangea Temple” with its ancient grotto.  Lunch in a bamboo garden. The view over Sagami Bay from the Hase-dera Temple is breathtaking. A 50 foot tall bronze Buddha will be one of the highlights. Dinner in Kamakura before returning to Tokyo.
 
Japanese gardens satisfy all of our 5 senses and we will see examples of these gardens which have developed historically as we travel through the country.  Handouts explaining the differences will be given. Water, an ancient symbol of life and revered by all – a short explanation of water and its use in temples and religion.

(Photo of Kamakura: Biliana Nikolova-Lefterova, Wikimedia Commons) 

 

Kamakura in Japan

We will leave Tokyo on the Shinkansen bullet train for Kyoto (3 hr) where we will arrive in late afternoon. Dinner in Gion district and a stroll to see the famous cherry tree illuminated amongst the temples. Nighttime illuminations in the gardens.
(Overnight:  3* Star Hotel in Kyoto, 7 nights)

(Photo of train at Kyoto station: Ellywa from NL, Wikimedia Commons) 

Kyoto Bullet Train in Japan

These dreamlike temples surrounded by autumn leaves are set amongst the hills, rice paddies and thatched roofed farm houses.  We will try our hand at the timeless art of paper making before a picnic lunch and will also visit a temple to hear monks chanting as they have done for thousands of years. Sanzen-in (1148AD) is reached by climbing up the hill past rows of brightly colored pickle shops.  We will take time to copy sacred Buddhist scriptures in the temple, a practice which has been carried on here for more than 1,000 years. Dinner in Gion before returning to the hotel.

(Photo of Sanzen-In: Wikimedia Commons) 

Sanzen-In in Japan

We will begin the day with a silent stroll to Eikando Temple on the hill and then to Nanzen-ji with its massive San-mon gate and dreamlike gardens. We then walk along the “Path of Philosophy”, a canal lined with cherry blossom and maple trees.   After lunch Kyoto’s traditional handicrafts are showcased in a modern, interactive museum or one could choose to visit Heian-jingu, a Shinto shrine famous for its circular walk around a large lake with covered bridges and views of the surrounding hills.  
 
We will have a local guide for the morning visit to these 2 exquisite examples of different types of temples in the Eastern hills. Before dinner we will listen to an audio lecture on Buddhism by an enlightened Master.

(Photo of the Path of Philosophy: Sdalu, Wikimedia Commons) 

Kyoto Path of Philosophy in Japan

Sannenzaka is atmospheric - full of cobblestone streets, old wooden houses, shops which sell the distinctive Kiyomizu pottery and many other delightful handicrafts as well as many restaurants.  After lunch you may have a free afternoon or you can choose to do an Ikebana class. 
 
Before dinner in Gion/Pontocho, we will join historian and expert on Geisha, Peter Macintosh, while we discover the hidden “floating world” of Kyoto.

 

Ikebana in Japan

From Kyoto Station we will take the train to Fushimi-Inari, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the Gods of rice and sake, where we walk through the forested hills under thousands of vermilion tori. It is the most important shrine of this type of over 40,000 throughout Japan and was featured in the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”. After lunch we go to Sanjusangen-do Temple (1164AD) which is a mystical experience with 1001 life-size statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy or one could choose to visit The Kyoto National Museum, the Imperial Repository for local art and treasures. Dinner in Gion.  Nighttime illuminations in the gardens.
 
While at a Tea House immersed deep in the forest Vasana will give an explanation of the names and significance of the 7 Shinto Gods.

(Photo of Fushimi Inari: Paul Vlaar, Wikimedia Commons) 

 

 

Kyoto Fushimi Inari in Japan

Kinkaku-ji Temple (1397 AD) is covered in gold leaf and reflected in the lake is the setting for the drama, “The Golden Pavilion”. It is one of the most stunning sights on earth.  

Lunch in a quaint “old Kyoto” style bistro. Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its 15th century rock garden, its riddle and the exquisite lower pond garden. Old traditions live on in Kyoto and we will visit an Indigo Dying workshop in the old textile district of Nishijin. Dinner in Nishiki Market. 

Kinkaku-ji temple in Japan

This town is famous for the world’s oldest love story, “The Tale of the Genji,” where we will walk paths along the river where this novel took place.  We will visit the famous Byodo-in (Phoenix Temple) on the lake as well as its unusual museum located underneath a hill.  Lunch on the river – a comparison between English and Japanese proverbs. A Tea Ceremony will be held at a Tea House in a tatami room. Dinner near Hotel.
 
The tea ceremony invokes a feeling of meditative contemplation despite its complex ritualistic nature and it was the Zen Monks of the 12th century who used this to refresh themselves between meditation sessions throughout the day.

 

Tale of the Genji in Japan

The Shinkansen bullet train will take us to an enchanting spa for 2 nights.  Located on the south coast of Japan this magnificent Spa with 7 hot springs is immersed in a cedar forest overlooking Japanese gardens. Here we will rest, bathe, meditate and walk in this countryside haven.
 
After dinner we will gather as a group once more to re-pose the question from the first day “What are the qualities from Japanese society which our society could benefit from”?  What have you learned from our journey? What are the qualities you would like to cultivate personally and aesthetically?
(Overnight:  4* Star Hotel Spa, Izu Peninsula, 2 nights)

(Photo: PiccoloNamek at the English language Wikipedia, CC License) 

Japan, Cherry Blossom

Another peaceful day beginning with a leisurely breakfast before taking a guided Nature Walk along the coast.  Later on we decide which hot springs to bathe in as we wash away the miles and centuries we have walked over the past few weeks.  The Izu Peninsula is where William Adams lived from 1604-1610 and whose adventures inspired the book, “Shogun”.
 
In the afternoon, Vasana will lead you in another meditation using sound and then you may choose one last painting of either mandalas or geisha to complete before dinner. Haiku evening after dinner before going off to the Spa.

(Photo of the Izu Peninsula: PHGCOM, Wikimedia Commons) 

Izu Peninsula in Japan

After a last morning stroll through the quiet streets of this countryside haven with its flowering magenta bougainvillea we leave by Shinkansen bullet train for Narita Airport.  Farewell dinner.
 
This evening we will come together for the last time to enjoy our Farewell Dinner.  We will share what we have learned on our journey, which aspects of Japanese society are most similar to ours and which aspects are most different and which areas of study might this trip have inspired us to pursue.
(Overnight:  3* Hotel or similar, Narita Airport, 1 night)

(Photo of Bougainvillea: Castielli, Wikimedia Commons) 

Bougainvillea in Japan

A morning visit by bus to Narita with its charming shops and Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple (940AD) with its enchanting lakes and Peace Temple. Return to Hotel to pick up luggage for the late afternoon flight to home destination.

(Photo of Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple: 663highland, Wikimedia Commons) 

Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple in Japan

A Walking Tour of Ancient Japan with Vasana Spagliarich

November 4 - 24, 2006

Tour Includes

  • 2 week Japan Rail Pass (Bullet Train) with reserved seating
  • Round trip transfers between airport and hotels
  • Hotel taxes and service charges and gratuities
  • Accommodations in economy/first class hotels with private bath 
  • Accommodation in all “onsen” spas including breakfast and dinner 
  • Sending service for baggage between Tokyo and Kyoto and return
  • Special Welcome Lunch
  • All local trains and buses
  • All entrances to museums, gardens and temples
  • Tea ceremony in tatami room setting
  • Riverboat cruise (2)
  • Tea and sweet on a floating pavilion
  • Floating down a river gorge in a poled boat
  • Ikebana Class
  • Local guides where applicable
  • Walking lecture with Peter Macintosh, historian and expert on Geisha
  • Guided Nature Walk
  • Paper Making Lesson
  • Escorted throughout by Vasana Spogliarich

Added Features

  • Travel together with a group of like minded people
  • Visits to the magical world of Japan’s most famous temple gardens as well as many out-of-the-way temple gardens
  • Walks in the hills to secluded forest temples whose grounds have been sacred for more than a 1,000 years
  • Possibilities of witnessing rarely seen ceremonies and meditations in temples
  • Introduction to various meditation techniques using sound
  • Haiku evening
  • Participants are able to obtain a “temple passport” with which the Master Calligrapher at each temple scribes on each page. Cost approximately $10.00 per book and $3.00 per entry
  • Participants may also have the opportunity of sitting in a temple where a Buddhist priest will instruct you in “Shakyo”, a meditative practice of copying sacred Buddhist sutras which has continued for over a 1,000 years in this Temple. Paper, calligraphy brushes and ink supplied
  • Art/colouring supplies included
  • Photography – anyone interested in improving their photography “eye” skills, help is available upon request
  • Audio discourse on Buddhism by enlightened Master
  • Farewell dinner

Tour Does Not Include

  • International Airfare/departure taxes (ask us for a quote from your home city)
  • Cancellation and Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
  • Meals, except where indicated in the itinerary and in the Tour Includes section
  • Cost to obtain valid passport
  • Any transport by subway or taxi as needed (approximately $40.00 and is already included in your Daily Allowance which you will bring with you in Yen)
  • Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls. Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final trip itinerary

Tour Price:

    • Double Room: USD $3,480 per person
    • Single Supplement: Please Inquire
Book this Journey
or call us on
1-877-874-7922 to help you make your reservation

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