Scenic Zen Journey to Japan with Craig Marshall

Explore Japan’s Spiritual Traditions and Natural Fall Beauty October 12 - 20, 2019

Join transformational mentor and former monk Craig Marshall on a journey to discover the sacred traditions and natural beauty of the Kyoto region of Japan.

On this spiritual journey to Japan you will visit temples, shrines, stroll along the Philosopher’s Path and Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail and see breathtaking fall scenery. Your knowledge of Buddhism will be deepened with an immersive overnight stay at a Buddhist Monastery, and in Kyoto you will learn about one of the most famous Japanese cultural traditions – the tea ceremony. Tour Leader Craig Marshall will guide you in meditations and discussions as you make a profound connection with this ancient and sacred land. EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT USD $350! DEADLINE JUNE 30 READ MORE

Tour Leader Craig Marshall

Craig Marshall is a transformational thought-leader, mentor, and former yoga monk, with a background as a Hollywood child actor, who now devotes his life to helping people fulfill their life dreams. 


This was a very special journey. More than the external sights and places, it was also both an introduction to, and journey through, an extraordinarily beautiful and peaceful inner world. Larry Ott, Kensington, MD


Tour Description


This scenic Zen journey provides a unique opportunity to experience the energy of traditional Japan by visiting temples and shrines, exploring traditional culture, and enjoying natural scenery amidst the glorious fall colour season.

Kyoto nights in fall
Kyoto nights in fall

Tour Leader Craig Marshall will lead simple meditations and host group discussions about our daily experiences to deepen our appreciation of Japan’s spiritual energy and connect this to celebrating life in the present. The journey is mindfully paced to ensure time for contemplation, with an ideal balance of group activities and time for personal reflection. 

Beginning in Kyoto, Japan’s old imperial capital and spiritual centre, we will visit temples, markets, and enjoy a walking tour of the city. Stroll through Arashiyama, a beloved area with picturesque streets and exquisite architecture, then follow the famous Philosopher’s Path, naturally beautiful in all seasons. We will also participate in a traditional tea ceremony and learn more about its spiritual significance in Japan while we enjoy a perfect cup of green tea.

Kyoto Rooftops
Kyoto Rooftops

From Kyoto we will travel to Mt. Koya for a deeply powerful spiritual experience. We will spend the night in a Buddhist Monastery to be fully immersed in Buddhism and traditional monastic culture.

A Buddhist monk on Mount Koya

We then travel to the sacred remote and mountainous Kumano region, visiting the breathtaking Nachi Falls and Shingu area shrines. Here we will follow the famous Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail and drive up the coast along the Ojigahama and Mitarai coastal paths for some stunning views and sea air. On the way back to Kyoto we pass by Nara to see its temples and “deer park” where over 1000 deer roam freely in a city-centre park. Back in Kyoto we will treat all our senses with a visit to the Nishiki food market.

Deer mingling with the visitors of Nara's Deer Park

Mid-October is a wonderful time to visit Japan – the tourist crowds have subsided and the skies are usually clear blue, providing the perfect backdrop for photographing, or just admiring the early fall colours. 

You will be met at Kansai airport and transferred to Kyoto, Japan’s old imperial capital and hub of traditional culture (apx 1.5 hours). This is a city that for hundreds of years has been an island of tradition in the whirlpool of continual progress in urban Japan. It has flourished as the city of fine traditions and artistry, surviving major battles and tumultuous fluctuations in political power through sheer resilience. Kyoto has 17 World Heritage Sites, each a masterpiece representative of the era in which it was constructed.

During your time in Kyoto, you will encounter the history, cultural aesthetics, religion, and the daily tales that make up the Japanese puzzle. You will discover and experience the past rippling through the everyday life of locals.

This evening you will have an introductory group meeting at the hotel to meet your fellow travellers, tour leaders and Japanese guide.

(Overnight in Kyoto at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi or similar)

Kansai, Kyoto

Today, after breakfast, you will be treated to a full day of sightseeing to deepen your knowledge of both Kyoto and Japan from a spiritual perspective. You will learn about the fundamentals of aesthetics, Zen, architecture, and horticulture through visits to sacred places such as the distinguished stone garden at Ryoanji temple, the spectacular Golden Pavilion, and Shogun castle.

You will also have the chance to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony (details TBC). Learn about the ceremony’s connections to Zen and Buddhism, and how so many elements of Japanese culture permeate through every step and motion. Then take a stroll along the picturesque streets of Gion, where you just might catch a glimpse of a geisha on her way to work.

This evening we will meet for a Welcome Dinner, a wonderful opportunity to learn about your fellow travellers and enjoy the local cuisine.

(Overnight in Kyoto at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi or similar)

Kyoto, shogun, sacred journey

This morning you will join your travelling companions for a meditation session, followed by a private tour of one of Kyoto’s beautiful temples, guided by one of the temple’s monks.

This afternoon you will explore the western part of Kyoto – Arashiyama, one of the city’s most beloved places. It has a famous and storied wooden bridge, numerous temples, known for their architecture and stunning gardens, a scenic bamboo grove, and picturesque streets that are perfect for leisurely walks. Arashiyama is also home of the Monkey Park, where families of wild macaque roam freely.

Time and interest permitting, we will also visit Toei Movie Studio Park, where you can travel into the past, to a time when geisha and samurai were commonplace. On our return to central Kyoto we can make an optional stop (TBC) at Sanjusangendo Temple with its impressive display of a thousand depictions of the god/goddess Kannon.

(Overnight in Kyoto at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi or similar)


Kyoto, sacred journey, fushimi inari, geisha

This morning our local guide will lead us on a walking tour around a beautiful neighbourhood in the Northeastern part of Kyoto. We will visit hidden shrines and temples while discussing Japan’s spiritual past and present. We then continue on to Ginkakuji and the Philosopher’s Path, named after one of Japan’s most prominent philosophers, Nishida Kitaro, who is said to have meditated along this canal-side route. Lined with sakura trees, and interspersed with temples, gardens, and small artisan-style shops, the path is visually captivating in all seasons. Optional visit to a world-class pottery studio in the neighbourhood.

(Overnight in Kyoto at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi or similar)


Kyoto, sacred journey, ginkakuji

Leaving the old capital, you will embark on a deep spiritual encounter with Buddhism in Japan. You will be heading to Mt. Koya, which has been a major religious centre and an important pilgrimage site in Japan since the 9th century (apx 2-hour drive from Kyoto to Mt. Koya).

Mt. Koya serves as the headquarters for the Shingon sect, an esoteric sect in Buddhism that was influenced by Tibetan Buddhism. On this sacred mountain, you will visit Japan’s oldest and largest graveyard, set in the midst of a 900-year-old forest, with the crumbling gravestones of medieval aristocracy standing alongside modern monuments to powerful corporations like Nissan and Toyota.

You will also visit the main temple on the mountain and its beautiful stone garden and see some exquisite Japanese style drawings.

The spiritual experience will be deepened as you spend the night in a Japanese-style room in a Buddhist monastery (shared bathrooms), relishing a shojinryori meal – the vegetarian cuisine traditionally prepared in Buddhist temples.

(Overnight in Mt. Koya at Hongakuin Temple or similar)

Mt. Fuji, Sacred Journey, Japan

This morning enjoy a fire ceremony by the monks before saying farewell to the Koya region. You will then travel by coach into a sacred remote area, set deep in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula in the Kumano region. Here, we will visit the famous Nachi Falls and Nachi Taisha Shrine (apx 3-hour drive from Mt. Koya to Nachi).

For hundreds of years, people from all levels of society, retired emperors and samurai alongside peasants and merchants, have walked these mountain paths on a pilgrimage to Kumano’s sacred shrines. The area offers pristine pilgrim trails, small mountainous villages as well as riverside hamlets, rustic temples and shrines, views of the ocean, and a rare open-air hot spring set on a riverbank.

Kumano City is found along the old pilgrimage path known as the Iseji, which linked the sacred shrines of the Kumano region to Ise Jingu, the most revered and sacred shrine in all of Japan. Kumano City still boasts a preserved part of the trail, as well as other holy sights connected to legends of the Japanese islands’ creation. In the Shingu area, we will visit the Hayatama shrine with its 800 year-old Nagi-no-Ki tree, a symbol of the importance of nature to sacred traditions here. We will also see the Asuka Shrine, thought to be the oldest shrine in Kumano, and Jofukukoen (Jofuku Koen), a small Chinese-style park.

As an optional activity this afternoon (at own expense) you can participate in a Taiko Workshop in Kumano to experience first-hand the connection between musician and drum in this ancient musical art form.

(Overnight in Kumano at Midoriya or similar)

Nachi Falls, Japan, Sacred Journey

Today will be devoted to exploring the hidden world of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. You will tour by private coach and on foot some of the most spiritually significant sites in this area, while absorbing the history and beauty of the region.

From the “gate of awakening”, Hosshinmon Oji, we will walk to the Hongu Taisha Shrine, one of the three grand shrines of Kumano, surrounded by giant cedar and cypress trees. We will then follow the Ojigahama and Mitarai coastal paths to breathe in the refreshing ocean air and savour the expansive views. The Ojigahama coast is famous as a laying ground for the loggerhead turtles! We will have some time here to walk and contemplate the natural surroundings.

If time permits on our drive to the coast we will visit the Hana no Iwaya shrine, dedicated to the mother of the Japanese gods “Izanami-no-mikoto” and her son the fire god “Kagu-tsuchi no-mikoto” as well as the rock sites of Shishi Iwa, resembling a roaring lion, and Onigajo, a UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Site.

(Overnight in Kumano at Midoriya or similar)

Hongu Taisha, Japan, Sacred Journey

Leaving the remote area of Kumano, you will travel by coach to Nara, Japan’s first capital. Here you will explore the Todaiji Temple, a city landmark and one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples, housing an impressive Great Buddha statue. We will then continue to Nara Park to stroll around this large city-centre park where deer roam freely, often interacting with the many tourists. From there you will continue back to the old imperial capital, Kyoto, to stop at the Nishiki Market. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” this bustling local market will enliven all your senses with its vast array of Japanese speciality dried foods, cookware, and fresh produce.

(Overnight in Kyoto at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi or similar)

Nishiki Market, Japan, Kyoto, Sacred Journey

Today we say a fond Sayōnara and give thanks to the fascinating people and places of Japan. Your memories of the Land of the Rising Sun will stay with you for a long time after this sacred journey, and you will return home with new friends and knowledge of this country’s rich spiritual history and traditions.

Transfer to Kansai Airport for onward flights home.


(B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner)

Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.

Kyoto, Garden, Japan, Sacred Earth

Scenic Zen Journey to Japan with Craig Marshall

October 12 - 20, 2019

Tour Includes:

  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Breakfast daily
  • 3 dinners
  • Transportation to all sites as per itinerary
  • Entrance fees to all sites on the itinerary
  • English-speaking local guide
  • Baggage handling, up to 1 piece per person
  • Hotel porter fee (where applicable)
  • Driver’s daily tip 

Added Features:

  • Travel with transformational mentor and former monk Craig Marshall
  • Meditations; insightful teachings and discussions on Japan’s spiritual traditions
  • Overnight stay at Buddhist Monastery (Hongakuin Temple)
  • Visits to UNESCO world heritage sites, temples and shrines
  • Traditional Tea Ceremony in Kyoto
  • Experience traditional Japanese accommodation (ryokan) for one night
  • Experience onsen Japanese bath
  • Monk-led fire ceremony
  • Enlightening walking tour of Kyoto
  • Optional dinner with traditional geisha
  • Optional Taiko drumming workshop
  • Time for personal contemplation and reflection
  • Travel with like-minded companions

Tour Does Not Include:

  • Airfare to and return from Kansai airport (KIX)
  • Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
  • Meals and drinks not specified
  • Cost to obtain valid passport
  • 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 retreat itinerary
  • Tips for the guide (full tipping information to be supplied at time of booking)
  • Overtime tip for drivers

Tour Price:

    • Double Room: USD $4,465 per person
    • Single Supplement: USD $1,040
Book this Journey
or call us on
1-877-874-7922 to help you make your reservation

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