A truly unforgettable adventure
Exploring Japan in the springtime is a time-honored tradition among veteran travelers. On this new program, we combine the best of Japan in the lovely late-spring flowering season with visits to several of the island nation’s mountain resort areas, where we take in the stunning views and enjoy the ambience and traditions of the high country hamlets we pass through.
Along the way, we’ll attend an annual springtime festival in Kyoto, tour a pair of samurai castles, stay at a hot springs resort, sample sake and visit the alpine city of Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
DatesMay 12–26, 2024
From $11,595 per person
Trip size26 participants
Minimum age18 years
A different kind of classroom
With renowned Stanford faculty and scholars leading the way, every Travel/Study trip is a one-of-a-kind educational experience.
Food Research Institute
A scholar of economic change in developing countries, Scott taught economic development and international trade at the Food Research Institute at Stanford for 34 years.
“Scott’s knowledge, lecture skills, sense of humor, and enthusiasm are terrific.”
—Wayne and Carol Tamarelli
Experience the juxtaposition of ancient and modern Japan
Begin our exploration in Kyoto with its annual Aoi Matsuri Festival then relive the age of the samurai as we explore samurai castles and their surrounding grounds in Kanazawa and Matsumoto. View Mount Tateyama, the “Roof of Japan,” up close during our two-day journey along the 56-milelong Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route before concluding in Tokyo.
Osaka, Japan / Kyoto
Upon arrival in Osaka, transfer to Kyoto and check in to our comfortable and well-located hotel. The evening is free to relax and rest after our flights.Accommodations:
Begin the day in Kyoto’s Fushimi district, one of Japan’s main centers for sake production. Visit the Inari Shrine with its hundreds of vermilion toriis, traditional gates usually leading to a Shinto shrine, and the UNESCO World Heritage site Sanjusangen-do, a temple famous for its 1,002 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Following a tea ceremony, attend a Kamogawa Odori, a dance that is performed for only two weeks in spring, which re-creates dances of the geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) from the 1872 Kyoto Exhibition.Accommodations:
Westin MiyakoIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Today’s explorations begin at the Gingaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), from where we stroll along the Philosopher’s Path, a mile-long stone trail along a canal lined with cherry trees and temples. We end at Nanzen-ji, a Zen temple known for its rock garden and art collection. This afternoon visit Kodai-ji, a magnificent Zen temple, established by a high-ranking 16th century priestess and renowned for its elegant makie (gold lacquer) interiors, which is flanked by two impressive gardens designed in different styles.Accommodations:
Westin MiyakoIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Kyoto – Aoi Festival
Weather permitting, spend the day at Kyoto’s annual Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival), a celebration that originated in the 7th century. From specially reserved seats at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, observe a courtly procession of people wearing traditional clothing in the style of Heian-era (794–1185) nobles, attendants, government officials and warriors. See flower-bedecked ox-drawn carts, portable shrines and palanquins draped in hollyhock leaves, an ancient symbol of protection from natural disaster. Experience traditional entertainment such as horse races and archery demonstrations as ancient Kyoto comes to life.Accommodations:
Westin MiyakoIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Kyoto / Kanazawa
Travel by train to Kanazawa on Japan’s north coast, domain of the 16th-century Maeda clan, which, due to its absence of military targets, completely escaped damage during World War II, leaving its historic sites in remarkable condition. Visit the magnificent Kanazawa Castle, with its Gyokusen’inmaru Garden, a fine example of feudal landscaping. Also explore Kenroku-en, ranked as one of Japan’s top three gardens.Accommodations:
Hyatt CentricIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Today visit the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, with its award-winning architecture and exhibitions of the world’s foremost modern art, whose mission is to serve as a bridge between the region and the art of the future. Also visit one of the kutani-yaki workshops where Kanazawa’s famous colorful porcelain is fashioned and explore Higashi Chaya-gai, an exquisitely preserved 19th-century geisha district.Accommodations:
Hyatt CentricIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Kanazawa / Takayama
Depart Kanazawa this morning, traveling by coach up into the Japan Alps. Stop at Shirakawa-go, a UNESCO World Heritage–designated village famous for its early-1800s farmhouses, whose thatched roofs are constructed in a unique architectural style known as gasso-zukuri, or “praying hands,” as their steep gables are thought to resemble the hands of monks at prayer. Continue to the mountain town of Takayama, where we view a display of replica parade floats from its two annual festivals and visit its Kami-Sannomachi district, with its merchant dwellings dating back to the Edo era (1603–1868). Check in to our hot-springs resort hotel, with its choice of Western- or Japanese-style rooms. Enjoy our hotel’s three different types of onsen (hot-spring baths), both indoor and outdoor.Accommodations:
Hiranoya RyokanIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Takayama / Tateyama / Murodo
Drive to the town of Tateyama this morning to embark on the first half of our 56-mile journey into the mountains along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Gain 6,480 feet in elevation traveling by train, cable car and highland bus. Arriving in the small alpine village of Murodo (elevation: 8,038 feet), take in stunning views of nearby 9,890-foot-tall Mount Tateyama, one of Japan’s three holy mountains, affectionately known as the “Roof of Japan.”Accommodations:
Hotel TateyamaIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Murodo / Ogizawa / Matsumoto
Embark on the second half of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route with a ride through the heart of Mount Tateyama in a 2.3-mile-long tunnel via electric trolley bus, the only one in Japan. Descend to Kurobe Dam, Japan’s tallest dam, by way of cable car and Japan’s only underground funicular, then travel by electric bus through the 3.7-mile-long Tateyama Tunnel to the town of Ogizawa. There we board our coach and drive to Matsumoto to check into our hotel.Accommodations:
Hotel Buena VistaIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
This morning explore Matsumoto-jo, one of Japan’s rare original samurai castles, often referred to as the “Crow Castle” due to its black stone exterior, then head to Kamikochi, a pristine highland valley nestled below snow-capped peaks in Chubu Sangaku National Park. Hike along the Azusa River, taking in some of the most spectacular scenery of the Northern Japan Alps before returning to our hotel.Accommodations:
Hotel Buena VistaIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Matsumoto / Nagano
Drive to Nagano, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. Stop along the way at the Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest cultivator of horseradish in Japan, an idyllic spot to wander around and learn about the significance of this important ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Also stop at a brewery that produces “mountain” sake to enjoy a tasting of Japan’s most famous alcoholic beverage. Upon arrival in Nagano, visit Zenko-ji, a 17th-century temple that is home to the first Buddhist statue brought to Japan. Though the statue is hidden from view, the temple is nonetheless one of Japan’s most popular pilgrimage sites. Check in to our hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure.Accommodations:
Hotel MetropolitanIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Nagano / Obuse / Tokyo
Travel to the small town of Obuse to view some of the works of famed ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artist Katsushika Hokusai. Best known for his iconic The Great Wave off Kanazawa, Hokusai spent the last years of his life in Obuse. View what is arguably the finest collection of the artist’s work at the Hokusai Museum and visit Gansho-in, a Zen Buddhist temple, to admire the brilliantly hued, 365-square-foot ceiling painting, Phoenix Staring in Eight Directions, which Hokusai created in 1848 at the age of 89. Return to Nagano this afternoon and board the Shinkansen (high-speed train) for Tokyo. After checking in, independently explore Ginza, the tony shopping district where our hotel is located, whose streets are closed to vehicular traffic on weekends.Accommodations:
Imperial HotelIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Drive to Ueno Park to explore the Tokyo National Museum, whose vast collection includes works of art, archaeological artifacts and antiquities. Also visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which highlights Tokyo’s 400-year history during the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868) through displays of original objects and replicas from its 600,000-item collection. Return to the hotel then travel by public transit to the Kokugikan Sumo Arena for afternoon matches.Accommodations:
Imperial HotelIncluded meals: Breakfast and lunch
Visit Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine constructed in 1921 to honor the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Set in an evergreen forest in the middle of the city, the shrine was rebuilt in 1958 after the original was destroyed during World War II; the area is a place of both pilgrimage and recreation. Drive along Omotesando, a tree-lined boulevard known for the unique architecture of its luxury-brand boutiques, to Hama Rikyu Gardens, a landscaped park set on Tokyo Bay whose traditional style contrasts sharply with its neighboring skyscrapers. Celebrate our spring sojourn in Japan at a festive farewell reception and dinner.Accommodations:
Imperial HotelIncluded meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Tokyo / Home
After breakfast and checkout, transfer to the airport for flights home.Included meal: Breakfast
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The price of your trip covers a comprehensive educational program in addition to meals, accommodations, tours and excursions. Continue reading for a full list of what’s included.