EXPLORE JAPAN ~ LEARN ABOUT THE FOOD, ARCHITECTURE + ARTS  |  TOKYO + KYOTO, JAPAN  |  MAY 17 - 26, 2017

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Japan, where tradition meets the future like no other country on earth. Whether it’s ancient Buddhist temples, ebullient fish markets, pop-culture trends or neighbourhoods flashing with neon, the country beams with originality around every corner. The meticulous and careful nature of the Japanese people is reflected in all aspects of life, from trains that run right on time to sublime works of art. The Japanese spirit is strong, warm and incredibly welcoming.

Our first stop is the mega-city Metropolitan of Tokyo, home to some 35 million people and the driving force of Japan's economy and rapidly shifting cultural trends. It is a city that prides itself on constant renewal and reinvention. It’s a modern city built on old patterns, and in the shadows of skyscrapers you can find wooden shanty bars and quiet alleys, raucous traditional festivals and lantern-lit yakitori stands. Tokyo is the country's pop culture laboratory, where new trends grow legs. Come see the latest looks bubbling out of the backstreets of Harajuku, the hottest pop stars projected on the giant video screens in Shibuya, or the newest anime and manga flying off the shelves in Akihabara. 

Our journey continues to Kyoto, capital city for over one thousand years, former home of the Emperor, and the spiritual and cultural heart of the nation. Kyoto constantly surprises; the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are just the beginning of what Kyoto offers - truly a must-see destination. With its many historical landmarks, and the abundance of traditional arts and literature, you’ll never be short of things to do. Experience true masterpieces of religious architecture, such as the splendour of Kinkaku-ji (the famed Golden Pavilion), the cavernous expanse of Higashi Hongan-ji and the mother of all shrines, Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, which has mesmerizing arcades of vermillion torii spread across a mountainside.

Travellers to Japan have always found themselves entranced by a culture that is by turns beautiful, unfathomable and downright odd. On this trip you will have a chance to see it all!

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This Ace Camp includes:

  • 9 nights*  (based on shared occupancy)
  • 9 breakfasts
  • 6 lunches
  • 5 dinners
  • Guided walking tour of Tokyo
  • Culinary tour of Tokyo
  • Japanese Ceramics tour with Pottery specialist Robert Yellin in Shigaraki
  • Guided walking tour of some of Kyoto's most beautiful shrines and temples
  • Kyoto shopping tour
  • Traditional tea ceremony
  • Guided visit to Arashiyama Bamboo Forests
  • Shinkansen (high-speed train) travel from Tokyo to Kyoto
  • Admission and tour fees - local museums
  • Tips - Guides

This Ace Camp is limited to 7 people.

*5 nights hotel accommodation + 4 nights in a traditional Ryokan.

Fee:  $3459.00 USD - airfare is not included

Deposit:  $2000.00 - due when place in workshop is confirmed 

Final Payment of $1459.00 due February 21, 2017

Colors + Dyes used in weavings.
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WHERE WE'RE STAYING:

TOKYO

Located in the middle of the city and minutes walking from three different train lines we find Hotel Risveglio in Akasaka. "Risveglio" means "awakening" in Italian. The stylish and modern interior reflects this and is designed to stimulate human appreciation. Akasaka sits on more than 25 hills with brick-paved shopping streets lined with restaurants, cafes, bars and some impressive architecture. 

KYOTO

Our accommodation in Kyoto is a comfortable Japanese inn, favoured by literary legend Junichiro Tanizaki, located in the historical district of Gion. The rooms are named as a tribute to Tanizaki’s masterpiece novel, “Sasameyuki” which was actually conceived here. One of them is the Room of Cranes where Tanizaki always stayed. Another is the Room of Snow, equipped with a unique tea ceremony room. The 120 year old building is Sukiya-style and features central courtyard gardens. Rooms have a tatami (woven-straw) floor, a low table and seating cushions. Yukata robes and green tea, and guests sleep in traditional futon bedding on the tatami.

A note about food culture in Japan

Japan is not an easy place to travel for vegetarians, vegans or those with restricted diet requirements such as gluten-free. Many foods in Japan that appear to be vegetable based may be prepared with dashi (stock), which contains traces of dried fish and soy sauce which is used prevalently throughout the cuisine. We can't always guarantee vegetarian options, although we will try our best when possible.

 

THE PLACES YOU WILL VISIT...the things you'll do.

Fushimi Inari - This intriguing shrine was dedicated to the god of rice and sake by the Hata clan in the 8th century, and is visually stunning with a seemingly unending path of over 5000 vibrant orange torii gates that wind through the hills.

Asakusa - on the banks of the Sumida-gawa, Asakusa has an old-Tokyo feel, with traditional restaurants and artisan shops. It is home to the impressive centuries-old temple, Sensō-ji.

Kyoto Shopping district - Stores of note include, Ippodo, where you can buy and sample an excellent selection of the finest tea, Kyukyodo, which is as much an incense shop as it is a paper shop and Galley Kei, which showcases traditional folk crafts and pottery, and antique bast fiber textiles, or primitive textiles as they are known.

A guided ceramics tour of Shigaraki, known for its pottery and stoneware.

Learn the art of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

 


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TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

ACE CAMPS administration will email you when it is time to make your travel arrangements. This email will always be sent 60 days or more before your trip departs unless you book within 60 prior to the camp. 

Transportation to central Tokyo can be made from either Haneda Airport or Narita Airport via airport bus, train and private shuttle. More detailed travel arrival information will be sent after your registration.

There will be no refunds for this trip - please know you can make it before your registration.

 

WEATHER

May is one of the best times for visiting Japan, as the vegetation has become lush, the temperatures are still comfortable and tourists spots tend to be pleasantly uncrowded.

Daytime highs average around 23C and lows reach to 16C. It is advisable to pack an umbrella or rain shell and consider bringing some layering pieces for the evening. 

WHAT TO BUY IN JAPAN

Furoshiki wrapping cloth

Wabi-sabi style ceramics

Arita Yaki porcelain

Stationary + washi tape

Omamori (good luck charms)

Wagashi (Japanese Sweets)

Green tea + Sake

Tech gadgets


ITINERARY

DAY ONE

Travel Day

Check-in at 2 pm.
7:00  Welcome dinner and introductions.

DAY TWO - OLD TOKYO WALKING TOUR

Breakfast at the hotel

Our journey today leads us around several older neighbourhoods of Tokyo. We start in Asakusa, a part of the city where an atmosphere of past decades survives. We will visit some temples and shrines, a bustling shopping market and dine on some local street food such as fried sweet potatoes tossed in molasses and sweet red bean paste sandwiched between baked pancake batter, Asakusa is a great place to satisfy a sugar craving.

After lunch we will make a stop along Kappabashi street, where locals and famous restauranteurs alike buy their pots, pans, Japanese knives and gorgeous pottery and teaware.

From here we make our way to explore the quiet, nostalgic old neighbourhoods of Yanaka and Ueno. This area is one of the few to survive the Great Kanto Earthquake and the fire bombings during the war. We will wind our way down to Ueno Park, seeing historic temples, cemeteries, local houses and art galleries. Our afternoon ends at Ueno Ameyoko open air market. This red lantern lit alleyway is the place where you will enjoy beer and yakitories and discover the postwar city’s charms.

DAY THREE - CULINARY WALKING TOUR

Breakfast at the hotel

Today we explore the culinary side of Japan from handmade to high tech. Our walk begins at a depachika to experience one of Tokyo’s incredible department store food halls where food pays tribute to both tradition and the newest in trends. In Shibuya, the epicenter of trendy Japan, we will taste some of the most highly regarded traditional sushi available, prepared right in front of us.

On the way we will stop in the college town of Meidaimae to visit with an endearing couple serving basic yet delicious home cooking, a throwback to earlier times when these kinds of mom-and-pop spots were more common in Tokyo.

In Kichijoji we’ll rub elbows with locals as they shop for daily needs along the shoten gai shopping street, tasting and learning about the basics of Japanese cuisine such as skewers of yakitori, artisanal senbei and a myriad of miso. We’ll sample unusual food rarely served outside Japan such as sake infused with the fin of fugu, the famous puffer fish, plus expertly-crafted old standbys like pickles, tea and sweets. Our time in Kichijoji ends at one of the quickly disappearing traditional yokocho drinking alleys to sample sake or beer and traditional bar snacks at an izakaya, or Japanese gastropub, joining locals in a tradition that, though nostalgic, is as of-the-moment as it’s ever been.

Dinner on your own. 

DAY FOUR - FREE DAY

Breakfast at the hotel

Free Day - Consider exploring other historical sights around the city, go shopping in Ginza, take a cooking class or a calligraphy lesson, visit the Great Buddha in Kamakura. There are so many things to do, and we can help you organize, if you wish, to find the best activities of the day.   

Dinner on your own

DAY FIVE -  NEW TOKYO WALKING TOUR

Breakfast at hotel

Let's spend the morning exploring a Sunday flea + antique market, from kimonos to tea ceremony bowls and everything in between, this is the place where you might be able to find some fantastic treasures.

After lunch we head to the the famous Meiji Jingu shrine. This quiet and atmospheric shrine offers the chance for you to learn a little about an important period in modern Japanese history as well as a great place to learn “Shrine Etiquette”.

This afternoon and evening we will explore "new" Tokyo. Starting with the bustling and wild Harajuku district, we will stroll along Takeshita-dori, a narrow and busy shopping street before taking the back street route where we will find ourselves in the buzz of Shibuya district, including the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, the “Shibuya Scramble”. Our next destination of Shinjuku home of the salaryman’s night scene. A short walk around the Kabukicho and Golden Gai area, this is the neon Tokyo that you have no doubt seen in magazines, on TV and in the movies. Our final destination of the night is the most famous of Tokyo night scene districts, the modern and sometimes controversial Roppongi. 

 

DAY SIX - JOURNEY TO KYOTO ,  TEMPLE TOUR

Breakfast at hotel 

This morning we take the Shinkansen (high-speed bullet train) from Tokyo station to Kyoto! On a clear day, the 2.5 hour journey will reward you with beautiful views of the countryside, rural villages, small tea plantations and revered Mt Fuji. 

Upon arrival in Kyoto, our guide will take us on a tour of the historical neighbourhood of Gion, weaving our way by temples, shrines, stopping by a Zen garden and observing the paintings at Kenninji Temple, as well as some of the back streets where the geisha live. We then visit Kodaiji temple, a beautiful hillside complex that features the finest example of traditional lacquered walls and extravagant carvings, as well as several original teahouses from the 1500s.

Following this, we have the chance to experience a tea ceremony, which is one of Japan's traditional cultural practices. The ceremony will lead guests through the art of the preparation, and enjoyment of tea. Here you might ask about the importance of the cleaning of tea utensils, the bow on receiving a cup and the three clockwise turns before a sip is taken.

Dinner tonight is a multi course seasonal Kaiseki meal located in a traditionally restored 19th century townhouse.

DAY SEVEN - CERAMICS + POTTERY TOUR

Breakfast at hotel

This morning starts with a visit to the Pottery gallery of Robert Yellin. Robert is Japanese ceramics specialist who has regularly contributed to Japan Times "Ceramic Scene", Daruma magazine, quarterly ceramics magazine Honoho Geijutsu and to the t.v. series, Japan: fascinating diversity.

We will tour his gallery, and then head off to the town of Shigaraki, located about an hour from Kyoto. Robert will guide us around this area as we visit working artists, specialty shops and galleries.

Dinner on your own.

DAY EIGHT - BAMBOO FORESTS, SHOPPING + CITY WALKING TOUR

Breakfast at the hotel

Our morning starts on the outskirts of the city with a visit to the Arashiyama Bamboo groves. We will stroll through the forest, and make our way to Tenryuji, one of Japan's most important and impressive temple Zen gardens, and check out some shops for traditional bamboo goods on the main street.

From here we head to lunch at the Nishiki market, known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail zone specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi.

On to shopping along Teramachi street with a variety of art galleries, bookshops, and clothing shops. These shops are a holdover from the 16th century, when the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi moved many of the city’s temples to Teramachi Street in an effort to control the clergy; the name of the street, Teramachi, literally means “temple town.”

The afternoon concludes with a visit to Fushimi Inari, which is, quite simply, one of the most impressive and memorable sights in all of Kyoto. 

Our final group dinner tonight is AWOMB , which specializes in minimalist, DIY hand-rolled sushi featuring local vegetables and unique food combinations.

DAY NINE - FREE DAY

Breakfast at the hotel
Free Day - Consider visiting an onsen (traditional Japanese outdoor bath), take a day trip to Osaka or Nara or take the day to explore the backstreets on your own. There are so many things to do, and we can help you organize to find the best activities of the day.   

Dinner on your own

DAY TEN

Travel Day

Breakfast at the hotel

Check out of hotel. You may wish to stay in Kyoto for a few more days or explore near by cities of Nara and Osaka. We can also help you organize train travel back to Tokyo or airport shuttle service to Kansai International Airport in Osaka if you have planned to fly home from there.

Nota Bene: this is a prospective itinerary. It is subject to modest modifications, dependent on local weather, new opportunities and the desires of the group.