DURATION: 7 Days
CITIES: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Naoshima, and Hiroshima
SIDE TRIPS: Nikko, Hakone, Fuji, Kamakura
SEASONS: All seasons
about this trip
Nothing presents a better timeline of Japan than its own architecture. The ancient shrines and temples of the past are juxtaposed to the sleek, modern designs of today, providing a unique narrative of past and present. Take a tour across the country alongside some of Japan’s most knowledgeable architects while enjoying the hospitality of Japan's most architecturally famous hotels and ryokan. See the works of fabled architects such as Ando Tadao, Ito Toyo, and many more (for example Kisho Kurokawa, Kenzo Tange, Kengo Kuma, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Herzog & de Meuron, etc). Discover the reason why Japan is home to so many world class architects and unique architecture styles.
why we're obsessed:
Experience a balance of traditional aesthetics in the long history of Japanese architecture and contemporary art in the hubs of Tokyo and Naoshima
Explore architecture that is deeply rooted in people's everyday lives
Follow the long history of Japan through the legacies of Buddhist and western influences in architecture
Tsukiji - Experience the world's largest fish market and dine on the freshest and finest sushi
Asakusa - See an exotic fusion of traditional and modern architecture side-by-side as you visit the famous Sensoji temple and Tokyo's Skytree
Ginza - Stroll through Japan's most luxurious and longstanding business and shopping district
Shinjuku - Immerse yourself in Japan's youth culture and explore the city through the latest trends in fashion
Akihabara - Dive into Japan's sub-culture of anime, games, and manga here at the holy land of Japan's otaku (geeks)
Nikko - Enjoy a fine balance of nature and history as you explore Nikko's gorgeous national park and the lavish Toshogu Shrine, dedicated to the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate
Kamakura - Known for its numerous Buddhist temples, Kamakura truly is a treasure trove of cultural antiquities and religious relics
Mt. Fuji - Japan's iconic image, the majestic mountain of Fuji beckons you to take on the challenge of making it to its peak
Hakone - For hot springs lovers and those seeking an unparalleled view of Mt. Fuji, there's no resort spot better than Hakone!
Sample Itinerary to Get you Started
day 1-3 (Tokyo)
Tokyo has it all - access to world-renowned architects, cutting-edge architectural feats, and structures preserved from days gone by. Only in Tokyo can you see the reflection of history in contrasting architectural styles. Districts such as Asakusa and Ueno are some of the few neighborhoods in Tokyo with architecture that has survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War II. Admire the surviving buildings as well as the green spaces that surround them. Further along the timeline, the Hibiya and Marunouchi districts serve as the center of the city’s earliest skyscrapers and Western-influenced buildings. Finally, the Ginza and Omotesando/Aoyama districts will open your eyes to innovative designs, ideas and styles. If edgy, high-end, or vintage fashion is your interest, Daikanyama is the place for you. Get lost in the neighborhood and discover your new favorite shop that nobody back home has heard of - yet.
day 4-5 (kyoto)
Famous for its beautiful centuries-old temples and shrines, Kyoto has preserved, to this day, the spirit of searching for aesthetics in everyday life. Besides tours at traditional sites around the old capital, make sure to breathe in the local atmosphere with a walk around the town. You will encounter small art galleries and unique contemporary architecture that is bound to capture your attention. One of the must-see museums and architecture spots is the Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art (Kahitsukan) if you are interested in a mix of sophisticated Kyoto. If contemporary art with a magical feel is more your style, head to the Glass Tea Room, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka (who has worked for SWAROVSKI, Hermès, BMW, and more). We offer a day trip to the Miho Museum for an incredible combination of east and west and a chance to see some of the world's most precious art, like Egyptian statues from 13th century BC.
dAY 6-7 (Osaka and Kobe)
During the first few decades of the 21st century, Osaka saw great growth in its economy. Having always been a large city - thanks to the neighboring old capital of Kyoto - Osaka continued to thrive, especially after the influx of citizens who moved west from Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake. This period of prosperity is reflected in the city’s grand architecture, much of which has survived to this day. You will recognize the legacy of these times in the Western-influenced structures, including Osaka Central Public Hall, which depicts elements of Renaissance architecture, and the Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library, which was built in 1904 and displays Baroque-style interiors. Juxtaposed to these historic buildings are some of the newer buildings like Umeda Sky Building, which boasts a rooftop observatory called “The Floating Garden Observatory.” For a change of pace, travel just outside Osaka to Kobe for an atmosphere of sophistication and serenity. Visit architectural works by Tadao Ando, which are scattered all around Kobe. If you are not already a fan of Ando's, prepare to become one.
DAY 8-9 (naoshima)
Getting off the ship awaits an island with a combination of nature and classic and contemporary art - Naoshima. Formerly dependent on the metal industry, Naoshima has become a place that attracts artwork from all over the world. If the weather is fair, hop on a rental bike and cycle to your destinations; the scenery is something you won't want to miss! The Chichū Museum will impress you not only with famous works by Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria, but also with its environmentally conscious architecture designed by world renowned architect Tadao Ando. Although the museum was built underground to preserve the existing scenery, the interiors are incredibly spacious and bright. You will also enjoy the detailed and dynamic design of the onsen hot spring, I <3 Yu.
DAY 10-11 (Hiroshima)
Despite a lack of lavishing fame, Hiroshima will not disappoint architecture lovers with its number of historic and unique buildings. You will be surprised that some of the most eye-catching buildings are scattered throughout the people’s everyday life. Hiroshima City Nishi Fire Department is always in use, but its distinctive structure, comprised of glass and grating, is open for the public to see. To gain a glimpse of the days before Japan’s economic bubble burst in the 80’s, stroll through Motomachi Kuredo. Intricate designs on the floor along with the non-rectangular shaped rooms reflect that time period. Take some time and reflect upon a different side of history at the Atomic Dome and experience a sight frozen in time. But for even older architecture, do not miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Itsukushima Shrine, which epitomizes the Japanese spirit of coping harmoniously with the nature and not fighting it.
DAY 12 (tokyo)
Reflect on your long stay and tell us what you have missed and where you would like to revisit. This is the chance for last-minute shopping and visits until next time you visit Japan.