Contemporary Japan - Arts & Gourmet

A journey for the discerning arts and gourmet lover. This journey starts from the culinary heaven of Kobe and Arima Onsen before taking the road less travelled to the beautiful Awaji Island. Explore the arts in Takamatsu, Naoshima Island and finally the canal town of Kurashiki. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Visit some of the most revered museums in Japan

Stay in the exquisite ryokans and modernistic charming hotels

Savour the best Japanese culinary treats on this journey

Witness varied landscapes in Hyogo, Tokushima & Okayama Prefectures

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE OSAKA / KOBE / ARIMA ONSEN

Be met at Osaka Kansai Intl Airport and transfer to the city of Kobe - capital of Hyogo Prefecture. Gain insights into the important port city - amongst the first to be open to foreign trading in the 19th Century as we start our exploration at the Kitano district lined with many "Ijinkan" - foreign residences established in 1867. We spend some time taking a stroll here for better insights, explore the cafes before continuing to the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum to learn about the disastrous Great Hanshin Earthquake which resulted in more 5000 lives taken and massive destruction of homes and buildings. Next, we make our way to the Nada district renowned as Japan's top sake-producing region due to its high quality rice and water. Enjoy sampling tasting of high quality sake before retreating to Arima Onsen, one of Japan's oldest hot spring towns and a prime location for sakura-viewing or autumn leaves. 

Overnight: Nakanobo Zuien, Arima Onsen

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: ARIMA ONSEN

Our foodie trail in Arima Onsen begins today with a walk through the town, with a history of more than 1000 years. Make a stop at Ryozen Shunju as we sample traditional Japanese cuisine over an open counter as you witness the chef preparing your meal with high quality Hyogo rice, cooked over traditional iron stove. Thereafter, consider visiting sites around the Teramachi area such as the Tohsen Jinjya, Onsen-ji, Nenbutsuji and more to feel the historic and Zen-Buddhism importance here. We then stop at the Cafe de Beau for a sampling of its signature Tanba black bean pie and Arima cake roll and coffee before taking a gentle walking trail to Tsuzumigataki Park with a beautiful waterfall and a prime site for sakura viewing in spring and maple leaves in autumn. 

Overnight: Nakanobo Zuien, Arima Onsen

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: ARIMA ONSEN / AWAJI

A splendid day begins as we depart Arima Onsen to the Seto Inland Sea crossing the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, the world's longest suspension bridge to Awaji Island. Consider a visit to the Bridge Exhibition Centre to learn about the planning and construction of the bridge. After crossing the bridge, we arrive into Awaji Island and first, visit the Yumebutai Gardens, designed and built by Tadao Ando, one of Japan's most talented architects in the wake of 1995's Great Hanshin Earthquake. A short drive later takes us the Sennenichi Sake Brewery for a sampling of exquisite traditional sake and a tour of of the brewery production. Continue next to the "Honpukuji" Water Temple, also designed by Tadao Ando, a Shingon Buddhist temple constructed beneath a lotus pond. We then make a visit to the Izanagi Shrine, Japan's oldest shrine dedicated to the divine beings kami Izanagi and Izanami. Finally, we retreat to the elegant and contemporary retreat, Villa Rakuen

Overnight: Villa Rakuen, Awaji Island

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: AWAJI

Begin the day today with a visit to the Sumoto Castle where first fortifications started in the early 16th Century and the castle complex rebuilt only in 2013. Enjoy panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea before we travel to the beautiful surroundings of the Awaji Hana-Sajiki, one of the best flower-viewing destinations in Japan. View a sea of yellow and purple rapeseed flowers in Spring (early March-April) as well as stock flowers for a visual treat. Enjoy delicious ice cream and taste the famous Awaji Island burgers made of high quality Kobe beef before returning to Villa Rakuen. 

Overnight: Villa Rakuen, Awaji Island

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: AWAJI / TAKAMATSU

We leave Awaji Island today and head into Shikoku, Japan's fourth-largest island. Our first stop is the small village of Mure visiting the Noguchi Museum, celebrated in honour of Isamu Noguchi, one of the world's most influential artist, sculptor and landscape designer. Gain insights into his legacy starting at his former workshop and storehouse before a visit to his former residence. Thereafter, continue Shikoku Mura, an open air museum exhibiting traditional buildings and structures synonymous with the culture and heritage of Shikoku. We then enter into the city of Takamatsu with time to sample some delightful local Sanuki Udon, undoubtedly one of Japan's most famous udon noodles. Our final visit of the day will be the beautiful Ritsurin Koen, one of Japan's best gardens and often an iconic image of Shikoku. 

Overnight: JR Hotel Clement, Takamatsu

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 6: TAKAMATSU / NAOSHIMA

Today we leave Takamatsu where we take a short boat ride to the island of Naoshima where you will visit some of the most amazing museums famed for its contemporary art and excellent work pieces by outstanding artists local and abroad. Also spend time to visit the Chichu Museum designed by Ando Tadao and houses innovative exhibits by Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter de Maria. Continue next to Lee Ufan Museum, featuring works by Korean contemporary artist, Lee Ufan. Finally, we check in at the futuristic Benesse House, a modern art museum and hotel designed by Ando Tadao. 

Overnight: Benesse House, Naoshima

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 7: NAOSHIMA / KURASHIKI

Today, depart Naoshima by ferry as we travel back to mainland Honshu. Arrive into the tranquil canal town of Kurashiki where you may visit the Bikan Historical Quarter with its array of museums such as the Ohara Museum of Art and the Japan Toy Museum on a personalized walking insight with the "okami" proprietress of Ryokan Kurashiki, Ritsuko Nakamura introducing you to the history, artisans and interesting heritage of the town which served as a major rice storehouse of Japan during the Edo Period. 

Overnight: Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 8: DEPART KURASHIKI

Depart Kurashiki today to Okayama Station for your onward journey. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Nakanobo Zuien has been greeting guests for over 150 years with unsurpassed service and fine cuisine, as well as the high quality of its baths making it a destination in its own right. At Nakanobo, everywhere you look there are beautiful touches of tradition and refined taste, as well as premium hospitality, all designed to help you relax and ease into the calm, tranquil onsen lifestyle. 

Nakanobo Zuien, Arima Onsen

The elegant Villa Rakuen has all the charm and warm hospitality of a traditional family-run ryokan and luxurious appointments and exemplary service one expects from a high-end luxury establishment. Villa Rakuen offers spectacular panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea and beyond with spacious, airy rooms and opulent bathing facilities coupled with exquisite kaiseki ryori-haute cuisine. 

Villa Rakuen, Awaji

JR Hotel Clement Takamatsu features 5 dining options, FREE Wi-Fi and rooms with panoramic sea and city views and just a minute walk to Takamatsu Station. Overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, western and Japanese-styled rooms are air-conditioned and soundproof, each fitted with flat-screen tv, fridge and electric kettle. Facilities also include a business centre, souvenir shop and flower shop. 

JR Hotel Clement, Takamatsu

Part museum, part hotel, Benesse House is a triumph of thoughtful and purposeful beauty within the art haven of Benesse Art Site Naoshima. Designed by Ando Tadao, Benesse House consists of 4 hauntingly minimalist facilties - the Museum, Oval, Park and Beach. Rooms are clean, ample and straightforward and displays the symbiosis of art and nature with the fine surroundings of Naoshima. 

Benesse House, Naoshima

Ryokan Kurashiki is located right in the heart of the historic merchant's quarter surrounded by beautifully-preserved 17th Century architecture with traditional black and white kura (wooden storehouses) lining the narrow streets. With just 5 guest rooms spread across 3 buildings, each is furnished with traditional Japanese tatami, low-slung furniture and western-styled beds are available. FREE Wi-Fi is available in room and exquisite seasonal kaiseki cuisine is served  

Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

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