Village Traditions

The enduring magic of Japan's rural traditions

Highlights

  • Stay in small, family-run inns in the farming community of Asuka
  • See beautiful terraced rice fields and participate in planting or harvesting
  • Learn to cook regional food with members of the local community
  • Join a traditional Japanese drumming troupe
  • Hands-on experience of traditional Japanese roof-thatching
  • Visit the charming castle town of Sasayama
This tour is full of unique experiences in beautiful rural Japan. We first stay for 3 nights in Asuka, capital of Japan before Kyoto and Nara, where we engage with local people to plant or harvest rice, the staple diet of the nation and regarded as a blessing from Japanese Shinto deities; we learn the spirit and practicalities of wadaiko (Japanese taiko drumming) from a wadaiko team who have toured worldwide; and we and learn to cook local food with members of the local community. In Kobe we learn kayabuki (Japanese traditional roof-thatching) from a young kayabuki craftman who is passionate about preserving and promoting kayabuki traditions in modern Japan. After spending a peaceful time in the lovely castle town Sasayama, we transfer to the Hozu River and enjoy the 2-hour boat ride to the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, famous for its beautiful bamoboo grove. Next day in Kyoto we visit Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine with its avenues of thousands of vermillion Torii gates; we then visit a traditional paper lantern studio to make our own mini lantern to bring back home. You can choose your favourite paper to make your own unique lantern!
This tour is full of unique experiences in beautiful rural Japan. We first stay for 3 nights in Asuka, capital of Japan before Kyoto and Nara, where we engage with local people to plant or harvest rice, the staple diet of the nation and regarded as a blessing from Japanese Shinto deities; we learn the spirit and practicalities of wadaiko (Japanese taiko drumming) from a wadaiko team who have toured worldwide; and we and learn to cook local food with members of the local community. In Kobe we learn kayabuki (Japanese traditional roof-thatching) from a young kayabuki craftman who is passionate about preserving and promoting kayabuki traditions in modern Japan. After spending a peaceful time in the lovely castle town Sasayama, we transfer to the Hozu River and enjoy the 2-hour boat ride to the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, famous for its beautiful bamoboo grove. Next day in Kyoto we visit Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine with its avenues of thousands of vermillion Torii gates; we then visit a traditional paper lantern studio to make our own mini lantern to bring back home. You can choose your favourite paper to make your own unique lantern!

 Downloadable PDF itinerary

What′s included

  • Full-time services of an English-speaking tour guide
  • 9 nights in hotels and Japanese-style inns (Ryokan and Minshuku)
  • Daily breakfast, 2 lunches and 7 dinners
  • All transportation between tour locations
  • Entrance to museums, temples and other sights on the group's itinerary
  • Forwarding of one item of luggage on 2 occasions

What′s not included

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Pay locally for drinks with meals and for lunches
  • Entrance fees to museums, temples etc. not mentioned in the itinerary
  • A single room supplement is required for solo travellers at hotels

Day 1 Meet in Osaka

Meet your tour guide and other group members in the lobby of the tour hotel in central Osaka. There will be a Welcome Dinner at a local city restaurant.

 

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Welcome Dinner

 

 

Day 2 Asuka

We travel to Asuka by the private Kintetsu Railway and visit three important sites on foot and by local bus. We divide into smaller groups to stay in charming, small Minshuku (Family-run guesthouse) in Asuka. Our Minshuku are traditional Japanese homes with tatami-mat rooms and futons for sleeping, with delicious dinners and breakfasts prepared by our hosts.

 

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 3 Rice planting or harvesting

We meet after breakfast and spend three hours planting rice (in springtime) or harvesting rice (in autumn/fall). Rice growing has enormous significance in Japanese society. It is great fun and highly educational to plant or havest rice with your own hands. After lunch we spend more time exploring the landscapes of Asuka, including the magnificent sets of terraced rice fields on the outskirts of the town. These terraces are a rare and special sight! 

 

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 Cookery and Japanese drumming

Spend the morning cooking food for lunch with members of the local community, using the freshest, seasonal, local ingredients. The food we cook will nourish the body; learning from and interacting with the local residents will nourish the heart, too. In the afternoon, we learn Wadaiko (Japanese drumming) with a local group which has given more than 1500 live performances in 38 countries around the world.

 

Accommodation: Minshuku (Family-run Guesthouse)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
    

Day 5 Travel to Kobe

This morning we travel by train to to Kobe. We arrive at lunchtime to explore Japan's sixth-largest city, designated a UNESCO City of Design in 2008 and still part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Kobe is one of five Japanese port cities which opened to the west at the end of the 19th century. We visit Nunobiki Waterfall and wander in the elegant Kitano area. There will be free time later in the afternoon to explore further.

 

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast

Day 6 Kobe and Sasayama

Today we visit northern Kobe and try our hand at Kayabuki (Japanese traditional roof-thatching using pampass grass, reeds and other materials). We meet a young Kayabuki craftsman who has dedicated himself to preserving kayabuki buildings and educating younger generations. We then transfer by train to Sasayama, an ancient castle town which flourished as a transportation hub linking western Japan with Kyoto.

 

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 Sightseeing in Sasayama

Noteworthy sights in Sasayama include the area of Sasayama Castle, the former samurai house area and the former merchants' house area. We will explore the town on foot and visit the museum of Old Tamba Pottery, one of Japan's six ancient pottery styles. There will be free time to wander the town.

 

Accommodation: Ryokan (Travellers Inn)

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8 By boat to Arashiyama

This morning we travel to Kameoka, then enjoy a scenic two-hour boat ride along the Hozu River down to Arashiyama in Kyoto. Arashiyama is a pleasant district in western Kyoto famous for its bamboo groves. In historical times, court nobles favoured this place to enjoy its natural setting. In Arashiyama, we visit Tenryu-ji Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and walk through the atmospheric bamboo forest.

 

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast

Day 9 Vermilion Gates in Kyoto

This morning we visit Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine and walk through the beautiful vermilion gates which line the paths on Mount Inari. We continue to a traditional Japanese paper lantern studio and try our hand at making a small paper lantern to carry home as a souvenir. There will be a free time in the afternoon and a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant in the evening.

 

Accomodation: Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Farewell Dinner

Day 10 Tour ends

Our tour ends after breakfast at the hotel in Kyoto. Your guide will offer advice on your journey to the airport for your homeward flight, or on onward travel in Japan if you are extending your stay.

 

Meals: Breakfast