Elegant tea ceremonies and encounters with sumo wrestlers: this Japan art tour combines museum-hopping with quintessential culture

10 Days, 9 Nights     FROM JPY 330,500 / PERSON

From the chic art museums of Tokyo to the historical machiya neighborhoods in Kyoto, this Japan art tour covers an eclectic and fascinating range of culture and aesthetics in the Land of the Rising Sun. You’ll mix leisurely hours at the country’s finest museums with exclusive cultural experiences in Zazen meditation, tea ceremony, kabuki theater and sumo wrestling. For all the best in Japanese art, this tour is the right choice.

In Tokyo, you’ll get your fill of both modern and traditional art at the wonderful museums located in Ueno Park. The stouthearted can participate in a unique sword-fighting session to learn the basics of yielding a katana—a samurai blade. Or, opt to take in a performance of kabuki theater, a unique artform protected by UNESCO. You’ll also get the chance to watch the early-morning training session of professional sumo wrestlers. In Kyoto, you’ll view Asian, Western and African antiques at the architecturally stunning Miho Museum, and you’ll be invited to enter the sub-temples of Kodai-ji Temple—normally closed to the public—to participate in an exclusive tea ceremony led by a tea master!

A bullet train ride followed by a ferry will bring you to Naoshima Art Island in the Inland Sea. Here, indulge in an entire community of art and stay at the wonderfully designed Benesse Art House for a taste of Japan’s up-and-coming art scene. Before your scheduled transfer to Kansai International Airport, you’ll also get the opportunity to wander through Osaka’s trendy America-Mura and gaze at the twinkling skyline from the famous Umeda Sky Building.

<< Back to all Japan tours


“This Japan art tour covers all the best art and culture sites of Japan, with some really unique chances to see under the surface.”

Fabrice, Backyard Travel Japan Specialist


Watch sumo wrestlers conduct their morning training at a sumo stable
Participate in an exclusive tea ceremony and Zazen practice at Kodai-ji Temple
Sip sake and explore the traditional machiya neighborhood of Kyoto
Stay at the stylish Benesse Art House at Naoshima Art Island

Daily Itinerary


  • Daily Itinerary
  • Day 1: Tokyo

    Welcome to your Japan art tour, where you’ll gain a deep understanding of Japanese culture and aesthetics. Upon your arrival at Narita or Haneda International Airport, we’ll meet you and help you to your shared shuttle van. It’s a 90-minute drive to your hotel from Narita, and approximately an hour drive from Haneda.

    After check-in, you’ll have the rest of the day free to spend at your leisure.

    Overnight in Tokyo

    No meals included on this day

    Day 1
  • Day 2: Tokyo

    Today, you’ll dive into Japanese art on a tour of old and new Tokyo. After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, you’ll meet your local guide who will lead you through the capital city’s super-efficient subway network (where you also get firsthand glimpses into daily life) to your first destination, Shitamachi.

    “Shitamachi” translates to “low city” and derives its name from its lowland position on the banks of the Sumida River. The neighborhood is renowned as the old quarter of Tokyo, and the customs, architecture and atmosphere you’ll see here evoke the Edo period.

    Your first stop in Shitamachi will be beautiful Ueno Park, which was established in 1873 and houses three of Tokyo’s most prestigious museums. You can opt to visit the Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum or the National Museum of Western Art.

    In the afternoon, venture to the art district of Roppongi to see a newer side of Tokyo. Roppongi hosts some of Tokyo’s most prestigious modern galleries and museums. Visit the Tokyo National Art Centre, then continue to either the Mori Art Museum, located on the 53rd floor of the Mori Building, or the Suntory Museum of Art.

    Overnight in Tokyo

    Meals included: Breakfast

    Day 2
  • Day 3: Tokyo

    Today you’ll rise early, meet your guide at your hotel and head to Ryogoku, the epicenter of all things sumo. Ryogoku houses the Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and most of Tokyo’s sumo stables, known as heya, where rikishi (sumo wrestlers) live and train.

    At around 7:45 this morning, you’ll visit one of these heya and witness the morning training session, or asa geiko, of the giant wrestlers. It’s part of a solemn and challenging custom that has been in place for hundreds of years.

    The day of the lowest-ranked rikishi begins much earlier in the morning, when they rise and spend some time training before fulfilling their assigned duties, such as cleaning the heya and cooking the main meal of the day for the rest of the stable members.

    Higher-ranked wrestlers awake at a more reasonable hour and train from about 7am until 10am. After several hours of exercises and technique practice, the wrestlers participate in a game where one wrestler fights others in the ring without any rest until he is defeated. (Please note: Depending on conditions, this activity may be held in a location other than Ryogoku, although this is rare.) The tour will end at the closest train station.

    In the afternoon, you’ll meet with a unique performance troupe headed by one of Japan’s most famous sword choreographers. Here, you’ll learn one of Japan’s ancient arts: how to fight with a katana, or samurai sword. Tetsuro Shimaguchi was the head choreographer of the famous fight scene in the snowy garden in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume One. He is the leading member of Kamui, a Japanese sword performance troupe whose fluid techniques are breathtaking to watch. Kamui’s performances are often collaborations with artists from diverse genres and backgrounds, such as musicians of Japanese traditional instruments, rock groups and trance music.

    As one of Japan’s few professional sword-fighting outfits today, Kamui offers a very unique experience! You’ll cover the basic techniques of sword fighting, including drawing and swinging and different stances. Afterwards, try out your newly learned forms with swordplay practice. (Please note: You can opt to replace one of these activities with a visit to a kabuki theater.)

    Alternative Activity: Kabuki Guided Tour
    This is your chance to watch real kabuki, a fascinating form of Japanese theater that dates back to the Edo Period. Performances are characterized by elaborate costuming and painstakingly choreographed, exaggerated movements. UNESCO has designated kabuki a protected form of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

    Be part of the audience at the famous Kabukiza Theatre in Tokyo’s Ginza District. Before the show, you’ll be treated to some matcha (powdered green tea) and traditional sweets at a café near the theater as you meet an expert kabuki guide. She’ll explain the stories and characters of the day’s performance, as well as kabuki’s provenance.

    You’ll be escorted just around the corner to the performance, which is actually 3 or 4 short shows of about an hour each, with intermissions between. Show times are 09:30 and 15:00, and the show will last 4 to 5 hours. This activity can replace any of the other activities available today. (Please note: An additional charge may apply.)

    Overnight in Tokyo

    Meals included: Breakfast

    Day 3
  • Day 4: Tokyo - Kyoto

    Today, you’ll head east two hours by train to tour the art and culture of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and the nation’s cultural capital. Kyoto is home to roughly 2,000 shrines and temples—17 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    This afternoon, you’ll have a private visit at the home of a calligraphy expert. You’ll be picked up at your hotel by our representative and driven to your calligraphy instructor’s home. There, you’ll learn how kanji (Chinese pictographs) came to Japan, how the three sets of Japanese characters (kanji, hiragana, and katakana) differ, and how to use each.

    With the guidance of the instructor, try writing some meaningful characters and, of course, take home your finished piece of art as a souvenir!

    Alternative Activity: Tea Ceremony and Zazen Meditation at a Temple
    Kodai-ji, located in the atmospheric Higashiyama district of Kyoto, is a renowned Zen temple complex. Founded 400 years ago, the many sub-temples of Kodai-ji are not normally open to the public. But today, you’re invited to attend an exclusive Japanese tea ceremony here performed by a master.

    After a stroll around the beautiful Zen garden, the ceremony will begin with a brief introduction to Japanese tea and ceremony practices, along with the ceremony’s long history and relation to Zen Buddhism. Each intricate and symbolic movement involved in the making and serving of tea will be explained by the master.

    To unaccustomed palates, Japanese tea might taste surprisingly bitter, but it is loaded with health benefits and is always accompanied by traditional sweets. During the ceremony, you’ll also learn how to make the tea as the master gives step-by-step instruction.

    Additional Option: Zazen Meditation
    You can opt to follow the tea ceremony with a session of Zazen meditation, an essential part of Zen Buddhism. Instructed by a teacher, you’ll sit with eyes half-closed in the tranquility of the meditation room while emptying your mind, adjusting your posture and breathing slowly.

    Sitting still on the tatami-mat floor can be challenging for foreigners who aren’t used to sitting for long periods with crossed legs. To keep distractions in check, the meditation teacher might (gently!) beat your shoulders with the keisaku—a stick used by Zen monks to help focus. For many people, Zazen meditation is a very rejuvenating and refreshing exercise. If continually practiced, it can help you be more present in your daily activities and achieve peace of mind. (Please note: Additional charges apply. Duration: Approximately 4 hours.)

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included: Breakfast

    Day 4
  • Day 5: Kyoto

    This morning, your knowledgeable local guide will meet you at your hotel lobby and take you southeast of Kyoto to the Miho Museum.

    Designed by the renowned architect I. M. Pei, the Miho Museum makes a fascinating study on how structures integrate into their surroundings. You’ll notice this on your approach to the museum as you walk through a harmonized combination of man-made and natural environments. The museum houses an extensive collection of antiques from ancient civilizations including the Egyptians, Romans and Asian cultures.

    Upon returning to Kyoto, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Kiyomizu-dera, or the “Pure Water Temple.” This beautiful, sacred site is located on the steep face of Mount Otowa. Its veranda offers magnificent views of Kyoto, as well as a fascinating architectural fact: the veranda, along with the main hall, was constructed entirely without the use of nails or joiners. (Please note: Some parts of Kiyomizu-dera are currently undergoing renovations.)

    We’ll end the day with a stroll through the little lanes of Higashiyama, where warrens of traditional shops sell such souvenirs as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, pickles and sweets.

    Enjoy the rest of your evening at your leisure.

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6: Kyoto

    Today your Japan art tour introduces you to some quintessential elements of Japanese culture. You’ll spend the morning learning about Japanese culture in a machiya, a traditional wooden Kyoto-style townhouse.

    First, you’ll tour the house for some insight into Kyoto-style architecture. Next, try on a traditional kimono, the traditional apparel of Japan.

    Dressed in your kimono, you’ll take part in a tea ceremony led by a tea master. You’ll be guided through every aspect of Japanese tea culture, from the making of the tea to the ritualized steps of serving it. Finally, you’ll end the morning with a stroll through the machiya quarters and visit a nearby sake brewery, where you can sample the local brew.

    Enjoy the rest of the day in Kyoto at your leisure.

    Overnight in Kyoto

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7: Kyoto - Naoshima

    Today is a self-guided day.

    You hold the reins of your Japan art tour today as you travel to the Art Island of Naoshima. This morning, you’ll board the world-famous bullet train, or shinkansen, at JR Kyoto Station and journey about 4 hours to JR Uno Station. You’ll board a ferry at Miyanoura Port for the 20-minute journey to Naoshima in the Inland Sea. Formerly a struggling fishing village, Naoshima’s fortune turned after the Benesse Art Site was established. The site showcases the best up-and-coming Japanese and international artists.

    Your accommodation tonight will be the Benesse House. Every room in this unique, splendid hotel is decorated with original artwork. All 49 guestrooms were designed by the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

    Spend the day enjoying the collection and grounds of the Benesse House Museum, which displays the works of Jackson Pollock, David Hockney and Andy Warhol, among others.

    Overnight in Naoshima

    Meals included: Breakfast

    Day 7
  • Day 8: Naoshima - Osaka

    Today is a self-guided day.

    Feel free to spend the day exploring Naoshima at your own pace. Your hotel offers a shuttle bus free of charge that stops at all the main sights of the island. Art pieces are scattered throughout the island, making Naoshima a giant open-air museum.

    The Chichu Art Museum, also designed by Tadao Ando, is located close to the Benesse House. The museum is considered a piece of art in itself, in addition to housing an impressive collection of works by Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter de Maria, among others. Afterwards, you can opt to explore the sleepy fishing village of Honmura. The traditional wooden houses here have also been turned into art installations.

    Later in the afternoon, ferry back to Uno Station, where you will board a train bound for Namba Station in the heart of Osaka (approximately a 2.5-hour journey).

    Overnight in Osaka

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9: Osaka

    After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll kick off the last full day of your Japan art tour with a visit to the 3rd-century Shinto shrine of Sumiyoshi Taisha. This is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and an important stop for anyone with an interest in indigenous architecture.

    From here, head next to Osaka Castle, one of Japan’s most renowned landmarks. Built in the late 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan at the time, the castle was modeled on Azuchi Castle. The imposing main tower was restored in 1928 and again in 1997. The top floor offers splendid views of the castle’s well-manicured gardens and the urban landscape beyond.

    Next, hop on a local ferry for a 50-minute cruise to the lively neighborhood of Dotonbori. This is where you’ll find Amerika-Mura, Osaka’s version of Harajuku. It’s the perfect place for some quality people-watching as Osaka’s trendiest set pass by.

    Continue on to Doguyasuji Shopping Arcade, a truly niche market where you’ll find everything related to the food industry—including the plastic models of food that you see displayed outside restaurants all over Japan!

    Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to sample some regional delicacie. Your guide will take you to a popular local restaurant to try some delicious fugu (puffer fish) or takoyaki (octopus balls)—what you’d like to try is up to you!

    Finish out the day with a bang at the Umeda Sky Building. The sky bridge of this twin tower complex provides fantastic nighttime views of the twinkling Osaka skyline.

    Overnight in Osaka

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10: Osaka

    Spend the last day of your Japan art tour at your leisure until it’s time for your scheduled transfer to the airport by limousine bus (roughly 1.5 hours to Kansai International Airport).

    Meals included: Breakfast

    Day 10

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Local vietnamese woman

Tour Details

This Japan art tour can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

icon Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles, where mentioned
Service of English speaking guides in every location, where mentioned
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

icon Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Talk to us about Your Holiday

Our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique, bespoke tours. Whether you’re looking to cruise down Asia’s tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel’s in-country Travel Specialists can plan your ideal trip. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll send you our best suggestions.




Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.

We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.

With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

join 10,000+ travelers by Subscribing to our Newsletter

bottom strip


[email protected]


[email protected]


+66 (2) 633 9074


+800 2225 9273

Backyard Travel Head Office: Level 18, Park Ventures Ecoplex, 57 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Bangkok, Thailand 10330. Tel: +66 (0) 26339074

Send this to friend

Subscribe for New Tours & Insider Travel Insights
Our regular Newsletters and quarterly web magazine 'Inside Asia', contain the fruits of our explorations around Asia, researching and creating new insider tours in intriguing and spectacular new destinations.
We never share your details
Hi there. We have a team of local experts eager and waiting to inspire you about the destinations they call home. Just drop us a line and we'll talk you through where to go and what to do.
Thank You. We will get back to you shortly.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
Ask a Travel Specialist
Our local travel specialists are eager to discuss your tour ideas in their destinations. Just drop us a line.
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!



Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.
Start Planning your Trip!
What's your ideal vacation? Let us know and a Travel Specialist will be in touch within 12 working hours to start planning a tailor-made trip just for you.