Yo Basho / World of Basho
a journey of the poetic spirit

In the late 1600s
, Matsuo Basho, already an acknowledged poetry master, set out on a series of journeys across Japan. This culminated in 1689 in the longest and most memorable of these journeys, Oku No Hosomichi / Narrow Road To Oku ( Interior Depths), 
a 156 day trek that took him to the back and beyond of Shogunate Japan. These journeys have been preserved through the travel journals of Basho with Narrow Road To Oku becoming a classic of Japanese literature, still taught at schools throughout Japan. 

It is not the intention of the ‘Basho’ itinerary to slavishly follow Basho’s path, nor to visit every one of his 40-45 stopping places, nor to don medieval garb and stride forth with staff and straw hat. Here in the 21st century, we can however get a sense of Basho’s journey, partly through visiting some of its inspirational locations and partly through pausing along the way with 'Basho Moment' to infuse the journey with Basho’s poetry.

The poetic journey begins at the Basho Museum Garden in Tokyo, at the former site of Basho's hut on the Sumida river in Edo, where we start the reading word by word, person by person, place by place, from beginning to end of Narrow Road To Oku - Basho's words and thoughts in situ resonating ever more powerfully throughout the journey. 

The Basho itinerary works at many levels : Cultural, Historical, Natural, Artistic, Literary. As most of the time will be immersed in everyday modern Japan, it is a terrific modern cultural journey in its own right. Contact with the natural landscape will redefine ‘Japan as urban’, as well as providing an excellent grounding for understanding Japanese garden culture, half a dozen impressive Japanese gardens being visited along the way. The itinerary is relaxed but persistent - there will be a huge amount to take in and it may not be until sometime afterwards that the disparate elements can be assimilated.

The roots of Japanese culture may also be traced through the long and honourable tradition of Japanese poetry. Apart from the reading of Narrow Road, Basho's poetry has been extensively researched and tastefully selected for reading at various key points along the way. There will also be formal sessions on Japanese poetry at the beginning, and the subject of poetry and Basho may arise formally and informally during the rest of the journey. Should they so desire, writers who join the tour may get together to exchange views. If a writer would prefer to write privately, that is to be respected. And if a client just wants to enjoy the journey and not write at all, then that is perfectly OK too.

Aki - the other aspect of Basho is that it takes place during the legendary beauty of the Japanese Autumn, which descends from North to South in Japan from mid-October to mid-November. If combined with the Garden Japan Tour which starts in Kyoto as the Basho itinerary ends there, it could lead to a spellbinding ‘Aki’ experience.

Narrow Road To The Depths

‘seek not the paths of the ancients
seek that which the ancients sought’

Saturday November 07 - Wednesday November 18, 2019 - 11 nts
Tokyo / Nikko / Yamadera-Matsushima-Hiraizumi / Kanazawa / Kyoto

Nov 18 - Nov 21, 2020 - 3 nts - 
The Japanese Garden – Okayama Tour
Garden viewing commences Wed Nov 18 - midday

Tour Budget

Couples - Y157,350 + £350 / Singles - Y224,280 + £350
Check in Tokyo - Sat Nov 07 / Check Out Kyoto - Wed Nov 18 

Tour budgets are composed of Espirita fees in pounds and Yen expenses in Japan, mostly quite reasonable, especially the Japan Rail Pass. At the peak of High Season and with the great interest
in Japanese culture, the 11 nts international standard accommodation accounts for 75%-80% of the
Yen expenses. As some of the hotels we prefer to use are not open for bookings until six months beforehand, the 2020 budget will not be online until May/June 2020. The 2019 budget below is a 
Fairly accurate guide to costs.

Basho Yen 2019 Sharing Single
Accommodation - 11 nts Y107,700 Y174,630
General Tour Expenses Y20,000 Y20,000
7 day JR Rail Pass Y29,650 Y29,650
Total Yen Y157,350 Y224,280
Espirita Fees + £350 + £350
Optional Extra Night Tokyo + Y10,400 + Y15,030

Convert to your own currency : www.xe.com

The 'General Tour Expenses' in Japan, pay as you go in Yen, include temple, museum and garden entrance fees and local transport costs, plus the return train and taxi transfers from the Tokyo airports into Tokyo. The 'Total Yen' total includes a 7 day JR Rail Pass priced in Yen, plus 10 nts international standard accommodation – we reserve / you pay. Espirita Fees are included and are payable 2-3 weeks beforehand. 

International flights, food and living expenses are not included.


Check in - 14.00 Saturday November 07 – Meet in lobby 
Japan Rail Passes and Passports need to be handed over for tour ticketing.

Tokyo - November 07-10, 2020 ( 3 nts ) 
The population of Japan in Basho’s day was about 25 million so, wardrobes and technology apart, one can reasonably assume that the Ueno that Basho left on May 16, 1689 was just as hectic as the Tokyo of today. Nearby Yanaka, mentioned in Oku, is still a quiet residential enclave. We accommodate in either Ueno or nearby Asakusa, close to Senso-ji Temple, the Tokyo National Museum is within easy reach and we will pay a short visit to the Basho Museum and Historic Garden in the Morishita area, taking in a nearby delightful Japanese stroll garden.

Written in a strong refined hand, this scroll of two line poems records one of the oldest known poetry contests, held by Hanshi Jo’o, the Mother of Emperor Uda
( 887-899 ). Pairs of contestants took turns competing with one another, composing short poems on one of five themes : spring, summer, autumn, winter and romance. About 200 poems were composed by the contestants, amongst them famous poets of the day. It is part of a collection of ten scrolls recording forty six Heian period poetry contests. ( Tokyo National Museum )

Nikko - November 10-11, 2020 ( 1 nt ) - ( Japan Rail Pass - Day 1 )
Arriving before lunch from Tokyo, we will leave our bags at the hotel and head out to the immense cultural and natural resources of Nikko - set in hilly woodlands and surrounded by large mountains, not for nothing did the Tokugawa Shoguns decide on Nikko for their final resting place. After a ‘Basho Moment’ by a surging river, we will spend that afternoon and most of the next day exploring the World Heritage Site and its surrounding landscape. A short Introduction to Japanese Poetry will take place that evening at the hotel in Nikko.

Yamadera / Matsushima / Hiraizumi- November 11-14, 2020 ( 3 nts ) 
Leaving Nikko late afternoon, we will transfer to a central hotel in Sendai as a base for the out of town trips to Yamadera, Hiraizumi, Tazawako and Matsushima over the following three days.

Yamadera - after visiting the local Basho Museum, we will head up to the mountain top Buddhist temple of Risshaku-ji, with the view from its eyrie considered to be a ‘nationally-designated Place of Scenic Beauty’ and the location for one of Basho’s most famous poems :
‘ stillness – penetrating the rocks, cicada’s cry ‘

Matsushima Bay - no less impressive with its 260 pine clad islands and celebrated as one of ‘The Three Views Of Japan’, we will pick up the Basho boat journey from Shiogama to Matsushima and then explore the various cultural and natural sites of Matsushima town and bay.

Hiraizumi – with a delightful walk from the top of Chusonji down a large pine tree lined avenue, then on to the famous pure land garden of Motsoji, where 500 years before Basho arrived there, the all powerful Fujiwara clan was annihilated by Minamoto Yoritomo on his quest to conquer Japan and become Japan’s first shogun. A beautiful visit but, with Basho’s guidance, fundamentally a meditation on the impermanence of human glory.

Kanazawa - November 14-16, 2020 ( 2 nts ) 
Arriving in Kanazawa after an evening transfer from Sendai, we will spend the next couple of days exploring various cultural and natural options, not least the stunning DT Suzuki Museum and the spiritual powerhouse of Kenroku-en Garden. Kanazawa was spared from bombing in WW2 and there is still a well preserved old town. We then check out the out of the way Natadera temple, normally at peak viewing for Autumn colour.

Kyoto - November 16-18, 2020 ( 2 nts ) - ( Japan Rail Pass - Day 7 ) 
Though it has since slipped into genteel obscurity, Ogaki was a major cultural centre in Basho’s day, and was the final destination of Basho’s epic 'Oku' journey. En route to Kyoto from Kanazawa, we drop into the Basho Museum in Ogaki, the video presentation of Basho’s journey serving to bring together the ‘Basho’ journey of the preceding days, to arrive early afternoon at the hotel in Kyoto.

Saga / Otsu / Kyoto - November 17, 2020
After completing the journey in 1689 and before moving into a new Basho Hut in Edo / Tokyo in 1692, Basho was mainly in and around the Kyoto part of Japan. Almost exactly as described in his ‘Saga Diary’, we can still walk with Basho through the bamboos of Arashi, and visit the ‘Hut Of The Phantom Dwelling’ in Otsu, where Basho spent the summer of 1690, reputedly writing up parts of Oku No Hosomichi. We will then bid farewell to Basho at his final resting place in nearby Gichu-ji.

Departure – Wednesday November 18, 2020
For clients returning home or moving on elsewhere in Japan, check out from the hotel in Kyoto is at 11.00 am. For those joining the last three days of the Garden Japan Tour in Okayama, either transfer to Okayama Wednesday morning, departing Kyoto station by 09.45 latest, and joining the Tour in Okayama at midday. Alternatively, check out Tuesday morning, leaves bags in hotel, pick up bags pm, Tuesday evening transfer to Okayama. The Tuesday Basho schedule finishes by 5.00 pm latest

Flights & Transfers
Clients should research and purchase an ‘multi city ticket’ which permits arrival in Tokyo and departure from Osaka Kansai Airport, the nearest to Kyoto, the final destination of the Tour. From Tokyo Narita Airport, take the Keisei Railway to Tokyo Ueno station from where it is a short taxi ride to the hotel in Asakusa. From the hotel in Kyoto, it is a short taxi ride to Kyoto station for the Kansai Airport Express. Both transfers take about an hour and a half.

Flight Prices - there is increasing pressure on flight prices at the peak times of April and November, especially as the date of travel gets closer. Ideally, prospective clients should book April Tour flights by early September, and November Tour flights by early April. If booked 7- 8 months in advance, flight prices to Japan can be quite reasonable, with economy fares to Osaka of £550-650 on Lufthansa - KLM - Air France - $800-900 from West Coast USA. From 6-7 months before Tour, flight prices can start increasing into the £650-£850 range. China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, Asiana, Korean Air & Cathay Pacific are well worth considering and may have more convenient flight times.

Japan Rail Pass - The itinerary has been based on the excellent value of a 7 day Japan Rail Pass, saving about Y25,000 as against buying the tickets in Japan. JR Passes can only be purchased outside Japan and must be purchased pre Tour, up to 3 months before its first day of use. On purchase, you will receive a voucher confirming payment which, with your passport, has to be exchanged for the actual pass at one of the JR Pass Offices at most large train stations in Japan. Normally we do this on behalf of the group.

JR Pass vouchers and Passports need to be handed over for processing ideally at check in on Saturday, November 07. The start date of the Pass will be Tuesday November 10. For those considering pre-Tour travel in Japan, the Tour use of the Pass ends on Monday November 16. The purchase of an extra 7 or 14 days on the JR Pass needs to be carefully calculated beforehand. Train tickets in Japan are priced by the kilometer and as a rough guide, Tokyo - Kyoto return is about the same price as a 7 day rail pass. Train schedules may be planned and train fares calculated online at : www.hyperdia.com

Those considering the Garden Japan 3 day Okayama Tour, should purchase a 14 day all Japan Rail Pass, saving a large amount on both Tours with, in theory, three full days of free rail travel post Tour. 

Travel Elsewhere in Japan - Whereas we fully assist with queries on flight schedules for Japan, and with transfers to and from Tour, we are Tour Operators and not Travel Agents so we do not get too involved with client travel plans elsewhere in Japan. Should, as can happen, a few days extra are added onto your schedules, then clients need to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. As this will happen at peak season in Japan, and as many hotels do not release rooms and prices until 6 months beforehand, extra accommodation should be reserved 4-6 months in advance. As there are some very small hotel rooms in Japan, close attention should be paid to room size - in square metres and stated on most online booking sites.

All street signs, travel directions and announcements on public transport are in English.

Accommodation throughout the Tour is at mid-range international standard hotels which, at current exchange rates, are well priced. It varies from hotel to hotel, but the norm is to pay for one’s room at check-in. Room rates are charged by the head in Japan with less of a saving for those in a Twin or Double room. Room Sharing - Espirita does not offer the sharing of rooms by people that do not know each other beforehand. Group Size - The maximum group size is 8-10 persons. We often have small sized groups of 6-8 persons

Nov 2019 Nts Couples
per person per nt
per nt
Tokyo 2 10,400 15,030
Nikko 1 13,150 15.150
Sendai 3 9,000 15,650
Kanazawa 2 6,850 12,700
Kyoto 2 11,300 20,970
Total 10 Y97,300 Y159,600

Economy Room Option - our hotels have been selected to avoid tiny Japanese hotel rooms and to offer daily laundry services ( Drop 10:00 / Return 18:00 ) in order to reduce baggage weight. At some of the hotels, it may be possible to apply for smaller rooms without views and which might save £10-£100 per person over the Tour. Interested parties should apply. 

With visiting various scenic but asymmetric natural and cultural sites, the Tour involves a reasonable amount of walking, not least the well-worth-it 1,000 steps up to Rishakku-ji. From flight arrival to departure, clients will take bags on and off trains 8 times, check in and out of hotels 5 times, and otherwise move on and off trains and boats about 20 times. Though somewhat more demanding than normal everyday life, the itinerary should present no problems for the able bodied but, regrettably,
it really is not suitable for those with restricted mobility.

Tour Guide : Matsuo Basho

Tour Coordinator : Stewart Wills. The Founding Director will facilitate the Basho journey. Since reading 'The Tale of Genji' in 1981, Stewart has had a life long interest in Japanese poetry and often reads haiku in the Temples & Gardens of Kyoto. Poetry from 'Genji' made its way into 'Shishu', the film about Japanese Garden culture and into the 'Love Haiku' greetings cards. Sen no Rikyu's poems were used in 'Sen Shin An', a recent film about Tea Culture. Stewart initiates and designs the Poetry & Writing programme in Loutro, Crete - sometimes participating. A songwriting tendency occasionally comes to the surface.

Two films on Japanese Culture, one at Cherry Blossom time, the other in the Autumn.
For general viewing, for viewing whilst in Japan………

Shishu- Intuition and Feeling In The Japanese Garden - 53 mins

Streaming - Free

Sen Shin An - the other world of Tea - 67 mins

Streaming - Free

'Tokyo Morning' - documentary music video - 4mins 40secs

Streaming - Free


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