Yo Basho / World of Basho
a poetic journey in Japan

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 and his companions 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 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. 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 three week ‘Aki’ experience.


Narrow Road To The Depths

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

November 05 - 16, 2017 - 11 nts
Tokyo / Nikko / Yamadera-Matsushima / Kanazawa / Kyoto


Nov 14 - Nov 26, 2017 - 12 nts 
The Japanese Garden - Kyoto / Okayama
Garden viewing commences Thurs Nov 16



Tour Budget
(£1 = ¥140 = $1.25 / $1 = ¥115 )
Couples - Y170,000 + £450  = £1,665 / $2,040 per person
Singles - Y216,000 + £450 = £1,990 / $2,440

Tour budgets are composed of Espirita fees in pounds and Yen expenses in Japan, mostly quite reasonable, especially the Japan Rail Pass. With such great interest in Japanese culture and at the peak of High Season, the 11 nts international standard accommodation accounts for 70%-80% of the Yen expenses. For Britons, the Yen expenses are then subject to the delights of post Brexit forex rates. Otherwise more reasonable in US dollars. 

Basho Yen 2017 Sharing Single
Accommodation - 11 nts Y120,300 Y167,000
Daily Tour Expenses Y20,000 Y20,000
JR Rail Pass Y29,100 Y29,100
Total Yen Y169,400 Y216,100

Convert to your own currency : www.xe.com

The Budget expenses in Japan, pay as you go in Yen, includes return train and taxi transfers
from Tokyo Narita Airport and to Osaka Kansai Airport, temple, museum and garden entrance fees, a 7 day JR Rail Pass priced in Yen, local transport costs and 11 nts international standard accommodation – we reserve / you pay. Espirita Fees are included and are payable beforehand. International flights, food and living expenses are not included.

This budget has been fully researched and costed but may vary slightly due to actual hotel prices 
and variable exchange rates

Tokyo - November 05-08, 2017 ( 2-3 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 it is 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. We will get together for dinner on the Tuesday evening before leaving Tokyo. 



We recommend clients travelling long haul to Japan to spend 3 nts in Tokyo. ( ARR Sunday November 05 ) Those already in Japan or those travelling from Australasia need not arrive until a day later ( ARR Monday November 06 ) but Japan Rail Passes and Passports must be handed over for processing by 12.00 midday latest Monday November 06.

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 08-09, 2017 ( 1 nt )
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. 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. ( Japan Rail Pass - Day 1 )


Yamadera / Matsushima - November 09-12, 2017 ( 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 and Matsushima on the following two days, Friday/Saturday, November 11/12
 

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’


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 spend the day exploring the various cultural and natural sites of Matsushima town and bay. 


Kanazawa - November 12-14, 2017 ( 2 nts ) 
Arriving in Kanazawa after a longish transfer from Sendai, we will spend the next day and a half deploying various cultural and natural options, not least the spiritual powerhouse of Kenroku-en Garden. Kanazawa was spared from bombing in WW2 and there is still a well preserved old town.


Ogaki / Kyoto - November 14-16, 2017 ( 2 nts ) 
Though it has since slipped into genteel obscurity, Ogakai was a major cultural centre in Basho’s day, and was the final destination of Basho’s epic journey. Transferring from Kanazawa, we will head straight to Ogaki to visit the Basho Museum. It has a full video presentation of Basho’s journey and will serve to bring together the ‘Basho’ journey of the preceding days. We will arrive late afternoon at the hotel in Kyoto. ( Japan Rail Pass - Day 7 ) 

Saga / Otsu / Kyoto - November 15, 2017
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 - Thursday November 16, 2017
Check out from the hotel in Kyoto is at 11.00 am

Garden Japan - November 14-26, 2017
Our long established Garden Japan tour commences its first ‘Garden Day’ in Kyoto 
on Thursday November 16. Kyoto 6 nts / Okayama 4 nts 

Flights & Transfers
Clients should research and purchase an ‘open jaws 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 December and November Tour flights by April/May. If booked in time, flight prices to Japan can be quite reasonable. Normal discounted economy fares to Osaka of £550-650 on Lufthansa/KLM/Air France are possible - $800-900 from West Coast USA. China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, Korean Air & Cathay Pacific are well worth considering and may have more convenient flight times

Accommodation 
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. Espirita does not offer the sharing of rooms by people that do not know each other beforehand. 

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. 

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. Japan Rail Passes can only be purchased outside Japan and must be purchased before the Tour. Japan Rail Passes and Passports need to be handed over for processing by 8.30 am, Tuesday November 03. For those considering onward travel in Japan with a 14 day or 21 day Pass, the start date of the Pass will be Wednesday November 04. For those considering pre-Tour travel in Japan with a 14 day or 21 day Pass, the Tour use of the Pass ends on Tuesday November 10. 

Mobility
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 Facilitator : 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


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