Nov 14 - Nov 26, 2017 ( 12 nts - Kyoto 8 nts / Okayama 4 nts )

April 03 - April 15, 2018 ( 12 nts - Kyoto 8 nts / Okayama 4 nts )

 (Nov 05 - Nov 16, 2017 - Basho Tour - Central Japan - 11 nts )


Osaka Kansai Airport is still the most convenient destination for international flights.

Hotel Reservations close 4 weeks before Tour


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( Kyoto 8 nts / Okayama 4 nts )
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KYOTO

Day 1 - Arrive Kyoto
Day 2 - Orientation Kyoto
Day 3 - Garden Day 1
Day 4 - Garden Day 2
Day 5 - Garden Day 3
Day 6 - Free Day Kyoto
Day 7 - Garden Day 4
Day 8 - Garden Day 5
Day 9 - Free Day Kyoto /
Transfer to Okayama
Day 10 - Garden Day Trip 1 -
Takamatsu / Shikoku
Day 11 - Garden Day Trip 2 -
Hiroshima / Miyajima
Day 12 - Garden Day Trip 3 -
Matsue
Day 13 - Depart Okayama


One of the world's great cultural assets, the legendary beauty of the gardens of Kyoto has been developed and refined over many centuries. Whether for the festive delights of Cherry Blossom viewing in April or for the spectacular autumnal colours in November, Espirita visits Kyoto's gardens when at their very best.


During 5 days of expert, informative, but relaxed, guiding, the main strands of the Japanese Garden tradition will be pursued and revealed, As well as the tantalising mystique of the gardens themselves, the tour is also a journey to the very heart of Japanese design and aesthetic - essential for all those wishing to 'add a Japanese touch' to their own homes and gardens.


With 2,000 temples, palaces and gardens, and many other aspects of a rich cultural heritage, the extra days in Kyoto for personal exploration and relaxation serve to balance the overall journey. Seeing the gardens also involves seeing Japan, nothing can convey how good it feels to be in such a well mannered, orderly, virtually crime free society. Single travellers should worry not - Japanese people are extremely helpful and personal safety is at an optimum.


Now in Japan for over fifteen years, we have good long term relations with an international standard hotel group, ideally situated in Kyoto, for getting to the temple and garden sites spread across a large modern city, and in Okayama, for three days of day trips to featured gardens, towns and museums in Central Japan. Our hotel arrangements have been well appreciated by a wide variety of clients over many years.



Okayama - We relocate to Okayama and base ourselves at an international standard hotel adjacent to the railway station for improved logistics. Easily accessible within 2-3 blocks of the hotel is Okayama’s very lively café and restaurant district. The change to a more human level ‘everyday Japan’ is not entirely unwelcome. Okayama is also home to the highly rated Koraku-en garden. 


Shikoku - starting with a visit to the stunning stroll garden of Ritsurin in Takematsu, the day moves on to the immense hillside Shinto shrine at Kotohira - an off the beaten track authentic Japanese experience well away from foreign visitors. From there it’s a short ride to Zentsuji Temple, one of the main temples on the revered Shikoku 88 Temple Buddhist pilgrimage.


Hiroshima - arriving as the very pleasant city stroll garden of Shukkei-in is opening, from there it’s a short way to the profoundly moving Peace Park situated under the bomb epicentre. Depending on the timing of the high tide, we will then take the ferry direct from the Peace Park to the much visited Miyajima Island, with its iconic ocean setting Tori and the famous Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, surrounded by water at high tide. One option might be to start the day at Miyajima, but if the time of the tide is adverse no matter what, we will back track to Okayama and take in the Koraku-en gardens.


Matsue - Primarily, a visit to the well known Adachi Museum, which many consider to have the finest garden in Japan. Certainly it is a stunning creation with many notable design features. Though well worth getting to, it does take time whilst still leaving the opportunity to drop into the old town of Matsue - the simple house and garden of the 19th century traveller, Lafcadio Hearn, is a delight. Depending on time, another option is the delightful Yushien Paeony Garden




As you can see in the budget matrix below, we have broken down the Japanese Garden Tour into its component parts. Further details on application 

Kyoto - 7 nts If convenient, those already in Japan can arrive at the hotel in Kyoto on the Wednesday for the start of the 5 day Garden Tour first thing on the Thursday morning
 
Kyoto - 8nts Clients flying into Japan from Europe and N America are well advised to arrive at the hotel in Kyoto on the Tuesday, with a rest day the following day. Not quite so critical for those arriving from Australasia, but the extra day in Kyoto is still available.
The Kyoto Tour finishes on the following Wednesday, with checkout from the hotel at 11.00 am

Okayama - 4 nts Those proceeding onwards to Okayama have a full day and evening on the second Wednesday to either take in more of Kyoto or to transfer to the hotel in Okayama. The 3 day itinerant garden Tour commences on the second Thursday and finishes with checkout from the hotel in Okayama at 11.00 am on the second Sunday. The exact day of the trips to Matsue, Shikoku and Hiroshima may vary depending on the weather and the time of the High Tides at Miyajima

Tour Budget
includes 
- Client expenses in Yen in Japan : Return train and taxi transfers from Osaka Airport, local transport
costs, garden entrance fees, 12 nts international standard accommodation (we reserve / you pay)
- The pre-purchase of a 7 day JR Rail Pass priced in Yen
- Espirita Fees  charged in Pounds. payable to Espirita beforehand.
- International flights, food and living expenses are not included.    Further details below

  Garden Japan - 2017
Tour Options
 
Option Single Sharing
Kyoto - 7 nts
Already in Japan - ARR Wed
Y145,000 + £360 Y127,100 + £360
Kyoto - 8 nts
Fly Direct to Kyoto - ARR Tues
Y161,000 + £360 Y140,600 + £360
Okayama + 4 nts 
Tour Extension
Y230,100 + £550 -12 nts Y205,700 + £550 - 12 nts
Okayama - 4 nts only Y69,100 + £190 Y65,100 + £190

Convert to your own currency : www.xe.com


ROBERT KETCHELL - TOUR GUIDE
Robert first visited Kyoto as a trainee gardener thirty years ago in search of inspiration. The beauty and beguiling content of the gardens has not yet relinquished its hold on his imagination. The first visit was extended to over three years, working as an apprentice to a master gardener, whilst studying garden history at Kyoto University. Subsequent trips have only deepened his appreciation of this richly preserved garden culture.


The tours will introduce participants to a varying menu of the principal gardens of Kyoto, as well as visiting some lesser-known gems.  Based on extensive knowledge of the gardening world in Kyoto, visits to gardens not normally accessible to the public are able to be arranged.

Robert a working landscape gardener with many fine gardens to his credit, is former Chairman of the Japanese Garden Society of Great Britain, and editor of its journal, has written numerous articles in various publications and has recently published 'Japanese Gardens in a Weekend'. He has already conducted many successful tours to Kyoto.

Japanese Garden Design Service





Tour Style & Structure - Our Tours are informal but well organised - we don’t believe in a jam packed itinerary with a continuous running commentary Out of the 8 days in Kyoto, 5 days will be ‘Garden Days’, leaving the hotel at about 8.00-8.30 am and returning at about 5.00-6.00 pm.


Whilst visiting the gardens, the important thing is to relax, take in and enjoy their unique atmospheres and, whilst Robert Ketchell will clarify function, design, species, etc on site, comment will also take place before or after visiting the gardens - over green tea or lunch, whilst travelling between sites, or, in the case of larger groups, at debrief sessions at the hotel. Time is available each evening and on the Free Days to explore the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Kyoto, and to venture further afield on a variety of day trips.

Being based in one place for 8 days saves on the most expensive aspect of Japan - cost of travel - 2 ½ hrs on the Shinkansen ‘Bullet’ train costs about £110-120 / $135-145. Those who wish to visit other areas should obtain a Japan Rail Pass, purchasable from official Japan Tourist Offices only outside Japan. As it is easier to recover from the journey and jet lag in one place, it is probably best to extend your journey after the Tour of Kyoto.


Garden Schedule - To catch special garden openings and other events not publicised in advance and because weather conditions can affect the choice of gardens, we do not have rigid pre-planned garden visiting schedules. Robert also likes to meet clients on site to discuss any special requests. Broadly speaking, the Tour will visit 20-25 gardens over the five 'Garden Days and this will include many of the famous ones.

Group size - The maximum room allocation per group is 9, permitting a maximum group size of 12. This should be to everyone's benefit. For group sizes of 6 persons or under, there is a small group premium.



Flight Reservations - As the Tours are accessible internationally, we do not provide international flight options. A Tour place is deemed to have been reserved when confirmation of a flight booking is received. However, we do have reasonable knowledge of best routings and prices, and the first step should be to contact us for general logistical advice on flights and to confirm the exact time of arrival at the hotel. In some cases, we can generate a flight proposal for you at a reputable discount flight agent, which you would be responsible for confirming by credit card payment.


Flights - All enquiries begin with forming a travel plan. Feeder flights to the European hubs depart in the mornings, in order to catch discounted afternoon flights on European airlines, that land in Japan on the morning of the next day, ‘the day of arrival’ in Japan. The return flights back to Europe depart mid to late in the mornings.

Feeder flights to the Gulf normally depart at lunchtime from the UK to connect with midnight departures from the Gulf, that land in Japan in the late afternoon of the next day. Their return flights, departing in the late evening, allow a full day in Japan on the day of departure. Although the travelling time of Gulf flights is a few hours longer, their flight times tend to be more convenient.


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

Japan / China - For those considering the Japan / China combination, ‘open jaws’ tickets, that permit arrival in Osaka and departure from Shanghai would apply. In which case, a one way ticket between Osaka and Shanghai would be necessary. Alternatively, one could fly Europe to Osaka, Japan on a Chinese airline via Shanghai, with a stopover in China on the way back for the China Tour, making the purchase.



Osaka Airport - unless travelling elsewhere in Japan, for convenience and cost saving, all flights should arrive and depart from Osaka Kansai Airport.


Transfer to Kyoto - By rail from the Railway Terminal, right next to the International Arrivals Terminal - and well signed in English. The Y 3,400 for the express fare to Kyoto Station is included in the budget. As check in at the hotel does not start until 14.00 pm, and as most flights from Europe travel through the night and arrive between 8.00-10.00 am, there is actually no hurry to get to the hotel. When you get to Kyoto, you could spend an hour or two, orientating and checking out events at the main Kyoto Tourist Office (up the escalators in the Kyoto Station Atrium to cafe level and situated next to the Isetan Department Store) or you could leave your bags at Kyoto Station and spend the day sightseeing, before checking into the hotel late PM.


Other Airports - because of the lengthy and tiring train transfer from Tokyo Narita Airport ( 3.5-4.0 hrs - Y16,500 each way ) we have always advised against international flights arriving into Tokyo, if the destination is Kyoto. The train transfer from Tokyo Haneda Airport is slightly better ( 2.6-3.0 hrs - Y14,000 each way ) and may come into play if flights to Haneda cost $100 less than flights to Osaka Kansai, assuming the end of Tour transfer to Haneda is free on the JR Rail Pass. Domestic flight connections from Tokyo to Osaka should arrive at Osaka Kansai Airport and not at Osaka Itani airport, which has an awkward transfer to Kyoto. In most cases the transfer by train from Narita and Haneda to Kyoto station will probably be quicker than the domestic flight + train transfer


Okayama Airport - as the Tour ends in Okayama and as Okayama Airport can now be reached on major Asian carriers connecting through hubs like Seoul and Shanghai, its flight options are now worth considering. While return flights in and out of Okayama might be cheaper than Osaka Kansai, the incoming transfer from Okayama to Kyoto is Y5,000 more expensive than that from Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto. The multi city option, fly into Osaka and out from Okayama, is likely to be the more expensive route. At the end of Tour, Okayama Airport might also be convenient for domestic flights to Tokyo Haneda and Narita airports, though free rail transfer to any airport on the Japan Rail Pass should be taken into account in assessing cost and convenience. Okayama Airport flights could also be cheaper for those making late bookings and finding flights to Osaka Kansai booked out and too expensive. 

Japan Rail Pass - JR Passes can only be purchased outside Japan and must be purchased pre Tour, up to 3 months before Tour. All Clients will need a 7 day Japan Rail Pass for the Okayama day trips and for the transfers the day before and the day after. For those considering travelling elsewhere in Japan, there will be 3 days left on the 7 day pass when one checks out of the hotel in Okayama on the Sunday morning. 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 guide, Tokyo - Kyoto return is about the same price as a 7 day rail pass. Train fares may be calculated online at : www.hyperdia.com


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



Last Night - most European flights depart Osaka Kansai in the morning, 10.00-12.00 am, which means an early start from the hotel in Kyoto to catch the 6.15-6.45 am train. 


Extra Day - Alternatively, an extra day may be added by leaving one's bags at the hotel in Okayama before check-out time 11.00am, or at Kyoto station en route, and then taking an evening train to stay at one of the hotels near Kansai Airport for the extra night.


Excess Baggage - regrettably the meticulous character of the Japanese also extends to the matter of charging for excess baggage - you are more likely to get charged at Osaka Airport than just about anywhere else in the world. Charged at £35-40 1 $50-60 per kilo for European destinations, a 5-7 kilo excess, that is often waived elsewhere, can give you a very unwelcome parting gift.


Travel Insurance - all persons are required to have valid and comprehensive travel insurance policies, covering cancellation of flights, lost luggage etc etc, and with at least £2m for medical costs, with a 24 hour medical contact telephone service and with provision for repatriation in case of emergency. To properly assist you in an emergency, details of the policy numbers and personal contact numbers will need to be submitted.


Mobility - A reasonable amount of walking is involved with the Tour, and the Temples and Gardens have numerous eccentric and uneven surfaces. Those with restricted mobility are requested to make contact to discuss practicalities.


Japan is reasonably priced - Apart from travel inside Japan which can be expensive, food and living expenses represent good value compared with average European prices. Basic eating out in Japan is not expensive, good quality and tipping does not exist.


Transfer to Hotel in Kyoto - (Y800-Y900) The taxi fare from Kyoto Station to the hotel  is included in the quoted budget figure.


Hotel in Kyoto - 8 nights international standard accommodation is included in the budget. Given current upward pressure on hotel rates in Kyoto, our rates are not unreasonable : 

Single (excl breakfast) : 2017 - Y16,000 per night
Double (excl breakfast): 2017 - Y13,500 per person per night

Please note that we book our hotel allocation in Kyoto well in advance and that it is normally impossible to get extra nights before or after the Tour dates in Kyoto


Hotel in Okayama - 4 nights international standard accommodation is included in the budget. 

Single (excl breakfast) : 2017 - Y 8,000 per night
Double (excl breakfast): 2017 - Y 7,000 per person per night 


Hotel Rates In Japan - Hotel rates throughout Japan, and much of Asia, are by the head and not by the room. Although couples are actually paying less per head than a person in a Single Room, it will seem more expensive for couples accustomed to room based accommodation rates.

Payment by cash / travellers cheque / credit card on the day of arrival is the preferred system of payment in Japan and China - one should always be in credit with the hotel.

All hotel rooms are on the small side in Japan, but these are neatly appointed and well priced.  In addition to room en suite bathroom, there are traditional style single sex Japanese bath house on the ground floor - highly recommended at night.

Normal Western style buffet breakfasts are available, but as lunch tends to be taken whilst visiting the gardens, and as one tends to eat late in the evening, that can lead to three full meals per day. As all rooms have a small fridge and a Japanese style kettle with small cups - and there are various convenience stores within easy reach, 'room snack breakfasts' are quite possible. Please bring favourite teas, coffee, mug, snacks etc.

The hotel in Kyoto is in the central Shijo Karasuma district, with good connections North-South and East-West by bus, subway or suburban trains.  Bicycles are also an excellent way of getting about Kyoto. Local facilities - situated in a 'lived in' part of town, there are numerous modern city facilities within easy reach, including 24 hour mini-markets and 24 hour internet access. In our final correspondence 2-4 weeks before departure, we provide detailed information with maps of Kyoto and of facilities in the area local to the hotel.

As we are on a series of train based day trips out of Okayama, for everyone's convenience, we are accommodating at a modern international standard hotel adjacent to Okayama station.


Peak Season - In mid-March 2017, one of Espirita's Directors stayed at the hotel we use in Kyoto for Y12,400 / nt. Three weeks later, with the cherry blossom in full bloom anf the maples coming into leaf, that same room was Y16,000 / nt, itself a discounted rate for our clients. It would be hard to find any room in Kyoto for under Y20,000 / nt at that time. Therefore, for the privilege of visiting Kyoto at peak Blossom and Autumn time, a rough and ready estimate of the 'peak season premium' would be £200-£300 / $250-$350 for the 8 nights stay in Kyoto. Normally, this is a consideration that our clients are more than happy to accept.


Room Sharing - is not offered to persons that do not know each other beforehand.


Internet Access - Free wifi and cable internet access in all the hotel rooms.


Also included in quoted budgets:

Kyoto Local Transport - Y 6,000-10,000 approx. ( depending on size of group).
All modes of transport will be employed, depending on cost and convenience. In some cases, city buses and subways will be the most effective, and all clients will need to purchase a Y3,000 multi-trip travel card at the start of the Tour. For trips out of town, hiring mini-buses will be best, at approximately Y5,000 per person per day, or less per part day.

Kyoto Temple & Garden Entrance Fees - Y 10-14,000 approx. 
Entrance fees normally vary from Y300-500, but 'Special Openings' are not to be missed, and cost approx.Y800. At 3-4 garden visits per day, this cost can mount up over the Tour.

Tea Day Fees - Y 4,000

Okayama Day Trips - Y 29,110 JR Rail Pass + Y 8,000 Tour Expenses

Espirita Fees  - £550 per person 


Budget
Budget Sharing Single
Yen in Japan 205,700 230,100
Espirita Fees  £ 550 550
 
Budget Summary 2017 Double Per Person Single
8 nts - Kyoto Y 108,000 Y 128,000
Transfer Airport to Hotel Y 3,600 Y 4,000
Kyoto transport Y 7 - 10,000 Y 6 -9,000
Tea Day Fees Y 4,000 Y 4,000
Garden Entrance Fees Y 10 -12,500 Y10 -12,500
Espirita Fees £360 £360
Total - Kyoto 8 nts Y 140,600 + £360 Y 161,000 + £360
     
4 nts - Okayama Y 28,000 Y 32,000
Museum/Garden Entrance Fees Y 8,000 Y 8,000
7 day JR Rail Pass * Y 29,110 Y 29,110
Espirita Fees £190 £190
Total - Okayama 4 nts Y 65,110 + £190 Y 69,110 + £190
     
Total - Garden Japan 12 nts Y 205,700 + £550 Y 230,100 + £550

* JR Rail Pass covers : Transfer Kyoto to Okayama - Rail Travel 3 Day Trips
- Transfer Hotel to Airport - 3 days Free Rail Travel

Small Group Premium :
£50 per person for groups of 6 or under

Excludes :
- International Flights
- Food
- Living Expenses


Note -
 Although these amounts are ‘budgets’ and not fixed prices, as we have been in Japan for over fifteen years, we are reasonably confident about these statistics.  In some case, clients have noted that the Tour has worked out less than budget.



Payment - Non-refundable deposit upon reservation - £25 per person. Clients pay in the normal way for their own hotel bills, train & taxi airport transfers and local transport & garden entrance fees in Kyoto. Espirita Fees are paid to Espirita by cheque, dated to the last day of the Tour, upon receipt of the invoice in our final correspondence 3-4 weeks before departure.


Food - surprisingly good value for basic fare at small local restaurants. Typical tray meals with a rice or noodle dish, pickles, soup and tea should cost Y700-1000. Making full use of the kettle and fridge in the room, one should allow Y2-3,000 per day for 'Basic Food', but don't deprive oneself of at least some of the gastronomic delights of Japan - for standard western restaurant prices or less, one can get a fabulous 8-9 course meal.


Climate and Seasons in Kyoto   The most important  point about climate and garden viewing in Kyoto is to go in April or November - any day at this time of year is a good day  A perfect cherry blossom or autumn maple day is not so important The main thing is to avoid the hot humid weather at other times of the year.


Cherry Blossom Viewing ( hanami )  - the exact time is, of course, climate dependent.

Traditionally, cherry blossom is at its peak in the first week of April. If there is a warmer than normal winter, it will tend to peak in sheltered city microclimates at the end of March , and in outlying districts in the following two weeks.


April 2000 - blossoms peaked in Kyoto April 6th-10th, falling on a warm day c. April 12th, but they were coming to their best on April 13-14 on the way to Ohara in the North. By April 14th-15th, blossom trees were starting to reach their best in Arashiyama, in the hills surrrounding Kyoto.   The cherry blossoms at the castle of Hikone were at their peak on April 17th-20th.   A visit on April 9th to one of the most famous cherry blossom trees in Japan, near Ouda, was fruitless - its buds remained firmly closed.   Trees in the various hill temples are at their best later in April.   Spring 2002 - ‘cherry blossom’ all over by the end of March was the earliest for 53 years, leaving one with the gracious beauty of the delicate bright green tracery of maples coming into leaf.

Temperatures in early April vary from a warm muggy hint of summer  to being damn freezing - though generally dry and pleasantly warm, rain at some stage is to be expected. Warm summery temperatures are to be increasingly expected as the month progresses.


Maple viewing - just as variable as ‘hanami’ and dependent on preceding Autumn temperatures     For maximum autumn effect, it needs to be beginning to get cold.

November 2001 - T-shirt weather of 20-25°C in the last week of October, changed to fresh, cool, occasionally rainy conditions from the beginning of November through until departing on November 18  Fukui, 90 minutes north of Kyoto, was bitterly cold on the night of November 15   Maple trees began to ‘turn’ November 6th, were at full effect November 11th-14th in Northwest Kyoto and  Southeast of the city centre, on November 17.
In November 2002, the maples turned about 7-10 days earlier than 2001.


Only once in Japan ? - It is impossible to choose which is better between the Cherry Blossom and the Maple Viewing seasons - from the natural and the social point of view, they are both amazing experiences - at the core of the Japanese ethos.   Ideally, one should plan to visit Kyoto twice, in both Spring and Autumn.   Seasoned observers, having witnessed both, tend to prefer the subtler, gentler radiances of the Autumn effect.


Dress sense - the variable temperatures and conditions of both April & November suggest flexible layer based clothing.   One is more or less out of doors all day - none of the temples, where many of the gardens visited are based, have heating.  One needs a folding umbrella, shoes without laces to ease repeatedly taking them on and off, loose clothing and a second pair of thick socks for walking about without shoes on cool days.

Dress code in Japan tends to be slightly more formal than present standards in the West.
 




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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