Enjoy a two-day, one-night premium tour in November (planned) to experience the history and culture of surfing and the sea at Ichinomiya, a surfing event site for the Tokyo Olympics and a place where 700,000 surfers visit each year. On the first day, experience real surfing with a personal surfing guide on Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach, which was used as a surfing event site during the Tokyo Olympics. After that, head over to Tamasaki Shrine, a tangible cultural property of Chiba Prefecture, to enjoy a special performance of gagaku music, a classical genre of Japanese music often played at imperial court. Performed by Tamasaki Gagaku Association, this musical performance has strong ties to the ocean, adding the unique cultural element to this surfing tour. Finally, enjoy a premium dinner made from local ingredient and relax in the evening at a luxuriously private hotel. On the second day, you might choose to enjoy surfing at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach or perhaps even go for a round of golf; a personal car is prepared for all activities, and an interpreter will be available to assist you with whatever activities you decide to do.
Kudoyama in Wakayama Prefecture is the starting point of the Mt Koya Pilgrimage Route, where old traditions and landscapes live on to this day. This tour provides a valuable opportunity to experience the Japanese culture unique to Kudoyama.
A pleasant time can be spent interacting with the locals through activities such as tea ceremony, helmet making, and Japanese cooking experiences. Additionally, the Tahoto pagoda at Jison-in Temple, built by Kukai (774–835), the founder of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism at Mt Koya, will open for the first time in over 400 years. Inside the pagoda, a statue of Amida Buddha is enshrined. The Tahoto pagoda has never been open to the public since it was built in the early Edo period (1603–1867), but it will be opened for the first time in the fall of 2023. Please come and join us for this historic moment!
To commemorate this moment, a light-up event will also be held on the grounds of Jison-in Temple during the tour, and visitors will be welcomed by Japanese paper lanterns made from traditional “Koyagami” paper produced in the towns of Kudoyama and Koya in Wakayama Prefecture; enjoy the magical evening atmosphere—an entirely different charm compared to that during the day. For the second day of the tour, a trek along the Koyasan chōishi-michi trail, which is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is planned. The chōishi-michi trail leads from Jison-in Temple in Kudoyama to the grand central pagoda of Kongobu-ji Temple on Mt Koya. The 180 stone pillars (chōishi) that stand along the route have led worshipers to the sanctuary ever since Kukai established the Mt Koya temple complex. It is one of the historic Mt Koya Pilgrimage Routes and is also registered as a World Heritage Site. Come and visit Kudoyama and Koyasan for a wonderful cultural experience!
Maruoka Castle is one of only twelve castles in Japan that still has a keep, which is the quintessential part of a castle.
The castle was built over 400 years ago and is also known as Kasumiga-jo, which translates to "Mist Castle." This name comes from the legend that when the castle was attacked, a large snake appeared and spewed out mist, and the haze served to protect the castle from the attackers.
One of the defining features of Maruoka Castle is its rustic, wabi-sabi charm that can be felt from its stone tile roof, which is a rare architectural feature in Japan, and its natural stone walls.
This event is the first of its kind to be held at the castle. The castle keep, which is normally only accessible for tours, will be closed off to other visitors while aperitifs are enjoyed on the top floor along with an experience in the letter-writing culture of “Ippitsu Keijo'' that is associated with Maruoka Castle. After dusk, dinner made from ingredients gathered from the mountains and water of the region will be served, and guests can enjoy moon-watching. The castle will also be illuminated to evoke the concept of "Oboro" (haze).
It is precisely the passage of time that makes the castle and this experience so wonderful, and we hope that you can enjoy your evening spent here.
Experience being a feudal lord in a real castle: A premium private experience at Hikone Castle, a National Treasure
Hikone Castle is located in Omi Province (present-day Shiga Prefecture), which was the setting for many historical events during the time periods when samurai were most active, the Warring States (1467–1567) and Edo (1603–1886) periods. During the Warring States period, which was ruled by samurai, and the Edo period in which peace was maintained for 260 years, Hikone Castle was the residence of the Ii family, a fudai daimyo that supported the Tokugawa shogunate, of the Hikone Domain.
In addition to the keep, which is a designated National Treasure over 400 years old, the vast grounds are also preserved as a special historical site, including the Daimyo Garden, which has been designated a scenic spot; the entire surrounding area is a “real castle” that retains the atmosphere of the Edo period.
These precious cultural properties can be exclusively reserved during times when they are closed to the public, allowing the special guests an authentic historical and cultural experience of life as a samurai or feudal lord.
The warrior class of samurai became rulers at the end of the Warring States period and maintained peace for many years during the Edo period. At Hikone Castle, a symbol of the Edo period, you can look upon the same scenery enjoyed by the samurai and feudal lords 400 years ago and imagine what they might have been thinking while looking at the same scenery.
The nighttime exclusive experience includes:
- Reservation of the castle keep, a national treasure that is characteristically Japanese, important cultural properties, and designated scenic sites for exclusive use at night;
- A dining experience at cultural properties where meals are not normally served (prepared based on historical facts and featuring regional specialties such as Omi beef);
- A learning opportunity about the politics of the Edo period, a unique period in world history when samurai ruled and maintained peace for over two centuries;
- And an authentic Japanese cultural experience at a real castle, including a tea ceremony supervised by the eighteenth head of the Ii family and the Cultural Assets Department.
Please contact us in advance to confirm the dates on which the event will be held.
Extend your visit to Himeji Castle, a World Heritage Site and National Treasure, into the night with a Noh performance by a performer who goes back twelve generations into the Himeji Domain and a tour of the castle with accompanied with a commentary from a castle researcher.
Shoshazan Engyoji Temple is one of the head temples of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. It is sometimes referred to as the “Mt. Hiei in the West.” Here, visitors can experience Zen meditation and sutra copying in the Jogyo-do training hall, as well as some Buddhist vegetarian cuisine in the Juryo-in Temple, both of which are designated nationally important cultural properties and are usually closed to the public. Former members of the drum performance group Kodo will hold drum shows on stage in the Jogyo-do training hall, and one hundred monks will perform Buddhist chants in the Jogyo-do training hall, the main lecture hall, and the dining hall.
Finally, visit KOKO-EN at night to enjoy an exclusive dinner comprising local, seasonal produce and sake from a local Himeji brewery. After dinner, take a leisurely stroll in Japan’s number-one garden for autumn foliage.
After watching the sunrise from Himeji Castle, come and enjoy breakfast at another national tangible cultural property, the Himeji City Museum of Literature Bokeitei House.
Himeji is simply brimming with World Heritage sites and Important Cultural Properties. We hope you’ll enjoy your trip into Himeji’s rich history.
Tokyo Kōenji Awa-Odori is a traditional mid-summer seasonal event tied to over 400 years of history. The main festival began in 1957 through a cultural exchange with Tokushima Prefecture, where the festival originated. In recent years, it has become a mainstay of Tokyo’s summer, featuring 10,000 dancers and a million cheering onlookers. The 2023 festival, the 64th holding of the event, will be the first festival in four years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporters and staff have collaborated to accelerate preparations amidst an air of anxious excitement. Teams called “Ren” perform various dances to atmospheric Japanese music that combines handbells, hand drums, taiko drums, flutes, and shamisen, making for an incredible scene.
You can now view this traditional Japanese performance in a laid-back atmosphere from a special, premium space that includes food and drink. You will also receive a bottle of a unique, original beer from the craft brewery “& BEER,” originating from Kōenji Temple.
“artKYOTO 2023,” an art fair taking place in the World Heritage Site Nijo-jo Castle, will be held on October 6 (Fri), 8 (Sun), and 9 (Mon/holiday). The fair will take place at the kitchen and purification hall of Ninomaru-goten Palace, the grand beams of whch connect earthen floors with wooden floors, and the Southeast Watchtower, a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. The event will feature over 20 stands by galleries/art dealers, displaying and selling meticulously selected works of art. The harmony between the art and the historical structures of Nijo-jo Castle will create a very special environment indeed.
Living with Shimanto River, the “Last Clear Stream”: Exploring the Symbiotic Relationship between People and Rivers through Dragonflies and River Fishing
'- Special Content (1): World’s first nature reserve for dragonflies
Until recently, it had been believed that leaving extraordinary natural environments alone was enough to keep them in good condition. Efforts at Dragonfly Nature Park, however, have evidenced for the first time in Japan the legitimacy of human intervention when it comes to maintaining a diverse ecosystem in the satoyama (woodlands/mountains near populated areas). The park conducts ecological maintenance work systematically throughout the year such as managing the water level and vegetation at the Dragonfly Pond. The park is also constantly conducting ecological surveys both inside and outside of the protected area. In this particular tour, participants will have the special opportunity to accompany Mitsutoshi Sugimura, executive director of Shimanto Dragonfly Park and Shimanto River Gakuyuu Hall Akitsuio and an expert that has been involved in dragonfly conservation for many years, on an ecological survey. Over the course of the tour, participants will learn about changes in the environment, as well as information about and the background behind the nature of Shimanto City and its conservation efforts.
Visits by Crown Prince Akishino: The nature reserve has twice received visits from Crown Prince Akishino due to Sugimura’s capacity as president and honorary president of World Wildlife Fund Japan (WWF-J). His communications with the Imperial Household are ongoing, with books written by him being delivered to the household through the WWF at the time of publication.
'- Special Content (2): Experience traditional river fishing as passed down through generations at Shimanto River
The Shimanto River is divided into separate fishing grounds held by individual fishermen, with the general public not permitted to fish in these grounds. The river is also home to many traditional fishing methods passed down through the generations that require traps to be changed depending on the season. Fishing is also closed during certain periods for conservation purposes, with fishing only permitted during the open season.
Available during the Aomori Nebuta Festival
Participants will be able to go beyond just watching the Aomori Nebuta Festival. They will change into the costumes worn by the haneto (Nebuta Festival dancers) and participate in the festivities themselves. They will first learn about the history and background of the Aomori Nebuta Festival and undergo a viewing of the structure of the nebuta floats at the Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse. They will then head to the Nebuta Hut, which houses the 23 large-scale nebuta floats that will be a part of the procession that year. Along the way, they will stop by the Aomori Prefecture Tourist Center (ASPAM), taking a break in the 3D Theater and Observation Deck. After visiting the Nebuta Hut, participants will be taken to a designated space where they will change into the haneto costumes and learn the dance of the festival. Once the Nebuta Festival begins, they will participate as haneto dancers, experiencing the Aomori Nebuta Festival right alongside the locals.
Events outside the period of the Aomori Nebuta Festival
Outside the period of the annual Aomori Nebuta Festival, participants will be able to take part in private musical accompaniment and haneto workshops at Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse, attend a talk show by a nebuta master (with complimentary local Japanese sake and fresh ingredients from Aomori Prefecture), and take part in a workshop led by a nebuta master to create a miniature nebuta float.
The main part of this tour is comprised of a one-of-a-kind bird-watching experience in one of the world’s largest migratory bird wintering areas. The tour features bird-watching guidance by a professional birding guide/photographer, as well as hidden photo spots for taking photos that will look great on social media. The guide will also give you advice on how to discover your own favorite bird, from swans and geese to even the more rare species. The birdsong and flapping of the wild birds in Izunuma—listed in the “100 Soundscapes of Japan that Should Be Preserved”—is an experience that should not be missed. The chorus of birdsong is so loud that it's difficult to even have a conversation with the person right next to you! A truly inspiring experience brought about by the power of nature. This extraordinary bird-watching experience is available only at Izunuma, the second site in Japan to be registered in the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands.
The tour is designed to allow participants to experience the various charms of the region. The activities, all of which involve interaction with locals, include participation in Izunuma conservation efforts, hands-on fishing/farming experiences, and a hands-on cooking experience making local cuisine from seafood and vegetables caught and harvested by the participants.