The Imperial Palaces and Castles of Ancient Kyoto!

In April of this year (2019) a new Emperor will ascend to Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne. He is the descendant of oldest ruling family on earth. In tradition and legend the dynasty began in 660 BCE when the first Emperor, Jimmu, took the throne. From the mid 500’s AD, we have written documentary evidence of an unbroken line of rulers. And until 1945, no foreign power had ever defeated or occupied Japan. And as Americans, we can be proud that our military carefully spared the major historical monuments of ancient Japan from the destruction of WWII. In the fall of 2020 we will visit some of these great places and experience one of the world’s most unique cultures.

Kyoto and Nara - The Ancient Capitols

Japan’s native religion is called Shinto, and has striking resemblances to Native American religions. The Great Spirit lives in all things and therefore everything is an expression of the divine. There are literally thousands of deities and they each have their own specialty. These deities are worshiped in shrines where people go to ask for special blessings. The shrines have s special color and look and can be tiny or huge. (See the following example.)
In the mid 500’s (AD) Buddhism arrived from China, along with the Chinese system of writing. The Japanese gods were not jealous, and so for 1500 years the two religions have lived in harmony with each other. But Buddha is worshiped in a temple rather than a shrine and a temple will have a different style.

To the left is a temple in Nara that was built to house what was, at one time, the world’s largest statue of the Buddha. He’s been sitting there serenely since 728 AD. We’ll make a visit to pay our respects.
But temples can have many styles. Emperors often left their favorite properties (many summer villas) as bequests to Buddhist monks. The new Emperor would build a new pleasure residence and then, when he died, leave it to the monks. In this way Kyoto has become blessed (or burdened) with literally thousands of temples. We’ll visit a few of them. Below is the Golden Pavilion, built in 1397. Well visit this one. (And yes, it’s covered in real gold)

The Other Great Builders

The Samurai and the Japanese love of nature

The Imperial family has provided Emperors for all of Japan’s recorded history. But for many centuries the actual political power behind the throne was the military class; the Samurai. Between 1600 and 1850 Japan was a closed society; Japanese could not leave and foreigners could not enter. But this was a period of peace and prosperity. The Samurai kept things quiet, in part, by building huge castles around the country. Most of the castles remain in pristine condition because these beautiful and amazing structures were so impressive that they never experienced warfare. Just their very existence was enough to discourage any civic unrest. We’ll ride the bullet train 45 minutes at more than 200mph for a day trip to visit Himeji castle (to the left).
An important theme in Japanese culture is the love of nature. For centuries they have covered the landscape with trees that flower in the spring and then give a dazzling display of colors in the fall. Each of our small groups will visit Arashiyama, a little river town outside Kyoto that is famous for its scenic vies, gardens and bamboo forests. We have chartered little boats for a two-hour river cruise through the forests. We will take lunch that day at a Zen Temple that has one of the most famous gardens in Japan.

A Pretrip in Tokyo - October 15-19

Tokyo Skyline

Our Hotels

In 1868 the Emperor Meiji opened Japan to foreign visitors for the first time in 250 years. Until then there was no need for hotels in Japan. In that year the Emperor established the Imperial Hotel just across from the Imperial Palace. A few years later Kyoto’s first hotel, the Okura, opened. In both cities these hotels have the longest tradition and are in the very best locations. Both hotels have been rebuilt several times and today both are modern five star properties. We will be very proud to bring our group to these wonderful and historic properties.
We are fortunate to have a personal relationship with Bill Hagerty, the current U.S. Ambassador to Japan. This will help open doors to unique experience, and allow us to visit places that are not often enjoyed by foreigners. We are also currently working on plans to host a gala concert and dinner in Tokyo that will include important members of the American community living in Japan. We’ll keep you posted as these plans develop.
Corner guard house of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. This is just across the street from the Imperial Hotel
Mt Fuji with fall colors

Our Entertainments

We’ll take along several of our favorite performers. We already have great contacts in the musical community of Japan. Tom and Georgia Montgomery performed for one month each year for ten years at the Imperial hotel in Tokyo and Brain Nova has performed as a headliner in Kyoto several times and has a large following of fans. We hope that we can introduce Billy Valentine to the music-loving people of Japan. We’ll keep you posted.

Various Details

Arrival and Departure: When you arrive in Japan we will meet you at the airport and transport you to our hotel. If you join us for the pretrip in Tokyo you should plan to fly into Tokyo’s Narita airport and fly back the states from Osaka’s Kansai Airport. United has nonstops for both of these flights and there is no extra charge for flying in and out of a different airport. If you come only for the main trip in Kyoto you will fly in and out of Osaka’s Kansai airport.

The First Night: If you fly to Tokyo for the pretrip you should depart from the states on October 14 for arrival in Tokyo on the 15th. If you come for the main trip only you should depart the states on October 17 in order to arrive in Osaka on October 18. In either case we will pick you up and take you to the hotel. We have purposely not arranged any events for your first night. Most flights arrive late in the day and we’d like you to settle in, have a little dinner and maybe a cocktail and get a good night’s sleep. We will start our events on the morning after you arrive. It’s fine if you arrive on a different date, but be sure to let us know so we can make the arrangements.

Departure: The trip will end after breakfast on Sunday October 25. We will be in central Kyoto at the Okura hotel, about 90 minutes from the Osaka Kansai airport. Most flights back to the states depart conveniently in the afternoon, and you will arrive in the states on the same day, about six hours before you departed.
Weather and Attire: Autumn is Japan’s most beautiful season. The hot summer will have passed, the trees will be turning, but it usually stays pretty warm until mid November. However, it is a changeable season so bring layers. It can rain any time of the year, but we shouldn’t have any big storms and certainly no snow. Our days will be casual (comfortable shoes are a must) and our evenings casually elegant.

Visas: Your US passport is all you need.

Pricing: We have signed the hotel contracts, as well as those for some of our favorite restaurants. We are working with a wonderful guide in Kyoto to arrange other details such as transportation and some beautiful venues for our parties. We plan to keep the price of this trip in line with our other recent trips, but we will not ask you to make a commitment until we can offer you a exact price and a definitive, day-by-day itinerary.

Deposits: Our recent trips have all sold out. If you use the return envelope to send us a $500 deposit you will be guaranteed a place on this wonderful adventure. Your deposit is completely refundable for any reason. We will ask you for a commitment only after we finish the itinerary and send you complete list details and prices. Call us with any questions or any way we can help.

More Photos


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