Japan 2017
A Pacific Horticulture Society tour
April 15-26/29, 2017
Escorted by: Greg Graves

This tour is sold out.
To join our waiting list, click HERE

Join us for an in-depth exploration of Japanese gardens, culture and cuisine.  Beginning in Tokyo, we
will venture north and west to areas off the normal Western tourist route where we can enjoy the
beautiful countryside, see lovely gardens and experience exotic cuisine.  Guests will also have the
opportunity to experience Japanese-style accommodations and warm up in one of several
onsen (hot
springs) along the way.  We return to Tokyo, with an optional extension to Kyoto, a UNESCO World
Heritage city.

April 15 –  Depart USA/Canada for Japan

April 16 –  Yokoso!
  Welcome to Japan!  Crossing the international dateline enroute, arrive at
Tokyo Narita or Haneda airport and make your way to the Hilton Tokyo in time for our 7:00pm
welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant.  We will have a short orientation before getting a good     
night’s rest.
Accommodation: The Hilton Hotel Tokyo.    
Included meals: Dinner

April 17 –  Japan’s Bonsai  Today, with a guide and private coach, we'll enjoy a panoramic drive
through Tokyo before heading outside the city to the neighboring Omiya Bonsai Village.  With several
private nurseries and a dedicated Bonsai Museum, today will provide an eye-opening introduction to
the unique Japanese art form of Bonsai.  In the afternoon, we return to Tokyo and enroute stop at
one of its most famous gardens.  
Accommodation: The Hilton Hotel Tokyo
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

April 18 –  Nikko  We depart Tokyo by coach to Nikko, the famous World Heritage temple complex of
the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified Japan around 1600.  The splendor of this lavishly
decorated mausoleum is the origin of the noted Japanese saying - "Never say you're content until
you've seen Nikko."  Drive up and around the thrilling Irohazaka Driveway to Lake Chuzenji, formed by
the eruption of Mt. Nantai, before continuing to Mito City for the night. Dinner will be in a local
Accommodation: Mets Hotel Mito or similar
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

April 19 –  Kairakuen – A Garden for Everyone to Enjoy  The 3 symbols that make up the name
Kai-Raku-En translates to Everyone-Enjoyment-Park. This reflects the spirit of the Feudal lord when
he had the garden constructed over 150 years ago, as he wanted an area that everyone could
appreciate. After visiting the garden, board your private coach to Sendai, the trendiest city in Tohoku
and visit the famous Rinnoji Temple, housing its own beautiful garden and 5-story pagoda.
Afterwards, transfer to the hotel in Sendai.  Dinner this evening is at leisure, explore the lively
downtown.  We recommend you try the city’s delicacy; Grilled Cow Tongue served with Cow Tail Soup.
Accommodation: Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
Included meals: Breakfast

April 20 –  Matsushima  Today visit Matsushima Bay, considered one of Japan’s top three scenic
sites. The stunning collection of small islands and pine trees once rendered the famous haiku poet
Matsu Basho speechless. He wrote the only Haiku he could to describe its beauty:
Matsushima, Ah!
A-ah Matsushima Ah!
Matsushima Ah!
Explore the temple and shrine, enjoy a local lunch, and experience a scenic cruise around the bay in
the afternoon before returning to Sendai in the evening.
Accommodation: Hotel Metropolitan Sendai
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

April 21 –  Hiraizumi and Tono  In the morning we depart Sendai by private coach and drive north to
Hiraizumi.  Hiraizumi is home to Choson-ji, one of Japan’s most significant temple complexes, housing
the small golden Amida Hall, which was the first structure designated a Japanese National Treasure.  
We will also visit a garden designed to represent the Buddhist afterlife.  In the afternoon, drive to the
small town of Tono, nestled in a small valley in the countryside. Tono is famous for being the
birthplace of some of Japan’s oldest and most interesting folklore legends including the child-
snatching “Kappa”. While in town, we recommend picking up the English translation of “Legends of
the Tono Valley,” one of the first ever translated records of Japanese folklore containing some
fascinating stories.  After Tono continue to Hanamaki for an evening in a Japanese ryokan.  Dinner
will be a Japanese meal prepared by the Ryokan.
Accommodation: Hanamaki Ryokan Hotel
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

April 22 –  Poetry and Farming in the North of Japan  In the morning, enjoy a Japanese-style
breakfast before visiting the town museum dedicated to one of its most famous poets. After departing
Hanamaki, we drive to the small town of Yokote in Akita Prefecture. Yokote and Akita are famous for
providing some of the highest quality rice in Japan (and the world). We are planning a visit to one of
the local farms in the area (subject to confirmation).  In the afternoon, continue to Yamagata city and
transfer to our hotel.  Dinner this evening is at leisure.
Accommodation: Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

April 23 –  Yamadera and Tendo City  In the morning we travel to the city of Yamadera. Climate
change permitting, this time of year often boasts impressive displays of cherry blossoms along the
river through town and at the base of the Yamadera Temple complex. One of the oldest temples in
Japan, Yamadera was founded over 1000 years ago, and boasts several temple halls, rich pine
forests, and a flame that is said to have been burning since the temple was founded in 860 B.C.  After
Yamadera, visit Tendo, a small town north of Yamagata famous for the manufacture of Shogi pieces,
and currently boasts 95% of the manufacture of Shogi pieces in Japan today. Subject to confirmation,
we are arranging a visit to one of the workshops where they handcraft these pieces, before returning
to Yamagata in the evening.
Accommodation: Hotel Metropolitan Yamagata
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

April 24 –  Travel to Niigata and its famous Gardens  (Note:  Large luggage will be sent ahead,
please pack a light bag for the next 2 nights—see Note # 2 below).   In the morning, depart Yamagata
and drive to Niigata, about 3 hours away, on the Western coast of Northern Japan. Niigata is a city
famous for its sake, seafood, and hot springs. Today we will visit two of its famous gardens, including
the former private garden of one of Niigata’s lords, designated as an important historical garden.
Accommodation, choice of Japanese or Western style, will be outside the city in Tsukioka Onsen, one
of Niigata’s most famous hot spring resort areas, renowned for its mineral enriched waters, which
promote “eternal youth, longevity and beauty.”
Accommodation: Hotel Seifusou
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

April 25 –  Niigata  We will start with a visit to one of Niigata’s most notable gardens, on the grounds
of a stunning summer villa.  Following the villa is the Northern Culture museum, a former merchant’s
house converted into a museum showing displays of the living style unique to Northern Japan. The
museum also contains its own landscape garden designed by a Kyoto gardener; pay careful attention
to the placement of the moss-covered rocks within the garden.  The remainder of the afternoon is at
leisure for shopping and exploring Niigata, before returning to the hotel for our farewell dinner.
Accommodation: Hotel Seifusou
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

April 26 –  Return to USA/Canada or continue to Kyoto
This morning we transfer by coach to Niigata station and board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo
Station.  (See Note 2 below regarding luggage).

Guests heading home today:   Upon arrival at Tokyo Station, transfer to the Narita Express train to the
airport where you will be reconnected with your main luggage.  

Guests continuing to Kyoto
, transfer to the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto and take a taxi to the
hotel where your main luggage will be waiting.  The afternoon and dinner in Kyoto is at leisure.
Accommodation: Daiwa Roynet Shijo-Karasuma
Included meals: Breakfast

April 27 –  Classic Kyoto Sites  Today we will visit Kyoto's sights by private coach, deepening our
knowledge of Kyoto and Japan. We will be exposed to the fundamentals of aesthetics, Zen,
architecture, and horticulture through visits to famous places such as the distinguished stone garden
at the Ryoanji temple, the spectacular Golden Pavilion, the Shogun castle, and a downtown market.
We will also have the chance to experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, as well as take a
stroll along the picturesque streets of Gion, where we just might catch a glimpse of a geisha on her
way to work.
Accommodation: Daiwa Roynet Shijo-Karasuma
Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

April 28 –  Kyoto  This morning we hope to confirm a visit to the famous Saihoji Moss Garden. We
can receive acceptance only 2 months in advance, so we ask for your patience as we arrange this
very exclusive visit.  The remainder of the afternoon will be spent at leisure, perhaps exploring Kyoto’s
small streets and shopping arcades, and enjoying its unique atmosphere. In the evening, as the
closing event for the tour, we'll visit a local restaurant for a Japanese multi-course dinner and a
private Geisha meeting and performance (subject to confirmation). The Geisha will perform before
sitting with us to discuss the life of a Geisha, giving us a window into Japanese culture that many
foreigners can never see.
Accommodation: Daiwa Roynet Shijo-Karasuma
Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

April 29 –  Sayonara! See you again!  Today, we will start our way back home. We wish you a
pleasant and safe trip. A private departure has been arranged to Osaka’s Kansai airport for flights
departing 4pm or later.   

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS:  A passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of the tour is required
for travel to and from Japan.  US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa to enter

FLIGHTS:  Where to meet the tour:  The tour begins with a Welcome Dinner near our hotel in Tokyo;
meet in the hotel lobby at 700pm April 16 for a short stroll.  Due to the wide choice of flights to
Tokyo's Narita and Haneda airports, arrival transfers are not included, but guidance on getting from
your arrival airport to the hotel will provided with your final itinerary.  Our tour ends either at Narita
Airport Tokyo April 26 (flights departing 330pm or later) or Kyoto on April 29.  Transfers from Kyoto to
Osaka Kansai Airport (flights departing 4pm and later) will be provided for guests taking the Kyoto
extension.  Guests are also welcome to arrange private airport transportation at their own expense,
although no credit will be given for unused airport transfers.  We suggest contacting
Leslie Garber of
Cadence Travel for assistance booking flights.  Be sure to ask about business class as there can be
attractive sale fares.  Leslie charges a fee for her service, but our guests find her service to be of

TRAVEL INSURANCE:  As your deposit and final payment are both non-refundable, we wish to make
you aware that individual travel insurance is available to protect you against cancellation penalties as
well as provide coverage should an incident occur during the trip.  We will send an email with your
deposit confirmation with information about how to get a free quote and/or secure your coverage
online or by phone.  Note that pre-existing conditions may be covered if the insurance is purchased
within a short time after trip deposit.  Group travel insurance will not be offered with this tour.

Including Kyoto extension; $5985.00 per person for members of Pacific Horticulture Society*,
$6085 for non-members.  Single supplement $1145.
Not including Kyoto extension: $4695 per person for members of Pacific Horticulture Society*,
$4795 for non-members.  Single supplement $995.
Pricing based on exchange rate in effect as of March 2016 and is subject to change based on
significant currency fluctuations.  Main tour price is based on a minimum of 20 guests, Kyoto
extension based on a minimum of 15.  A $400 per person non-refundable deposit is required to hold a
space on this tour.  Final payment is due 60 days prior to departure.
*Membership in PacHort starts at just $28, join now at
www.pachort.org and receive member pricing
for the tour.

•        13 nights with Kyoto extension, 10 nights without---superior hotel accommodations --
see note
1 below
•        $250 tax-deductible donation to Pacific Horticulture Society
•        Porterage of one piece of luggage, where offered.  
See also notes 2 & 3  below
•        Services of an English-speaking local guide throughout the tour
•        Escorted by Greg Graves, past president of Pacific Horticulture Society
•        Transportation by private motorcoach, driver gratuity included
•        Main tour: 10 breakfasts (B), 4 lunches (L) 5 dinners (D)    
See note 4 below
•        Additional with Kyoto extension:  3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner.   See note 4 below
•        Admission fees for all visits as stated in itinerary
•        Bottled water on the motorcoach

•        International Airfare
•        Meals and drinks not specifically mentioned
•        Entrance fees not specifically mentioned
•        Room Service
•        Excess Baggage Charges & Porterage of more than 1 piece of luggage
•        Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, etc...
•        Gratuity for our local guide
•        Trip insurance – strongly suggested

1:  Hotel rooms in Japan tend to be much smaller than in the USA.  Requests for one large bed will
be noted but may not always be possible where only rooms with 2 beds are offered. Our hotels in
Hanamaki and Niigata offer a choice of Western or Japanese style rooms, please indicate preference
when making your reservation.  Here are links to our hotels in Hanamaki and Niigata showing pictures
of the 2 room types.  Both Japanese and Western-style rooms have private bathrooms:      
Hanamaki Onsen Hotel            Hotel Seifuen        
2.  Luggage:  We will be traveling on the Shinkansen “bullet train” on April 26 and this train only has
room for one carry-on size bag per passenger.  Therefore, on the morning of April 24, please pack a
light bag to take with you for the next 2 nights and then onto the train.  Your larger piece of luggage
will be sent ahead via postal service.  For guests departing Apr 26 from Narita, the luggage will be
sent ahead to the airport.  For guests continuing to Kyoto, the luggage will be sent ahead to our hotel
in Kyoto.  For guests staying independently after the tour, luggage will be sent ahead to appropriate
hotel.  In true Japanese fashion, this luggage delivery service is highly efficient and reliable.
3.  Porters:  This service is neither standard nor predictable in Japan so guests should be prepared
to handle their own luggage in and out of hotels and train stations when porter service is not
available.  We encourage all guests to travel lightly.
4.  Food:  Japan is world-famous for its cuisine, but not well-known for its ability to accommodate
special dietary needs.  Gluten-free has not made it across the Pacific, in fact you may see a small
dish on breakfast buffets offering
extra gluten for your meal.  Similarly, MSG is still widely used and
vegetarian cuisine is often difficult to arrange.  If you have food issues, please indicate the details
very clearly on your reservation form.  If you have severe food issues, this may not be the right tour
for you.

This tour is sold out. To join our waiting list, click

To view or print the itinerary, click HERE

To view or print the Terms & Conditions, and Mail In Registration Form, Click HERE

For reservations and information, please contact:  

Sterling Tours, Ltd            
2907 Shelter Island Drive Suite #105-262   
San Diego, CA 92106      Tel: 619 299-3010     800-976-9497
sterling tours, ltd