More than Meets the Eye

At once traditional and yet futuristic, timeless yet fast-moving, Japan has developed a bold and unique aesthetic in contemporary art, architecture and design that permeates all aspects of everyday life.

Join Kathryn Hunyor for an insider’s journey from Tokyo and the Yokohama Triennale to Kanazawa and the famous Setouchi ‘art islands’. The aesthetic adventure begins with the city as museum, exploring Tokyo’s extraordinary new architectural masterpieces, art museums, design studios and commercial urban spaces. Timed to begin with the Yokohama Triennale and including a visit to Kanazawa, this in-depth exploration of Japanese visual culture will uncover how traditional art forms have inspired contemporary expression. Concluding with the extraordinary ‘art islands’ of Naoshima, Teshima and Inujima, the tour shows how Japan’s artistic innovators are brimming with a new confidence, and creating some of the most exciting and authentic contemporary Japanese art experiences.



This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.


Suggested morning departure from Australia on JAL Airlines to Tokyo. Renaissance Tours can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Arrive in Tokyo (Narita Airport) late afternoon. For guests arriving on suggested flights, a transfer to the hotel is provided.

This morning join Kathryn and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and breakfast.

Morning talk: Contemporary Japanese art, design, architecture, and lifestyle, seen through the prism of traditional Japanese culture.

“Japanese Design Reborn”
We kick off our first day with a walking tour of the Ginza, Marunouchi and Nihonbashi areas, exploring topical buildings such as the Ichigokan and Kitte, recent urban developments exemplified by Coredo, and contemporary art galleries such as Shiseido Gallery. Considering the interplay of contemporary and historical commerce and culture, we will explore recent and ongoing restoration of traditional areas, beautiful examples of adaptive re-use, and modern marketing, Japan-style.


“The Art Of Living”
Today we experience how ‘art permeates life’. While wandering Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s contemporary art and design hubs, we will see how refinement and sophistication have evolved over the centuries. We will visit the design museum Design Sight 21_21, smaller art and design galleries, and major museums such as the Suntory Museum of Art, Mori Art Museum and the National Art Center. Wandering through the new urban complex of Tokyo Midtown, the rest of the afternoon is spent appreciating how the Japanese have elevated shopping to an artform.


After breakfast, transfer by coach to the city of Yokohama for a visit to the 6th edition of the Yokohama Triennale. Established in 2001, the Yokohama Triennale has become a major international event for contemporary art. It features both internationally renowned and up-and-coming artists, and presents the latest trends and expressions in contemporary art. Previous editions have addressed the relationship between Japan and the world, and the individual and society, and the social role of art. Suhanya Raffel, former Assistant Director of the Art Gallery of NSW, is a member of the 2017 edition’s conception meeting. In the late afternoon return to Tokyo. Dinner is at the hotel or local restaurant.


This tour allows you to experience Tokyo like a local, using the efficient subway system and leisurely exploring Tokyo’s treasures on foot.  

“The City as Museum”
Today will be spent on a walking tour, soaking up the aesthetic feast that is Aoyama and Omotesando. Arguably the world’s best outdoor museum for art, design and architecture, we will see Kuma Kengo’s Sunny Hills and Nezu Museum of Fine Art, SANAA’s Dior Building, Ando Tadao’s Omotesando Hills, Nakamura Hiroshi’s Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku, and other major works by both Japanese and international architects. This area is also home to a myriad of smaller galleries, studios and shops, often tucked away in back alleys, that beautifully combine commerce and art.


Following check out, transfer by high-speed Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) to Kanazawa (approx. 2 hours). Kanazawa, to this day has retained a strong cultural identity, is the site of traditional ceramics, lacquer and kimono production, and home to Kenroku-en, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and the innovative 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.

This afternoon visit the Kenroku-en Garden, a strolling- style landscape garden combining the six attributes of a perfect Japanese garden.

Tonight enjoy dinner at local restaurant.


NB. Tour members’ main luggage will be transferred by luggage truck to Naoshima and arrive Day 8 (Sat 14 Oct). Tour members should pack a small bag (2 nights) for travel by train (Tokyo to Kanazawa / Kanazawa to Naoshima).

Following a morning talk on ‘The revitalisation of regional Japan through contemporary art’, visit the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art which opened in 2004 to explore emerging new work in visual arts, design, craft, fashion, architecture and film.

Continue to the Higashi Chaya district, famous for its Teahouses, well preserved buildings, and cobbled narrow lanes. Break for lunch with time to stroll the streets, maybe some shopping for traditional handicrafts or just relax in one of the many Teahouses.

Remainder of the day at leisure.


Depart Kanazawa today and travel by train to Uno Port, via Kyoto and Okayama (note that today’s train travel will involve 2 train changes).

On arrival at Uno Port transfer via ferry to Naoshima Island (approx. 20 minutes).

Prior to dinner at Miyanoura, you may wish to rejuvenate by taking a bath at the Naoshima Baths; the exterior and fittings of the bathhouse, from the bath itself to the pictures decorating the walls, the mosaics, and even the toilet fittings, reflect the world of artist Shinro Ohtake.

Following dinner, transfer to Benesse Park Hotel.


Benesse Art Site
The site combines Benesse House (a symphony of nature, art and architecture), the Art House Project (which weaves threads of everyday home life with the substantial strands of history), and Chichu Art Museum, a fresh reinterpretation of the potential of art museums.

Benesse House Museum opened in 1992 as a facility integrating a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of ‘coexistence of nature, art and architecture’. The facility consists of four buildings, all designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando: Museum, Oval (opened in 1995), Park and Beach (both opened in 2006). The museum, which performs the complex’s principal function of displaying art, is an imposing structure open to the outside world, and visitors can sense the presence of nature even inside the building. In addition to the works in its collection, the museum also contains permanent site-specific installations that artists have created especially for this building, locating the installations on their own and designing the works for those spaces.

In the morning take the ferry to the Inujima (approx. 1 hour). Visit the Art Project Seirensho, a museum that preserves and reuses the remains of a copper refinery on the island.

Follow with a visit to the ‘Art House Project’ developed by the art director Yuko Hasegawa and the architect Kazuyo Sejima. The project consists of five galleries scattered around the area, and are constructed out of a diverse range of materials that reflect the landscape.


In the morning take a ferry to Teshima.

Visit the Teshima Art Museum, one of the most fascinating contemporary architectural works in Japan. Standing amongst terraced rice fields, the simple concrete structure stimulates its visitors’ senses with the play of water drops on a concrete surface.

Visit another permanent artwork on the island, Christian Boltanski’s ‘Les Archives du Coeur’ (Heart Archives), located along the beach in the eastern outskirts of Karato.

Mid-afternoon transfer by ferry back to Naoshima Island (approx. 60 minutes.)

Prior to dinner, visit the Benesse House Museum. One of the pleasures of visiting Benesse House is unexpectedly encountering works of art, not only within the walls of the museum but also while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the abundant natural beauty of the Inland Sea region.


Begin with a guided tour of the Chichu Modern Art Museum, built into the hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. Designed by Ando Tadao, it is primarily underground and utilises natural light to illuminate artworks by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell.

Continue to the Lee Ufan Museum featuring works by this Korean contemporary artist.

In the afternoon visit The Art House Project, started in 1998 in Naoshima’s Honmura district. The project takes empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art, weaving in the history and memories of the period when the houses were homes. Presently there are seven houses: Kadoya, Minamidera, Kinza, Go’o Shrine, Ishibashi, Gokaisho, and Haisha which are available to visit. Meetings between visitors to the island and the island’s people in places where they go about their daily lives also provide occasions for a variety of interesting encounters.


Transfer by ferry to Takamatsu then travel via coach stopping at the Naruto Whirlpools. Continue over the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge (a three kilometre suspension bridge, the longest of its kind in the world) to Osaka (215 km, 5 hours).

This evening celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Itami International Airport (ITM) can be reached by Itami airport limousine bus service or train departing from near your hotel. There will be local assistance to buy tickets (approx. 40 min).

Suggested afternoon departure from Itami Airport on JAL Airlines, via Narita.


Morning arrival in Australia.

Per person, twin-share

AUD 11,850

Single supplement (DSU) double room for sole use*

AUD 3,750

Single supplement (SSU) single room for sole use#

AUD 3,350

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 500

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

08 August 2017

Tour code


Fitness Level

Above Average
**This tour involves walking approx. 5-6 km most days.
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions


Please contact Renaissance Tours for current airfares and flight reservations


Australian Passport holders do not require a visa for Japan

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation with daily breakfast (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner). Local wines and beer with meals
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Talks and lectures with your tour leader throughout
  • Tokyo subway and metro pass
  • Comfortable coach and rail transportation
  • Transfers on arrival (if travelling on the suggested group flights)
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)
  • Transfers on departure
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis etc.
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (Recommended; please contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)


Your hotels
Tokyo – Hotel Monterey Ginza****
Kanazawa – ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel****
Naoshima – Benesse House (Park Hotel)****
Osaka – Hotel Monterey Grasmere****

Please note that there are limited ‘double-bedded’ rooms available in most Japanese hotels. Most rooms for two persons are ‘twin-bedded’.

NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted


# Single rooms in Japan

Most hotels in Japan offer single rooms which are smaller rooms with a single bed and private facilities. The single supplement (SSU) is based on a single room.

If you wish to have more room we offer a single supplement for a double room for sole use (DSU).


19–24 October 2017 (6 days) / Locally guided

Download the Kyoto post-tour brochure here

Thu 19 Oct 2017 / Osaka – Nara – Kyoto
In the morning, depart Osaka for Nara. Established in 710, this was Japan’s first permanent capital before it was moved to Nagaoka in 784.

After lunch in a local restaurant, visit Todai-ji, one of the world’s great wooden structures dating back to the 8th century. Amongst the many Buddhist images housed at Todai-ji is the Great Buddha, reputedly the largest wooden structures in the world.

Continue to the excellent Nara National Museum before travelling onto Kyoto.

Fri 20 Oct / Kyoto
This morning begin with a visit to the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including, more recently, in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

Continue to the Ryoan-ji Temple, the site of Japan’s famous rock garden consisting of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. A feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

After lunch, enjoy a tour of the elegant Nijo-jo Castle, built by the first Tokugawa Shogun, a striking example of the splendid decorative luxury of the Momoyama period (1587–1615). Afterwards, visit the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre.

Sat 21 Oct / Kyoto
This morning visit Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), a Zen temple at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of present-day temple, modelling it after Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490. Stroll along the ‘Philosophers Path’ which follows a quiet tree-lined canal connecting Ginkaku-ji to the extensive buildings and grounds of one of the world’s largest Zen temples, Nanzen-ji.

After lunch, visit Sanjusangendo, a uniquely shaped long hall rebuilt in 1251 to house its central image of the thousand-armed bodhisattva Kannon. It is also surrounded by 1,000 gilt bronze images of Kannon.

Continue to the Kyoto National Museum (new wing) designed by the internationally acclaimed architect, Taniguchi Yoshio, for an introduction to the traditional arts of Japan.

Sun 22 Oct / Kyoto
In the morning visit to the Miho Museum nestled among the verdant Shigaraki Mountains. Designed by the renowned architect, I. M. Pei, the museum was funded and named after Koyama Mihoko, a textile business heiress and one of the wealthiest women in Japan. The museum houses the Shumei Family Collection of rare treasures from the ancient world and traditional Japanese art.

Continue to the Arashiyama-Sagano area known for its scenic beauty, narrow streets, old villas and temple compounds. It was favoured by noble classes 1,200 years ago. Enjoy a walk through the area’s vast bamboo groves.

Mon 23 Oct / Kyoto
This morning visit Saiho-ji (Kokedera), an ancient temple said to have been established by the monk Gyoki during the Nara Period (710 – 794), and later restored and converted into a Zen temple by the monk Muso Soseki, in 1339. The precincts are covered by more than 120 types of moss, resembling a beautiful green carpet, hence its other name, Kokedera, which literally means ‘Moss Temple’.

After lunch, visit the Daitoku-ji temple complex consisting of nearly two dozen sub-temples, and one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens such as Daisen-in, a Zen contemplative garden. One part of the garden is an allegory; the other is designed for meditation.

Tue 24 Oct / Depart Kyoto
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Kansai International Airport (KIX) can be reached by airport bus service or express train (approx 1 hr 30 min) departing from nearby your hotel. There will be local assistance to buy tickets.

Todai-ji Great Buddha, Nara © Tanaka Juuyoh/Flickr

Todai-ji Great Buddha, Nara © Tanaka Juuyoh/Flickr

Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Miho Museum, Kyoto ©gobiwako/Flickr

Miho Museum, Kyoto ©gobiwako/Flickr

Zen Garden Daitoku-ji, Kyoto 2© np&djjewell/Flickr

Zen Garden Daitoku-ji, Kyoto 2© np&djjewell/Flickr

19–24 October 2017 (6 days) / Locally guided

Per person, twin-share

AUD 2,950

Single supplement*

(Double room for sole use DSU)  AUD 2,000

(Single room for sole use SSU)  AUD 1,400

Deposit (per person) at time of booking

AUD 500

Final payment due

04 August 2017

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Tour code


Fitness level

Above Average
Please see terms & conditions for fitness level definitions.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located four-star hotel with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch)
  • Local English-speaking tour manager
  • Transportation in comfortable air-conditioned coach
  • Comprehensive sightseeing including entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage

Tour price does not include

  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature (i.e. mini-bar, telephone, laundry etc.)
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (recommended)
  • Transfer on departure

Your hotel

Hotel Monterey Kyoto
Combining Kyoto’s culture and Britain’s traditional heritage, the 327-room Hotel Monterey Kyoto offers practical amenities for a comfortable stay. Located at Karasuma Sanjo, in the centre of Kyoto, each guest room is equipped with both free Wi-Fi service and a LAN cable connection. The hotel facilities include a Concierge Desk, the top floor ‘Spa Trinite’, and a Chapel – St. Simon Zelotes a recreation of a church of the same name in Upper Chelsea. Dining options include French restaurant ‘Escale’, Japanese restaurant ‘Zuientei’ and café/bar ‘The Library’.

 NB. Hotel of a similar standard may be substituted.

Please note the post-tour to Kyoto is locally guided and requires 10 persons to proceed.