Spring Gardens of Japan
Follow the heralding of spring across Japan’s Honshu island, with its stunning floral festivals featuring colourful displays of azaleas and wisteria, and seaside fields of baby blue eye flowers.
In Tokyo, marvel at the expansive walled grounds of the Imperial Palace East Gardens, first built in 1888, consisting of manicured gardens, moats and stunning architecture from the Edo castle ruins. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen, considered one of the most important gardens of the Meiji era.
Discover the stunning mountainous landscapes of Nikko and admire the magnificent baby blue eye flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park. Visit the renowned Ashikaga Wisteria Park, a flower haven with an unforgettable 350 trained wisteria trees in full bloom.
Explore Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, with its magnificent Kyoto Palace Imperial Gardens, and experience ancient Zen serenity in gardens of Buddhist temples.
Arrive in Tokyo on suggested flights and transfer to your hotel for check-in (Haneda airport-hotel transfer included in tour price). Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including travel insurance (a condition of travel), accommodation before or after the tour and a room category upgrade.
In the evening, join your tour leader Elizabeth Swane and fellow travellers for welcome drinks.
This morning, visit the Nezu Shrine and explore the gardens with over 3,000 flowers and 100 varieties of azalea in full bloom, as well as stone-paved paths, small ponds and a tea house.
In the afternoon, explore Kiyosumi-teien, a tranquil park in the heart of Japan’s bustling metropolis. Designed around a large pond which serves as home to ducks and turtles, the garden is a lovely place to stroll.
Then, wander through Hama Rikyu, a landscape garden once the residence and hunting grounds of a feudal lord in the Edo Period, with several tidal ponds and a tea house.
In the morning, visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens, part of the inner palace. The gardens are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defense: the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle).
After lunch, explore Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine, Meiji Jingu. Located in an evergreen forest of approximately 70 hectares in the middle of Tokyo, the shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
Continue to Shinjuku Gyo-en, originally a residence of the Naito family in Japan’s Edo period, and now a national park. It features 58 hectares of gardens, ranging from English and French to traditional Japanese garden styles, with nearly 1,100 trees spread throughout the park.
Begin the day with a visit to Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden, one of Tokyo’s oldest Japanese gardens. This landscape garden houses famous Japanese and Chinese scenes in miniature, dating from the early Edo period.
Discover Rikugi-en Garden, often considered Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden. Built around 1700 for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, Rikugi-en literally means “six poems garden” and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems.
This morning, travel to Shiofune Kannon-ji, northwest of Tokyo. The vast Buddhist temple complex is renowned for its myriads of azaleas blooming in Spring, with gorgeous pathways full of vivid colours zigzagging through the valley.
After lunch, enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure to further explore Tokyo at your own pace.
Depart Tokyo and travel to the Hitachi Seaside Park, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Every year the park is covered by over 5 million nemophila flowers (baby blue eyes), transforming the fields into a never-ending blue ocean of blooms. The hilly grounds span 3.5 hectares and are almost completely filled with the little blue blossoms.
In the late afternoon, arrive at Lake Chuzenji and enjoy the evening at leisure.
Today, spend the day at Ashikaga Flower Park, hosting a spectacular annual wisteria festival. Known as fuji in Japanese, wisterias are said to be Japan’s oldest flowering tree. Considered the world’s finest collection of wisteria, over 350 trees in full bloom dangle from wooden trellises and create mesmerising displays of magnificent wisteria tunnels and arches. Marvel at the riot of colours, from pale red to purple and white, and admire the impressive ‘’Great wisteria’’, a 160-year-old wisteria tree.
Depart Lake Chuzenji and transfer to Tokyo train station for a train to Kyoto (included in tour price).
Arrive in the mid-afternoon in Kyoto, the imperial capital between 794 and 1868 that remains the cultural centre of Japan with its hundreds of temples and gardens.
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 the 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.
This morning, explore 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.
After lunch, visit Tenryu-ji temple, a scenic area at the foot of Kyoto’s western mountains. Established in 1339, this Zen temple has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a beautiful landscape garden which features a central pond surrounded by the forested Arashiyama mountains.
Continue to the nearby 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.
Today, travel to Nara and visit the peaceful Isui-en Garden, ‘’garden founded on water’’, located between Kofuku-ji Temple and Todai-ji Temple. The garden’s name comes from its ponds and streams fed by the adjacent Yoshikigawa River, and features traditional Japanese designs modelled after the natural landscape of hills and streams.
After lunch, explore the immaculate Yoshikien Garden that includes a moss garden, a pond garden and a tea ceremony flower garden built in the middle. Return to Kyoto in the late afternoon.
This morning, explore the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the former residence of Japan’s imperial family until 1868. The complex, surrounded by a high wall on all sides, is a green sanctuary in the middle of the city with large gravel courtyards and a small pond garden.
Continue to Byodoin temple, popularly known as the “Phoenix Hall” due to its graceful lines and warm colours that give the building the appearance of a majestic bird spreading its wings.
The garden and pond surrounding the temple were designed specifically to evoke an image of the Buddhist Pure Land.
Then, enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure to further explore Kyoto and have a chance to stroll along the Philosopher’s Path.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Elizabeth and fellow travellers at a local restaurant.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those returning home today, make your way to Osaka Airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour, private airport transfers and travel insurance (a condition of travel).
Note: At time of publication (July 2023), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Per person, twin-share
Deposit per person (at time of booking)
Final payment due
06 February 2024
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in 4- and 4-star superior hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner), including wine with dinner
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Haneda Airport/hotel transfer on arrival in Tokyo
- Expertise and insights of your tour leader, garden specialist Elizabeth Swane
- Gratuities for local guides, drivers and wait staff
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Hotel/airport transfer on departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, room service, minibar, taxis etc.)
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Tokyo – Sheraton Miyako****
Lake Chuzenji (Nikko) – Chuzenji Kanaya Hotel****
Kyoto – Okura Kyoto Hotel ****+
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.
Hotels in Japan
Please note that there are a limited ‘double-bedded’ rooms available in most Japanese hotels. Most rooms for two persons sharing are ‘twin-bedded’.
Tour code: GD2406
Fitness level: Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions here.
Suggested airline: Japan Airlines
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for Japan.
Download booking form here.