Tokyo International great Quilt Festival & the Best of Japan
Sat 19 – Thurs 31 January 2013. Ref 13003
£4395 per person (twin share). Single supplement: £685
Please note: Now that the organisers have confiirmed the dates of the show, this itinerary will operate in reverse.
Day 1 into Day 2 Fly overnight London to Tokyo. Transfer by private coach to your hotel, settle into your room, then start getting to know the group.
Days 3 & 4 Two days in which to enjoy the wonderful Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival – the largest quilt show in the world, which in 2010 attracted 220,000 visitors. ‘A celebration of fabric, needles and thread’, this is an exemplary event featuring stunning quilt displays across countless themes and a competition for the Japan Quilt Grand Prix. Plus there’s the usual vendors’ area where you can buy exquisite Japanese materials and supplies.
Details for the 2013 Festival have not yet been released, but competition categories include: Traditional Quilts; Original Designs; ‘Wa’ Quilts; Junior Quilts; Framed Quilts; and Bag Quilts.
Day 5 Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Tokyo including the serenely beautiful Meiji Shrine.
Also visit lively Harajuku, a Mecca for Tokyo’s fashionista contingent, and Omotesando: a broad tree-lined avenue bursting with cafés, boutiques and great fabric shopping – the Tokyo version of the Champs Elysées. Stop at large craft store Yuzawaya to admire the huge range of supplies and perhaps make a purchase.
Day 6 After breakfast, take the famous Bullet Train to Kyoto, renowned for its cultural heritage including 17 World Heritage Sites. (Your luggage will travel separately by road, so you can fully relax). Known for their punctuality and comfort, these super-efficient trains travel at speeds of up to 187mph (300kph).
Free time for lunch followed by a visit to the Kinkaku-Ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), a stunning three-tiered temple, (two of them covered in pure gold leaf), set amid a magnificent strolling garden. Then stop at the Ryoan-ji Temple with its famous Zen garden, followed by Kiyomizudera Temple with its pagodas, shrines, and panoramic veranda supported by 139 pillars.
Day 7 After breakfast, continue to explore Kyoto with a trip to Nijo Castle, arguably the best surviving example of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal era. Awash with gorgeous interiors, the Castle is famous for its ‘nightingale’ floors, which squeak when stepped upon to alert the inhabitants to intruders. Then drop into the Yuzen Gallery to learn about the art of Yuzen dyeing – a Kyoto speciality whereby intricate multi-coloured designs are printed onto silk fabric. The technique is used to produce beautiful kimonos, coats and haori (short coats worn with formal kimonos).
In the afternoon visit the Nishijin Textile Centre in the Nishijin district – the traditional home of Kyoto’s silk fabric weavers. Here you can experience hand-weaving of traditional ‘Nishijin-ori’ textiles with their vividly coloured threads, watch fabulous kimono displays and even try on a 12-layered kimono yourself.
Then enjoy some time strolling in the Gion district, famous for its teahouses and traditional wooden machiya merchant houses, looking out for geishas and maiko (trainee geishas) in their trademark hangingsleeved kimonos.
Day 8 The morning is spent at the Kyoto Shibori Kogeikan (craft centre) enjoying a lesson in Shibori – the traditional art of dyeing cloth with a pattern by binding, stitching, folding, twisting or compressing it.
Then take the short coach trip to the nearby town of Nara to visit stunning Todaiji Temple – the largest wooden building in the world. This beautiful temple is home to Japan’s largest bronze Buddha and is surrounded by tranquil Nara Park. Also take in Kasuga-taisha, an iconic Shinto shrine.
Day 9 Board the Bullet Train for the journey to Hiroshima, then travel onward by coach and ferry to forested Miyajima island with its roaming deer, to visit the astonishing Itsukushima- jinja Shrine. This Shinto shrine and its famous torri gate are unique in being built on pillars over the water, so that at high tide the buildings seem to float on the sea – a truly amazing sight. Mainly constructed in the 12th century, the shrine’s layout is cleverly designed to look like a bird stretching its wings when viewed from the opposite shore.
In the afternoon return to the modern city of Hiroshima, where on 6 August 1945 an atomic bomb obliterated almost everything within a 2km radius. Visit the Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that somehow survived despite being virtually at the blast’s centre. It now serves as a UNESCO World Heritage memorial to the more than 70,000 people who died instantly, and the same number again who died of radiation poisoning.
Day 10 Another Bullet Train takes you to Osaka and then Mishima, where a coach will transport you onward to Lake Kawagushi and your hotel (your luggage having been sent on ahead). Set in the beautiful countryside surrounding Japan’s sacred highest peak Mount Fuji and with fabulous views over the mountain, this makes for a very special place to spend the night. Soak in the atmosphere, then perhaps indulge in an Onsen hot spring bath and a Japanese-style dinner.
Day 11 Travel by coach to Hakone before taking a cable car up and over the surrounding mountains to Owakudani, the ‘Great Boiling Valley’. Witness the steaming vents of a volcanic crater created by the eruption of Mount Hakone 3000 years ago as well as wonderful views over to Mount Fuji.
In the afternoon visit the Yosegi-zaiku mosaic craft centre to view exquisite wooden mosaic work, before continuing by coach to Tokyo and your hotel.
Day 12 A final free day back in the capital to indulge in more sightseeing and shopping – or just a chance to relax and reflect. There are optional visits to historic Nikko, site of Japan’s most lavish shrine, or to Kamakura, former country retreat of the Emperor with its Great Buddha dating back to 1252.
Day 13 Early transfer to the airport for the flight back to London Heathrow, arriving the