Iconic Treasures of Japan: Art, Culture and Heritage

September/October, 2025


Trip Dates:
September/October, 2025

Trip Length:
15 days

Trip Price: £

This journey has been specially designed to explore the fascinating art and culture of Japan. Accompanied by Dr Hinkel, delve into Japan’s rich cultural heritage that explores the country’s history from its Jomon beginnings, and trace the rise and fall of the Shoguns, leading into an era of modernisation and economic power. Explore Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, admire the great castles and gardens of the samurai culture and experience modern Japan’s way of life in the skyscrapers of Tokyo. Learn about the diverse examples of visual and applied arts, explore the expressive drama of the Kabuki Theatre, and appreciate the exquisite elegance of the tea ceremony.

The journey begins with a delightful three-night stay in Tokyo where the time has been carefully scheduled to include such well-known sights as the Tokyo National Museum, and The Imperial Palace, but also to get off the beaten track a little and venture through ‘shitamachi’, an area within the city where the old Tokyo still thrives. Enjoy a full-day excursion to the small town of Nikko and visit the intricately carved Tōshō-gū and Taiyuin-byo Shrines, as well as the Rinnō-ji Temple and Futarasan Shrine. From Tokyo  visit Kamakura, a former political capital of Japan located along the Pacific coast, well-known for some of Japan’s oldest Zen temples and the city’s symbol, a 13th-century giant sculpture of Buddha Amida.

Travel on Japan’s iconic bullet train to Kanazawa, also known as the ‘Kyoto of the North’ where one can still witness Edo-period Japan. The city, which is the capital of Ishikawa prefecture, boasts well-preserved Edo-era residences and districts. One of Japan’s three most iconic gardens, Kenroku-en, is also located here. Near Kanazawa, explore Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, two scenic and secluded mountain village areas, which are famous for their traditional architecture and are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.

En route to Kurashiki visit Okayama, known for its serene gardens and historic sites offering a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.  Kurashiki, one of Japan’s most picturesque towns, is celebrated for its historic charm. Quaint cobbled streets are lined with well-preserved traditional merchant houses and weeping willows create a serene atmosphere and tranquil beauty. The journey ends with a four-night stay in Kyoto, a marvellous cornucopia of Japanese culture, history, and tradition. Explore a selection of its famous temples and Nijo Castle. On a day trip, the party will travel to Nara and visit the iconic Horyu-ji and Todai-ji Temple complexes which were instrumental in the introduction and establishment of Buddhism in Japan.

The journey has been planned for the Alumni of SOAS University of London and is also open to family and friends of Alumni. Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. SAOS, the participating University has no direct control over the operation the tour.

Trip Leader: Dr Monika Hinkel

Dr Monika Hinkel is Convenor of the module Arts of Japan and Korea of the SOAS-Alphawood Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art and is Lecturer in the Arts of Japan at SOAS. She has worked as a Curator for Japanese art at the Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne. Monika received her PhD from Bonn University and has written widely on aspects of Japanese art. Her special research interest is Japanese Woodblock Prints. She lived in Japan for many years and was a guest researcher at Gakushuin University in Tokyo. She has accompanied several cultural journeys to Japan.

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