Museum of Science:
Journey to Japan
March 25 – 31, 2023
Welcome to The Museum of Science’s Donor Journey to Japan! As science and technology increasingly shape our lives, the Museum of Science strives to equip and inspire everyone to use science for the global good. On this Journey to Japan, you will have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Japan’s cultural history and modern innovation.
This journey will take you to Kyoto and Tokyo. Kyoto is home to roughly one quarter of Japan’s national treasures and is world-famous for its refined culture, dining, and charm of rural Japan. Tokyo, is a fast-paced, modern city that still embraces its traditional roots with ancient temples nestled among modern skyscrapers.
Day 1: Saturday, March 25
Kon’nichiwa! Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport, you will be met by a private driver who will transfer you to the hotel.
Spend the afternoon at your leisure, relaxing and settling in at the hotel. In the evening, convene with the group for a Welcome Dinner to get to know one another and kick off this week’s adventure!
Day 2: Sunday, March 26
After breakfast, set out for a full-day tour of Kyoto to explore this magnificent destination. Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is stunning to walk through as you travel to Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is one of Kyoto’s hidden gems due to its isolated location and unique collection of Buddhist art. Although the roots of the temple date back to the 8th century, the current grounds were revitalized in the modern era by Kocho Nishimura, a respected Buddhist artist and priest. In the 1980s, he invited worshippers to this small mountain temple to learn the techniques of stone carving to create 1,200 Rakan (a disciple of Buddha) statues that are now on display at the temple. No two statues are the same, with many depicting lighthearted and comical features rarely found in Buddhist art.
The next site is the Kinkakuji Temple. Perhaps best known in English as the “Temple of the Golden Pavilion,” this icon of Kyoto rises above a quiet reflecting pond, shimmering in its layers of gold leaf regardless of the weather. A remainder of a former villa of the Shogun, the pavilion incorporates three distinct architectural styles: Shinden, Samurai, and Zen. Rebuilt in the mid-20th century, Kinkakuji remains the epitome of Kyoto’s gilded past as the cultural capital of the nation. The layout of the garden is based on ancient Chinese writings, and the stones of the main pond serve as a representation of the Japanese islands themselves. As a whole, the entire landscape serves as a fine example of the magnificent villa that once occupied this space.
For lunch, enjoy a traditional vegetarian Buddhist cuisine (shojin-ryori) in a charming restaurant inside one of Kyoto’s largest Zen temple complexes. The vegetarian fare is sure to delight and surprise both your tastebuds and eyes.
After lunch, a private tea ceremony has been arranged for you. Learn about the Japanese tea ceremony and its relationship with Zen. Your tea practitioner and guide will walk you through the quiet grounds of Daitokuji Temple, where generations of tea masters practiced this living art under Buddhist monks. You will then be welcomed into the expert’s home, a traditional Japanese house, to be guided through the subtleties of the tea ceremony and enjoy further discussions over a simple bowl of matcha and sweets.
Return to the hotel this evening to relax and connect over a group dinner.
Day 3: Monday, March 27
Sightseeing & Shinya Yamanaka
Today will be a unique mix of sightseeing and a talk with the renowned Shinya Yamanaka—a Nobel Prize laureate at Kyoto University.
First, you will visit Nijo Castle. Built on orders from Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa for his Kyoto residence, the massive Ninomaru Palace is an architecturally distinct masterpiece that remains in excellent condition.
Explore Nishiki Market—Kyoto’s historic food market, spread out over several blocks in central Kyoto. Here in “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” you’ll find Kyoto cuisine and ingredients that have been sold for hundreds of years. The market is a great place to walk around and sample locally-grown ingredients.
As you work up your appetite, your guide will lead you to Maruyama Park, one of the most beautiful cherry blossom viewing areas in Kyoto. This is a prime spot for hanami parties under the blossoms, which can last all day and night. You’ll be people watching here as much as you will be marveling at the idyllic setting full of cherry blossoms. It’s an infectiously festive atmosphere filled with good food and drink, which we will supply as you lounge under the cherry blossoms.
After lunch you will be transported to Kyoto University to meet with Shinya Yamanaka.
After such a full day, tonight will be free to enjoy at your leisure. Recommendations for dinner will be provided, and you can choose where you would like to dine.
Day 4: Tuesday, March 28
The Secrets of Japanese Gardening and Sake
Today we have arranged a unique treat—learning the intricacies of designing and maintaining Japanese gardens with a private American gardener. As the only non-Japanese graduate of a prestigious training academy in Kyoto, he is skilled at tying the subtle details of these gardens into a broader understanding of Japanese culture as a whole. With insider access to some gardens, this is a chance to go deep into Kyoto’s rich history of gardening culture. During the visit, you may also explore other sites such as Konchi-in Temple, Tenju-an Temple, Nanzen-ji Temple, Heian Shrine, and Ginkaju-ji Temple. Afterwards, stop at a local vegetarian restaurant for lunch.
In the afternoon, visit a 400-year-old sake brewery in the Fushimi Sake District of Kyoto to learn firsthand how this iconic alcohol is produced. A master brewer will walk you through each stage of the production process. You will be invited to a private tasting where you can sample and compare the various styles of sake. Please note, sake is only brewed during winter.
Enjoy a nice group dinner this evening.
Day 5: Wednesday, March 29
Travel to Tokyo
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and transfer to the train station to board your train to Tokyo. Upon arrival, enjoy a delicious lunch and then a tour of the Ginza area. Your guide will be an architecture expert who will explain the history of how the elegant style from the early 1600s has been passed down to influence the city’s urban planning. You will see where luxury and elegance meet urban planning and how this area developed as a premier site for consumption and fashion.
After the tour, check into Hotel Gajoen Tokyo.
Your evening is at your discretion. Recommendations for dinner will be provided, or you can dine at one of the four hotel restaurants.
Overnight: Hotel Gajoen Tokyo
Day 6: Thursday, March 30
Fish Market and Miraikan National Museum
After breakfast, your day will begin with an insider’s tour of the world renowned Toyosu Fish Market. Enjoy an exclusive tour of the market with a high-end, professional chef, who is dedicated to sustainable fishing practices and the environment. After purchasing fresh ingredients at the market, you will get to try your hand at preparing local dishes. At the end of your class you can enjoy the sumptuous meal you prepared.
After lunch, you will have a privately curated experience at Miraikan National Museum. This museum is dedicated to science, technology, and the future. Visitors can interact with a real-life android, observe an LED globe, and explore fascinating topics through hands-on experiences.
Enjoy a wonderful farewell dinner with group this evening.
Overnight: Hotel Gajoen Tokyo
Day 7: Friday, March 31
Departure and Onward Travels
After breakfast this morning, you will check out and be transferred to the airport either for your international flight home or continued travels. Airport transfers will be arranged based on your departure time.
The Elevate Destinations team is happy to design a customized itinerary for you if you’d like to explore more of Japan or its neighboring countries. Check out Extend Your Travel for some inspiration!