Botanical Histories of Japan

14 - 28 May 2023
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Japan’s rituals, art, farming, cuisine and botany have long been shaped by the land. The Japanese philosophy of working in harmony with nature has created unique and sustainable practices. This tour examines how the land and people work together and how this has influenced botany, farming practice, gardens and cuisine in Japan today.

Starting in Tokyo, learn about botanical history in Japan and visit gardens incorporating traditional, contemporary and Western plants and design. Hear about the mini forests of Akira Miyawaki, how gardens and art coexist at the Nezu Museum and see azaleas in bloom at the ancient Nezu Shrine. Travel into the Japanese Alps and experience wasabi, peppers and horticulture in the mountains, before flying to the lovely island of Shikoku.

In Shikoku visit the extensive botanical gardens named after Tomitaro Makino, known as the father of Japanese botany, and visit Japan’s largest open-air market to enjoy its crafts, produce and street food. Cross the highlands and immerse yourself in forest therapy en route to Matsyuama, where dinner is served in a traditional onsen, or bath house.

Cross the Inland Sea to Hiroshima to understand how trees are used to cleanse irradiated soil and learn about the traditions of natural farming. Continue to the historic, cultural and spiritual centre of Kyoto to discover how gardens, shrines, cuisine and rituals combine to create an exquisite cultural legacy. The tour leaders will provide a series of short commentaries throughout the tour. There is the option of arriving a day early to see the famous Iris Screen at the Nezu Museum. Please contact us for details.

3 nights Tokyo – 2 nights Matsumoto – 3 nights Kochi – 1 night Matsuyama - 2 nights Hiroshima – 3 nights Kyoto

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Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, Bill and Helen  Bynum

Bill and Helen Bynum

Bill Bynum is Professor Emeritus at University College London. A Yale graduate in medicine, he began his career in the history of medicine with a Cambridge PhD before moving to the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. His 'History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction' and 'A Little History of Science' have been translated into 14 languages. Bill also edited the Penguin 150th anniversary edition of The Origin of Species.

After a PhD in the History of Medicine from University College London, Helen Bynum lectured at the University of Liverpool before beginning a freelance career as a medical historian and popular science writer. Together with Bill she edited 'Great Discoveries in Medicine' before turning their attention to the world of plants and their histories in 'Remarkable Plants that Shape our World' and 'Botanical Sketchbooks'. ‘Team Bynum’ have led and lectured on successful tours and cruises for Jon Baines Tours.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Tokyo (Sun 14 May) Arrive in Tokyo and transfer to the hotel. Enjoy a local dinner with the group.
  • Day 2: Tokyo (Mon, 15 May) An Introduction to Japanese Botany. Visit the Makino Memorial Garden and Museum. The gardens contain over three hundred varieties of plants and trees, including the rare Sueko-zasa (bamboo), Sendaiya-zakura (cherry) and Heranoki. Continue to Kyu Furukawa Gardens that include Western and Japanese gardens side by side. The Western garden includes formal French and Italian influences and blends into a Japanese garden. Welcome dinner at a traditional house with a private bonsai collection.
  • Day 3: Tokyo (Tues, 16 May) Akira Miyawaki and his mini-forestation method. Visit Mori-no Project and learn about the Great Forest Wall Project to reforest the Tohoku region after the tsunami. Continue to the Koishikawa Botanical Garden, run by the University of Tokyo and containing an arboretum, herbarium and library. Continue to the nearby Nezu Shrine - one of the oldest in Japan - and see the azaleas in bloom.
  • Day 4: Tokyo / Matsumoto (Wed, 17 May) Botanical Art and Design in Japan. Visit the Institute for Nature Study in central Tokyo, a rich mixed forest of deciduous and evergreens trees including konara oak, sweet-acorn tree, bamboo-leaf oak, Japanese zelkova,dogwoods and conifers. Grasses such as Japanese silver grass and reeds blanket the landscape. Visit the Nezu Museum to see the historic Iris Screen and irises in bloom in the exquisite garden.There is also an excellent café. Visit the Meiji Shrine. Take the train from Shinjuku Station into the Japanese Alps and arrive at Matsumoto.
  • Day 5: Matsumoto (Thurs,18 May) Wasabi and its uses. Visit the Daio Wasabi Farm and learn about wasabi’s history and how it is cultivated. Visit Matsumoto Castle and at leisure.
  • Day 6: Matsumoto / Kochi (Fri, 19 May) SanshoJapanese Pepper. Visit the OkuHida-Onsen-Sato Sansho Farm to learn about farming and horticulture in Japan, past and present.Following a light lunch at the farm transfer to Nagoya by train. Continue to the airport and fly to Kochi. Dinner at a local restaurant.
  • Day 7: Kochi (Sat, 20 May) Yuzu Japan’s favourite citrus. Morning visit to a local yuzu farm for an introduction to Japan’s signature citrus fruit and its production. The rest of the day is at leisure, with time to explore the famous Kochi Street Market. The market is Japan’s largest open-air market with stalls selling delicious street food, fresh fruit, vegetables and sweets as well as bonsai, high-quality kitchen knives and crafts.
  • Day 8: Kochi (Sun, 21 May) Tomitaro Makino – his life and legacy. Visit Makino Botanical Garden and Chikurin Temple. Visit Makino Memorial Garden and Museum in his birthplace, Sakawa.
  • Day 9: Kochi / Matsuyama (Mon, 22 May) Forest Therapy in the highlands of Shikoku. Drive to Chinju-no-Mori Project in Nankoku and see forests developed for protection against tsunamis. Onto the Shikoku Karst National Park and take a ‘stress test’, followed by a walk on the Forest Therapy Road at Tengu Kogen. Bento lunch and continue by road past rice terraces to Matsuyama. Take a local tram to the historic Dogo Onsen and have dinner at the onsen.
  • Day 10: Matsuyama / Hiroshima (Tues, 23 May) The Natural Farming methods of Masanobu Fukuoka Visit Masanobu Fukuoka Farm to learn about Japan’s unique range of citrus fruits and experience their method of natural farming. Transfer to Matsuyama Port. Take the Super Jet jetfoil across the Seto Inland Sea to Hiroshima and transfer to the hotel. Enjoy a walking tour of the Peace Park and visit the Peace Memorial Museum. Okonomiyaki dinner.
  • Day 11: Hiroshima (Wed, 24 May) Hiroshima’s Green Legacy. Take part in a walking tour and learn about Hiroshima’s Green Legacy and how trees are used to cleanse irradiated areas. Afternoon at leisure.Visit a sake brewery for dinner, with a chance to glimpse a very ‘secret’ garden.
  • Day 12: Hiroshima / Kyoto (Thurs, 25 May) Sacred Islands and Shrines. Cruise to Miyajima Island and take a walk to the Itsukushima Shrine. Ride the cable car to the summit of Mount Misen, the peak of this tree-clad island. Lunch of Buddhist monk’s shojin (vegetarian) cuisine in a temple that was the living quarters of the Dalai Lama during his 2006 visit. Cruise back to Hiroshima and transfer by train to Kyoto. Dinner at the House of Kinobi and enjoy Japan’s most famous craft gin, featuring yuzu.
  • Day 13: Kyoto (Fri, 26 May) Shigemori Mirei – the ultimate stone garden designer. Visit Mirei Shigemori Museum and Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. Stroll through Nishiki Market, with time for lunch. Visit one of Shigemori Mirei’s finest works, the stone garden at Tofukuji Temple, and enjoy the view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge with the green maples of May at their finest.
  • Day 14: Kyoto (Sat, 27 May) Daisugi – the Japanese art of Tree Growing. Transfer to Nakagawa Kitayama to visit Daisugi, Sorenji Temple, the mother tree at Nakagawa, Hachimangu Shrine and Kitayamasug Cedar Forest area. Visit to Kinkakuji Golden Pavilion at Rokuonji Temple and Nijo Castle. Farewell dinner.
  • Day 15: Kyoto (Sun, 28 May) Depart Kyoto or extend in Japan.

Tour cost

The cost of the tour per person sharing is US $6,986. The cost of the tour with a room to yourself is US $7,917.

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