Destination Stops - June 25-July 9 agenda
Art & Nature
bi-Annual Travel to Japan
We'll take the creative flow on the road by spending two weeks exploring some of the amazing sites and off-the-beaten path areas of Japan with 8-10 creative people.
Check out the agenda for 2026 (specific dates TBA)
Have you ever wanted to travel to Japan, but worried about logistics, the planning, or the language? That's why you should travel with Val as your guide. Val has traveled to the country 9 times during 2010-2019 coordinating several group experiences and solo time including a 5 week sabbatical.
The goal for this trip is to have an art and nature immersion with fellow creatives who want to photograph, draw, paint, journal, doodle, and otherwise explore art and culture activities such as shrines, temples, gardens, and galleries or museums. If you are looking for a more enriching experience than photo ops for social media, we can spend time in walkabouts at various times of day or night, have sit spots for drawing/painting, and likely converse over meals about whatever we saw that day. If you love to explore with your visual sensibilities, but that annoys your regular travel mates then this experience is up your alley.
Speaking of good food, if you are open to trying new food or eating your favorite cuisine this is a great opportunity! While food expense is not included in the travel fee, it is very possible to eat well on a budget. It is highly likely the Yen will still be low to the dollar by summer of 2024 making it a really great budget trip. Breakfast can be $5-$8, plan for lunch in the range of $10-15, and dinners about the same or splurge in some places. Make sure to bring extra spending money for yummy random snacks, treats while on a train, and even food 'souvenir' packages to indulge during the trip. Japan is very much a gift-giving culture so you'll see lots of wrapped packages at the train stations featuring whatever is the local delicacy or agricultural feature so that people can buy a treat on the way home from their getaway to share with their friends or office mates.
What's included? accommodations, entry fees to planned museums, shrines/temples, or events/activities, two week train pass, bus day passes in Kyoto & Kanazawa, occasional group lockers at train stations, a roaming wifi for our group, and travel planning by a personal on the ground, traveling with you guide during the trip.
What's not included? Flight to Tokyo Haneda (budget $900-1400 depending on your airline, departure city, and date of purchase), travel insurance, food (budget $30-50/day plus airport food, international flight will include 3 meals), and personal expenses for art supplies, souvenirs, additional workshops, coins to toss at Temples, etc.. Personal cell phone service. Note: Flights to Tokyo Narita will incur additional personal expenses for transportation and you will be on your own to navigate.
What do I need to know?
- Fly into Haneda. This is an intentional logistic. Flying to Narita will incur more personal expenses and will be a longer transport to the city.
- Do not bring a suitcase or bag larger than carry-on. A backpack is recommended so you can be hands free in day to day travel. You will need to send a picture of your bag before departure to get it approved. We will be traveling every few days by train and you will have to carry your bag up and down stairs often! Plan on doing laundry at least once during the trip to be able to pack light.
- You must be willing to adapt to different types of accommodations. Most often, we will share spaces such as houses with enough beds, but not always many separate bedrooms. Some accommodations may have traditional sleeping with futons on tatami mats. There is at least one stop where we will probably stay in a business class hotel which would be single or double rooms. We are all adults and participants may be any gender.
- Please limit alcohol consumption - enjoy, don't get plastered. By all means we will be enjoying ourselves and the access to alcohol is available on your own budget. Enjoy some sake or Japanese beer, but if you are taking this trip just to party like a SalaryMan, this is not the trip for you. We will need to be functional in the mornings for our agenda which could include travel to the next destination. Traveling at our pace is not fun with a hangover. Also note that while smoking is allowed in restaurants and certain designated spots in cities, it would be great to have non-smokers in the group. Vaping or smoking are not allowed while walking on public streets.
- Lots of walking. Be prepared with good shoes. We will be walking! We will be walking a lot. If you are not up to walking and prefer taxis as your mode of transport, this trip is not for you.
General Itinerary stated below subject to change for any reason. A deposit of $250 ($150 non-refundable) will be required to reserve your spot in order to make reservations for the best accommodation option in each of our stops.
Please note that original communication regarding this opportunity included possible participation in the bi-annual Grassroots Summit which is limited to 100 people. This would add an additional week to this exciting agenda and additional 1200-1500 to the budget so Val has decided to forego this idea for 2024 and stick with just a 2 week plan. The Grassroots Summit is an amazing experience and you most definitely should keep an eye on it. Traveling to Japan takes a long time so it's worth spending more than just a week. It's possible that in 2026, this option would be more viable.
Some of the destinations on the itinerary are spots where Val has traveled multiple times, while others will be new to her. Val's travel planning and in the moment ability to manage logistics can give you confidence in the experience. Some aspects of our day to day will be very spontaneous, like where to eat. Val will give you tips on different types of food, and when there isn't an English menu or pictures available she can share her experience (or we can look things up using our roaming wifi).
Travel By Train
One of the highlights of traveling in Japan is riding the efficient and expansive train system. Your travel fee includes a 2-week train pass which will give us access to all areas of the country on the particular train line. While in Tokyo, you will receive instruction from Val on how to navigate the local system as well as use the ticket machine if you ever return or don't have your pass on hand.
Our travel from Tokyo to Kyoto is a 3 hr ride on the high speed train called the Shinkansen. Our return to Tokyo will be on the Shinkansen from Kanazawa approximately the same amount of time. Other destinations we will be riding the train between cities that can range from 30 minutes to 1.5 hrs on average.
What are the logistics?
You will need to be able to carry and lift your luggage. There are overhead shelves like a plane and spots near doors for large luggage (that we won't be using because we won't have big bags). Many train stations do not have elevators or escalators easily accessible so you need to be prepared to walk up and down lots of flights of stairs!
All train travel with our pass requires getting a ticket before boarding. Val will help do this by collecting our passes and standing in the line to talk with the train worker. Each time we do this, one person can join to practice.
We'll do our best to avoid rush hour, but there may be times where a train will be crowded. If you are claustrophobic or have other issues in tight crowds please be aware of this. Sometimes we will have assigned seats while other times it's choose your own. Navigating in Tokyo is like a subway system, but when we transport with our luggage it's good to wear your bag in front or keep your pull luggage in front of you.
You will learn quickly the train etiquette in Japan is different than other places. You must stand in a cue away from the door using the guides painted on the platform, allow people to depart before moving onto the train, and as quickly as possible board the train. Traveling in groups larger than 8 can be challenging to board a train in time. Val has witnessed very large groups that don't split up and then annoy the train conductors. We won't do that!
Quietness. You will also notice that typical train etiquette most especially on local and subway like trains is to be quiet or keep your voice low. You'll see people reading and using their phones. It is somewhat frowned upon to be loud and active in this setting.
No food on subway style trains, but most definitely eating on longer trains are okay and you'll even find food for sale in the stations and vending machines.
We'll have at least one formal Forest Therapy (Shinrin-Yoku) walk at some point during the two-week experience, but noticing what you are noticing with a sensory experience will be a major attribute of our time.