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Art & Nature
bi-Annual Travel to Japan

Plan for summer 2028 (tentatively mid-to-late July into early August)


With a maximum group of 12, we'll take the creative flow on the road and spend 15 nights (two weeks) in the natural splendor of the Japanese Alps region in the summer - including cities of Nagano and Matsumoto with bookend evenings in interesting areas of Tokyo. The major highlight of this agenda is a full week in a large house to enjoy the summer splendor of a ski town Hakuba bookended by two lovely cities with lots of art and culture including several outdoor art experiences.

This will be the third in a series of residency on the road to Japan.

(itinerary subject to change if lodging in Hakuba becomes unavailable when making reservations.)

You can start the process today and create a payment plan for this bucket list experience.

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 and fellow creative. This will be the third group residency on the road and has more intensive nature immersion aspects. Before these residencies on the road, Val traveled to the country 9 times during 2010-2019 coordinating several group experiences and solo time including a 5-week sabbatical. This bi-annual art travel experience to share with other creatives is an artistic passion project to travel to Japan with others.


The goal for this trip is to have an art and nature immersion with fellow creatives who want to photograph, draw, paint, write, 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.

The 2028 plans feature not only the natural environment, but also art in nature and enjoying small cities of Nagano and Matsumoto.


specific locations in the proximity of these cities will be determined based on lodging availability.


tokyo/UENO - 1 night

We'll have a pitstop in Tokyo after long flights. Meet at Haneda airport and transport to our overnight lodging near the Shinkansen station.
Lodging here may be a hotel, traditional ryokan, or shared vacation rental. This is the only time you will be in Tokyo so if you are interested in the city, plan to arrive early or extend your stay after you have the experience navigating. 

Tonight is just a get to know you, get some food, and get some rest for our 3 hour train ride in the morning.


A little over an hour ride via train from Hakuba, we'll spend a few nights in this historic place with museums and one of the original (not rebuilt) castles of Japan nicknamed Crow castle. Learn more about it here. 

Other highlights include Matsumoto City Art Museum featuring exhibit of native Kusama Yayoi and a Ukiyo-e museum on the outskirts of town.


Nagano is a lovely city in the mountain region - the Japanese Alps. It features much traditional architecture, great little restaurants, and easily walkable tourist destinations as well as a decent hike to a mountain top site of a former castle. One of the highlights in this charming city is Zenko-ji Temple and the traditional shopping on the approaching street. Zenko-ji is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples -learn more here. Plan on a few hours at the art museum. We'll depart in the morning on the Shinkansen for about a 2 hour train trip.

outdoorsculpture museumnearmatsumoto.jpeg

On our 2nd or 3rd full day in Matsumoto, our group day trip will be this fantastic can't miss bucket list outdoor art museum - Utsukushigahara - that embodies our art and nature adventure. Settle in for a scenic bus trip and make sure you are ready for walking and exploring today.


On our second full day in Nagano, we will take a day trip into natural surroundings that does require a bit of walking to the Snow Monkey park (and sitting on a bus viewing the scenery to get there and back). These monkeys know how to relax - in the natural hot springs. learn more here. We are limited by the bus schedule. There is a unique art museum/gallery at the bus stop exit that is worth a pop in.


KIYOHARU ART COLONY - day trip on way to tokyo

We will close our are art and nature immersion with a day trip visit to this incredible place. Check out this video about the place in the summer. the Kiyoharu Art Village is an hour train ride from Matsumoto on the way towards Tokyo. We will store our stuff in lockers at the train station and visit this place for about half a day. Scheduling a meet-up time, we'll use our last day of JR pass to its fullest and take a 2.5-3 hour train trip back to Tokyo.



Spend a week in a big shared house in this natural splendor during the summer instead of ski season. For our best options of cool house with lots of space, Val will try to make reservations up to a year out. Our entire schedule will be based on the availability of the house options (set up as large group ski lodges with living spaces, outdoor spaces, kitchens, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms).
To get here, we will take an hour bus leaving from Nagano in the morning. Enjoy the benefits of the natural surroundings and having time to do your work. Val will schedule at least one Forest Therapy Walk during the week for a more formal guided experience of 'shinrin-yoku'.


tokyo / shibuya city area - 1 night

So you can ease into your travel home and take advantage of crossing the international timeline where you will arrive in the U.S. on the same day you depart, we will have our last night in Tokyo. Will try to find a spot near the incredible Meiji-jingu shrine so you can explore in the morning before your afternoon/evening flight.
Will look for lodging in Shibuya city which is near the Meiji shrine and the famous Harajuku district. On this final day, any train transport will be pay as you go. Or if you are interested in extending your stay, Val can help coordinate a really great spot for you and help you with any other planning logistics. This extra night and likely the morning before you need to get to the airport will let you explore a bit, get some shopping in, or even find an onsen to have a good soak before your long flight. Val will take anyone interested to the shrine and also be with you to retrieve bags and get to the airport.

Residency program itinerary map for Japan travel in 2028

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. During the experience, you will receive instruction from Val on how to navigate the ticket system if you ever need to pay as you go, prepare for future visit or extended stay, or don't have your pass on hand.

Train etiquette:

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.


Travel By Train

What are the logistics?

You will need to be able to carry and lift your own 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! Pack light.


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'll have the in-person guide with Val by your side and an agenda to help with scheduling:

You'll receive a more complete agenda Google Docs with our tentative departure times. Some distances will be 2 to 3 hours on the train plus walking to the station and walking to lodging. We will most likely spend our day in a location and transport in the afternoon/evening to arrive at the next spot.


the WHY and the WHAT

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. This will be the third art residency on the road to Japan with Val as the guide. Before those, Val traveled to the country 9 times during 2010-2019 coordinating several group experiences and solo time including a 5 week sabbatical. Her first exposure to the country and culture was as a child in Okinawa. In academia, she spent professional development time expanding her knowledge of East Asian studies with Japan as the focus including contemporary and historical information, film studies, and art/design/literature inquiry. Nagano and Matsumoto are a few of Val's favorite places in Japan. As a certified Forest Therapy Guide, Val understands the benefits of nature immersion and wants to share this benefit with fellow creatives with the week-long stay in the summer of ski resort area.


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.

Why this route? Since one of her trips included Nagano and Matsumoto, Val has wanted to return so this is the best opportunity for this agenda. There are some great bucket list items on this agenda including two outdoor art museums. The route includes no more than 2 or 3 hours on trains at any time, a few day trip or bus rides about an hour in duration. This itinerary has less stops as the two previous trips that will allow more time to explore the two towns and spend a week together in the small village close to summer natural splendor.


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. Give yourself a daily budget and you'll definitely be able to splurge at times. 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 in the program fee? 15 nights accommodations (either double occupancy hotel, up to triple/quad in traditional ryokans, and/or entire house share with multiple bedrooms/bathrooms with a bed for each person), entry fees to planned museums, shrines/temples, two week JR pass, bus fares for transport or museum outings, group lockers at at least one train station, a roaming wifi for our group, and travel planning by a personal on the ground, traveling-with-you guide during the trip. Program fee also includes an orientation guide, a detailed travel plan google doc with specific info and even recommendations for your free time in each stop, an agenda google doc that has more specific times so you'll know when we have to depart to catch a train, for example. Plus coordination of at least one group video chat. Everyone will also be able to connect via a Whatsapp group chat.

What's not included? Flight to Tokyo Haneda (typical budget $1000-2000 depending on your airline, departure city, and date of purchase), travel insurance, food (you will know which spots have a house with kitchen to buy your own groceries, otherwise eating out budget $30-40/day on average is doable, 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 to our overnight spot in Ueno (directions will be provided).

What do I need to know?

- Fly into Haneda. This is an intentional logistic as it is closer to Tokyo. 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. When possible, 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. Other locations will be basic business hotels or traditional Ryokans. Single rooms when they are available will incur extra fee. 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.

Walking. Be prepared with good shoes that can be easily removed at traditional Japanese locations including the lodging. The main objective is to travel together and any activities are optional so you can decide how much you can handle in a day. But walking is the best way to experience your surroundings or in some places you can rent a bike. We walk as a group to train station and lodging. During informal group outings, we'll walk and take public transportation. Walking is a creative philosophy on this trip and you'll get to encounter unexpected things you cannot see if you take a taxi. - If you choose taxi or other transport on your own that is your expense. You don't have to travel far from the accommodations in each location to enjoy what each has to offer.



11 spots available.

$400 deposit will hold your spot ($150 is non-refundable). Payment plans are available based on registration date.

(full complete payments will be do no later than April 30, 2028).

Total program costs per person:
$2200 usd if reserved before June 1, 2027*
$2450 usd reserved after October 1, 2027*

* price subject to change before 2027 registration dates currently posted based on exchange rates or any unexpected price changes in Japan such as rail pass.


ask about a single room upgrade for when that may be available.


Travel Together

As a reminder, the travel fee does not include international flight to Tokyo Haneda, food, travel insurance, or personal expenses. You can also add-on extended days and customize your destinations for that extension.


Although you will have Val as a guide and helper, please know that this is a casual group experience and as time progresses you may be more interested in venturing on your own in a particular place or breaking into smaller groups as we make plans for a meet-up at certain times.

This rate is based on 12 total in our group. If the max participation is not met within 6 months of the scheduled dates, you will be contacted with the option to continue with the possibility of the price increasing tbd.

To start the process, please complete the form below. The next step will be an interview process to answer your questions, talk about your personal work and dreams for Japan travel, and to make sure that we are all going to fit well together as a group.

I'm interested in starting the conversation!

no obligation at this point. We'll set up an video chat soon.

Thanks for your interest. We'll connect soon.