2024 November 1 to 13
Prices listed are per person:
Shared Room: $10,998 – 1 female room share space & 1 twin room available
Private Room: $13,898 – 1 private room available
Tour doll-themed museums, exhibits, doll shops, and exquisite gardens.
Visit the renowned Yoshitoku Doll Company.
Gaze at the original Licca-Chan Castle and the nearby home of Maneki-Neko crafts inspired by cats.
Wander deep into the doll traditions of mountainous Shikoku Island.
Explore the incredible art island of Naoshima during a 2-night stay.
Indulge in a unique Ningyo shopping experience at an antique Ningyo specialty gallery.
Savor traditional multi-course Japanese culinary feasts and French-inspired delicacies.
Our Japan Ningyo Tour is hosted by Alan Scott Pate, author of several well-researched books about Japan’s Ningyo traditions. These dolls are an integral part of Japanese family customs and theatrical themes. They encompass heroes, icons, courtesans from the pleasure districts, fairy tales, fanciful amusements, objects for diplomatic exchange, as well as play dolls.
Days 1-4: Tokyo Area
Visit the renowned Yoshitoku Doll Company and see doll-making demonstrations by some of the country’s most prominent artists of the URARA Doll Maker collective. Savor a festive Welcome Dinner on a Sumida Riverboat with Japanese artists, collectors, and friends from Yoshitoku.
Visit Yokohama to wander through the Yokohama Doll Museum and nearby Chinatown. We will also have the pleasure of seeing an exhibition by our Kyoto doll maker friend Shimada Koen.
On our last day in Tokyo, we will head north from Tokyo to Koriyama to visit the enchanting original Licca-Chan Castle. Our next stop will be the nearby Deko-Yashiki Crafts Village with its Miharu folk toys such as wooden horses and maneki-neko.
Day 5: Awaji Island
Board a Shinkansen bullet train to Kobe, where we will board a bus and cross over to the large island of Awaji, our home for the night.
In the afternoon, we will enjoy the renowned Awaji Puppet Theatre.
Day 6: The Puppetry of Tokushima
After breakfast, we will cross over to Shikoku Island, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands.
Our first stop will be the prefectural capital of Tokushima, where we will have a performance of wooden puppets (Joruri Ningyo) and visit a museum showing the history of the art of bunraku. After lunch we will make stop at the Awa Odori Kaikan to see a short performance of a dance distinctive to this region.
Later, we will switch to small buses to drive the winding mountain roads to the remote Iya Valley, near the town of Miyoshi.
In the evening, pending confirmation, we will meet local residents at the tiny Arimiya Shrine for a rarely performed Fusuma Karakuri performance, with the narrative provided by exquisitely painted sliding screens.
Day 7: The Mysterious and Remote Iya Valley
We’ll get a little exercise to start the day, crossing a bridge made of wisteria vines, built by exiles from Kyoto 800 years ago.
After a lunch of locally made soba, we will make a short stop for a panoramic view of Ochiai village, known for its houses cascading down a steep hillside.
We’ll finish our Iya Valley touring at Nagoro Doll Village where we will gaze at the life-size dolls scattered around the village. They represent past residents of this mostly depopulated town and other notable figures.
Days 8-9: Naoshima
This morning, we will wind our way out of the mountains to the Yotsuya Simon Doll Museum in the seaside town of Sakaide.
From there, we will head to the Kagawa prefectural capital of Takamatsu. There, we will board a ferry for the short ride to Naoshima Island.
We have the rare privilege of staying on Naoshima for two nights in a hotel that doubles as an art museum. This gives us a full day to explore the incredible artistic installations of the Benesse Art Site.
During our stay we will visit the unique Chichu Art Museum, built into a seaside cliff by renowned Japanese architect Takeo Ando. There are only 7 exhibits in the museum, three of which are Monet Water Lily paintings, illuminated only by filtered natural light.
In the afternoon, we will wander through the Art Houses of Honmura village. Over several years, the Benesse Publishing Company invited artists to come to the island to turn an empty house or temple into a work of art. The variety of expressions is amazing!
During our two evenings on the island, we’ll sample gourmet French and Japanese cuisine.
Day 10: Miyoshi in the Mountains of Honshu
This morning, we will take a ferry back across to the main island of Honshu, then drive to the Hiroshima Prefecture town of Miyoshi. There we will visit the museum dedicated to the master puppeteer and set designer Jusaburo, as well as consider the spirit world of Yokai at the Miyoshi Mononoke Museum.
Our day concludes with a Shinkansen bullet train ride to most classical city of Japan, Kyoto, our home for the last three nights of our tour.
Days 11-12: Kyoto
While in Kyoto, witness some or all of the unique creations of Volks Angel Den, and Kondaya Genbei textiles (specializing in elaborate silk obis). We will also visit ningyo displays from Okamoto Shogo (a Kogei Ningyo artist in the Mensho tradition dating to 1704) and Itoh Hisashige. (We visited his Shizuoka museum during our 2019 Bunraku Tour.)
During our final day in Japan, we’ll enjoy a shopping visit to the arts and crafts boutiques of the Shin-Monzen District near Gion and a store with the finest collection of antique dolls.
Conclude our tour with a day with a memorable farewell dinner.
Day 13: Farewell to Japan
For those starting home today, enjoy breakfast, then transfer to the airport for your flights home.
If you have enough time, we invite you to join us for our 2-night extension. We will witness the beauty of the mountains, lakes, and volcanic craters of the Hakone region, finishing with an early afternoon drop-off at Haneda Airport.
Price Includes: 12 hotel nights in deluxe hotels in Tokyo, Awaji, Shikoku, Naoshima, and Kyoto, including a mountain ryokan; Daily breakfast and several special lunches and dinners; All group ground transportation after arrival at our Tokyo hotel until the last morning in Kyoto; Private touring with English-speaking Japanese guides; Expert commentary by Japanese Antique Doll expert Alan Scott Pate; Logistics coordination by HE Travel tour director; Admission fees for included sightseeing; Medical and evacuation insurance should anything happen during the trip for anyone not otherwise covered (due to insurance regulations, this is only offered for residents of the US.)
Not included: Flights; Transfer from either Haneda or Narita Airport to Tokyo hotel, and from Kyoto to Kansai International or Osaka Airport or Kyoto train station; Meals not shown as being included; Gratuities; Personal expenses such as telephone, Wi-Fi, beverages; Cancellation insurance.
Optional Tour Choices:
$2900 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
Hakone Extension Price
$2390 per person in a shared room
$2840 in a private room
Price Includes: Shinkansen train from Kyoto to Odawara; local transportation in the Hakone region; two hotel nights; daily breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner; daily guided tours; and a transfer from Hakone to Haneda Airport.
We strongly recommend the purchase of Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance to protect your vacation investment in case of unforeseen circumstances such as flight delay, illness, or injury. Click Here to learn more about our Insurance partner.
Extend your stay with two nights in Hakone – November 13 to 15, 2024!
November is typically a beautiful time to visit Hakone. Daytime temperatures are typically in the high 50s and get down to the low 40s during the night. Best of all is that November is among the months with the least rain – meaning the highest odds of seeing Mount Fuji without a layer of clouds!
Day 13: Kyoto to Hakone
After breakfast, we will transfer to Kyoto Station, with time to purchase a bento lunch at the station before we board our train.
We will take a Hikari Shinkansen bullet train from Kyoto to Odawara Station, just past Mount Fuji. There we will meet our guide and driver to head up the mountain to the Hakone region on the east flank of Mount Fuji.
On a clear day, Mount Fuji will be visible from several of our stops. However, due to the frequent clouds from the nearby Pacific Ocean, Fuji-san is fickle in deciding when to show her face to visitors.
During the afternoon, we will enjoy a boat ride on Lake Ashi, then take a ropeway up to visit Owakudani – the crater of Mount Hakone. It last erupted 3000 years ago, but the crater remains an active volcanic zone with hot springs, hot rivers, and vents with sulfurous emissions.
In the late afternoon, we’ll check in at our hotel for a 2-night stay overlooking Lake Ashi, where we will enjoy dinner together.
Day 14: Exploring Hakone and Lake Kawaguchi
After breakfast at our hotel, we will tour more of the unique natural and man-made wonders in and near Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
We will start with a short drive to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. This renowned museum features over 100 outdoor sculptures displayed around the spacious grounds. These include works by Rodin and Miro and a large collection of work by the British sculptor Henry Moore. The museum also displays a large collection of Picasso’s work, including ceramic pieces purchased from his daughter.
From Hakone, we’ll drive to the (often less cloudy) northern side of Fuji. We will admire the views over Lake Kawaguchi and stop for lunch, then visit the nearby Arakurayama Sengen Park. High up the hillside is one of the most picturesque red pagodas in Japan. Weather permitting, we’ll visit the pagoda and drink in the view of the white mountain, with the striking red pagoda in the foreground, and the blue sky framing the entire scene.
After a refreshing day in the mountains, we’ll return to our hotel for an evening at leisure and dinner on your own.
Day 15: Transfer to Haneda Airport
We will transfer as a group to Haneda Airport today, with one stop near Tokyo for anyone planning to spend more time there. Please plan flights departing at 4 pm or later. (Most Delta, United, American, and Air Canada flights and many JAL and ANA flights depart between 4 pm and 7 pm.)
- What if I am traveling alone?
- Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
- What is the physical activity level of this tour?
Physical Activity Level
- What company is operating this tour?
- This tour is arranged through Hanns Ebensten Travel, Inc. (HE Travel) of Salt Lake City, Utah (Florida Seller of Travel License ST34543)
- What is the payment schedule for this tour?
- The $2000 deposit is due at the time of tour registration. Final payment is due 90 days before tour departure, payable by check or wire transfer to HE Travel. The tour deposit is refundable until January 15, 2024, then non-refundable from one week after payment. The balance is non-refundable as of 90 days before departure.
- What travel insurance is available for this tour?
- Cancellation and Interruption travel insurance is highly recommended to protect your financial investment. Medical and evacuation insurance offers protection should anything happen during the tour. Please notify HE Travel if you would like a travel insurance quote.
- Does HE Travel offer flight assistance?
- HE Travel’s flight specialists are available to research and issue air tickets. Airfare prices are subject to change by the airlines until the ticket is issued. HE Travel charges a $60 non-refundable Flight Consultation Fee for international airline reservations. HE Travel will assist with any changes or disruptions to flights when tickets are issued by HE Travel. In the event of flight changes or cancellation, airline terms and conditions apply.
- Additional Questions
- For answers to your additional questions, please email email@example.com or call 305-294-8174