John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies

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Price: $4,395 per person, double occupancy, land only

$5,786 per person from Los Angeles or San Francisco (includes $691 airline taxes/departure fees)

$6,286 per person from Washington Dulles (includes $691 airline taxes/departure fees)

Other Gateway Cities Available.



Join us in a land of delicate art and bustling commerce, rich traditions and dizzying modernity; a jumble of sights, sounds, and tastes that for visitors are truly foreign – and truly fascinating. This well-crafted program features the highlights of Tokyo and Kyoto, engages us in local life, and takes us off the beaten path to the lovely historic cities of Takayama and Kanazawa.

Program Highlights

  • Small group limited to 22 participants
  • Tour Tokyo, including the Imperial Palace District and the Meiji Shrine
  • See Stunning Mt. Fuji and Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park
  • Stay in a traditional ryokan (Japanese-style inn)
  • Walk among historic Takayama’s ancient streets and houses
  • Visit culturally-rich Kanazawa and tour the famed Kenrokuen Garden
  • Enjoy a full-day tour of Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital
  • Experience a cycling tour of Kyoto’s Gion district and attend a traditional tea ceremony


John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies

Faculty_PortmannA Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia, John received his Master’s in Philosophy from Cambridge University and Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. The author of six books, his work has been translated into several languages and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. John has appeared on MSNBC, the Voice of America, and the History Channel. John is a popular alumni travel faculty and has participated in trips to Turkey and Italy, and will be on the 2015 Around the World by Private Jet trip.


Day 1 - September 5

Depart the U.S. for Tokyo, Japan

Today you’ll depart for Tokyo, Japan.

Day 2 - September 6

Arrive Tokyo

After arriving in Japan’s financial, commercial, and political capital this evening, we transfer to our hotel where we meet our fellow travelers and have a briefing about the journey ahead with our Odysseys Unlimited Tour Director (because of multiple arrivals into Tokyo, your briefing may be held the next morning). Dinner this evening is on your own.
Accommodations: Park Hotel Tokyo

Day 3 - September 7


AA012295Tokyo is a vast metropolis compromising 23 wards and 26 cities with a population of over 13 million residents, and 844 square miles.  It is also the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, which is, with a population of more than 35 million, the most populous metropolitan area in the world.  Amazingly, it has endured earthquakes, fires, and the U.S. air raids of World War II to emerge as one of the world’s leading cities.  Tokyo has managed to successfully merge the old and the new to become a fascinating and cosmopolitan place.  We begin our half-day excursion in Ancient Tokyo at the famed Meiji Shrine, a peaceful enclave of temples and gardens dedicated to late 19th-century Emperor Meiji and his wife.  Built in traditional Shinto style with low wooden buildings surrounded by square courtyards, the shrine is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.  Next we visit the Imperial Palace District, surrounded by moats and ramparts and home of the Imperial Family.  Called Kokyo, the huge complex dates to the 15th century, when territorial disputes required massive fortifications and complex societal norms demanded elaborate palaces to reflect the high positions of the feudal lords.  When completed, the Imperial Palace was the largest castle in the world.  From the lovely East and Outer gardens, we’ll see the ruins of the massive moat and walls that remain.  Also on today’s itinerary is the Asakusa Kannon Temple, which contains a golden image of the Buddhist Kannon, goddess of mercy.  According to legend, two fishermen dragged the statue from the sea in 628 … but visitors cannot see it since it is hidden from the public.  However, you can make your way to the front of the temple to bathe yourself in smoke from the incense cauldron; it is said that the smoke brings good health.  Then we have time to explore the Nakamise Shopping arcade outside the temple, filled with stalls selling local dishes, Buddhist trinkets, and popular souvenirs.

We return to our hotel mid-day; the afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration – and options certainly abound.  Your tour director will be happy to offer suggestions.  Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Park Hotel Tokyo  Meals:  Breakfast, Dinner (B, D)

Day 4 - September 8


Our day begins with a motorcoach tour of Ginza, Tokyo’s famed shopping, dining, and entertainment district boasting the most expensive real estate in all of Japan.  We stop to visit the gallery of one of Japan’s preeminent calligraphers, Koshun Masunaga, where we learn about this ancient art and browse the collection.  After lunch on your own, the remainder of the day is at leisure to visit some of Ginza’s department stores, boutiques, or galleries; or to set off in a new direction.  Tokyo boasts a myriad of attractions and activities to suit every taste:  world-class museums, temples, shrines, kabuki theatre, shopping, dining.  Some special experiences include wandering the back streets of Tsukiji, where scores of fishmongers, sushi bars, small shops, and markets hold sway; and visiting Shinjuku Gyo-en, a 150-acre landscaped garden in the heart of the city, renowned for its April cherry blossoms and November chrysanthemums.  For a glimpse of modern-day Japan, you might wish to visit Shinjuku, Tokyo’s bustling commercial center with enormous skyscrapers, department stores, discount shopping arcades, and stand-up-and-eat noodle stands.  You can visit the Ueno Zoo, the first of its kind in Japan, to see the playful pandas; or admire the world’s largest collection of Japanese art in the Tokyo National Museum.  Dinner today is on your own.
Park Hotel Tokyo (B)

Day 5 - September 9

Tokyo/Mt. Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park/Suwa

We travel by train and motorcoach today to one of the most photographed sights in Japan, if not the world:  almost perfectly symmetrical Mt. Fuji, standing regally at 12,388 feet high in the midst of Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. A dormant volcano, Fuji-san, as it is known to the Japanese, last erupted in 1707 and the resulting ash reached all the way to Tokyo where it actually covered buildings.  The mountain’s majesty is breathtaking, as writers and artists have attested for centuries.  We’ll take a motorcoach ride to the “fifth station” of Mount Fuji, which is the embarkation point for those climbers brave enough to attempt the summit – and for us, weather permitting, it’s our perch for striking panoramic views.  Then we descend to embark on a leisurely boat ride on Ashi Lake, where we can take in scenes of the whole park, and with luck, see more of Mt. Fuji.  Leaving the park we continue on to the town of Suwa in the heart of the Japanese Alps on the shores of Lake Suwa, and our traditional ryokan lodgings for the night – and a special night it will be indeed.  Upon arrival at our intimate 150-year-old inn with a peaceful Japanese garden, we’ll take off our shoes upon entering, savor a traditional tea followed by a dinner featuring dishes using fresh local ingredients, and sleep peacefully on a futon in a room of serene, minimalist Japanese design.

Please note:  In addition to your one piece of checked luggage, you also will need to bring along a smaller, overnight carry-on bag for your overnight stay at the ryokan.  This bag should have wheels as you will embark and disembark the train with it and take it through the stations.  You will meet your original luggage upon arrival at the Hida Hotel Plaza in Takayama.
Nunohan Hotel (ryokan) (B, D)

Day 6 - September 10


Our journey continues as we travel to the Hida Mountain town of Takayama, considered one of Japan’s most attractive settings with its 16th-century castle, a beautifully preserved Old Town, and historic buildings dating to the Edo period of 1600 to 1868. Our explorations here center on three narrow streets in the San-machi-suji district, where in feudal times, wealthy merchants lived amidst the authentically preserved small inns, teahouses, peaceful temples, and sake breweries that we see here (some of which have operated for centuries). During our tour we enjoy a sake tasting then have time on our own to visit some of the local shops that sell the region’s unique lacquer ware (shunkeinuri) and carvings of yew wood. We dine tonight at our hotel.
Hida Hotel Plaza (B, D)

Day 7 - September 11


We pay an early morning visit to Takayama’s centuries-old Miyagawa Morning Market, where stalls selling everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers to pickles, crafts, and fish line the streets leading to the river. Then we depart for Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising thatched-roof homes relocated from villages that were razed for the construction of a dam. In addition to its status as a World Heritage site, the village also is a vibrant community whose residents work together to preserve the Gassho-style architectural style unique to this region: wooden houses with steep thatched roofs made to withstand heavy snow. After lunch together, we continue on to the Miboro Dam, Japan’s first and largest dam built with “rock-fill technology” using only stones and clay. Late this afternoon we reach Kanazawa, an alluring city that survived the ravages of World War II because of its out-of-the-way location between the mountains and the Sea of Japan. Though somewhat off the beaten tourist path, Kanazawa is prized among Japanese as the country’s best-preserved Edo-period city (along with Takayama). Dinner tonight is on our own in this city known for its Kaga, or traditional cuisine (particularly sushi, and sashimi).
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (B, L)

Day 8 - September 12


Our full day of touring this culturally-rich city includes renowned Kenrokuen Garden, a national landmark whose origins date to 1676. One of Japan’s three finest traditional gardens, Kenrokuen (Garden of Six Attributes) represents the six qualities required for the perfect garden: extensiveness, factitiousness (manmade), antiquity, water, wide prospect, and quiet seclusion. Its trees, ponds, waterfalls, and flowers stretch over grounds of 25 acres. We also view Ishikawa Gate, the only remaining section of the town’s original castle; Higashi Chaya-gai teahouse district; and the Higashi-Chayamach geisha area of tall, narrow houses. We tour the Hakukokan Gold Leaf Museum, which celebrates the art and craft of gold leaf technology and a collection dating to the late 16th century. A center of gold leaf craft, Kanazawa produced the gold leaf covering Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion that we’ll see on Day 10. Our last stop is the Nagamachi Samurai district, where the ruling family’s samurai warriors lived on narrow streets protected by tile-roofed earthen walls. We dine tonight at a local restaurant.
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (B, D)

Day 9 - September 13


This morning we visit the Kutani Ceramics Museum celebrating this quintessential Japanese art form dating to the late 17th century. Kutani style typically features plates and bowls in green and yellow design that often figure prominently in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Our next visit is the Asakura Isokichi Art Museum, displaying more great works of Kutani pottery in a building that blends harmoniously with the surrounding forest. Then we board the train for the two-hour journey south to Kyoto, Japan’s Imperial Capital for a millennium and now the country’s cultural and artistic capital. A true gem with more than 1,600 temples, hundreds of shrines, three imperial palaces, artful gardens, and well-preserved wooden architecture, Kyoto embodies Japan’s rich culture and complex history. The art of kabuki theatre, as well as Japanese gardens, traditional cuisine, and superb crafts thrive here, attracting legions of visitors and Japanese alike. We dine tonight at our hotel.
ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel (B, D)

Day 10 - September 14


Today’s full-day tour reveals the highlights of Kyoto, Japan’s capital from 794 to 1868 that was spared destruction during World War II. We begin at 16th-century Ryoan-ji Temple (ca. 1540), where we see the dry garden of sand and rocks (kare-sansui), a marvel of classic Japanese design. The simplicity of its five rocks belies a complex symbolism which its designer never revealed – but whatever the meaning, we’re sure to feel the calm that the garden is meant to instill. Our next stop is Kinkaku-ji, the lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion originally constructed in the 14th century as a retirement villa and later converted to a temple. Burned to the ground by a fanatic in 1950, the temple has been entirely reconstructed following the original design, and is covered in gold leaf from Kanazawa all the way down to the lower floors. Its setting on pillars suspended over the water makes it one of Kyoto’s most inspired – and inspiring – sights. Then we visit the 17th-century Nijo-jo, the medieval castle of the first Tokugawa Shogun, containing “nightingale” floors that squeak to signal the presence of intruders. We end this full day at Kodaiji Temple to attend a tea ceremony. Both a state of mind (calm and content) and performance art prizing ritual and grace above all, the traditional tea ceremony to this day represents the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility encouraged by Master Sen no Rikyu, who perfected the ritual Zen practice when tea first was brought to Japan from China in the 16th century. Dinner tonight is on your own.
ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel (B)

Day 11 - September 15


Today is free to explore Kyoto as you wish, or to join in an optional excursion (at additional cost) to the ancient city of Nara which utilizes public transportation. Japan’s first capital (from 710 to 784), Nara’s fall from power ironically spared it the ravages of war over the centuries, thus preserving its precious wooden architecture. Today the city’s historic temples and shrines count among the oldest wooden buildings in the world and are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with the surrounding primeval forest. Our optional tour features several of the most important buildings, including magnificent Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple dating to 752 with a huge Buddha statue; the Shinto Kasuga Shrine, with 2,000 stone lanterns; and sacred deer that run free. (Please note this optional excursion requires long periods of walking).

If you choose to stay and explore Kyoto on your own, options abound in this ancient city of grace and beauty. Perhaps you’ll shop for exquisite Japanese crafts; the city is widely known for its goods of exceptional artistry including Kyo pottery, hand-painted silks, lacquer ware, display dolls, woodblock prints, fans, umbrellas, Noh masks, lanterns, and more. Or you may wish to visit any number of temples, gardens, or shrines – such as Heian Shrine, built in 1895 and dedicated to the first and last emperors of Kyoto. Though the buildings here are replicas of the 9th-century originals, they still evoke the reverence and dignity of the imperial court. Kiyomizu Temple, whose sacred waters are believed to bring good health, boasts a spectacular setting on a steep hillside with breathtaking views of the city and valley below.

This is one of Kyoto’s most popular temples, a 17th-century reconstruction of the original built in 778. Lunch and dinner today are on your own – an opportunity to try some of the traditional Japanese cuisine for which the city is known.
ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel (B)

Day 12 - September 16


We see the sights today from a slightly different perspective as we enjoy a cycling tour through Kyoto Imperial Park where the Imperial Palace and its garden, Kyoto-gyoen, are located. Home of the Imperial family until the capital moved to Tokyo in 1868, the current Imperial Palace dates from 1855. (If you would prefer not to participate in the cycling, your Tour Director will arrange for alternate activities).

From here we visit Gion, the most famous of Kyoto’s several geisha districts with its traditional tall wooden merchants’ homes (as in Kanazawa, property owners historically were taxed on street frontage, so they built tall rather than wide). Then we encounter the city’s traditional culture as we stroll through lively Nishiki Market, where shop owners sell a colorful variety of local dishes, fish, fruits, vegetables, crafts, and other wares.

This afternoon is at leisure; you may wish to visit Heian Jingu, a shrine with a Chinese-inspired bridge and beautiful Japanese gardens built to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of Kyoto; Ginkaju-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion with its traditional gardens of raked white sand; or Kyoto National Museum for some insight into the city’s history. Tonight we toast our Japan adventure over a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel (B, D)

Day 13 - September 17

Depart Kyoto for U.S.

Late this morning we travel by motorcoach to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, where we board our return flight to San Francisco and there connect with our flights onward.


  • Park Hotel, Tokyo
    Built in 2003, this 273-room hotel in Tokyo’s Shiodome culture district offers a peaceful oasis from the busy city.
  • Nunohan Hotel (ryokan), Lake Suwa
    A traditional Japanese-style inn (ryokan), Nunohan Hotel has been welcoming guests for 150 years. Guest rooms have private bath and feature a futon on a tatami mat for sleeping.
  • Hida Hotel Plaza, Takayama
    Centrally located near the railway station and a five-minute walk from Miyagawa morning market, the 232-room Hida Hotel Plaza features several restaurants, lounges a sake bar and a roof-top pool with commanding views of the northern Japanese Alps.
  • Nikko Kanazawa, Kanazawa
    Conveniently located within walking distance of some of Kanazawa’s most popular sights, the first class 254-room Nikko Kanazawa combines a refined European atmosphere with the beauty of the four seasons.
  • ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel
    Contemporary on the exterior, the ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto Hotel offers guests traditional Japanese hospitality within.
  • Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, Hiroshima / Extension / First Class
    Connected to JR Hiroshima Station, the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima offers direct access to several of Hiroshima’s most popular sites, including Peace Memorial Park and Miyajima Island.


18: 11 breakfasts, one lunch, six dinners

Program Fees

$4,395 per person, double occupancy, land only

$5,786 per person, double occupancy, from Los Angeles or San Francisco (includes $691 airline taxes/departure fees)

$6,286 per person, double occupancy, from Washington Dulles (includes $691 airline taxes/departure fees)

Other Gateway Cities Are Available.

A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplement of $995 to the per person, double occupancy rates.

Price Includes:

  • Exclusive departure for the University of Virginia Alumni & Parent Travel
  • Small group size limited to 22 guests
  • Round-trip air transportation from listed cities if air included option is selected
  • 11 nights’ accommodations
  • 18 meals: 11 breakfasts, 1 lunches, 6 dinners
  • Extensive sightseeing as described in day-by-day itinerary, including all entrance fees
  • Services of a dedicated Tour Director
  • Private motorcoach transportation throughout the trip
  • Luggage handling for one bag per person
  • Gratuities for local guides, dining room servers, airport and hotel porters, and all drivers

Business Class Upgrade: additional $4,195 per person (subject to availability & pricing subject to change)
Hiroshima Post-Tour Extension: $895 per person
Extension Single Supplement: $95

General Terms & Conditions

Please read this information carefully, as a payment of a $500 deposit per person represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.

Payment Schedule: A deposit of $500 per person confirms your reservation. The balance of your invoice is due 95 days (June 2, 2015) before departure.

Not Included in Tour Price: Airfare when purchasing a land only tour package; costs of passports and visas, if required; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry, room service, and meals not specified; airport transfers when purchasing a land only tour package; communication charges; optional sightseeing; gratuities to your Odysseys Unlimited Tour Director, which are at your discretion (suggested gratuity: $10-$15 per day per traveler); travel protection insurance. Additional baggage fees may apply and are subject to change at any time. You should confirm directly with your airline prior to departure.

Cancellation and Refunds: If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your written notification. Refunds for cancellations are subject to the following per person charges: Cancel 95 days or more before departure: $200 charge; Cancel 94-65 days before departure: 25% of tour price; Cancel 64-45 days before departure: 50% of tour price; Cancel 44-30 days before departure: 75% of tour price; Cancel 29-0 days before departure: No refund. If a guest makes any changes between 94 and 30 days prior to departure, Odysseys Unlimited, Inc. will apply a $100 per person administrative fee, in addition to any fees or penalties imposed by third parties. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy for any reason, you will be charged the single supplement. No changes are allowed within 30 days of departure.

Upon reservation you must provide your full legal name as it appears on your passport, your date of birth and gender. In the event an airline ticket is issued with incorrect information you have provided, you will be responsible for charges associated with the ticket’s reissue.

Responsibility: The liability of the University of Virginia, as sponsor, and Odysseys Unlimited, Inc., as tour operator, is strictly limited. The University of Virginia and Odysseys Unlimited, Inc. purchase transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurant and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing tour arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility for wrongful, negligent, or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents, servants or representatives. The University of Virginia and Odysseys Unlimited, Inc. are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, the defect of any vehicle, or the negligence or default of any third party. All coupons, receipts, and tickets issued are subject to the terms and conditions specified by the air carriers, cruise line, and other independent suppliers. We will make every effort to operate our tours as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will select alternative accommodations of the same or better quality.

Health and Medical Issues: We request that you be in fairly good health to participate in an Odysseys Unlimited tour. There is a considerable amount of walking, and you must be able to get on and off motorcoaches on your own. If you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs, you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you. We reserve the right to remove anyone whose physical or mental condition, in our opinion, compromises the operation of the tour or detracts from the enjoyment or safety of the other passengers. In that event, Odysseys Unlimited and the University of Virginia assume no financial responsibility for any unused portion of the tour.

Air Transportation – Important Information: Odysseys Unlimited, Inc. includes in its tour price round-trip economy air from designated gateway cities and contracts with those airlines they feel provide the level of service, routings, and value necessary for your entire trip. While another airline may offer a more direct connection, it may be at a price unavailable at the lower group rates. You will receive your preliminary air scheduled approximately 2 ½ months prior to departure. Please note that seat assignments on your international flight are usually done at airport check-in. Odysseys Unlimited is unable to guarantee any seat assignments. Due to the nature of tour operator tickets, other restrictions apply, including but not limited to, frequent flyer mileage accrual, stopovers, alternate travel dates, upgrades, and airline taxes and departure fees. If you prefer to make your own travel arrangements, land only is available on most tours. Since international and domestic air schedules are subject to change at any time, we recommend that if you choose to make your own airline reservation, you do not purchase non-refundable tickets or those with high penalties for changes. If you choose to make your own air arrangements, Odysseys Unlimited, Inc. shall not have any liability for any loss resulting from cancellation of this tour or changes in this tour.