BRIDGE TO ANOTHER WORLD—
SEI MEE TEA JAPAN TOUR
with TEA HISTORIAN BRUCE RICHARDSON
March 22-29, 2019
|JL 069 1:45pm Los Angeles
|6:15pm Osaka, Japan
|Kansai Int’l Airport to Hotel
|Kyoto Century Hotel
|Sight Seeing by private bus with English guide
|Gekkeikan Sake museum
|Kyoto Imperial Palace
|Kyoto Century Hotel
|Visit Uji tea farm by private bus
|Sightseeing in Uji
|Kyoto Century Hotel
|Kyoto to Kagoshima by Shinkansen
|“Bento” lunch on Shinkansen
|Visit a tea farm & facility near Kagoshima City
|Hotel Silk Inn with spa
|Tea farm & sight seeing by private bus with English guide
|Green Tea Lunch at Wakoh En
|Wakoh En tea farm & processing facility
|Sakamoto Gyokuro tea farm
|Hotel Silk Inn with spa
|Kagoshima station to Kagoshima Airport
|Kagoshima Airport to Itami Airport
|Itami Airport to Namba
|Shopping in Namba
|Visit Koya san
|Sukubo (Overnight temple stay)
|Meditation & Breakfast @ temple
|Free time in the morning
|Departure from Airport
|JL 060 KIX 540P LAX 1150A
|Note that all arrangements are tentative at this moment and remain to be finally confirmed, but we intend to follow this plan closely as possible, making any needed changes to enhance our experience.
Okakura Kakuzo scholar Bruce Richardson will accompany our group to Kyoto, Uji, and Kagoshima as he guides us in the footsteps of the author of The Book of Tea. Bruce will explain how the temples we will be visiting were inspirational to American artists and architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and John LaFarge.
Sei Mee Tea is pleased to announce a very special tour of two of the premier tea growing areas in Japan. One, very ancient and revered, known as “Uji” and located near Kyoto, is the birthplace of Matcha. Another, gaining rapidly in reputation and in some ways yet to be discovered, is known as Kagoshima and is at the very south end of the southernmost island of Japan—Kyushu. Although the tour is “tea centered” and will focus on green tea as a food and beverage, we will be visiting some of the most scenic and historic areas of Japan, during a tour designed by Kiyomi Koike and her collaborators, to tease the senses and the mind, in profound ways.
The tour is from Friday, March 22, 2019 through Friday, March 29, 2019—eight days that will leave you changed and stimulated to learn more. The idea for this tour was born at this year’s Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle, Washington. We appreciate Bruce Richardson, a tea master if there ever was one, for his suggestions and encouragement, as well as the participants in Kiyomi’s Green Tea Party workshop for their enthusiasm for the idea. Here is a brief outline of the tour. You will note “live links” in the above table of activities. We invite you to visit the links, but you do so at the risk of being unable to resist participation in this rich, unique, and absolutely fresh visit to the tea world of Japan. Please note that our travel is scheduled to coincide with Cherry Blossom blooming season (Sakura). Of course, the exact timing of the best blooms varies not only from year to year but also from place to place. Since we will be traveling from the middle of the main island – Honshu– clear down to the southern extreme of Kyushu, the south island, we will constantly be monitoring bloom activity and will do our best to partake in “Hanami” – a cherry blossom appreciation picnic. But, as the Cherry blooms are metaphors for the fleeting and unpredictable nature of our lives, we cannot say exactly when or where we will enjoy.
Day one and two-Friday/Saturday, March 22/23
Depart from Los Angeles for Kansai International Airport, Japan (Note—participants will book and pay for their individual flights directly with IACE, our travel agent, but we plan to join up and fly on the same JAL flight from Los Angeles, to assure we all arrive at the same time). From Kansai we will travel to the fabled Kyoto Station, whose towering open air escalators and entertainment venues will seem like a star ship here on earth. Our hotel, the stylish Kyoto Century, where we will stay for three nights to avoid packing and unpacking, is convenient to the bustling Kyoto Station area. Remember that you are losing a day due to the International Date Line and so tomorrow is March 24. See the hotel link for views of the hotel and area.
Day three-Sunday, March 24
After Breakfast at the Hotel, we head out in our private bus for an astonishing array of Kyoto sightseeing, accompanied by a professional local English speaking guide, beginning with the Gekkeikan Sake Museum and the Fushimi Inari, the most important Shinto shrine to Inari, God of Rice. After lunch, we stroll through Ninen-zaka, a charming narrow pedestrian walkway featuring ancient classic Japanese architecture, tea houses, and wonderful shops. On the outskirts of Kyoto,we tour one of many World Heritage sites in Kyoto, the Kiyomizu dera, a temple which overlooks Kyoto and seems to float on stilts. Next, we journey to Kyoto Gosho, the Imperial Palace until 1868, when the seat of Imperial Japan was moved to Tokyo. After dinner, we return to the Kyoto Century and seek adventure and “people watching” around Kyoto Station. See links for views of our day.
Day four-Monday, March 25
We will eat breakfast at the Hotel and then travel for about an hour through the attractive countryside by private bus to Uji, a rural tea production center where we will be surrounded by the sounds and smells and views of Green Tea fields and their products. After visiting the Uji tea farm that supplies certified Organic Matcha to Sei Mee Tea, we will lunch in Uji and on our return we will stop by a National Treasure, the Byodo-in Temple and its captivating garden, as well as Phoenix Hall, one of the few surviving wooden structures from the Heian period (circa 1153) ending a day of rural enjoyment back at our Kyoto hotel.
Day five-Tuesday, March 26
Today we travel by our “magic carpet,” the Shinkansen or “bullet train” from Kyoto Station to Kagoshima, some 560 miles to the south on the southern tip of Kyushu, at speeds up to 200 miles per hour—this very special 4.5 hour way of seeing the rural areas and cities on the way will be a delight to all the senses and sometimes, except for the rapidly passing scenery, you will not believe you are moving at all. After arriving in Kagoshima, we will visit our largest tea farm “Shimodozono,” and, later on, enjoy our Spa hotel, the tasteful and modern “Silk Inn Kagoshima Hotel and Spa”. As the name implies, the hotel has natural mineral bath hot springs that bubble up from beneath the hotel to the delight of guests. We shall partake (massages are also available) and enjoy the views and shops of downtown and marvel at the majestic beauty of Sakurajima, a looming volcano island in Kagoshima Bay.
Day six-Wednesday, March 27
This day we will enjoy visits to Kagoshima Tea Farms and farmers as well as a ferry boat ride to Sakurajima Island for hiking and enjoying the extraordinary landscape and views. Lunch will be most special—at Wakoh en Tea Farm and processing facility where they serve amazing Green Tea meals to delight the senses. Later on, we go to Sakamoto Gyokuro tea farm to discover Green Tea in yet another incarnation. We travel by private bus with a local English speaking guide who will help us to see and understand. Return to the Silk Inn and enjoy the spa, or go shopping.
Day seven-Thursday, March 28
We leave Kagoshima and become pilgrims—to discover Koyasan on the summit of Mt. Koya, the birthplace and center of Shingon Buddhism, introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai. This monastic headquarters includes about 100 ancient temples and we will spend the night in one (Sukubo) – enjoying vegetarian meals (“shojin ryori”) prepared by the attendant monks. We will visit many of the temples, and Okunoin, Japan’s largest cemetery, and experience the awe inspiring silence of it’s towering cedar forest, where Kobo Daishi is believed to have entered the next World. It is said that there are no dead in Okunoin, but only “waiting spirits”–perhaps you will commune with one of the Tokugawa Shoguns including Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Hidetada or the incomparable Samurai warrior and Daimyo Shingen Takeda who lie at rest here! The memory of your visit here will linger long in your mind, as it does in mine. I can still recall in my imagination the massive deep tones of the bronze bell that tolled the hours, reverberating and echoing through the misty night.
Day eight—Friday, March 29
After a special morning meal and meditation with the monks, we begin our return to that other world from which we came—step by step. By tram from Koyasan to Hashimoto station and then onward to bustling Namba station and finally Kansai International. We give farewells to our fellow travelers and new friends and begin the long flight home, arriving about noon Friday, savoring recollection of all that we have discovered along with the somewhat disconcerting memories of having been to another place and time. ================================================================================================================= COST: The total cost, excluding international round trip airfare to Kansai Airport, is $2,995 plus the few meals and admission charges not included in the tour price (see itinerary table). Single supplements may apply, if available, and of course your own shopping expenses are additional.
EXTENSIONS: You may arrange an earlier flight to Japan before the tour begins or extend your visit after the tour ends for additional private sightseeing or visits. The IACE travel agent who has helped with tour arrangements will be glad to assist you upon request (see below) or book your own flights elsewhere. Please study the attached itinerary and the links. If you would like to join this tour, please be in touch with us right away with any questions or concerns. As you might imagine, the hotels and other lodgings we intend to use are filling up fast as late March is Sakura season and a very busy travel time. To secure the listed hotels, we need to act very quickly. So please let us know if you want to join us.
To join, the first step is to let us at Sei Mee Tea know you’d like to come. Then you contact IACE (see info below) to book and pay for your air tickets. You will pay IACE directly for your round trip from your local airport to Kansai International Airport in Japan via Los Angeles. However, it is possible their prices will not be competitive with what you can arrange on your own so you are not required to book with IACE. Note our JAL flight numbers and times are on the attached tabular itinerary.
We are planning to fly from Los Angeles together, on Japan Air Lines—so that our experience of Japanese culture will begin as soon as we board the plane. While you are not required to be on this flight, we do need you to arrive in time to rendevous with us at the Kyoto Century Hotel Saturday evening.
BREAKING NEWS: JAL flight cost has just dropped and so we are buying our tickets now and we urge you to do the same. Total round trip cost from Los Angeles to Kansai is $1,280.You will have about a week to pay for your flight after you book. This trip has no minimum number of travelers and so the first 12 who sign up will be going. If we don’t get 12, we will go with whatever number we have!
You will pay Sei Mee Tea directly for the remainder of the tour cost, $2,995, which includes: some meals (6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners), all rail, flight, and ground transportation within Japan, all English speaking guides, six nights accommodation, and all listed activities and entry fees except nominal charges for entrance to some Temples and Shrines. The first tour payment of $1,500 is due Friday, December 28, 2018. Payment of the remaining balance of about $1,495 is due Friday, February 22, 2019.
CONTACT INFORMATION: Sei Mee Tea—[email protected] or call us toll free at 866-844-9448. To plan and book all necessary air flights and to arrange extensions, please call IACE, Ms. Noriko Imura, 310-445-1401 ext. 4004. Please let her know you are calling about “Bridge to Another World –Sei Mee Tea Tour to Japan.” Trip insurance of various kinds is available from IACE if you wish to purchase. Note that all arrangements are tentative at this moment and remain to be finally confirmed, but we intend to follow this plan closely as possible, making any needed changes to enhance our experience.
Meet the Author: Kiyomi