Samurai, Sushi, and Sightseeing in Japan

Spring Block 2020

Travel Dates: April 25th – May 9th, 2020
$3,900 Includes: All Accommodations, Rail Pass, Activities, and select meals.

Take an amazing trip to Japan this spring! Travel around Kyushu in southwestern Japan which is authentic, not touristy.  Stay in hotels, a Japanese Ryokan, and a B&B ran by descendants of samurai in a special village in gorgeous mountains! Participate in some hands-on art workshops and get to experience Japanese culture. At the end of the trip, travel to Kyoto and see iconic temples, shrines, museums, but also have fun in the Gion area with all kinds of Japanese shopping, owl cafes, and yummy restaurants. The meals are incredible – an experience, not just food.  “Japan is over the top great!”

Sheri Leigh O’Connor has been to Japan over 20 times. She is the chair of the Fine Arts department, where she teaches ceramics, and directs the summer workshop program. Her work has been featured in the magazines Ceramics Monthly and Clay Times, and several books. She has participated in numerous art exhibitions, including in Utsonomiya, Japan. Her passion lately has been studying Japanese and traveling, particularly to Japan. “I’ve never taken anyone to Japan who didn’t absolutely love it!”

Itinerary – Subject to change

April 25th – Leave for Japan

April 26th – Arrive in Osaka – Group will meet up at hotel in the KIX – Kansai airport. Sheri will greet you when you arrive.

April 27th  – Osaka

  • Museum of Oriental Ceramics
  • Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko – step into a replica of the first teahouse in Japan. Enjoy a tea ceremony.
  • Knife Maker – Watch a demo of traditional Japanese knife making, exciting!

April 28th – Kumamoto

  • Take Japan’s high speed Shikansen train to Kumamoto
  • Visit Craft’s Center
  • Enjoy shopping arcade

April 29th – 30th  –  Travel to Gokanosho

  • Stay at the home (B&B)  of the last of the Heike Clan Samurai  – see original samurai armor and relics
  • Shodo Calligraphy Workshop – write your name in Japanese with brush and ink
  • Bamboo Workshop – create your own unique object out of freshly cut bamboo.
  • Visit Waterfall – breathtaking!
  • Heike Museum – Learn about the samurai who hid in this mountain town centuries ago

May 1st  – Yatsushiro

  • Dress in Kimonos and enjoy tea ceremony
  • Visit Koda Yaki pottery

Wear a kimono and experience a tea ceremony!

May 2nd  & 3rd – Unzen

  • Enjoy traditional Japanese bath house – onsen
  • Stay at a ryokan, with an incredible breakfast and dinner is included.
  • Glass and Ceramics gallery/museum
  • Volcanic ash glazed pottery

May 4th – Takeo

  • Die fabric with natural indigo
  • Visit an ancient tree shrine with gorgeous bamboo forest
  • Historic onsen – Japanese bathhouse



Gathering around the traditional fireplace in Gokanosho where incredible food is served by descendants of samurai.

May 5th – 9th – Kyoto

  • Stay in Gion – geisha area, market, shopping, great restaurants
  • Sightseeing – iconic Kyoto temples and shrines, etc.
  • Kinkaku,  (the golden pavilion) – Gorgeous Zen temple and garden
  • Museums
  • Travel to Shigaraki – “pottery town” Meet potters, see a lot of pottery
  • Travel to the temples at Nara – feed domesticated deer, see huge bronze Buddha

Typical lunch – Oishee! Delicious!

Japan is the most incredible country! The people are the nicest you can imagine. The history, crafts, and food are absolutely amazing. You’ll enjoy every minute!
We’ll do a lot of walking! We’ll be touring around, and hopping on and off trains, buses, and subways. A rail pass is included in the course fee, as well as local transportation.
Some hotels include breakfast and dinner with the most beautiful setting you’ve probably ever seen. Enjoy this gorgeous, delicious meal while wearing a yukata, a cotton kimono. Sleep on a futon on tatami mats.
Meet craftsmen that have learned from many generations before them. Try some of the traditional arts for yourself.

Kinkaku Temple,  (The Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto

Waterfall in Gokanosho

Schingo, our guide, tending to the fire at dinner

in Gokanosho at the Heike-so Inn

Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin

Koda Yaki Potter in Yatsushiro City, 14th generation

Indigo dyeing in Takeo

Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Shodo calligraphy workshop. Learn how to write your name in Japanese the traditional way.

Tea ceremony in Yatsushiro – a special experience

Dinner at the Yumei Hotel in Unzen. Not just a meal… an experience!

Typical meal at the Yumei Hotel in Unzen, then they bring more, and more… it’s different and delicious!