It’s a land of delicate art and bustling commerce, of rich traditions and dizzying modernity; a jumble of sights, sounds, and tastes that for visitors are truly foreign – and truly fascinating. This well-crafted tour 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, Kanazawa, and Nara.
Exclusive Departure: this departure is considered exclusive and the participants are U-M travelers, who consist of alums, family and friends.
Depart U.S. for Tokyo, Japan
Arrive in Tokyo
Upon arrival in Japan’s financial, commercial, and political capital, we transfer to our hotel. As guests’ arrival times may vary, we have no scheduled activities or meals planned.
After a briefing about the journey ahead, we set out to discover a small part of this amazing city that covers a staggering 840 miles. Our sightseeing features the Meiji Shrine, a peaceful enclave of Shinto temples and gardens. We also visit the gallery of preeminent calligrapher Koshun Masunaga, where we learn about this ancient art of artistic writing and browse the collection. Our tour ends in Ginza, Tokyo’s famed shopping, dining, and entertainment district, where we can stay to explore as we wish or return to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Tonight, we gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Our tour of Tokyo continues this morning at the Imperial Palace, surrounded by moats and ramparts and home of the Imperial Family. Here we visit the East Gardens, part of the innermost circle of defense of the historic Edo Castle that once stood here. We continue on to the Buddhist Asakusa Kannon, Tokyo’s oldest temple (c. 645 ce), and the adjacent Nakamise shopping arcade, dating to the 17th century. Last, we visit the Tokyo National Museum, housing an extensive collection of art and antiquities from Japan and other Asian countries. This afternoon is free for independent exploration; lunch and dinner are on our own in this city with endless dining options. B
Tokyo/Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park/Hakone
Japan’s pastoral side is on tap as we leave Tokyo for Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Here sits imposing Mt. Fuji, a dormant volcano (it last erupted in 1707) with a perfectly symmetrical cone that rises to 12,388 feet. The mountain’s majesty is breathtaking, as artists and writers have attested for centuries. We take a coach ride where, weather permitting, we’ll enjoy breathtaking panoramic views; then we descend for a relaxing cruise on scenic Ashi Lake. Leaving the park, we travel to the town of Hakone where we spend the night at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn where we take off our shoes upon entering, enjoy a Japanese-style Kaiseki dinner, and sleep on a futon. B,D
Today we travel first by bullet train then by Wide View Hida express train to lovely Takayama in the Japanese Alps, considered one of the country’s most attractive towns with its 16th-century castle and old-style buildings. Our explorations center on three narrow streets in the San-machi-suji district where, in feudal times, merchants lived amidst the authentically preserved small inns, teahouses, and sake breweries. This afternoon we attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony here, an historic ritual of form, grace, and spirituality. B,D
We pay an early visit to the riverside Miyagawa Morning Market, a blaze of dazzling colors and foodstuffs. Here we meet a local chef to gather ingredients for the lunch we will prepare together at a nearby site. After enjoying the fruits of our labors, we embark on a walking tour, visiting Takayama Jinya, an historic government house; the local sake brewery; and Takayama’s old town, whose well-preserved buildings and homes date to the Edo Period (1600–1868). B,L
We leave Takayama this morning for the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shirakawago Gassho-zukuri Village. Comprising buildings relocated from authentic villages nearby that were razed for a dam, the village is also a vibrant community whose residents work together to preserve the unique traditional architecture here known as Gassho style. Late this afternoon we reach the castle town of Kanazawa, an alluring coastal city that survived the ravages of World War II. B,L
Today’s tour of this culturally rich city features renowned Kenrokuen Garden, a national landmark whose origins date to 1676. We also see Ishikawa Gate, the only remaining section of the town’s original castle; Hakukokan, a museum celebrating the art and craft of gold leaf technology; and the Higashi Chayagai teahouse and geisha area. Our last stop is the Nagamachi Samurai district, where the ruling family’s samurai warriors lived. B,D
We depart this morning by train for Kyoto, formerly Japan’s Imperial Capital and now the country’s cultural and artistic center, with more than 1,600 temples, hundreds of shrines, artful gardens, and historic architecture. Upon arrival, we visit Kinkaku-ji, the beloved lakeside Temple of the Golden Pavilion set on pillars suspended over the water. Next: Ryoanji, a Zen Buddhist temple whose acclaimed dry garden epitomizes the simplicity of Zen meditation. Our last stop is Unrakugama, a workshop specializing in prized Kiyomizu pottery. B,D
Today we travel to Nara, Japan’s 8th-century capital renowned for its shrines and temples. We first visit Todaiji (c. 752 ce), one of the country’s most important temples, whose main hall (c. 1692) is the world’s largest wooden building. We also visit historic Kasugataisha, the Shinto shrine and UNESCO site surrounded by parkland where deer roam free. B
This morning’s tour reveals more of this city that was spared destruction during World War II. Highlights include Nijo-jo Castle (c. 1603), the extravagant residence and fortifications of the shoguns who ruled Japan for more than 250 years; and Sanjyusangendo Hall (c. 1266), an important Buddhist temple housing 1,000 statues of the Thousand-Armed Kannon deity. From here we venture to the Gion district, where the geishas gather. Then the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Tonight, we toast our adventure at a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,D
Depart Kyoto for U.S.
This morning we travel by motorcoach to Osaka, where we board our return flight to the United States. B
Please note: This trip involves full days of sightseeing and significant amounts of walking on stairs and uneven surfaces. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.
Meet Your Trip Host
I am research professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, and director emeritus of both the forecasting and policy analysis unit in the Department of Economics and the Center for Labor Market Research in the Economic Growth Institute.
I am joined by my wife, Mary Townsend, who spent her career in the U-M library system as a professional librarian in the schools of Public Health and Information, as well as holding the position of librarian for rare medical books. We have two adult daughters, both of whom share in the five degrees earned by our family from the University. We also are lifetime members of the U-M Alumni Association.
I have forecast economic and fiscal activity at the national, state, and local levels for over 40 years. Until recently, I served as a principal advisor on the economy to the State of Michigan, providing testimonies on the economic and revenue outlooks to the Michigan legislature and administration twice a year since 1992. I delivered the keynote presentation at the Governor’s Economic Outlook Briefing annually from 1984 to 2016, for which I received the Distinguished Speaker Award. In 2015, I was appointed by the governor and state treasurer to a three-person panel to evaluate and approve the City of Detroit’s revenue forecasts that form the basis for the City’s yearly budgets. I continue to serve in that role as Chair of the panel.
I have received numerous recognitions for my work, including: the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Economic and Demographic Analysis—since named in my honor—from REMI, the nation’s most prominent regional forecasting and economic analysis organization; special tributes from Governor Snyder and the State of Michigan legislature; a letter of commendation from U-M President Schlissel; and proclamations from regional leaders. A goal of mine has been to portray the economy in user-friendly language to non-economists, including to alumni at Michigania’s faculty forum, to the U-M Retirees Association, to the Wolverine Caucus (alumni working in and around the State Capitol), and during the Road Scholars Tour in connecting faculty with residents in communities throughout Michigan.
The most passionate hobby for Mary and me is travel. We have visited all seven continents, our favorite being Antarctica. In Asia, we’ve toured Vietnam, Cambodia, Tibet, and China, the last including a keynote address at an international conference. We enjoy gardening; previously I was treasurer for Project Grow community gardens. I am a sports fan: a season ticket holder for U-M football, and formerly a playing manager for a very successful softball team for over three decades. I also am a past Board Chair of the U-M Children’s Centers. Our current ambition is to contribute as best we can to the learning and enjoyment promised by this fascinating journey inside Japan.
By participating in an Alumni Association of University of Michigan travel trip, you have stated that the Alumni Association has the exclusive right to use video and other visual/audio portrayals of You or Your likeness taken during Your trip in any medium of any nature whatsoever for any purpose, including advertising or promoting the services of the trip without any compensation being paid to You. Any such portrayal or likeness shall be the exclusive property of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.