Kyoto's atmosphere immediately impresses, taking you away from stress and into a land of tranquility and subtle beauty. Lanes are doused in autumnal colors; reds and deep browns and oranges floating between the trunks of cherry and plum trees. Your Japan vacation begins after your private transfer picks you up at Kyoto International Airport and you check into the Shunkoin Zen Temple Guesthouse, a mystical place with stunning grounds and an effervescent air of authentic Japan. With this tour there's no interrupting the Kyoto spell; this temple guesthouse is the first step in helping you slip into the humble yet exquisite beauty of ancient Kyoto.
Behind ancient walls lies the 14th century Myonshin-ji complex, a network of elegant walking trails and Rinzai school temples. Everything seems to flow and float, dozens of individual sub temples and pathways blending into an introduction to Kyoto's unique style. Spend the morning at this vast cascading complex, the highlight being a languid wander through the Shunkoin garden. The serenity of a city will already be taking hold, compelling you to slow your steps and ignore time. From Myonshin-ji you enjoy lunch at Kyoto Station.
Kyoto's beauty and heritage is not merely an ode to the past. The majority of its gardens and temples continue to be functional and meditative places. At the Toji temple antique flea market there's another sense of history imbued with life: the stalls of trinkets engulfed with a vibrant atmosphere. Today's tour continues with a unique fall opening of Nijo Castle. This iconic early 17th century castle is one of Kyoto's best-loved attractions although parts of the complex are only opened for a few viewings a year. You'll be among the only eyes that admire veiled areas like the Honmaru Palace, your guided tour pulling together a visual and historic narrative of the first Tokugawa shogun. After disposing of an emperor, Toji exemplifies the shogun's desire for prestige, power, and an opulence rarely seen in Kyoto. In the evening you enjoy a welcome dinner that's accompanied by an orientation talk on the cuisine of Kyoto.