Everyday Beauty: Japanese Art and Culture

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shutterstock_185497421From the Heian to Edo periods, Japanese culture achieved a rare refinement. Beauty infused nearly every aspect of life: Zen gardens, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, poetry, calligraphy, woodblock prints, and dress (kimonos and netsuke). The division between art and craft is less marked in Japan than in the West, and ‘everyday beauty’ can be experienced in gardens, temples, ceramics and textiles, and the remarkable aesthetic of the country’s cuisine. Together we will seek the connections between calligraphy and garden design, Zen and haiku poetry, Japanese woodblock prints and French Impressionism.

Sean Forester’s presentations will explore themes of Japanese art and culture. We will read Japan’s greatest Haiku poets: Basho, Buson, and Issa. These poems are filled with humor, compassion, and insight; even in English translation, three distinct personalities emerge. And we will read excerpts from The Tale of Genji, the classical tale of courtly Japan, written by Lady Muraski Shikibu in the 11th century.  A masterpiece of world literature, Genji is often considered the first novel.

Together we will explore Japan’s cultural capitals: Kyoto and Tokyo. For the lover of art, Kyoto is a must-see destination, as important as Florence or Paris. Our seven full days of exploration in Kyoto allow us an unparalleled opportunity to truly immerse ourselves in the ancient capital at a relaxed and convivial pace. We travel by bullet train to Tokyo and plunge into the modern with ultra-buildings standing beside ancient shrines. We’ll make a day trip to Mt. Fuji and to the ancient city of Nara. November is perhaps the best time of year to visit, with brilliant autumn colour — deep red and gold of Japanese maple.

If you love art and have enjoyed Classical Pursuits’ European tours, this is the journey for you. The beauty of Japan will change how you see.

Please contact us at info@classicalpursuits.com for a detailed itinerary.

Below, trip leader Sean has shared a recommended reading list for anyone interested in learning more about Japanese art and their influence, and a list of some of the artists whose works will be discussed on the trip. Learn more in his recent webinar; you can access the recording here.


The Art of the Japanese Garden by Michiko and David Young
Japanese Zen Gardens by Yoko Kawaguchi and Alex Ramsay
How to Look at Japanese Art by Stephen Addiss
History of Japanese Art by Penelope Mason
Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan  by Helen Burnham and Sarah Thompson
Netsuke: 100 Miniature Masterpieces from Japan  by Noriko Tsuchiya
The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto by Pico Iyer
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts by Haruo Shirane
Kuratsukuri Tori, known as Tori Busshi (7th century)
Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506)
Sen no Rikyu (1522–1591)
Hasegawa Tōhaku (1539–1610)
Katsushika Hokusai ( 1760–1849)
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858)
Hiroshi Yoshida (1876–1950)
Helen Hyde (1868–1919)




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Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan

November 4–16, 2022

The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa (Essential Poets), by Robert Hass; Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki; excerpts from The Tale of Genji

How to Look at Japanese Art, by Stephen Addiss

The Art of the Japanese Garden, by Michiko Young

Sean Forester is an artist and lecturer from the San Francisco Bay Area. He has led Classical Pursuits tours to Italy, France and Russia. Sean studied at St. John’s College, Santa Fe, Cambridge University and the Florence Academy of Art.

Takasegawa Bettei, Kyoto; New Otani Garden Tower, Tokyo

12 to 16 participants

Approx. US$7495
Single supplement: US$1650

Cost includes guides, readings, accommodation in double occupancy, two meals a day, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, admissions, and taxes and gratuities.

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Travel Pursuits 2022