A Feminist Holiday in Japan

Japanese women have far too often been seen by Western Travelers but not heard.

We are far too quick to sensationalize the maid cafes and J-pop starlets of Akihabara, or eroticize the Geisha beneath her complex makeup and alluring presence. But we have done a terrible job, as travelers listening to and meeting with Japanese women on their own terms. When the costume is changed for casual wear and the makeup comes off, who are these women and what do they want for their lives and country?

Asia Art Tours is proud to present: Silent No More- A Tour focused on Japan’s female Artists, Activists, and individuals. For our foreign female guests, we want to connect you to those who can inspire you and who you can inspire against patriarchy and for progress.

Contact Asia Art Tours today to learn more!

Duration: 10 days, 9 nights
Destinations:  Tokyo-Kyoto-Nara

We have long been interested in promoting global solidarity and feminism, Japan seems like a great place to start. How most travel companies to Western Travelers market the country is as a land of tradition. Where nothing changes and progress only comes when those in power allow it.

But this narrative is wrong. Feminism and Feminist artists, activists and thinkers have long been working to change Japan. Looking to prune its patriarchal roots while still maintaining or supporting the positive aspects of its traditions. This tour is for those traveling to Japan who wants to meet the modern Japanese businesswoman in her office and also meet the Geisha without her makeup. For those who want to learn how feminists balance tradition and modernity, while connecting to them as allies, this is a once in a lifetime holiday, involving food, the arts, music, spirituality, and the modern world.

Day By Day / Itinerary Preview

Day 1     TOKYO Shibuya Granbell / Aman Tokyo

Today we’ll welcome you to Tokyo. Picking you up from the airport and transferring you by private car to your hotel.  

After settling in your guide will meet you to discuss the next few days.  Afterwards, we can arrange a private car or you can make your own way by public transportation to Tsurutokame- Japan’s only 100% female-led restaurant.  There you will be treated to a Kaiseki ambrosia feast from head female chef Yubako Kamohara. The restaurant is one of the most popular in Tokyo with millennial trendsetters and businesswomen jet-setters. No matter your background you’ll be sure to enjoy an amazing meal!

Day 2     TOKYO Shibuya Granbell / Aman Tokyo

Today we will pick you up for a fun and pop-oriented introduction to Tokyo’s Femininity and Feminism.

First we will head to Akihabara with a local music expert to explore the phenomenon of J-Pop. While certainly different in tone and presentation than confrontational icons like Patti Smith or Cardi B, Japanese Pop Music, or J-Pop has a long history of broadening women’s involvement, control and power within the Japanese entertainment industry.   With our music expert today we’ll do a deep dive into the culture of fandom that surrounds Japan’s most famous J-Pop group AKB48 and then expand this outward into their space and importance for Japanese women and feminism more broadly.

Next, our pop-culture expert will introduce you to the world of Shoujo Manga, this is Manga designed specifically for female readers.  We’ll browse stores, which specialize in these titles, and if possible try to introduce you to a Manga Writer or illustrator who can tell us more of how artists reflect their ideas of progress and self-actualization through their art.

Afterwards we’ll invert expectations and introduce you to the spaces where women are starting to establish the Female gaze.   We will take you to a “Butler Café “a relatively new trend in Japan. Here handsome foreign butlers speaking only English wait on a mix of young and old female clientele. It’s a mix of Downton Abbey with the Bachelor as guests are treated to refined manners in a hyper-real pop setting.  It’s strange, kitschy and makes for a very memorable meal!

We’ll then return to the hotel. In the evening we will try to arrange two options, though both can be difficult. The First is to find you tickets to see how women are redefining music in Japan. Depending on your taste we can try to arrange tickets to see a rock and roll show (With the hottest ticket in town of course being Babymetal), or for those more interested in electronica and Hip-Hop, we can try to score you an invite to a Bae Japan party. Led by an international troupe of female DJs, its one of the hottest parties in town.

Day 3     TOKYO Shibuya Granbell / Aman Tokyo

In the morning we’ll arrange a meeting for you with one of our favorite female artists, Julie is a mother and children’s book animator who has immigrated from France and over many years fallen in love with her adoptive home of Japan.  Julia will be showing us the spots in Tokyo that she loves both as an artist and a mother in Tokyo and teaching us illustrative workshop in one of these lovely settings.

Afterwards we’ll meet up with Emi for lunch. Emi is one of Japan’s most acclaimed food journalists and has hosted multiple TV hosts and writers. She’ll be showing us a few of her favorite women in food in Japan’s markets, stores and shops. Afterwards we’ll dine with Emi at a local café, as she’ll talk about the challenges and rewards of being a female journalist in Japan.

In the evening after dinner we’ll be taking you on a very special pub-crawl. With your friendly female guide we will take you to several of the best bars in Tokyo featuring female bartenders. Traditionally a male dominated space, in recent years female bars and bartenders have been offering a more progressive space and place for Japanese women to enjoy a night out. We know you’ll have a great night out of making new friends and empowering through imbibing  

Day 4     TOKYO Shibuya Granbell / Aman Tokyo

On our Final Day in Tokyo we’ll be doing a deep dive into the women who have had to fight powerful institutions to bring about reform.

First we will head to Youkubo Art Space.  Youkubo has consistently been one of the most feminist art spaces in Tokyo, recently hosting the knitted works of acclaimed Australian Artist: Kate Just. Here we will attempt to introduce you to the museum staff as well as one of the artists who grace its walls for a conversation about feminism and the barriers it has to fight in the art world.

Afterwards depending on your interest we will take you to meet one of Japan’s leading feminist organizations. Depending on your interest (Corporate, Class and Intersectionality, Domestic Violence, LGBTQ) we will introduce you to some of the feminist leaders going up against entrenched powers for a cross-cultural chat about how feminists can support each other globally.  

Finally for an early dinner we will take you Japan’s only all female-led Sushi Restaurant. The Sushi industry has horrible stereotypes against women chefs, and will need a strong push for any institutional reform to take place.  By using our collective purchasing power and social media to support female led restaurants, we have a real chance to force the market to adjust and support women-led culinary and cultural initiatives!

Day 5     KYOTO  Sangen Ninenzaka / Ritz Carlton Kyoto

Today you’ll arrive and we can either pick you by private car or you can make your own way to your accommodations.

After settling in we’ll come to meet you in the early afternoon. We will be introducing you to one of our favorite guides in all of Japan. Educated both in Japan and abroad, Matsuyama-san is one of Kyoto’s foremost female experts on artisans in Kyoto. She’ll be taking you on a tour to some of Kyoto’s most famed female artisans for an in depth look at how spirituality and femininity connects to craftsmanship.

Then in the evening, we’ll enjoy a meal at one of Japan’s most progressive hotels. The Ritz Carlton Kyoto is boldly interrogating Japan’s patriarchal Sushi culture by hiring a Head Female Sushi chef.  For those who love Sushi Jiro but are skeptical as to its parochial attitudes towards female chefs, we highly recommend this meal. If possible we’ll also try to arrange a brief chat with the chef during your time there.

Day 6     KYOTO Sangen Ninenzaka / Ritz Carlton Kyoto

TAKA+ LIANCA+GEIKO

Today your morning will start early, as we introduce you to one of Japan’s most progressive Buddhist priests. This monk studied abroad in the US and is famous for his progressive views on tech, futurism and LGBTQ rights (he married Ellen Page to her partner on her trip to Japan!)  We’ll arrange for a private meditation session for you, giving you a chance to learn from and chat with the Buddhist Priest about how he tries to bridge the gap between modernity and the traditional.

After exercising our bodies, we will next exercise our minds!  We will meet with one of our favorite cycling guides and artists in Kyoto, she calls herself an “Art-lete” With her we’ll be exploring Kyoto on bike as she introduces us to outdoor and indoor spaces that represent Kyoto’s modern side as well as its traditional roots.  To conclude we’ll end our tour at a “zakkyo” or space that houses many creative industries. They have a fantastic rooftop bar overlooking the Kamo River, which will be a nice end to a biking day!

Day 7    KYOTO + NARA

Today we have two different activities, depending on your aims as a feminist.

  • We have the option of introducing you to some of Kyoto’s most dynamic female entrepreneurs. There with your guide we’ll find out more about the structural barriers and workplace culture that both challenges and is being challenged by Japanese businesswomen.
  • We also have the option of introducing you to tea ceremony with one of Kyoto’s most progressive hosts. Having studied abroad in France and married to a internationally renowned photographer, this guest can teach you traditional Japanese arts while still relating to and answering any questions about how modern women feel about promoting the traditional in Japanese society.

After lunch we’ll introduce you to our final Kyoto Artist. Though often busy we should be able to fit in a quick visit to her Kyoto Studio. She is one of Japan’s foremost calligraphers and often boldly users her own body to both updates and interrogates this traditional art form.  Her work is a phenomenal example of how Japanese Feminism tries to build a bridge between the traditional and the modern.

In the evening we can either leave you on your own, or for those interested set up a unique Geisha Encounter. We are connected to a few Geisha’s in Kyoto who are willing to meet with and dialogue with guests with the makeup off.  For those curious about how modern Japanese women feel about the role of the Geisha, this is a prime opportunity to sit down for a meal (or a drink) with a Geisha performer and learn more about the woman behind the mask.

Day 8 NARA               Hinoki House/Kasuga Tsukihitei

In the morning we’ll take the short train over to Nara. This will now be a deep dive into environment, spirituality and femininity, as well as the feminists trying to build bridges between them. For anyone who knows they are more interested in city-based feminism, we’d recommend ending the tour on Day 8.

In the after we’ll be introducing you to our friend Tokiko-san, she is one of Nara’s most famous Musicians, hired to perform at many temple openings to play traditional music. If possible perform a private show for us and afterward talk with us about how spirituality, femininity and music interact in Japan.

Then after lunch ,we’ll be meeting with our friend Akiko. Akiko is one of the most brilliant guides in Japan for her work linking femininity and the environment. We’ll chat with Akiko about our next few days.  Afterward Akiko will be taking us to some of her favorite artistic spots in the city to meet with some of Nara’s Artists. We’ll engage in some traditional activities (such as calligraphy) and look into some of the newer art ventures in the city.

Afterward we’ll take you to one of our favorite restaurants in Nara; tomorrow we’ll be leaving for the countryside!

Day 9 Countryside Ryokan and Farm

Today we’ll be leaving Nara for a full day of spiritual practice and healthy living. We’ll be heading to one of our favorite Ryokan’s, which also doubles as a female-founded and led community center and farm. The Ryokan’s aim is to connect travelers (both men and women) to the land and the idea that health is both spiritual and physical. This place is paradise for healthy eaters and vegetarians, and we’ll have numerous opportunities for meditation, hands-on cooking and meditation. As well as talking to the women who have founded the Ryokan and center about how they believe Japanese spirituality can be honored and lived in the modern era.  Our dinner will be a delicious and fully organic meal made from ingredients on the farm. You can either help cook or relax.

Want more information? Email our travel experts matt@asiaarttours.com.

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