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Curated tour

Travel Mindfully: Exploring Zen, Nature, Art, and Self with Joe Jun Liao

Travel Mindfully: Exploring Zen, Nature, Art, and Self with Joe Jun Liao

8 Days 7 Nights

Regular price $8,800.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $8,800.00 USD
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※About solo traveler

For solo travelers, there is a single supplement fee of $1200. After booking your trip, please indicate your preference for a private room when filling out your traveler information form, and we will send a separate invoice for the associated cost. Alternatively, if you are open to sharing accommodations with another solo traveler this option may also be available upon checkout. Please note that these shared spots are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Per person, based on double occupancy.

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We offer unique journeys through Japan with our expertly curated tours. Led by a team of passionate individuals, including both Japanese locals and foreigners deeply connected to the culture, each experience offers a blend of personal stories and specialized knowledge. 

With our curators by your side, our tours go beyond typical sightseeing, providing a deeper understanding of Japanese culture. The curators possess a distinctive knack for viewing Japan from both insider and outsider perspectives, allowing them to offer engaging and thought-provoking experiences. In addition, each tour includes carefully selected cuisine and cultural encounters, and offers an intimate and enriching experience.

About Our Curator

Joe Jun Liao, a Hong Kong entrepreneur and a trained architect, fosters spiritual and mental well-being through his work. His journey into Zen Buddhism began in middle school and deepened under the guidance of Zen monk Toryo Ito in Kyoto. Drawn to the aesthetics of minimalism and inspired by lifestyles emphasizing presence and mindfulness, Jun crafted an itinerary exploring Japanese minimalist design, architecture, and Zen practices. Over the years, he has cultivated deep connections with Japan, immersing himself in its rich culture and aesthetics. Combining these traditional influences with his tech-savvy nature, Jun developed location-based game PLAAAY, demonstrating his multifaceted expertise in architecture, art, and technology. Jun blends traditional values with cutting-edge innovation, allowing people to experience the world in transformative ways.

Three Reasons to Embark on a Journey with Jun

Jun's creative philosophy embraces minimalism and Zen principles—simplicity and presence. By integrating Zen teachings with modern architecture, his work reveals new design possibilities. Blending ancient wisdom with minimalist innovation crafts tranquil, harmonious spaces, as seen in projects like FUUUN, SLEEEP, and the upcoming PLAAAY.

  • Traveling = Be Present

    Jun will guide this itinerary with an emphasis on mindfulness and presence. By engaging with local cultures and nature, Jun will help you embrace the art of living in the moment. You will leave distractions behind and gain new perspectives through mindful experiences.

  • Awaken Your Senses

    Over the years, Jun has developed a friendship with Toryo Ito, a Zen Buddhist monk in Kyoto. You will have the opportunity to practice Zen under Toryo's guidance, followed by an insightful dialogue on mindfulness and self-exploration between Jun and Toryo.

  • Savor Craftsmanship 

    Jun invites you to discover the charm of Kyoto's antique shops, where each visit unveils a world of exquisite crafts. Wander through renowned stores, immersing yourself in Japan's artistic legacy. Admire the delicate beauty of lacquerware and pottery, each piece a testament to the country's rich artisanal traditions.

Itinerary

  1. Day 1

    Welcome to Japan – Tokyo

    • Pilgrimage to Meiji Shrine and Harajuku sweet treats

    • Explore contemporary architecture with Jun

    • Welcome cocktail and dinner

    • Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo

    On the first morning, we will meet Jun in the hotel lobby and head out to immerse ourselves in the reverent atmosphere of Meiji Shrine, where tranquility graces the heart of the bustling metropolis. It offers a serene change of pace from the city before you venture onto the lively streets of Harajuku. We will turn our focus to food and explore and savor whatever piques your interest from crêpes to rice flour dumplings and cotton candy. 

    After lunch, we will go on a walking tour with Jun to explore Omotesando, known for its high concentration of buildings designed by world-renowned architects. Jun will conduct a specially tailored and interactive tour through the area, sharing his “streetologist” insights and perspectives on urbanism and architecture. You will also have the option to participate in a scavenger hunt using PLAAAY, a location-based game developed by Jun and his team. It’s a unique way to experience the streets in a different light. The evening concludes with a warm welcome dinner at a traditional dining spot, marking the beginning of your journey.

  2. Day 2

    The Wonders of Shitamachi – Tokyo

    • Visit Tokyo’s oldest town: Asakusa and Kappabashi

    • Ramen making and lunch

    • Stay at Park Hotel Tokyo

    After breakfast, we will visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, located in Asakusa. Don’t miss the chance to draw a good omikuji fortune. Around the temple, you will find traditional shops with delightful local sweets and snacks. Next, we will visit Kappabashi, an 800-meter stretch with over 170 stores offering culinary supplies for professionals and home cooks. For lunch, you will join a “Make Your Own Ramen” workshop, mastering the art of crafting a perfect ramen bowl with your choice of toppings.

    You’re free to choose your own dinner. Explore a range of dining experiences, from casual izakayas to Michelin-starred establishments. Discover unique restaurants tailored to your palate and enjoy a delightful meal.

  3. Day 3

    Sacred Simplicity – Odawara

    • Travel to Yugawara via Odawara

    • Visit Enoura Observatory

    • Enjoy a mindful dinner curated by a local chef

    • Stay at an exclusive hotel in Yugawara

    We will travel to Odawara by car to Enoura Observatory, which was created by globally celebrated photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. As his magnum opus, the place harmonizes various artistic disciplines into a singular achievement. Its gravity-defying structures include exhibition spaces, Noh stages, and a teahouse. Noteworthy features include a subterranean gallery framing the ocean horizon and a Noh stage with a floating glass platform. Sugimoto aims to create a "new Neolithic aesthetic," ensuring enduring beauty even in ruins. We will take a short break at the Stone Age Cafe at the Observatory. Afterward, we'll enjoy lunch in the area before heading to the ryokan in Yugawara.

    Enjoy the calm atmosphere of a traditional hidden hot-spring inn nestled amidst bamboo groves in the renowned Yugawara hot springs. It’s a perfect setting for “me time.” In the evening, savor authentic kaiseki at the inn, offering the finest Japanese cuisine.

  4. Day 4

    Mindful Walking Tour & Heavenly Eel for Lunch – Yugawara to Kyoto

    • Yugawara town walking tour + PLAAAY

    • Eel lunch

    • Travel to Kyoto

    • Stay at Ace Hotel Kyoto

    Enjoy breakfast in a tranquil setting before heading out to the tour of Yugawara. This walking tour is led by Jun’s colleague Yuval, an onsen aficionado currently authoring a book on hot springs and architecture. You also have the option to explore Yugawara using the PLAAAY platform.

    Conclude the morning with a sumptuous unagi (eel) lunch. The eel at this upscale restaurant is prepared with care and is renowned for its exceptional flavor, promising an unforgettable dining experience. Afterward, we will board a Shinkansen (bullet train) from Atami to Kyoto. After checking in at the hotel, you can enjoy bars and restaurants, modern cafes and traditional sweet shops across the street or spend time and dine at your leisure.

  5. Day 5

    A Journey Through Rituals – Kyoto

    • Travel to the temple: Deep diving into Zen at Ryosokuin

    • Modern tea room experience

    • Stay at Ace Hotel Kyoto

    Enjoy breakfast before heading out to Ryosokuin. We offer a meditation session led by Jun and Toryo Ito, where you can explore Japanese Zen philosophy and practice. Zen monk Toryo guides you through zazen meditation, samu (zen practice of working meditation), and shojin ryori. Tour the rock garden, which reflects Zen philosophy, and contemplate your spiritual journey as you stroll through the extensive grounds.

    The next stop is Kennin-ji, Kyoto’s oldest Zen temple, which has a beautiful Zen garden. Continuing along the path through Kyoto’s renowned Gion district, we will take you to a stunning contemporary tea establishment where ancient Japanese aesthetics meet modern interpretation. In a tranquil setting, savor the exquisite craftsmanship of Japanese confectionery paired with green tea or a cocktail. In the late afternoon, we will return to the hotel, offering a chance to unwind at your leisure. Dinner is your choice to explore.

  6. Day 6

    Daily Life & Living Tradition – Kyoto

    • Visit to Arashiyama

    • Explore antique stores cherished by connoisseurs

    • Gourmet strolling through Nishiki Market

    • Stay at Ace Hotel Kyoto

    Today, we venture into the nestled by Kyoto’s western mountains, Arashiyama offers cultural wonders and nature pursuits. Iconic sights include the Bamboo Forest and Togetsukyo Bridge, steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. After enjoying the spectacular view, we'll explore antique stores, hidden gems known only to those in the know, where you may uncover a special treasure of your own.

    For lunch, we'll savor the culinary delights of Nishiki Market. Its narrow streets teem with small independent stores, buzzing with activity from morning till night, drawing locals and tourists alike. Dinner is your choice to explore. We will see you the following morning as we set forth on an adventure to experience the spiritual splendor of Kyoto’s temples.

  7. Day 7

    Exploring Zen & Design – Kyoto

    • Morning session Jun&Toryo

    • Farewell dinner with geisha entertainment

    • Stay at Ace Hotel Kyoto

    As we conclude the trip, we will have a morning session with Jun and Toryo. They will discuss the interconnectedness of architecture, design, Buddhism, and space. Spend this time listening to the speakers, who have superb abilities to integrate new elements with the old. The end is the beginning. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy as you wish. Explore Kyoto at your own pace and indulge in some “me time.”

    For the farewell dinner, prepare to delight in shabu-shabu with Kuroge-wagyu beef in a traditional Kyoto townhouse-style establishment. As the evening unfolds, enjoy an authentic dance performance by a geisha accompanied by music. You’ll even have the chance to partake in traditional games with her.

  8. Day 8

    Until We Meet Again – Kyoto

    • Transfer to Airport

    It’s time to bid farewell. You will carry the memorable experiences in your hearts until our paths cross again. The tour will conclude after breakfast. If you plan to stay a few extra days, we can provide you with some tips on places to explore.

Accommodations

Our accommodations will be primarily boutique hotels run by local businesses, offering a range from minimalistic and comfortable lodgings to traditional Japanese inns called ryokans with communal baths. These serene retreats serve as the ideal starting point for “me time” a mindful journey.

Park Hotel Tokyo

Nestled in the heart of Tokyo, the Park Hotel Tokyo offers a truly unique and artistic experience for its guests. From the moment you step into the hotel, you will be surrounded by the year-round art exhibition that transcends conventional hospitality. The concept of “Art for all” has been woven into every aspect of the guest experience, including the exhibitions that grace the corridors of every guest room floor. During your stay, enjoy the guest lounge located on the 25th floor with panoramic views of Tokyo's majestic skyline, including Mount Fuji and Tokyo Tower.

Ace Hotel Kyoto

East meets West in Japan’s culture capital. Ace Hotel Kyoto is the product of a design marriage between East and West through a shared love of organic materials and deep appreciation of the hand crafted with Japanese and California builders, artisans and manufacturers. It’s in a perfect spot to explore the crisscrossing streets stemming from the main thoroughfare, packed with bars and restaurants, modern cafes and traditional sweet shops.

Notes

About solo traveler

For solo travelers, there is a single supplement fee of $1200. After booking your trip, please indicate your preference for a private room when filling out your traveler information form, and we will send a separate invoice for the associated cost. Alternatively, if you are open to sharing accommodations with another solo traveler this option may also be available upon checkout. Please note that these shared spots are limited and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Tour Capacity

We will have a maximum number of 12 guests, along with a member of Me Time Travel team. Our immersive experiences are filled with joy and inclusivity, and you can anticipate joining a diverse group representing various stages of life, backgrounds, races, genders, interests, and a mix of solo travelers, couples, and friends traveling together. It’s important to note that our trips are currently designed for travelers aged 18 and above.

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