Fall Festivals Fill Japan's Streets With Pageantry

TIMES STAFF WRITER

October is fall festival month in several Japanese cities, and a trip to some of those festivals runs from Oct. 14 to 27. The tour begins in Nikko, where a 400-year-old pageant of lords and samurai progresses from the Yomeimon Gate to the Toshogu Shinto shrine. After visiting Tokyo, Kamakura and Hakone, guests travel by train to Kyoto for the Festival of Ages, a procession that has taken place for 1,000 years. Also on the itinerary: the cities of Uji, Nara, Hemiji (and its huge palace fortress), the Festival of Flowers and Bonsai in the Korakuen Gardens of Okayama, and the village of Kurashiki. Leaving the main island of Honshu by train for Kyushu island, guests will visit Imari, Kutani and Satsuma. A farewell dinner is planned in Nagasaki. The tour is limited to 18.

Cost: $4,975 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, most meals, guides and air fare from Los Angeles. Contact: Harry Lawrence, Asia specialist at Laguna Beach's Warren Imports Far East Fine Arts; telephone (949) 494-9778.

New Zealand, Australia

Join Eva's Tours for a trip to New Zealand and Australia from Oct. 30 to Nov. 15. Tour highlights on the North and South islands of New Zealand include a scenic ride aboard the Trans Alpine Express and a visit to Milford Sound. The Australia leg includes Melbourne, with a stop on Philip Island, and Canberra. Cairns (and the Great Barrier Reef) is an optional side trip for $479.

Cost: $3,999 per person, double occupancy, including international and domestic air fares, hotels, transportation on motor coaches, guides and most meals.

Contact: Eva's Tours, 27485 Paseo Mimosa, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675; tel. (949) 489-0488. Reservations can be made through SST Tours; tel. (800) 339-7781.

Spain: Writing

You can spend seven nights in Barcelona and two nights in Bilbao on a creative writing retreat with novelist Terry Wolverton of Writers at Work. The trip, Sept. 6 to 16, focuses on strengthening writing skills in daily classes led by Wolverton. In Barcelona, participants will explore the Gothic quarter, the Olympic Village and the Rambla, a historic pedestrian walkway through the heart of the city. Then the group will travel to Bilbao in northern Spain to visit the Guggenheim Museum and become immersed in the music, food and cultural life of this Basque town. Daily writing workshops include exercises, discussions and individual assignments.

Cost: $3,400 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, accommodations and some meals.

Contact: Take My Mother Please Tours; tel. (323) 737-2200, http://www.takemymotherplease.com.

China: For Families

Experience China Tours is offering a summer vacation program to China for families. The seven-day trip departs July 31. Highlights include the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Beijing Zoo, the Imperial Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and a tai chi lesson.

Cost: $525 per person, double occupancy, including seven days in Beijing at a deluxe hotel, most meals and guided sightseeing. Air fare is extra.

Contact: Experience China Tours, tel. (877) 481-2446, http://www.experiencechina.net.

Wales: Road Trip

A van tour through northern Wales is offered by Global Fare of Cleveland. Available year-round, the six-day trip, with four full days of outings for eight to 11 passengers, is based at Betws-y-coed. Among the sights are the Llyn Peninsula and the Italianate village at Portmeirion.

Cost: $690 per person, double occupancy, for five nights' lodging, guide and transfers from the Betws-y-coed rail station or Manchester airport. Air fare and meals are extra.

Contact Global Fare; tel. (888) 868-7717.

Turkey: Jewish Heritage

A Jewish heritage tour to Turkey sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of Orange County runs Nov. 4 to 14. The tour visits Istanbul, Bursa, Canakkale, Izmir, Sardis, Kusadasi and Pamukkale. Members will visit Jewish sites such as Galata, Balat, Neve Shalom and Ahrida synagogues in Istanbul, Bursa synagogue, Beth Israel synagogue in Izmir and one of the world's oldest, the Sardis synagogue. The tour also explores the archeological ruins of Ephesus, Troy, Pergamum and Aphrodisias.

Cost: $1,950 per person, double occupancy, plus a $300 fee for members of the Jewish Community Center of Orange County, and a $400 fee for nonmembers. The cost includes international air fare from LAX, hotels, entrance fees and some meals.

Contact: Hazel Dyer; tel. (714) 755-0340, Ext. 135.

Eastern Europe: Arts

Beads and paprika are among the features of a Sept. 12-to-26 tour in the Czech Republic and Hungary. Among the Czech stops are bead factories at Jablonec and Nisou (with lunch in the factory owner's cottage), the Moser crystal factory at Karlovy Vary and Lednice to view woodcarving and folk-costume sewing. In Hungary, visitors go to the Szentendre artists' colony, the crafts museum in Kecskemet and the Paprika Festival in Kalocsa.

Cost: $4,590 per person, double, with air fare from New York, 13 nights' lodging, daily breakfast and many meals.

Contact: Specialty World Travel; tel. (800) 242-2346, http://www.specialtyworldtravel.com.

Venezuela: Adventure

Canaima National Park in Venezuela is about as unspoiled a tract as can be found on the globe, and Angel-Eco Tours of Brooklyn is operating weekly tours to the 11,600-square-mile area of grasslands, mesas, valleys, jungle and waterfalls, including the world's highest--3,212-foot Angel Falls, discovered in 1937 by aviator Jimmy Angel.

Cost: $1,499 per person, double occupancy, including seven nights in hotels, internal air and ground transport in four-wheel-drives and dugout canoes, lodging in guest houses built by the local Pemsn Indians, nights in beds or hammocks, guides and most meals. International air fare is extra.

Contact: Angel-Eco Tours; tel. (888) 475-0874.

Canada: Mountains

Summer treks into the crisp British Columbia mountain air--with daily helicopter assistance--are available from Canadian Mountain Holidays of Banff, Alberta. An Aug. 12-to-16 outing, designed for families, is based at Adamant Lodge, 3,600 feet up in the Selkirk Mountains and 225 miles west of Banff.

Cost: $1,380 per adult, double occupancy, and $1,055 for children under 14. Included are four nights' lodging, all meals, helicopter flights up to the lodge and to hiking areas, hiking gear and ground transportation from Banff or Calgary to the helicopter pad.

A similar seven-night experience in the Cariboo Mountains, with a start date of Aug. 24 or Aug. 28, includes flying from one lodge to another, rafting, horseback riding or fly-fishing and costs about $1,940 per adult. The lodges are Cariboo, at 3,600 feet, and Valemount, at 2,600 feet. Both are 80 miles southwest of Jasper. A new women-only package is scheduled Sept. 11 to 18. Cost: $1,830, which covers two nights at Banff Springs Hotel and four nights at Adamant Lodge. Air fare is extra.

Contact: Canadian Mountain Holidays; tel. (800) 661-0252, http://www .cmhmountaineering.com.

Germany: Wunderbar

DER Travel Services is offering "Germany Is Wunderbar" tours Aug. 4 and Sept. 15 for a seven-night trip that takes travelers to Frankfurt, Rudesheim, Heidelberg, Titisee, Schwangau, Fssen and Munich.

Highlights of the tour include a Rhine River cruise, a visit to Heidelberg Castle, a stop at Neu-schwanstein Castle, dinner and an evening performance of the musical "King Ludwig II," a visit to Linderhof Castle and a Munich city tour including Nymphenburg Palace.

Cost: $1,049 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, air-conditioned motor coach transportation and meals. Air fare is extra.

Contact: DER Travel Services; tel. (800) 549-3737, http://www.der.com.

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The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with travel agents or tour operators.

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