Times Staff Writer


See a cultural shrine before the world lands on its doorstep

SNEAK an advance look at Tokyo’s cutting-edge Mori Contemporary Art Museum on a 12-day Smithsonian Institution tour.

The Sept. 12 tour, a month before the scheduled opening of the museum, is billed as an insider’s look at the art, artifacts and architecture of Japan. Leading the tour will be the Smithsonian’s Andrew Pekarik, who specializes in Japanese traditional and contemporary culture.


“There is no other culture in the world like this one,” Pekarik said. “It is simultaneously futuristic and ancient. At every moment the past is present.”

The Mori museum is part of a new cultural complex in the 54-story Roppongi Hills Mori Tower. The Smithsonian group has been invited to take part in a director’s tour of the facility.

The group also visits Kyoto and Nara. Another highlight of the trip will be a private tour of the Miho Museum, designed by I.M. Pei in the mountains of Shiga Prefecture, which houses the Shumei Family Collection of ancient art and traditional Japanese art. Participants will also attend a private reception, where they will see the Hatakeyama Collection of fine arts and crafts of ancient Japan, Korea and China.

Cost: $8,790 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $1,950), including accommodations, daily breakfast, 11 other meals, entrance fees, a lecture series and land transportation. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Tokyo is not included.


Contact: Academic Arrangements Abroad, (800) 221-1944.



All gardens,


all the time for

plant enthusiasts

Stroll down the primrose path this summer during a 15-day tour of England that will include visits to public and private gardens and a day at the renowned Hampton Court Flower Show.

The July 1 tour will visit some of England’s finest gardens, including Hidcote Manor in the Cotswolds, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens in Surrey, the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens, Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park, Kiftsgate Court in Gloucestershire and Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter near Northiam.


Other highlights include Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey, where Graham Stuart Thomas spent 40 years compiling one of the world’s finest collections of roses, and Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst in Kent.

Cost: $4,495, including 13 nights’ lodgings, all breakfasts, seven other meals, admissions, flower show tickets, airport transfers and a full-time tour manager. Round-trip airfare from LAX to London is extra.

Contact: Coopersmith’s Tours, based in Inverness, Calif.; (415) 669-1914,




Let’s go surfin’, now, near the tip of Baja California

Hot-DOG your way to adventure on a six-night surf tour in southern Baja, Mexico.

Trips can be booked throughout the year. They cater to beginning surfers and include professional instruction and guides. Students stay near San Pedrito, south of Todos Santos, and visit several breaks in the area.


“Students have access to some of the best waves in the world,” said tour organizer Travis Moegling. Besides surf trips, there are yoga classes, fishing and trips to local towns.

Cost: $1,000 per person, including oceanfront hotel, all meals, ground transportation, surfing equipment and instruction. Transportation from LAX to Los Cabos International Airport near San Jose del Cabo is not included.

Contact: Lost Coast Adventures, based in Port Angeles, Wash.; (360) 681-2065,




A gem of a tour

to mineral-rich Minas Gerais

GEt down and dirty this summer on a gem and mineral tour to Brazil, where participants will have opportunities to dig for precious stones or purchase them from local miners and dealers.


The 16-day tour, which departs June 23 from Los Angeles, is being led by Anthony Kampf, curator of mineral sciences at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. This will be Kampf’s 10th tour to the state of Minas Gerais, which produces some of the world’s finest gems and minerals. Tourmaline, aquamarine, emerald and topaz will be among the highlighted gems.

The tour will visit Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third-largest city; Ouro Preto, a colonial city known for its Baroque churches; Diamantina, a diamond-mining center; and Iguacu Falls, a two-mile-wide series of cascades.

Cost: $2,600 per person, double occupancy (single supplement is $450), including hotels, ground transportation, daily breakfast and several other meals, admissions and a $500 tax-deductible donation to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Belo Horizonte is not included.

Contact: Travel program, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; (213) 763-3350,




Cities, castles and a beer or two in romantic Bavaria

Drink in the beauty of Bavaria while you toast Oktoberfest on an 11-day tour to Germany and Austria.


The Sept. 17 tour includes Wurzburg; Franconia’s wine region; Rothenburg, on the Romantic Road; Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, King Ludwig’s castles; Munich, where participants will celebrate Oktoberfest; Salzburg, Austria; and Lake Chiemsee, Germany.

Cost: $1,345 per person, double occupancy (single supplement is $170), including hotels, daily breakfast, three dinners, bus transportation and entrance fees. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Munich is not included.

Contact: Torrance-based Nonstop Travel; (800) 949-6362,

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