A taste of the samurai life and culture

Times Staff Writer

TRACE the path of the samurai on an upscale cultural tour of Japan that follows the historic Tokaido, the main road of feudal Japan.

The 11-day Esprit Tours & Travel tour, which begins Nov. 4 in Tokyo, travels by train to Hakone, Ise and Kyoto. In feudal times, the Tokaido (the Eastern Sea Road) was the highway traveled between the old imperial capital, Kyoto, where the emperor lived, and Tokyo, where the shogun lived.

“Our tours do things that people couldn’t do on their own. They just wouldn’t have the opportunity,” said tour representative Nancy Craft. “For example, in Kyoto we visit the home of an international calligraphy master who is a performance artist.”

While in Tokyo, participants will tour Sensoji Temple (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) and the Meiji Shrine; they’ll visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum and shopping districts, including the trendy Omotesando-dori area.


They’ll also visit the Tsukiji wholesale fish market and Takashimaya gourmet market.

The next stop is Hakone, a resort area known for its mineral baths and home to several museums and an outdoor sculpture garden.

They’ll take a cable-car ride to view Mt. Fuji and Owakudani Crater, returning by boat on Lake Ashi.

They will travel along the coast to Ise, visit Ise-Shima National Park and tour Toba’s Mikimoto Pearl Island.


In Kyoto, tour participants will stop at Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion), Jodo Temple and several Zen monasteries.

They will attend a private traditional tea ceremony at the Moss Temple (Kokedera), where they will try the art of calligraphy and tour the moss gardens.

Cost: $5,150 per person, double occupancy ($1,050 single surcharge), including accommodations, most meals, train transportation, bilingual guides, admissions and excursions. International airfare is not included.

Contact: Esprit Travel & Tours, Los Angeles; (800) 377-7481,



Pilgrimage with fireworks, feasts

EXPLORE Sikh holy sites on a pilgrimage to India and Pakistan during Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated with fireworks and feasts.


The 11-day journey begins Oct. 23 in the holy Sikh city of Amritsar, India, then travels into Pakistan to Lahore, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith, and to Rawalpindi to the temple Panja Sahib.

The tour returns to Amritsar for the Diwali festival. Although the tour welcomes all travelers, said Max Ali of SITA World Travel, “At this time it is mainly a pilgrimage.”

Travel to Pakistan has been difficult for Americans of Indian origin, he said, but “there is a new spirit of understanding that has been embraced by all sides. We have been assured by the Pakistani government that it is safe.”

The U.S. State Department reissued a warning in March urging Americans to defer nonessential travel to Pakistan, citing concerns about possible terrorist activity directed against Americans.

Cost: $1,295 per person, double occupancy, ($495 single supplement), including accommodations, some meals, ground transportation, excursions and English-speaking guide. International airfare is not included.

Contact: SITA World Travel Inc., Encino; (800) 421-5643, Ext. 1506,




Discover hidden side of San Diego

STROLL the streets of Banker’s Hill near Balboa Park on walking tours of San Diego.

The two-mile morning treks, which begin at 10 a.m. Saturday through Thursday, showcase the early-1900s architecture of the homes of the city’s early power brokers, the gardens and some unexpected features such as a 377-foot suspension bridge built in 1912 across a chaparral canyon.

Cost: $20 per person, including tour guides, parking, bottled water and snacks. Transportation to San Diego is not included.

Contact: Where You Want to Be Tours, San Diego; (619) 917-6037,


The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. Send information to Tours & Cruises, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 or write via e-mail to