Japan (Incl. Tokyo Quilt Show): 12-25 January 2020

The Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, plus … explorations in shibori, indigo dyeing,  saori weaving, silk weaving, artisan studios, a tea ceremony, temples, shrines, onsen …

Are you fascinated by Japanese textiles?  Have you always wanted to go to the world famous Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival? Join our small group of like-minded textile-enthused women for the experience of a lifetime on our winter visit to Japan. Visit the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, specialist handcraft and textile museums, enjoy hands-on workshops (saori weaving, shibori, tussah silk weaving, wax & indigo dyeing), visit artisan studios, indulge in fabulous fabric and textiles shopping, explore magnificent scenery and experience traditional Japanese culture. Plus so much more.

This 14 day women’s textiles tour, hosted by retreat|recreate and fully escorted by a local Japanese English-speaking guide, commences in Kyoto where highlights include a private class in tussah silk weaving, a silk textiles centre, an indigo master’s studio, and the atelier of a famous ceramicist in the pottery district.  We’ll take you to our favourite textile shops including the 400 year old handmade needles and pins shop, and another featuring an exquisite collection of antique textiles. Of course we’ll also take in some of the most important shrines and temples in the country, including the beautiful Fushimi Inari Shrine and the famous Golden Pavilion. Another special treat for our group will be a private traditional tea ceremony.

A particular highlight will be a wander through beautiful Gion one evening, enjoying its traditional wooden houses and tea shops and maybe glimpsing local geiko and maiko (geisha).  A day trip into the nearby mountains takes us to a rural village of traditional thatched-roof farmhouses where we are privileged to meet one of Japan’s premier ikat weaving masters and visit his atelier. On the way back we’ll stop at the beautiful bamboo groves of Arashiyama and enjoy an optional onsen (hot springs bath). A highlight of our time in Kyoto is two nights in traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) accommodation.

Leaving Kyoto we travel by shinkansen (bullet train) to Japan’s traditional shibori village where we’ll enjoy a Japanese tie dye class with local artisans and visit the shibori museum.

Back on the bullet train and on to amazing Tokyo! We’ll explore one of Tokyo’s famous flea markets, shop in the famous Nippori Fabric Town and experience Tokyo’s best temples and shrines.  Handcraft classes in Tokyo include saori weaving and wax & indigo fabric dyeing. We’ll take you to our favourite shops, a folk arts & crafts museum and of course we’ll leave time to explore the bright lights and tiny alleyways of districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya. Finally, we’ll spend a whole day at the fabulous Tokyo International Great Quilt Show, with a second optional day (or a day of leisure).


  • thirteen nights accommodation as per the itinerary
  • meals as per the itinerary (daily breakfasts, 1 lunch, 2 dinners)
  • local English speaking guide throughout the tour
  • all transport, sightseeing attractions (museums, galleries, etc) and excursions as per the itinerary
  • 4 x hands-on textile/craft workshops and classes
  • 1 day entrance ticket to Tokyo International Great Quilt Show
  • luggage transfers from Kyoto to Tokyo
  • arrival airport transfer


  • international airfares
  • travel insurance (required)
  • early check in or late check out
  • meals and drinks not included in the itinerary
  • personal spending (shopping, laundry, mobile phone charges etc)
  • tip for guide
  • optional onsen (hot springs bath)
  • second day entrance ticket to Tokyo International Great Quilt Show
  • departure airport transfer

Things to note

  • the tour comprises 13 nights/14 days and operates from 12 – 25 January 2020. The itinerary is a full one to ensure value for money, however several free periods are built in. We have extended the 2020 tour by one day and reduced the number of activities to allow for a slower pace and more free time than the 2019 trip;
  • the opportunity exists to extend your trip by extra nights at our hotels in Kyoto before or Tokyo after the tour;
  • shared arrival airport transfers are included in the price (however if you book pre-tour accommodation at a hotel other than the Kyoto tour hotel the transfer may not be included – check with us);
  • retreat|recreate strives to offer culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable tours. To this end, we: engage local guides; partner with wholesale tour operators whose values align with ours; use public transport where possible; patronise women’s co-ops and associations where possible;
  • retreat|recreate’s tours are offered in partnership with a licensed, well-resourced tour operator for peace of mind;
  • your retreat|recreate host on this trip will be Susan Rees-Osborne;
  • our hotels are 3 to 3.5 star – perfectly comfortable but not luxury. Please note Japanese hotel rooms are much smaller than Western rooms. We also stay two nights in a traditional ‘ryokan’ Japanese inn where guests sleep on futons on the floor. Please note the single supplement does not apply at the ryokan accommodation as rooms are shared;
  • please consider your mobility/fitness levels to determine if this trip is right for you:- The tour comprises travel on public transport mostly (plus one day on a private charter bus) and involves much walking and many subway station stairs. We often need to walk for ten to fifteen minutes from a train station to an activity venue. The ability to walk and manage stairs is essential. The winter weather will be cold and possibly rainy/snowy. Ryokan accommodation comprises futon bedding on tatami mats on the floor. Several of the activities involve sitting or kneeling on tatami mats or low stools. Participants need to be able to manage their own luggage for short distances;
  • our maximum group size is 12 women;
  • the 2020 Quilt Show dates are draft. The itinerary will be amended if necessary when the dates are confirmed;
  • retreat|recreate’s tour groups welcome women from all over the globe and embrace all ages (minimum 18 years), origins and personalities. Flexibility, a taste for adventure and a sense of humour are essential when travelling as part of a group.

Here’s what our travellers had to say about this trip:

I’m not a ‘tour’ person, but am so glad I made an exception for Japan in January 2020. The itinerary was so thoughtfully planned – a beautiful combination of experiences and sightseeing. I saw all of the “must see” sights, but still felt independent. retreat|recreate captured the essence of “my kind” of travel.  Tara – Japan 2020 

My trip to Japan with retreat|recreate was the fulfillment of a long time dream. From the first visit to a weaver’s studio, where I wept at the amazing art and the opportunity to view it, to the visits to so many beautiful cultural sites, I was enchanted and delighted with the experience. Looking back, I can’t believe how many things we saw and did, and all the special artists we met. Susan and Akiko, our Japanese guide, made sure every question was answered and every need was met. A once in a lifetime trip (but I’m already thinking of doing it again). Pam – Japan January 2020

Only when you return home do you realise the care and research that has gone into providing such a range of textile and cultural highlights that make up this tour. From moments of quiet contemplation during the tea ceremony and walking in temple gardens to the bustle of the flea market and Quilt Festival, everything was organised to provide the widest possible experience and enjoyment. Travelling in a small group of textile enthusiasts, we were able to learn from inspiring local artists and practitioners who guided us through the delights of dyeing, stitching and weaving. Completely unforgettable and I’d say one off the ‘bucket list’ if I wasn’t planning the next trip!  Bev – Japan 2020