“In 2015, Koyasan will celebrate 1200 years since its esoteric Buddhist dojo was opened by Kobo Daishi Kukai. In this memorable year, for 50 days from April 2nd to May 21st at Koyasan, we will hold a splendid memorial service in gratitude to the great heritage left to us by Kobo Daishi Kukai. Kobo Daishi chose Koyasan in the Kii mountain range, surrounded by great nature and far from the hustle and bustle of the city to build his esoteric dojo. Kobo Daishi was motivated by the desire to educate people who would work for the happiness of others and pray for eternal peace and security for the country and society. Reaching this great 1,200 year milestone, the door is now open to the a new era in the next hundred years or thousand years. We look forward to seeing you at Koyasan in 2015, with events that convey the history and appeal of this great memorial.”
Archbishop Matsunaga Yukei, 412th Chief Abbot of Kongobuji
Experience a temple stay at Koyasan, Japan — sacred mountain and UNESCO pilgrimage site (one of just a handful of UNESCO Pilgrimage Routes, the others are the Way of St. James in Spain, and the Birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem) — marking its 1,200-year anniversary in 2015. This is just one of the highlights of Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan, May 5 to 15, 2015, designed and led by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Part of the living culture of Japan, Koyasan is a spiritual center and World Heritage Site, where you can stay in a 1,000-year-old temple, dine with monks, bathe in Japan’s oldest hot spring, stroll through a village, and admire a sacred waterfall, all evocatively set in a temperate rainforest on the Kii Peninsula (our equivalent would be Sitka, Alaska or Vancouver). Not just a place for the ancient and religious, SANNA (aka Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa) built their first project, the very modern Kumano Kodo Kakahechi Art Museum, along the pilgrimage route leading to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto. UNESCO designated the complex of shrines, monasteries, and stone paths crisscrossing the mountain “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” in 2004.
Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan, May 5-15 2015. $11,995
Designed by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at the Met, this 11-day program includes a temple stay in Koyasan, and an overnight at a ryokan or traditional Japanese guesthouse in Kawayu Onsen, where pilgrims settle into hot baths along the geothermally heated Oto River. The tour also features private viewings, curator-led visits and hand-picked sites in Nara, capital of Japan from 710 to 784, and Kyoto, center of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years. With a particular interest in ceramics, Carpenter opens doors for us too at workshops of modern artists. In addition to traditional Japanese accommodations, we stay three nights each at the historic Hotel Nara and newly opened Ritz-Carleton in Kyoto, set on the Kamogawa River.
Another feature of the trip will be a tea ceremony in the tea room at the Raku Kichizaemon Pavilion at the Sagawa Art Museum on May 13, hosted by Raku Kichizaemon XV, 15th generation of a line of master ceramicists that goes back to the original 16th-century master Chojiro. Created to display his work, the Raku Kichizaemon-Kan (tearoom and gallery) at the Sagawa Art Museum on the shore of Lake Biwa outside Kyoto was designed by Raku with Japan’s oldest architectural firm. The Canadian garden photographer Allan Mandel wrote recently about the experience, “Sublime, the tea room and raku/weaving exhibit were nothing short of ethereal and transcendent, ranking among the best art museum experiences I’ve ever had.”
Images courtesy of
Koyasan Shingon Buddhism Sohonzan Kongobuji – 金剛峯寺
Marisa Swope began working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in September 2007. She started as an assistant tour coordinator before moving into program operations.
“I actually am just about to transition to our Sales Team,” says Marisa. “It’s nice that there’s room for change and growth here.”
Hometown: Winchester, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s a wonderful small city, though I’m biased!
City I would recommend to friends: I just got back from Tokyo and loved it, so that is at the top of the list now. I also spent several months living in Buenos Aires, which is an amazing city, so that usually is recommended too.
City I would drop everything to see: I’d love to see Budapest, Istanbul, Dubrovnik, Marrakesh, and Lisbon. The list goes on. If I haven’t been, I want to go! (with a few exceptions)
Who would play you in a movie? I’m thinking. Stay tuned!
The ones that I also get to travel on as a tour director! Getting to see a program come to life — so to speak — is very rewarding. We spend a long time developing itineraries and coordinating all of the tour details, so it is satisfying to see the final product. I also love getting to meet our travelers, and of course to see the incredible places included on our programs.
I’m working on them! I’d like to be fluent in Spanish and Italian. I am not yet there in either, but traveling to Cuba for work and weekly Spanish lessons are helping!
Most visited websites:
Something that surprises people: I’m afraid of riding bikes, and I have a major sweet tooth
Three things I can’t travel without: Earplugs, an eye mask and my iPhone
Number of trips: I’ve been a tour director on 14 tours with Academic Arrangements Abroad. I can’t begin to count my independent travels!
If you like these photos of Marisa, please check out other images of staff members on our “Faces of Arrangements Abroad” Pinterest Board.
Chelsea Bryant began working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in July 2012. As an Assistant Tour Coordinator, she focuses on facilitating reservations and helping passengers on the firm’s travel programs.
Right now, she is working on programs to Thailand and Cambodia, Chile, and the Baltic capitals, among others.
Hometown: Amherst, Massachusetts
City I would recommend to friends: I know the most about Madrid as I lived there for several years, but I highly recommend Lisbon, Portugal, as well. I didn’t know what to expect when I first went, but it enthralled me–the scenery, the food, the people. It’s relatively cheap, many people speak English, and the Pastéis de Belém (egg tarts) are to die for.
City I would drop everything to see: Tokyo, Japan. It’s #1 on my list!
Most recent tour: I traveled to Cuba in January 2013. My next trip with AAA will be a cruise on Sea Cloud II from Rome to Naples in May.
Special skills: Playing the piano and speaking Spanish
Favorite travel book: It isn’t a travel book per se, but I love Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. His stories about living abroad and learning a new language are hilarious, and I really identify with them, having gone through a similar situation.
Most visited websites: Tastespotting (looking for recipes is my guilty pleasure), Pinterest for inspiration, Buzzfeed for sloth-related posts.
Three things I can’t travel without: snacks, a journal, iPod
Number of trips: Many, especially in Europe, but there are large areas of the earth I have yet to cover…
Among our most popular tour directors, Christine Pagnani has headed up tours to destinations including India and Burma. This coming year she’ll travel with Academic Arrangements Abroad on programs including Dutch & Flemish Landscapes, Artistic Traditions of Korea & Japan, Sicily By Sea and Dukes, Popes & Painters.
Find out more about Christine below.
Hometown: Haleiwa on Oahu’s beautiful North Shore, equally known for Bonzai Pipeline and Matsumoto’s shaved ice.
Last book I read: The Glass Room
City you most recommend to friends: Just about any city in Italy.
City you would drop everything to go see: Any city that presents a new experience.
Tour you were on recently: Burma, where our Met group had the memorable opportunity to meet with and speak with Daw Aung San Su Kyi.
Special skill: Bargain hunting, finding a truly local experience and connecting with people.
Your most visited websites: united.com, seatguru.com, nytimes.com.
Something about you that surprises people: Climbed the Great Wall of China when pregnant with my older daughter.
Three things you can’t travel without: Electric toothbrush, an over-stuffed carry on and an open mind.
Number of trips traveled on: I lost count in 1977, but well over 100.