Geek Nation Tours is proud to continue our Signature Battlefield tours with our Samurai and the Battlefields of Sekigahara tour – the third in our Japan tour trilogy. On October 21st, 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu lead his forces onto the plains of Sekigahara to an eventual victory that would change the course of Japanese history. The battle is one of the most famous of all Samurai engagements in Japan’s long history steeped with mystery, betrayal, heroic deeds and acts of barbarism.
Not only will we explore this battlefield in detail and walk its remains, but the main goal of the tour is to take you back to the time of the Samurai. We will visit a wide range of Samurai related sites and other areas of Japan that still give one the feeling of living in those ancient times.
Our first days will bring us to the Seki Cutlery Festival which is dedicated to blades of all sorts. We will see sword making demonstrations, the Seki Sword Tradition Museum and an outdoor knife show where you can purchase blades of your own. We will then slow the tour down and just like ancient times, we will be forced to hike by the Shogunate (your Geek Nation Tours representative) between Magome and Tsumago. The Nakasendo Highway was well traveled by Samurai in ancient times and still feels like a journey into the past to this day. We will plunge into a traditional Japanese onsen or two just like the Samurai used to sooth aching bones… Castles will also be on the list and as such, we will visit some of the very best and most loved in Japan.
This year we worked hard to make this tour even “More Samurai”, and thus we will make the often not travelled journey to the west coast of Japan. There we will see even more castles and the city called “Little Kyoto” – Kanazawa. Here we will walk one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, talk a little Zen and take in the Samurai houses still standing from ancient times…
With this said, Sekigahara does play a big part in what we will see, and we are lucky as we will be in Japan for the annual Battle of Sekigahara Festival… We will be able to see re-enactors dressed in traditional Samurai garb and explore the details of the battle. We even have plans for you to get dressed up too!
You will be treated to at least two guides for this tour. We will have a local guide with us throughout the tour and your Geek Nation Tours representative studied in Japan. But, also new this year, is our guest host – Stephen Turnbull. If you have read about Samurai history, ethics or religion you most likely were reading a Stephen Turnbull book. He is a prolific writer and British historian concentrating on Japan and the samurai period. Many of those books have been published by our new partner Osprey Publishing.
Which of course, leads us to our other big news this year. Osprey Publishing and Geek Nation Tours have joined forces to create tours for the most discerning of travelers. It is our goal to fashion tours where one can delve deeply into the historic period we are covering with expert guest hosts relating knowledge as they walk along beside us. But while learning is important, we will also seek out fun and cover the more geeky aspects of the journey. We will meld pop culture with history, blend practical knowledge with epic legend and see human struggle and heroic deeds through many lenses.
If you ever dreamed of living in ancient Japan this is the tour for you!
Day 1 (Friday October 11th):
When everyone has arrived, we will gather together for our Welcome Dinner and meet our guides and of course, our guest host, the illustrious Stephen Turnbull… Expect to talk all things Japan, to dine on a traditional Japanese dinner and perhaps indulge in a beverage or two.
Dr T’s Take: I look forward to meeting you all
We will be staying at the – Castle Plaza Hotel / Welcome Dinner included
Day 2 (Saturday October 12th):
Today we will explore the Annual Seki Cutlery Festival. Seki has a long history of producing the finest quality swords and blades in the world. Seki’s history with blades spans over 900 years and today we will get a taste of this tradition. Throughout the town, we will see sword-forging and polishing demonstrations, cutting and sheathing performances and sword collection displays. We will also explore the outdoor knife show that boasts a multitude of knife stalls (and other things bladed) for all those interested in making a purchase.
We will visit the Seki Sword Tradition Museum, and a local guide will be with us today to help explain the sword making process and to give us deeper details into the festival itself. We will also visit the Cutlery Museum and a local shrine, and you will have a good part of the day to explore the festival on your own.
We do however, suggest you join us to take in the Iaido demonstration, as it was a big hit with past tour participants. Iaido is a martial art that studies the sword and how to draw, strike and return the blade to its scabbard in fluid – some say beautiful – motions. It is always amazing to watch the skill and concentration of the demonstrators. Besides, it is a cool way to bring you back to feudal times and prepare you for the next day’s hike.
If possible, we will tour a local Kendo (way of the sword) or Kyudo (way of the bow) dojo and see how these traditions still live on in Japan. In past tours, we visited the local archery club’s event and they even allowed us to shoot!
As you explore today, remember a key ingredient to enjoying any festival in Japan is to eat from a street vendor or two. Take in some street food and enjoy the odd Japanese beer as you explore all that the festival has to offer. Make sure you take a good look at the knives sure to be on display for sale. You might want to bring home a good strong kitchen blade, so you can be a samurai when you cook dinner…
With that said, our last stop in Seki will be the Spyder.co Knife Museum and shop. It will be our first time here and thus we will have to take our time visiting their blade displays, choosing what Spyder knife to bring home and posing with their monstrous “Gulliver Special Knife”!
After our arrival at the evening’s hotel we will sneak out for an Unagi dinner or Japanese style barbequed eel – a local favorite.
Dr T’s Take: This sounds like the perfect time to do an introduction to samurai swords from manufacture to their use.
We will be staying at the – Hotel Route Inn Minokama / Breakfast included
Day 3 (Sunday October 13th):
Today you will be immersed into the spirit of ancient Japan by walking in the footsteps of the samurai of old … From Seki we will make our way to Magome to hike the Magome/Tsumago trail. Here we will discover the 8 km long remains of the Nakasendo Highway – the route through the Kiso Valley which connected ancient Edo with the rest of Japan. All around you will be signs of feudal Japan – from the cobblestones you will walk upon to the ancient shrines and cypress forests.
Stephen Turnbull will help us slow down as he regales us about the meaning of many of the shrines and teaches us about the reasons the Nakasendo was built in the first place.
When we arrive in Tsumago we will be pleasantly rewarded with a town which looks virtually untouched for centuries. Tsumago is a traditional post town that welcomed visitors on the path to and from Tokyo. It is one of the best-preserved post towns in Japan and is like visiting an open-air museum. We will check in at our hotel and then you are free to explore the area or take in a late lunch on your own.
Ryokan and Minshuku are traditional Japanese hotels that are still in use today, and we will be staying at one to sleep on the tatami floor and eat just as explorers did in ages bygone. As is tradition the washroom will be down the hall and you will most likely have to get your own futon out of the closet.
We are in for a treat this evening as we will be offered a home cooked meal right where you are sleeping, and our own private onsen to help relieve our road weary feet. Who knows – we might even get a game in or two this night… We might want to try Osprey’s Sakura or Samurai Gardener…
Dr T’s Take: This should be a superb day. The hike is spectacular, and we may have some fall colours. Most tourists don’t notice the small details and the tiny shrines to important local gods – I know where they are!
We will be staying at the – Hanaya Minshuku / Breakfast and dinner included
Day 4 (Monday October 14th):
We are off to see our first two castles today and the historic spot of perhaps the most loved, commemorated, and touted example of samurai valor and ethic – the Five Battles of Kawanakajima.
We will start out on the road to Matsumoto to visit its wonderful castle. Matsumoto castle is one of the most beautiful and historically intact castles in all of Japan. It was built during the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period) around 1593 (just prior to Sekigahara). It was never attacked in those times and also avoided being so during World War II. Matsumoto is known as the black castle and this hirajiro (a castle built on a plain) is both forbidding and beautiful.
As we drive north we will learn of Kawanakajima’s importance to samurai culture and discuss the heroic battles with Dr. Turnbull. Only then will we arrive at Kawanakajima Kosenjo Park and the historical site of the 4th Battle of Kawanakajima. Here, legend has it that the leaders of all five battles once met in single combat, and we will see the statues of the rival Daimyo Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin commemorated on the spot. We will discover the park, see the audio-visual show of the battle and then continue on foot to the grave of Morozumi Masakiyo. Near the Chikumagawa river we will Nobushige’s grave in the temple of Tenkyuji along with Japan’s largest representation of Emma-do, the guardian of hell. Our journey will then bring us to Matsushiro (formally known as Kaizu) Castle, who’s stone foundation, outer walls, gates and moat are still intact. While built by Takeda Shingen in 1560, the castle changed names when the Sanada family came into power. If we have time we will also take a look at the Sanada family buildings and museum, plus the Matsushiro Samurai School were from 1853 samurai were educated in not only the ways of the sword, spear and bow, but also literature, artillery and tactics.
Before we leave the area to retire to our Ryokan right in the heart of Onsen territory, we hope to make the 15 min climb of Saijo-San (Mount Saijo) and see the magnificent view from Uesugi Kenshin’s camp.
Dr T’s Take: Today should allow us a blow-by-blow account of the battle of Kawanakajima. Matsumoto Castle is a spectacular sight: try and photograph it with the mountains in the background. Matsushiro will bring you close again to the world of the samurai.
From here we will journey to the mountain hot spring area of Yamanouchi for the most relaxing part of the trip –
We will be staying at the – Issano Komichi Biyu No Yado Onsen / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 5 (Tuesday October 15th):
Today we will relax in the Japanese Alps. You will have the day to lounge about or roll some dice and play a Samurai based game at our ryokan, stroll the quant narrow streets of the onsen towns of Yudanaka and Shibu Onsen, or participate in one of two optional tours.
One way to see the town is to make the trip to the nine public onsens that are scattered through the mountain villages. It is said that good fortune comes to all those that visit all nine onsens and you will see many people walking the town in traditional yukata and Japanese sandals. Who knows, you might even see a snow monkey journeying through the streets away from his house further up the mountain.
Which, or course, leads us to the second optional tour and a journey to the Jigokudani Monkey Park were one can see Japanese Macaques bathing in a onsen made just for them. The monkeys are accustomed to humans and are known to pose for pictures at their onsen or on the mountain paths leading to and fro.
No matter your choice, we will gather today for another traditional Japanese meal followed by more gaming or our last chance for an onsen visit right at our hotel.
Dr T’s Take: Hot springs and monkeys – sounds like a perfect rest day to me!
We will be staying at the – Issano Komichi Biyu No Yado Onsen / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 6 (Wednesday October 16th):
We will continue our travels by motor coach and leave the Yamanouchi area for the long journey to Kanazawa. Perhaps we will discuss our favorite Samurai movies and talk with Dr. Turnbull about his, before indulging in a film ourselves as we make our way across the western edge of the Japanese coastline.
When we arrive at Kanazawa – also known as Little Kyoto – we will visit the Nagamachi Samurai House Area and see the incredibly preserved samurai residence, rest or way station houses, the Ashigaru house and the Nomura Family Samurai House with its lush gardens and beautiful screen designs. We will then continue with a quick walk to D.T. Suzuki Museum who is famous for introducing and spreading interest in both Zen and Shinto in the West in the 1950’s and 60’s. The gardens here are said to reflect his views on Japanese religion.
At this point we will either head back to our hotel to prepare ourselves for a feast on Sushi (as Kanazawa is renowned for its sushi restaurants) or sneak off to the Teramachi temple area to visit Myoryu-ji – the temple of the Ninja.
Dr T’s Take: Today offers a drive through marvelous mountain scenery finishing up in authentic old samurai dwellings.
We will be staying at the – Hotel Kanazawa / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 7 (Thursday October 17th):
We will continue our explorations of Kanazawa today and journey to Kenroku-en Garden which is billed as one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. We will stroll the area and take in the ponds, hills and trees before making the short transition to Kanazawa Castle Park. The partially restored Kanazawa-jo was the headquarters of the Maeda clan which ruled this area from the Sengoku-Jidai to the Meiji Restoration.
From here we will discover Kanazawa’s Samurai houses by stopping at the Terashima family house as it is an elegant home, but also a perfect example of how middle-class samurai would have lived… It also has a great example of an explanation of Japanese aesthetic as prior to entering the garden you will see a sign naming it as “Kensen” or “Dry Spring” describing the pond held within.
We will explore the Omicho Fresh Food Market which can trace its origins back to the Edo period. On sale you will see amazing seafood and produce along with florists, kitchen stores and more. We might have to wait in line for our lunch, but a traditional favorite will be the order of the day – bowls of rice topped with Kanazawa seafood.
We will then make our way to the Kazumachi and Higashi Chaya where one can still see and visit a Chaya – or teahouse. During the Edo period one could see the song and dance performances of Geisha in entertainment districts such as these. As a matter of fact, there are two chaya’s still open to the public, so we will split into groups to visit the Shima or Kaikaro teahouses, then venture to the Gold Leaf Museum or return to the hotel for a well-deserved nap.
We will gather again for dinner to enjoy the taste of Kanazawa via a local specialty Kaga Ryori.
Dr T’s Take: A day to explore traditional Japanese culture in a leisurely way.
We will be staying at the – Hotel Kanazawa / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 8 (Friday October 18th):
We will take our leave of Kanazawa and begin our trip south to Sekigahara, but our first stop will be what is considered the oldest still standing castle in Japan – Maruoka-jo. The amazing view from the top of this small three-story castle (along with its “hidden” floor), is only accessible to the stout at heart, steep wooden stairs, and suspended ropes to help you scale the climb.
Our second castle of the day will be Hikone Castle which was built in 1622 and survived the feudal and modern age and spots its original moat, walls, guard houses and gates. Further, its reconstructed palace buildings make for one of the best complete examples of a feudal castle in all of Japan. This castle also has at least one connection to the battle of Sekigahara – it was the home of Ii Naotaka and his “Red Devils” who fought in that battle. As such, we will be sure to take in the museum at the castle as well…
One more castle today and then we will be off to our hotel, an onsen break and dinner at the Nagahama Brewery for some Western food to remind you of home. But first, we will take a quick look at this fully reconstructed castle. It offers a small collection of samurai swords, firearms and armour but is an important stop because while it was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi – Japan’s second “great unifier”, it was then was subsequently demolished by the Tokugawa regime’s “one prefecture, one castle” regulation. Besides, it has an excellent view of Lake Biwa which often features in ancient poetry and historical accounts of battle. After a quick visit we will take the quick stroll to our hotel along the lake-side.
Dr T’s Take: Maruoka is a little gem, but I’ll stay downstairs if you don’t mind… Hikone is my favourite castle because the building is complemented by the Ii armour and weapons in the museum – perfect.
We will be staying at the – Hotel & Resorts Nagahama / Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included Breakfast
Day 9 (Saturday October 19th):
Today will be our first day in Sekigahara. The town will be gearing up for the Annual Battle of Sekigahara Festival and enthusiasts and reenactors will be gathering here from all around the country. The goal of the festival is to turn the clock back to 1600, and you will see many people walking around in full Samurai armour. There are live stage events and loads of demonstrations reminiscent of the time-period. We will hop into the festival spirit and celebrate as the locals do – who knows you might even meet a Samurai or two or pick up some warring clan period related goods …
But first we will be off on a battlefield hike as we will be joined by a local private guide to help us visit the most important seven points of interest including Tokugawa Ieyasu’s final base camp, Higashi Kubizuka temple where over 40000 heads are buried, and Ishida Mitsunari’s base camp. As we ascend the mountain to the base camp and a picnic lunch, we will make sure we stop at the local town office to reserve samurai or ashigaru armour for the next day’s adventures…
If we have time after exploring the battlefield we will make the quick drive to Ogaki Castle or “The City of Water”, which was originally under the power of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi – some of the most important historical figures of Japan. The leader of the Western Army, Ishida Mitsunari occupied Ogaki Castle prior to the battle of Sekigahara, but after his defeat at that battle, Ogaki was eventually besieged and overtaken by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The castle was destroyed by a bombing raid in 1945, but rebuilt as a modern reproduction complete with museum, weapon and armour display, and even videos explaining the history of the castle and the Battle of Sekigahara. Of particular interest, is the Sekigahara screen that can be seen at the castle. This famous art piece brings the battle alive before us. Further, the small park offers many statues and some great photo ops.
We will then transfer back to our hotel in Nagahama, indulge in their onsen and gather again for dinner before retiring for the evening in anticipation of our return to the Sekigahara festival tomorrow.
Dr T’s Take: This will be our opportunity to follow the progress of the entire battle of Sekigahara.
We will be staying at the – Hotel & Resorts Nagahama / Breakfast & Dinner included Breakfast
Day 10 (Sunday October 20th):Today we will watch the Sekigahara Battle dramatization put on by local re-enactors, and again participate in the festival. But first we will gather near Mitsunari’s base camp to see and cheer on those that opted to don their own samurai armour. We will then mingle with the other Samurai giving speeches and demonstrations prior to posing for photos. After the photo op we will watch the samurai re-enactors march to the town square to dazzle us as they match wits and bring the battle of Sekigahara alive – Japanese style…
We will then have time to visit the booths we missed, grab a bite to eat and visit with the locals prior to departing the festival in the evening to see us return to Nagoya.
After freshening up, we will head out on our last evening together and Farewell Dinner at a local Izakaya.
Dr T’s Take: The Japanese do battle re-enactments very well and this should be a classic.
We will be staying at the – Castle Plaza Hotel Nagoya / Breakfast & Dinner included Breakfast
Day 11 (Monday October 21st):
Today many will be returning home and will thus leave for Nagoya international airport. GNT will make reservations and you will be given detailed instructions on how to get to the airport and return home.
Day 11 (Monday October 21st):
Today we will leave Nagoya by coach and make the journey into the hidden mountains of the Ninja. Our first stop will be the Akame 48 Waterfalls. This beautifully preserved natural area is said to have been discovered by legendary holy man En No Gyoja and the name Akame was derived from his encounter with the god of fire 1300 years ago. The area was later used by the Iga-ryu assassins and spies as a training ground. Keep your eyes peeled, we suspect to find ninjas everywhere…
With all the Ninja (possibly) around we hope you can relax as we make a lunch of Ninja Soba at the Akame Kanko house, before heading off to the Iga-ryu Ninja Village and Museum. Iga-ryu is not only said to be the birth place of Ninjutsu and the famous Ninja Hattori Hanzo, but was also once a secret village where ninjas of old practiced their dark arts. The Ninja Museum houses hidden rooms, trap doors and revolving walls. We can also see the tools of the trade, as the displays offer ninja weapons and artifacts. Need a smoke bomb for a quick getaway? Or perhaps you need to cross some water in stealth? Here is the place to spy ideas…
Not enough Ninja!? Well we would tend to agree, so we will put you through some Ninja training today… We will have you climbing walls, learning to use ropes to infiltrate castles, how to cloak yourself in invisibility, and to add even more fun …. learning to throw some shuriken!
If we have time we will visit the Iga Ueno Castle as it was beautifully restored with wood in 1935 and as such it gives you a great feel of an old but small Feudal castle. At night we will try to make it back to the falls to see them illuminated…
Upon our return to Kyoto we will dine nearby at a Ninja themed restaurant!
Dr T’s Take: Iga is THE place to experience ninja – it has Japan’s best ninja museum and an excellent show.
We will be staying at the – Taisenkaku Ryokan / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 12 (Tuesday October 22nd):
Today we will head to Kyoto for a very special day indeed. Today Emperor Akihito of Japan is set to abdicate his throne to his son Prince Fumihito. This will mark the end of the Heisei Period and should offer us several festivities to attend in Kyoto. More plans are in the making, so return to this page often to see what we will offer up this day.
If needed however, after we reach our hotel we will take the short walk to the Hongan-ji temple which was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1591 and perhaps see the remains of his actual palace the Jurakudai. Regardless, these beautiful temples have a rich history in feudal Japan and later Tokugawa Ieyasu encouraged a rivalry between two Buddhist factions causing the creation of two Honganji temples… Nishi Honganji and Higashi Honganji… The area demonstrates just how important religion was to the spirit and politics of the samurai.
We will then venture to the Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping arcades. If you need to pick up some added souvenirs now is the time. Contained here is also the Nishiki Market – another famous Japanese market and a perfect place to see Japanese fish for sale along with candies and many restaurants.
We have something special planned for you this afternoon. If we have time we will hunt for the best sword shops in Japan. You might want to bring your cheque book however, some of the prices are not for the faint of heart. We will fill in the details of this last day in Kyoto shortly…
Dr T’s Take: Kyoto has everything to offer – the only problem will be deciding what to choose!
We will be staying at the – Kyoto Tokyu Hotel / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 13 (Wednesday October 23rd):
Today we will have to a truly different samurai experience at the Toei Uzumasa Eigamura, or Kyoto Studio Movie Park. Here you will be immersed into an Edo period small town, movie studio and theme park all rolled into one.
As well as being an actual movie studio (who knows you might see a Japanese actor or actress or two), you will see a recreation of the Nihonbashi bridge, court house and police box and even an ancient red-light district. Park guides and living history actors are dressed in period costumes and fun is had by all… There is even a Ninja Maze (full of secret passages, revolving doors and traps), Ninja Performances (watch out for throwing stars), a Haunted House and a 3D theater. You can even get dressed up in one of their cool geisha, samurai, or ninja costumes… Want a bit of anime thrown in? There is even a display of Power Rangers through the years…
And just because we haven’t offered you enough times to get into samurai garb we will take a Samurai Kembu (sword dance) lesson and become more acquainted with the aspects of the etiquette of the samurai classes, and perhaps more importantly, how to use a samurai sword. This often-hidden school is said to be a gem in Kyoto, not often frequented by tourists. It will see us dressed up and swinging a sword around in no time…
After our lesson we will make our way to another themed restaurant – this time the elegant Shishin Samurai restaurant….
Dr T’s Take: The staff at Eigamura really do make you feel you are back in old Japan – watch out for fights breaking out!
We will be staying at the – Kyoto Tokyu Hotel / Breakfast & Dinner included
Day 14 (Thursday October 24th):
All good things must end, unfortunately, and today we return to the Kyoto Itami/Osaka Kensai airports and depart for home. The photos, memories and friendships you made on the tour are yours to keep forever!
We get you reading straight away…
Osprey Publishing and Geek Nation Tours want to start you off right with our tours and thus will get you reading about the history we will be visiting. Each of our Signature Battlefield tours will see books on the subject bound for your book shelves… Upon booking our Signature Battlefield Series: Feudal Japan and the Battlefields of Sekigahara 2019 we will be sending you Ninja 1460 – 1650, War in Japan 1467 – 1615, Kawanakajima 1533 – 64, Japanese Castles 1540 – 1640 All by Stephen Turnbull so you will be well acquainted with his work even prior to arriving in Japan…
NOTE: Both the Sekigahara Festival and the Seki Cutlery Festival have NOT confirmed their dates. Currently, the date seem to be as per the above. Geek Nation Tours cannot not be held liable for a date change. On the odd chance the festivals are the same weekend, the Sekigahara festival will be chosen instead of the Seki Cutlery Festival. If both festivals are separated by more than a week, GNT will again choose the Sekigahara Festival. The DATES ABOVE MAY CHANGE.
NOTE: We do a load of walking this tour. Please note that we can walk as much as 8 kilometers a day in our attempt to show you as much of Japan and the Sekigahara battlefield as possible. Please keep this in mind. Further, there are steps. Japan has lots of steps …
NOTE: Attendance of special guests and celebrities is subject to change due to scheduling conflicts and conflicting professional or personal obligations.
Included in the tour: All accommodations, all motor coach and river transfers, Welcome & Farewell and most other Dinners, Breakfasts, most entry fees.
Main Tour Price: $5499.00 USD + taxes and fees ($604.89) per person based on double occupancy
Extension Tour Price: $1899.00 USD + taxes and fees ($208.89) per person based on double occupancy
Don’t have a friend to get the double occupancy rate? That is what Geek Nation Tours does. Book as a double occupancy and we will match you up a roommate… This way you get the best of both worlds – someone to BS about the con with – and more cash to spend!
Deposit: $1200.00 Final due 10 July 2019 (bookings will be accepted until September 1st but must be paid in full at the time of booking)
Single Occupancy upgrade Main Tour: $399.00 USD + $41.25 taxes and fees
Single Occupancy upgrade Extension: $375.00 USD + $41.25 taxes and fees
Want to do more in Japan?: Geek Nation Tours can arrange hotel stays and other options for you. Just let us know what you have in mind and we will come up with a travel plan.
Not included in the tour price: Airfare, some local taxi and subway fares
Non- Geek Spouse argument: Samurai and Ninjas… Nuff said….