Getting under the skin of Japanese art and architecture

    Written by Emma Beaumont

    In this country of contrasts, great art and striking architecture present themselves in myriad ways. From the soaring towers of lights and steel in Tokyo, to the secluded temples of Kyoto and the contemporary art haven island of Naoshima, Japan is a feast for the eyes. But to truly unlock the artistic and cultural traditions, you need an expert to guide you. Through our friends and contacts on the ground, we can secure unprecedented private access to some of the most exclusive and fascinating sights Japan has to offer, accompanied by stars of the country’s art and architecture world.


    For a real insight into Japan’s traditional art and architecture, travel by bullet train from Tokyo’s neon lights and sky-piercing towers to Kyoto’s leafy parks with their tranquil temples and feted Zen gardens. We can arrange for our clients to visit some of the city’s lesser-known, but even more beautiful, gardens accompanied by a specialist in Japanese garden design and landscape architecture. Some of these immaculate grounds are private and can only be visited with permission, so you will be able to enjoy the zen surroundings in genuine tranquillity.


    For clients wanting to gain a real insight into Japanese architecture, we can organise a private tour of Kyoto’s historic temples and royal residences with a visiting lecturer at Kyoto University and award-winning architect. Enjoy a personal tour of the Katsura Imperial Villa, which is considered by many to have the finest garden in Japan, and learn about the history of Kyoto’s old wooden machiya houses. cazenove+loyd clients will have exclusive access to these locations, learning about how the architecture of buildings was closely related to the history of tea ceremonies and the wonder of the Kiyomizu Temple, ingeniously built without the use of nails.

    imperial villa



    Thanks to our contacts on the ground, we can also arrange for an interesting visit to the home of a prolific American art dealer, whose house is a treasure trove of traditional art – from scrolls and pottery to painted screens and samurai armour. You would not normally expect to see such an astonishing array of artefacts outside a museum. Indeed, his visitors are usually dealers representing such institutions and viewing is not open to the public. We have found that expert expats are fantastic at illuminating Japan for our clients as they understand their excitement and puzzlement, and can bridge the culture gap.


    Naoshima Island is one of the world’s greatest art spaces with striking museums, open-air sculpture parks and conceptual art at every turn. A completely immersive experience, we recommend that clients spend two or three days exploring Naoshima and its adjacent two islands, Teshima and Inujima, which are home to installations the size of football pitches and museums packed with works from the likes of Claude Monet through to Anish Kapoor.



    Henrietta Loyd remembers her stay on the island as a highlight of her trip to Japan: "It was beyond my wildest dreams – we stayed at Benesse House, which is inside a museum, so we had private access to incredible works of art after dark."

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