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April 20 – May 6, 2025

Join the Ultimate Women's Expedition:
The Zen & Zest Odyssey to Japan and Seoul with Sisterhood Travels!

Welcome to Sisterhood Travels’ latest adventure: The Zen & Zest Odyssey! This uniquely crafted, women-only tour is your gateway to an intimate exploration of the cultural heartbeats of Japan and Seoul. With our small group size, we’re not just taking you on a journey; we’re embracing the essence of exclusive experiences that are simply not found anywhere else.

Imagine diving into the serene world of Japan, where tradition and modernity blend seamlessly. Here, you will have the rare opportunity to meet and dine with ama pearl divers in their traditional ama hut, an experience that connects you to the deep-rooted heritage of these remarkable women. You’ll find peace and introspection in an authentic Japanese monastery, where the welcoming Buddhist monks will share their wisdom and way of life with us.

Buddhist monks japan

The journey through Japan’s soul continues as we meet a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, a poignant encounter that promises to be as moving as it is enlightening. Our expedition is not just about seeing; it’s about connecting, learning, and understanding the diverse experiences of women in Japan.

As we venture into Seoul, the vibrancy of Korea awaits. Here, Sisterhood Travels takes you beyond the typical tourist paths. We’ll step into the intriguing realm of the DMZ for a tour that’s as enlightening as it is rare, topped with a private meeting with a North Korean defector. Their stories, resilience, and insights are bound to leave a lasting impact. And what better way to enjoy lunch than by sharing a meal with a local South Korean family in their home, savoring both their cuisine, traditions, and their company?

This is not just a tour; it’s a carefully hand-curated journey by Stacey Ray, designed to immerse you into the Zen of Japan and the zest of Korea. Ready for an odyssey that promises enlightenment, connection, and unforgettable memories? Join us on this exclusive adventure where each step is a story, and every experience is a treasure. Welcome to the Zen & Zest Odyssey!


April 20, 2025

Welcome to Tokyo! Your driver will meet you in the arrivals hall after you pass through customs and immigration and transfer you to our hotel for the next several nights. Today is yours to rest, relax, or explore independently. This evening, perhaps you’ll join your Sisters for an informal gathering in the hotel lobby. No meals are included today.

Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

tokyo Skyline

April 21, 2025

Feel the excitement start to build as we head to Asakusa this morning, passing by the grounds of the Imperial Palace and see the Nijubashi Bridge. Next, witness the subtle art of preparing green tea. Prepare your own cup of this local staple and learn the gentle practice of making tea using a traditional method. Enjoy free time exploring Nakamise shopping street, where you can stroll with your Sisters between the stalls leading to the Sensoji temple to buy local souvenirs and sweets. Then, we’ll head to Tokyo National Museum to learn about the fascinating history and culture of the city. The museum displays artwork and antiques from Japan and the surrounding area. Tonight, we’ll sit down together at our Welcome Dinner. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

Nijubashi Bridge
Nakamise shopping street

April 22, 2025

This morning, we’ll start our day in Tokyo like true locals by hopping on the subway. Clean, efficient, fast, and easy to use, the Tokyo subway system is one of the best in the world. We’ll follow our Tour Director on a walk through Ginza, one of the most elegant and luxurious streets in the world. Enjoy shopping at some of the most renowned “department stores” in Japan. This afternoon, we’ll visit Zojoji Temple, standing in the shadow of Tokyo Tower and painting a powerful picture of Tokyo’s ancient roots and modern culture. Zojoji is the center of Japanese Buddhism in the region, and the resting place of the royal Tokugawa family. Later, we’ll head back to the hotel through the lush and beautiful Shiba park, a green oasis in the urban landscape. (Breakfast)

Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

April 23 2025

This morning, we’ll climb aboard the high-speed shinkansen, or bullet train. Sleek, modern, and comfortable, the bullet train will flash through the idyllic Japanese countryside at 200 miles per hour, but you’ll barely feel or hear a thing. Keep an eye peeled for Mt. Fuji in the distance. We’ll arrive at one of the most important shrines in Japan – Ise Shrine. This grand shrine is built to honor the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu. Wander among the thatched roofs and raw wood of buildings, taking in the serenity of this spiritual wonder. Tonight, our meal will be a traditional and delicious Japanese kaiseki dinner, an artfully prepared and presented, multi-course meal using ingredients at the absolute peak of freshness. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Nemu Resort, Ise-Shima

kaiseki dinner

April 24, 2025

This morning, we’ll head to the Mikimoto Pearl Museum. We’ll explore the island and the legacy of the skilled ama pearl divers, women who defied conventional gender roles to dive in the sea to harvest oysters and their pearls. Watch divers take the plunge and learn about the history and science of pearl diving. This evening, we’ll set out for Azurihama Beach, where we’ll venture across the sands to an ama hut for an incredible dining experience. While local seafood is grilled in a charcoal fire right before your eyes, hear tales from the ama women about their lives and the sacred rights of their profession. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Nemu Resort, Ise-Shima

April 25, 2025

Kyoto awaits! Before arriving in Japan’s former capital city, we’ll stop at Nara Park and Todaiji Temple. Venture inside the massive building to take some time in this sacred place and find the huge bronze Buddha statue. Wander the grounds outside and discover the famous “bowing” deer of Nara. Next, it’s off to Kyoto, one of the nation’s top cosmopolitan cities. (Breakfast)

Hotel: Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Hotel Granvia Kyoto

April 26, 2025

This morning, we’ll head to Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. Here, our Tour Director will lead us through the narrow cobblestone streets and if we’re lucky, we may see a woman in full traditional geisha regalia headed to one of the hidden, exclusive tea houses. Enjoy the rest of your day at leisure with your Sisters to explore how you want. Perhaps you’ll stay in the Gion district to wander among its temples, shrines, traditional shops and charming cafes. Or, you could make your way to the Nishiki Market, where colorful stalls are filled with fresh foods and local specialties, like pickles, dried seafood, and sushi. (Breakfast)

Hotel: Hotel Granvia Kyoto

cobblestone street geisha
kyoto tea houses

April 27, 2025

We will begin our day at Arashiyama bamboo forest where we’ll set out among the towering bamboo stalks that shade the forest paths and gently sway in the breeze. After, we’ll depart for Kinkakuji (UNESCO), the Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Once the lavish retirement home of a shogun, it was converted to a Zen temple in the 1400’s. It has survived wars, been rebuilt after fires, and still stands as an impressive piece of historic architecture. Later, we’ll visit the Women’s Association of Kyoto in a traditional Kyoto town house. Here, we can delve into a wide array of enlightening Japanese activities, guided by our knowledgeable hostess. Sip different sakes, try your hand at making sushi, fold intricate origami shapes, and speak to your hostess about Japan, its culture, and women’s roles in this complex society. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Hotel Granvia Kyoto

Arashiyama bamboo forest
Golden Pavilion

April 28, 2025

This morning, we’ll explore Fushimi Inari Taisha for a glimpse into the most revered shrine of Inari. Follow the rows of orange torii that weave through the forest, leading us to the inner shrine. Then, we’ll head for the mountain village atop Mount Koya. A special and sacred site, Mount Koya is filled with shrines, temples, and monasteries. This afternoon, walk into the heart of the awe-inspiring Okunoin Cemetery, and make your way to the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Kobo Daishi hasn’t passed on – Buddhist belief says he waits in eternal meditation, answering the calls of those who would pray to him. After, we’ll settle into our accommodations for the night, a traditional Japanese monastery, complete with sliding paper doors and tatami mats. Meet with one of the monks of the temple and learn about life there before sitting down for dinner, where you’ll eat a vegetarian meal, featuring tempura-fried favorites. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Sekisho-in, Mt. Koya

April 29, 2025

If you so choose, you can rise in the early morning to join the Buddhist monks in prayer. Sit in the serenity of the temple shrine as the monks ring their gongs, chant, burn incense, and center themselves for the activities of the grand day ahead. Then, we’ll once again board the shinkansen bullet train and be whisked away to Hiroshima. Enjoy lunch at a local cooking studio, where we’ll learn how to make the famous Japanese okonomiyaki, or savory pancake, a favorite of Hiroshima residents. After, we’ll visit the Peace Memorial Park, and pause to see the ruined Atomic Dome (UNESCO), a sobering reminder of the devastation caused by the dropping of the atomic bomb during World War II. Reflect at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. (Breakfast and Lunch)

Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima

Buddhist monks japan
hiroshima dome | Solo Travel For Women | Sisterhood Travels Group Tours

April 30, 2025

We’ll head back to the Peace Park and Memorial Museum this morning for a powerful impact moment, a meeting with someone who experienced the devastating effects of the Atomic bomb firsthand. They’ll talk about what it was like to live in Japan during that time, the aftermath of that terrible day, and how they keep the memories of those who were lost alive. After, we’ll board a ferry for the short trip to Miyajima Island, or “Shrine Island” (UNESCO), famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and its mythic O-torii Gate standing proudly in the water. (Breakfast)

Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Miyajima Island ferry
Itsukushima Shrine

May 1, 2025

Today, we’ll journey to our final destination in Japan, the energetic city of Osaka. We’ll set out on a walking tour through the famous Dotonbori district. From shopping, to dining, to nightlife, Dotonbori has it all – bathed in the neon glow of huge electric signs. Learn why Osaka is known as the “Kitchen of Japan” as you sample its famous and delicious street food. Tonight, we’ll sit down and say our fond farewells to Japan at a Farewell Dinner. Raise a cup of sake and toast to the colorful spirit of Japan, and the adventures you’ve had. (Breakfast and Dinner) ***We may change today’s itinerary to visit the World Expo in Osaka. It is too early to confirm these arrangements***

Hotel: Centara Grand Hotel Osaka

Dotonbori district

May 2, 2025

Today, we’ll board our group flight to Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. This evening is yours to relax or independently explore with your Sisters. Our hotel is centrally located only minutes from Namdaemun market and the popular Myeongdong neighborhood, well-known as a haven for foodies and fashionistas. (Breakfast)

Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun

seoul skyline pano

May 3, 2025

Today, we’ll head to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or the DMZ, on our private coach. This conflict-ridden stretch of 150 miles between North and South Korea has been sealed tight for the last 68 years, and the struggles of the Korean War have yet to be resolved. Take an exclusive tour of this storied border, seeing Imjingak Park, the Bridge of Freedom, the DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall, the Dora Observatory, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, and more. This is a rare opportunity to see the “Hermit Kingdom” of North Korea up close, and the long cold war between the two countries. Tonight, your evening is at leisure with your Sisters. (Breakfast and Lunch)

Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun

Korean Demilitarized Zone
3rd Infiltration Tunnel

May 4, 2025

This morning, learn about the struggles in North Korea firsthand when we gather for a private talk with a North Korean defector. Learn about their life in North Korea, how they escaped to the south and are adjusting to their new life and the struggles they face in a new country. After, sit down for a home-hosted traditional Korean lunch with a local family, and get insight into daily life for a South Korean family. (Breakfast and Lunch)

Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun

korean lunch

May 5, 2025

We’ll start our day by hopping on the subway and heading to to the awe-inspiring Gyeongbok Palace where we’ll take a tour of the sprawling grounds and watch the elaborate and ceremonial changing of the guard. Next, we’ll visit Insadong Street, Seoul’s charming and colorful shopping area. Tour the narrow maze of alleys that hold tea shops, boutiques, galleries and cafes. You have the afternoon at leisure with your Sisters to explore the area, perhaps heading to the Museum of Contemporary History with its multimedia exhibitions, or the National Museum of Korea with its statues, paintings, and artifacts. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant. (Breakfast and Dinner)

Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Namdaemun

Gyeongbok Palace changing of the gaurd

May 6, 2025

Sadly, we must say goodbye to one another as we depart for home. (Breakfast)

Trip Inclusions


You’ll have plenty of free time to rest and rejuvenate or, to uncover the electrifying city of Tokyo as you explore independently. Includes double or single accommodations for two nights (April 18th and 19th), daily breakfast and transfers from the airport to our hotel. You’ll need to arrive in Tokyo on April 18, 2025.

Pricing: $599 per person double occupancy or $899 per person single occupancy.



$500 discount per person when booked with deposit by 11:59 pm EDT on January 31, 2024. This discount has no cash value and does not decrease the deposit due at time of booking.

Use Promo Code: ZENZEST


Double Occupancy
$ 11448
per person


Single Occupancy
$ 12848
per person

important information


  • There will be a maximum of 16 Sisters on this tour, including your Sisterhood Travels Group Leader
  • International airfare is not included in your pricing, but your group flight from Osaka to Seoul, Korea is included.
  • You will fly into Tokyo (either Haneda or Narita Airports) and you will depart from Seoul, Korea
  • You can arrive at any time on April 20, 2025, and depart at any time on May 6, 2025.
  • Check-in time at your arrival hotel is at 3:00 pm.
  • All flight arrangements must be submitted to Sisterhood Travels on or before December 20, 2024. If you need help making flight arrangements, or to submit your independent flight arrangements, please click here for Airfare Information.
  • Arrival transfers are provided only on April 20th from either Tokyo airport to our hotel. Departure transfers are only provided on May 6th from our hotel to the Seoul airport. If you arrive or depart outside these days and/or you’re needing transfers or hotels elsewhere, you are responsible for making your own arrangements at your own expense.
  • When reserving accommodations, be advised that rooms in Japan and Korea are often smaller in size.
  • This tour features a one-night experiential stay at a traditional monastery. During this stay, porterage is not available and rolling luggage is not allowed inside. An overnight bag is required, and your main luggage will stay on the coach. You will not be able to access your main luggage until we check-in at our Hiroshima Hotel (approx. 5:00 p.m. the following day.) Accommodations at the monastery are traditional. All guests will sleep on tatami mats that are placed on the floor. Western-style beds are not available. Therefore, this tour is not recommended for those with mobility restrictions. Shoes are not permitted inside the monastery. Socks are highly recommended for use during your time here. Meals are also traditional and served on trays that you eat from while sitting on the floor on a cushion. All meals served at the monastery are vegetarian.
  • In the event that an atomic bomb survivor is unavailable, a legacy successor (relative or friend of a survivor) will meet the group and share their relative’s experiences and stories.
  • You must travel with a passport with a minimum of two blank pages that is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the date of your return. At this time, US citizens are not required to have a visa to enter Japan or Korea.
  • Some venues, such as temples and shrines, require guests to remove their shoes in order to enter.
  • This tour provides authentic Japanese dining experiences. It is possible that special meal requests such as vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free may not always be able to be accommodated as these are not widely catered to in Japan.
  • Please don’t schedule any optional excursions on your own for this trip (unless you opt for the Tokyo pre-tour extension), as we cannot promise that you will arrive in time at any location to make your independent excursion. Sisterhood Travels won’t be liable for any expense you incur because of this.
  • Gratuities for your Tour Director and coach driver are not included in your pricing. We will provide you with tipping guidelines for your trip.
  • Optional Travel Insurance is not included in your pricing. We will send you a quote via email.
  • We cannot accommodate wheelchairs or assistive mobility devices on this trip.
  • There are no refunds for unused portions of this tour.
  • Dates and times of itinerary as well as hotels listed are subject to change without notice due to operational or logistical reasons.
  • Any optional expenses or expenses related to anything not specifically listed in this itinerary are not included.

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Cancellation & Refunds

Activity Level 4

Activity Level:


This is a consistently robust itinerary that is likely to be filled with a combination of long, active days, several early hotel departures and some long journeys by coach. There may be limited time for rest and rejuvenation as you explore these amazing destinations. There may be multiple flights and travel by non-traditional means such as safari vehicles, rickshaws/pedicabs, etc. Guests should have reasonable health and mobility and be capable of walking 1-2 miles over time over potentially difficult terrain which may include hills. Guests should be comfortable with standing for longer periods of time with no difficulty.