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Kyoto Garden Tour

Upcoming Tours offered:

2018 Kyoto Spring Garden Tour   ~  April 7 – 16, 2018

Update mid-Dec.:  1 room left available for the 2018 Spring Tour

Spring Road-Trip  ~  April 16 – 20, 2018


For details, highlights, pricing and registration, please visit the tour website: and contact me directly:


Azalea in bloom, Mimuroto-ji garden



The thematic focus of all my tours is a profound experience of beauty.  For me, this is found in the gardens, arts and culture of Kyoto, the former Imperial capital of Japan.  Still very much Japan’s traditional cultural epicenter, the air is alive with aesthetic elegance, and no more so than within Kyoto’s superb gardens.  Amidst seasonal bloom and the verdant lushness of maples, we explore a variety of gardens and sites of scenic beauty in and around Kyoto, which include some of the finest examples of landscape and garden design in Japan.  We also are exposed to complimentary art forms, which (depending on the itinerary) may include ikebana, tea ceremony, textiles, ceramics, calligraphy, a shakuhachi recital or visiting with an artist in their studio.

Allan Mandell is a professional garden photographer and devotee of Kyoto’s gardens.  He designs each tour’s itinerary in collaboration with Judith Clancy, 40 year resident of Kyoto and author of numerous guidebooks to the city.   Allan leads the tours, and Judith serves as our local expert.

Group size is limited to 12 – 14 people.  When that number is reached, the tour is a go.  Tours typically fill quickly.


Accommodations are within a Zen temple on the grounds of Myoshinji, one of the oldest and most atmospheric group of Zen temples in Kyoto.  The rooms are clean and modern, in the Japanese style (futons on tatami), each with its own en-suite bathroom.  Every year our tour participants love staying here.  The quiet local neighborhood is very safe and inviting, with a variety of super-oishi (delicious) and affordable local restaurants.

Our daily travel is primarily by public transportation (taxi, train & subway).  Participants need to be in shape for daily walking through scenic neighborhoods, bustling city streets, and tranquil garden paths.

And there are surprises along the way  –  spontaneous garden visits, night outings to a local sento (public bath) or a garden ‘light-up’, and great shopping for Kyoto’s renown crafts, both modern and traditional.  Let’s have some fun !

Come have a direct experience of the arts, the flavors and the graciousness of Japanese culture as the seasons transform Kyoto.  Come into the garden and experience the quiet and pure beauty that awaits you.

For itinerary info or specific questions, please contact me directly:

For tour information and registration, please kindly see the tour website:


Tenryu-ji garden in autumn



Guided tours to the gardens of Kyoto, Japan

My tours are designed for those who love gardens and feel the lure of Japan, photographers and non-photographers alike.  There will be time for quiet contemplation as we make our rounds, and time for fun events, too  –  such as shopping at a flea market or traditional craft shop, or taking a dip in an ‘onsen’ (hot springs).  Kyoto is a city that is virtually crime free –  a single woman alone is quite safe.  The city is easy to navigate, the people are extremely hospitable and polite, and there is a reverence for cleanliness and for the changing seasons.  To experience Kyoto is to surrender to the gentleness and elevated aesthetic that permeates the atmosphere.

Besides my regularly scheduled tours, please contact me if you are interested in a personal or thematic group tour to visit the gardens of this lovely city (up to 2 weeks, with photo mentoring provided upon request).

I invite you to share this experience of beauty with me.   Okini !   Allan


Momiji (maple leaves) and moss, Okochi Sanso garden



Testimonials  –  real quotes from real people

“I want to thank you for arranging this incredible, once in a lifetime tour. The itinerary was stellar! Allan was the consummate guide.”

“Allan’s love of Japanese culture helped bring the group towards an understanding of the gardens we visited. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the history and the people of Kyoto.”

“What an incredible trip we had! It could not have been better prepared and organized, and we could not have packed much more in! The memories of the experiences and many century-old culture we were exposed to will stay with me forever. I am so very grateful to have been part of this tour. How much we saw and learned.”

“The most insightful garden tours I could hope for in a guide were given by Allan.  He gave me insights into Buddhism as well as Japanese history and culture.  My husband who generally has no interest in gardens accompanied us for two mornings and was captivated.  Allan knew how to relate to his introductory questions and how to draw out my husband’s perception so that he too experienced the spirit of these magnificent and varied gardens.”

“Allan was perfect for this tour, embellishing our experience through his quiet reverence for the Japanese garden aesthetic.”

“We thank you for this life-changing, inspiring introduction to Japan and the gardens and culture of Kyoto.  Inspiring does not begin to describe – this is an incredible place.  You have done an amazing job putting this trip together.  Your love and attention shows at every turn.”

“I couldn’t be happier with how the trip and tour unfolded.  I appreciate all of your efforts, patience and expertise.”

“What a trip  –  amazing, calming, inspiring, delightful … I could go on and on.”

“This tour has been heaven to me.  Thank you, Allan.”