Experience the timeless splendor of Japan and South Korea on this unique itinerary featuring a seven–night cruise across the full length of the historic Inland Sea of Japan and two nights in Kyoto. On board the five–star, small ship Le Soleal, enjoy port calls at captivating points of interest, including five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From enchanting Kyoto to storied Hiroshima, from Miyajima to the Buddhist wonders of Gyeongju, South Korea, relish in the awe–inspiring beauty of these captivating countries. Pre– and post–cruise extensions to Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa are also planned.
Wednesday, May 22
Depart the U.S. and cross the International Date Line.
Thursday, May 23
Arrive in Osaka, then transfer to impeccably preserved Kyoto, Japan’s former imperial capital.
Check into the ideally located, deluxe Kyoto Hotel Okura. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
Friday, May 24
An ethereal setting of grand imperial castles, tranquil Zen gardens and graceful Shinto shrines, Kyoto manifests Japanese culture in its purest form. Visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites—14th‑century Kinkaku‑ji Temple, whose famed “Golden Pavilion” is almost entirely adorned with gold leaf, and the peaceful Ryōan‑ji Temple, originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period (794 to 1185). Ryōan‑ji Temple’s legendary kare‑sansui (dry landscape) rock garden was a place of meditation and inspiration for Steve Jobs, who used its minimalism as the guiding aesthetic principle for Apple™ products. Continue to one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, dedicated to the deity of sake and rice, to see shrines dating back to A.D. 711, and walk through the carefully aligned pathway of thousands of iconic torii gates—a seemingly infinite red‑orange tunnel winding toward Mt. Inari’s lush summit. Enjoy a Welcome Reception this evening. (b,r)
Saturday, May 25
Learn more about shōgun history firsthand at two UNESCO World Heritage‑designated castles from the period. Visit Nijō Castle, built in 1603 for the formidable first shōgun of the Tokugawa dynasty, and stroll through its traditional Japanese landscape garden. Admire the spectacular Himeji Castle (1333), Japan’s best‑preserved original feudal castle complex and an elegant masterwork of wood construction, while walking the labyrinthine grounds of the complex. This evening, embark the Five‑Star Le Soléal. (b,l,d)
Sunday, May 26
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb left only the skeletal remains of Hiroshima’s
Genbaku Dome; today this dome is the compelling Hiroshima Peace Memorial and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The solemn Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, the museum chronicling the history of Hiroshima and the poignant Children’s Peace Monument all invite visitors to contemplate the need for world peace amid stark reminders of war. At Miyajima, “Shrine Island,” go ashore via Zodiac to tour the vermilion sixth‑century Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the impressive Great Torii Gate appears to float on water during high tide.
Attend the Captain’s Welcome Reception this evening. (b,l,r,d)
Monday, May 27
Originating as a small fishing port, Hagi rose in prominence after warlord Môri Terumoto fortified
it in 1604. Tour its 17th‑century Toko‑ji Temple, belonging to the Obaku School of Japanese Zen Buddhism, where 500 moss‑covered stone lanterns honor Môri clan lords. Walk past former samurai dwellings in the old quarter lined with 19th‑century earthen walls, and visit the Kikuya House, one of the Edo Period’s (1603 to 1868) best‑preserved examples of merchant‑style architecture. Visit the Hagi Uragami Museum, with over 5,000 ukiyo-e woodblock prints and
porcelain pieces from the Edo Period. Acclaimed ukiyo-e, which translates to “pictures of the floating world,” profoundly impacted the Western art world—van Gogh, Toulouse‑Lautrec,
Monet and Rodin were all avid collectors and devoted enthusiasts of well‑known ukiyo-e
artists Hiroshige and Hokusai.
Sakaiminato for Matsue
Tuesday, May 28
Following a scenic drive, tour the widely acclaimed Adachi Museum of Art, where 20th‑century and modern Japanese art coalesce with six perfectly landscaped gardens, regarded as “living paintings” when viewed through the museum’s vast windows. See Japan’s tallest feudal structure and one of its “original castles,” the preserved, 17th‑century Matsue Castle, before an afternoon of cruising with onboard lectures. (b,l,d)
Ulsan, South Korea, for Gyeongju
Wednesday, May 29
Cross South Korea’s verdant countryside from Ulsan to the cradle of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 935) in historic Gyeongju. Visit the eighth‑century Bulguksa Temple, a material expression of Buddhist utopia on Earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Divided into the Vairocana Buddha Hall, the Hall of Great Enlightenment and the Hall of Supreme Bliss, this architectural complex is the paradigm of South Korean architecture, featuring nationally treasured bridges and pagodas.
View priceless artifacts from the Silla Dynasty in the Gyeongju National Museum and enjoy
a memorable traditional dance performance during a specially arranged Korean lunch.
Visit the Royal Burial Mounds at Tumuli Park, where, in 1974, the 43‑foot‑high Cheonmachong
(Heavenly Horse) Tomb, dating from the fifth century, was excavated to reveal over 10,000 royal treasures inside. (b,l,d)
Thursday, May 30
Visit the striking 12th-century Akama Shrine, dedicated to the child emperor Antoku. Then, stroll through the Karato Ichiba Fish Market, specializing in the local delicacy of fugu (pufferfish) and serving sushi and sashimi bento daily. Enjoy the Captain’s Farewell Reception on board this evening. (b,l,r,d)
Friday, May 31
From the port of Uno, visit one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Koraku‑en, commissioned by Lord Ikedo in 1686. This Daimyō strolling garden is graced with bamboo groves; pine, plum and cherry trees; and tea bushes. Enjoy a scenic drive to the Kurashiki Bikan District, where distinctive
black-and-white latticed houses remain well preserved from the 17th‑century Edo Period. Visit the old merchant quarter, and walk among the remodeled former kara (granary) storehouses along the tranquil canals framed by languid weeping willows. (b,l,d)
Saturday, June 1
Disembark and continue on the Osaka and Nara Post‑Program Option, or transfer to the
airport for your return flight to the U.S. (b)
Iconic Tokyo Pre‑Program Option
Beneath Tokyo’s layers of thriving innovation and enthralling pop culture, you will find venerable wooden houses fronted by bonsai trees and shrines wreathed in incense smoke—the cultural core of this vibrant capital city. Begin with a panoramic tour, followed by a visit to the Tokyo National Museum, one of the largest art museums in the world with over 110,000 objects and 87 of Japan’s treasures. Explore collections of Asian artwork and artifacts and the surrounding Ueno Park,
opened to the public in 1873. Enjoy a full‑day excursion to Hakone, home to iconic Mt. Fuji, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit vibrant Asakusa, the center of Tokyo’s historic shitamachi district, and tour the seventh‑century Sensō‑Ji Temple. Travel aboard the high‑speed Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Spend three nights in the Five‑Star ANA InterContinental Hotel Tokyo.
Osaka and Nara Post-Program Option
In dynamic Osaka, visit the Osaka History Museum to learn more about the city’s merchant past, and enjoy sprawling aerial views of the city from the Floating Garden Observatory. Spend a day among UNESCO World Heritage‑designated ancient monuments in serene Nara, Japan’s oldest capital, where gentle sika deer roam Nara Park’s rolling landscape. Visit the significant “Great Eastern Temple” of Tōdai-ji, rebuilt in the 12th century, and the Hōryū‑ji Temple, where a
first‑century, five‑storied pagoda—considered one of the world’s oldest wooden structures—stands as a proud testament to Japan’s history. Experience the ancient tradition of creating Gripped Sumi, calligraphy ink sticks, at the Kinkoen Workshop. Accommodations are for two nights in the Five‑Star InterContinental Hotel Osaka.