Cruise through the Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan on a delightful springtime exploration of Japan, beginning with a deluxe hotel stay in Kyoto. This small nation of nearly 7,000 islands is wonderfully suited for exploration by small ship, and our chartered vessel, the 114-passenger Caledonian Sky, conveys us comfortably to a fascinating variety of tranquil historic towns, artistic centers, and remote islands.
SUNDAY & MONDAY, MAY 5 & 6
U.S. / Kyoto, Japan
Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Osaka, arriving on May 6. Check in to the Kyoto Hotel Okura. An optional afternoon tour is available at additional cost of $70 per person, with visits to Sanjusangendo temple, featuring 1,001 gilded wooden statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, and Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine with tunnel-like paths formed by a seemingly unending line of vibrant orange torii gates. An early evening walk is also offered through the historic Pontocho and Gion districts. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA
TUESDAY, MAY 7
Explore the lovely gardens and learn about Zen Buddhism at Tenryu temple, then stroll through the adjacent Sagano Bamboo Grove, with its atmospherically dense stands of tall green bamboo offering wonderful photographic opportunities. This evening, enjoy a private presentation by a former geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) and a festive welcome reception and dinner. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA (B,L,R,D)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 8
Kyoto / Shiga
Venture this morning to the Miho Museum, built into a mountain slope in Shiga prefecture and considered one of the master achievements of architect I.M. Pei, with innovative skylights and windows creating a shifting pattern of light and shadow. Return to Kyoto for an afternoon visit to the UNESCO World Heritage–designated Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), whose shimmering central pavilion is covered in bright gold leaf. The evening is at leisure, with organized dinner options available at additional cost. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA (B,L)
THURSDAY, MAY 9
Kyoto / Nara / Kobe (Embark)
Historic and beautiful Nara was the capital of Japan for only 74 years (710-784), but during that time Buddhism became firmly established within Japan and some of the country’s most magnificent temples and works of art were created. Visit UNESCO World Heritage-designated Todai-ji, famous for its Daibutsu—a monolithic seated bronze statue of the Great Buddha. Also explore the wisteria-draped grounds of the Kasuga Taisha Shrine before continuing to Kobe to embark the Caledonian Sky. B,L,D)
FRIDAY, MAY 10
Cruising / Hiroshima
Relax on board and admire the scenery as we cruise through Japan’s Inland Sea, dotted with tiny islands. Call at Hiroshima this afternoon and explore the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which documents the atomic explosion that ravaged the city. This thriving modern city is a testament to Japan’s post-war recovery. Continue with your choice of a visit to Shukkei-en garden or a tour of the Mazda Museum and auto manufacturing facility. (B,L,D)
SATURDAY, MAY 11
Cruise to neighboring Miyajima Island, anchor-ing offshore and boarding Zodiacs to access the island. Visit the 6th-century Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, with its iconic vermilion torii (gateway) that appears to float on the sea at high tide, and enjoy free time for hikes, visits to tiny temples, and strolling the picturesque streets of the town. (B,L,D)
SUNDAY, MAY 12
Uwajima / Rural Shikoku
Call at Uwajima on Shikoku Island for a chance to experience some of Japan’s rural countryside, with fishing hamlets and farm villages nestled along rugged coastlines. Visit a farm where pearls are cultivated, see terraced fields rising in tiers up steep hillsides, and discover a beautifully preserved merchant town that evokes Japan’s traditional past. (B,L,D)
MONDAY, MAY 13
Explore Japan’s medieval heritage at Hagi, with its well-preserved samurai and merchant quarters and a ceramics tradition nearly 400 years old. Stop at the kiln of a master artisan to learn how the highly acclaimed Hagi-yaki is made. Walk the grounds of Toko-ji, where hundreds of moss-covered stone lanterns guard the graves of five Mori lords. Cruise overnight across the Korea Strait. (B,L,D)
TUESDAY, MAY 14
Ulsan, South Korea
From the South Korean port of Ulsan, drive inland to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Silla kingdom, which ruled for 1,000 years. Visit Bulguksa, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in South Korea, with intricate paintings inside and out and two original 6th-century pagodas. After a lunch of Korean specialties and a performance of Korean folkloric music, explore the royal tombs in Tumuli Park and the Gyeongju National Museum, largely devoted to Silla artifacts. (B,L,D)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15
After a morning of cruising, call at Sakai port for lunch and an exploration of charming Matsue, with the option to visit one of the few surviving castles in Japan, built in 1611, or stroll through Matsue’s historic samurai quarter, with a visit to the Lafcadio Hearn Museum to learn about this beloved 19th-century author who lived in the city and assumed the Japanese name of Yakumo Kaizumi after his naturalization. Drive through lush countryside to visit the Adachi Museum of Art, with a collection of contemporary Japanese works set in exquisite, highly manicured traditional gardens. (B,L,D)
THURSDAY, MAY 16
Call at the refined artistic center of Kanazawa for a visit to Kenroku-en, considered by many to be the finest landscape garden in Japan. Enjoy a tea ceremony at a classic teahouse, and time at leisure to explore Kanazawa’s historic neighborhoods as well as artisan shops and museums dedicated to the city’s renowned cultural pursuits, including silk dyeing, ceramics, and the production of gold leaf and lacquerware. (B,L,D)
FRIDAY, MAY 17
Call this morning at remote Sado Island, home base for the taiko drumming group Kodo (“heartbeat”). Attend a hands-on drumming workshop, a short performance by several of the resident drummers, and a guest lecture on this ancient art form. Also take a guided walking tour through the picturesque fishing village of Shukunegi, where more than one hundred traditional Edo-period houses line the narrow streets. Return to the ship for lunch on board and an afternoon of cruising. (B,L,D)
SATURDAY, MAY 18
Dock this morning in Hakodate, located on the south coast of the island of Hokkaido. Visit the local market featuring fresh seafood and other local specialties, and take a cable car up Mount Hakodate for panoramic views over the city and port. After a final afternoon of cruising, gather for a farewell reception and dinner on board. (B,L,R,D)
SUNDAY, MAY 19
Otaru / Disembark / Return to U.S.
Arrive this morning in Otaru. Disembark and transfer to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport for flights home (arriving the same day), or join one of the optional post-tour extensions. (B)
OPTIONAL POST-TOUR EXTENSIONS
Otaru & Sapporo
MAY 19–20, 2019
Explore Otaru’s beautifully preserved historic port and canal area, then transfer to Sapporo for a stroll through Moerenuma Park and a beer tasting at a local brewery. After an overnight stay at the Sapporo Grand Hotel, transfer to Sapporo’s new Chitose Airport for flights home.
Otaru, Sapporo & Tokyo
MAY 19–22, 2019
Join the first extension above through the overnight stay at the Sapporo Grand Hotel, then transfer to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport and fly directly to Tokyo for a two-night stay. Experience the city’s contrasts at the Meiji Shrine, Nezu Museum, Imperial Palace Plaza, Tokyo National Museum, Senso-ji Temple, the basement food floor of a Japanese department store, and Tsukiji fish market. Finish with a nighttime panoramic bus tour.
Otaru, Sapporo & Noboribetsu Onsen
MAY 19–23, 2019
Join the first extension above through the overnight stay at the Sapporo Grand Hotel, then drive to Lake Toya, stopping en route at a whisky distillery for a tour and tasting, followed by a lunch with views over the lake, and arrive for a two-night stay at the Noboribetsu Onsen, with its unique volcanic landscapes and therapeutic hot spring baths. Accommodations at the onsen are at a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan. Return to Sapporo for a final overnight stay before flights home from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport.
Additional details and pricing for the optional extensions will be sent to confirmed participants.