A Cruise of Japan
Explore Japan's complex history and refined arts and traditions on this unique cruise featuring special access in cosmopolitan cities, tranquil towns, and remote islands.
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Japan is renowned for its complex history, stunning landscapes, and highly refined arts and traditions. Begin your journey with two days in vibrant Tokyo, then board our small ship and cruise the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea to historic Kyoto. Along the way, venture beyond the major cosmopolitan cities to a fascinating variety of tranquil historic towns, artistic centers, and remote islands. Accompanied by art historian Louisa McDonald, explore dramatic coastlines, sacred temples, celebrated gardens, and cutting-edge architecture, including the Miho Museum designed by I.M. Pei. Gain further insight by meeting a variety of people, including the owner of a traditional geisha house, a kabuki actor, and an artisan ceramicist. Take part in a tea ceremony, enjoy a private kabuki demonstration, attend an electrifying private hands-on drumming workshop with the world-class Kodo Drummers, and travel on Japan’s high-speed rail (the shinkansen, or “bullet train”). An optional extension to Kamakura and the hot springs resort of Hakone is also offered.
April 10-11 — U.S., Tokyo, Japan
Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Tokyo and, upon arrival, transfer to the Imperial Hotel. Imperial Hotel (Meals in flight)
April 12 — Tokyo
Today’s activities include a choice of two excursions. Visit the Mejii Shrine complex, located in a 175-acre forest; the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art; and the modern architecture of Tokyo’s Aoyama district. Or explore the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which features exhibits of the history of Tokyo during the Edo period; take a cruise along the Sumida River; and visit the Hamarikyu Gardens, a public garden park surrounded by a seawater moat. This evening, enjoy a welcome reception and dinner with a private kabuki demonstration. Imperial Hotel (B,L,R,D)
April 13 — Tokyo, Niigata (Embark)
Choose between two morning excursion options: visits to the Tsukiji fish market and kappabashi culinary district, a street almost entirely populated by shops catering to the restaurant trade; or an excursion to the Ginza district, with visits to a classic Japanese department store and two artisan shops. This afternoon board a high-speed “bullet train” for Niigata. Embark the Caledonian Sky in Niigata port. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 14 — Sado Island
Arrive at remote Sado Island, once a place of exile for intellectuals and political dissidents and now the home base for the taiko drumming group Kodo (“heartbeat”). Enjoy a hands-on drumming workshop and short performance by several of the resident drummers (many of the musicians in this world-famous troupe will be performing out of the country during our stay), as well as a guest lecture on this ancient art form. This evening enjoy the captain’s welcome dinner aboard ship. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 15 — Kanazawa
Call at the artistic center of Kanazawa for a visit to Kenrokuen, considered by many to be the finest landscape garden in Japan. Enjoy a tea ceremony at a classic teahouse and time to explore the historic neighborhoods of this artistic center. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 16 — Matsue
Drive through lush countryside to the Adachi Museum of Art to explore its collection of modern Japanese works, set in exquisite gardens. Continue to charming Matsue and visit one of the few surviving castles in Japan, built in 1611. Enjoy free time to stroll through Matsue’s historic quarter. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 17 — Hagi
Explore Japan’s medieval heritage at Hagi, which boasts one of the best-preserved samurai and merchant quarters in Japan as well as a ceramics tradition nearly 400 years old. Stop at the kiln of a master potter 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. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 18 — Ulsan, South Korea
From the South Korean port city of Ulsan, drive inland to the World Heritage city of Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Shilla kingdom that ruled for 1,000 years. Enjoy a guided tour of the National Museum’s highlights. After a Korean lunch and folkloric performance, explore Bulguksa, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Korea, with intricate paintings inside and out and two original 6th-century pagodas. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 19 — Cruising, Hiroshima, Japan
After a morning of cruising, call at Hiroshima this afternoon for a visit to 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. Caledonian Sky (B,L,D)
April 20 — Miyajima, Inland Sea Cruising
Anchor offshore of Miyajima Island this morning and board Zodiacs to access the island. Visit the 6th-century Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, with its iconic vermillion torii, a grand wooden gateway that appears to float on the sea at high tide. Enjoy free time for hikes, visits to tiny temples, and strolling the picturesque streets of the town. Later this afternoon, relax on board and admire the scenery as we cruise through Japan’s Inland Sea, dotted with small islands. Gather this evening for a captain’s farewell reception and dinner aboard ship. Caledonian Sky (B,L,R,D)
April 21 — Kobe (Disembark), Kyoto
Disembark from the Caledonian Sky this morning in Kobe port, and transfer by coach to Kyoto. Visit Nijo Castle, built by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, in 1603 and designated a National Treasure. The castle’s Ninomaru Palace is decorated with wall paintings by the Kano school, and is famous for its “nightingale” floors, which were designed to creak when trod upon to warn residents of intruders. After lunch, visit Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), a World Heritage Site and one of the iconic sites of Japan. The shimmering central pavilion is covered in bright gold leaf, reflected in the surrounding pond, and surrounded by winding garden paths. Conclude the afternoon with a visit to Ryoan-ji’s elegant Zen rock garden. The evening is at leisure. Kyoto Hotel Okura (B,L)
April 22 — Kyoto
Today choose between two excursion options: a day trip to the Miho Museum, considered one of the master achievements of architect I.M. Pei and built into a mountain slope west of Kyoto; or, at additional expense, an exploration of Kyoto behind the scenes, with visits to the Nishiki Food Market, a textile studio, and a specially arranged visit to the Moss Temple at Saiho-ji. This evening, enjoy a private presentation by a former geisha and a maiko (an apprentice geisha) and a special farewell dinner. Kyoto Hotel Okura (B,L,D)
April 23 — Kyoto, Osaka, U.S.
Transfer to Kansai International Airport for flights home (arriving the same day), or begin the optional post-trip extension. (B)