Experience the timeless splendor of Japan while cruising the historic Inland Sea, plus two nights in Kyoto. 

Starting at: $5,795 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Torii Gate near Miyajima  Entrance to Nijo Castle (detail), Kyoto  Himeji Castle  Nijo Castle Garden, Kyoto  Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto  Ryoan-ji Zen Garden, Kyoto  Young geishas. Japan Tourism Bureau  Bulguksa Temple, Gyeongju, South Korea

A Cruise of Japan

From Himeji to Matsue to Osaka with a Stop in South Korea Aboard the 220-guest Le Soléal

11 days from $5,795

Experience the timeless splendor of Japan while cruising the historic Inland Sea, plus two nights in Kyoto. 

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

I would highly recommend Smithsonian. They are a high quality tour organization. They organize the tour in a highly efficient manner. I would travel again with them.

- Victoria B.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

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SPECIAL OFFER

Save $1,000 per person when you book by September 26, 2016!

Overview

Experience the timeless splendors of Japan in the spring as you cruise the full length of the tranquil Inland Sea of Japan. Our voyage also features a special stop in the port of Ulsan, South Korea. 

Highlights Include:

  • Kyoto: Discover an ethereal setting of grand imperial castles, tranquil Zen gardens, and graceful Shinto shrines, which reflect Japanese culture in its purest form. Highlights include Nijo Castle and the magnificent temples of Kinkaku-ji and Ryoan-ji, many of which are World Heritage sites.
  • Himeji: See the impressive castle complex, the finest surviving example of medieval Japanese architecture from the beginning of the Shogun period and a World Heritage site.
  • Hiroshima and Miyajima: Witness the compelling Peace Memorial Park, a tranquil space filled with memorials honoring those who lost their lives at the end of World War II. In Miyajima, tour the impressive 6th-century Itsukushima Shrine and its stunning Torii gate, both of which appear to float on water.
  • Hagi: Visit the old samurai quarter and the evocative 17th-century Toko-ji Temple of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
  • Sakaiminato for Matsue: Travel through Matsue, the “City of Water,” to the Adachi Museum of Art, featuring a collection of Japanese modern art and perfectly landscaped gardens.
  • Gyeongju, South Korea: Explore the cradle of the 8th-century Shilla Kingdom, a World Heritage site, and see the glorious Bulguksa Temple, Royal Burial Mounds, and the Gyeongju National Museum.
  • Moji: Enjoy a panoramic tour and visit the beautiful Mekari Shrine.
  • Uno: Explore the beautiful town of Kurashiki, known for its willow-lined canals and 17th-century mercantile buildings (with distinctive black-and-white designs) or choose to visit beautiful Koraku-en Gardens. 

I would highly recommend Smithsonian. They are a high quality tour organization. They organize the tour in a highly efficient manner. I would travel again with them.

- Victoria B.

To see itinerary, please click on an option below.

Itinerary

Day 1 — Depart the U.S.

Depart the U.S. and cross the International Date Line. 

Day 2 — Osaka / Kyoto, Japan

Arrive in Osaka, then transfer to beautiful Kyoto, the impeccably preserved former imperial capital of Japan. Check into the ideally located Five-Star Kyoto Hotel Okura. The remainder of the day is at leisure. 

Day 3 — Kyoto

In timeless Kyoto, discover an ethereal setting of grand imperial castles, tranquil Zen gardens and graceful Shinto shrines that manifest Japanese culture in its purest form. Many of Kyoto’s ancient buildings and gardens are designated World Heritage sites, including grandiose Nijō Castle, built by the shogun of the powerful Tokugawa dynasty (1603 to 1867); iconic Kinkaku-ji Temple, the famed 14th-century Temple of the Golden Pavilion, whose top two floors are completely adorned with gold leaf; and the Ryōan-ji Temple, originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period (794 to 1185), featuring a contemplative rock garden. Drawing inspiration from the Zen gardens of Kyoto, Steve Jobs used Ryōan-ji Temple as a place of meditation and its minimalistic simplicity as the guiding aesthetic principle of Apple™ products.

This afternoon, visit the captivating Fushimi Inari Shrine, one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan—the earliest structures were constructed in 711 A.D., dedicated to the deity of sake and rice. Its iconic red-orange torii gates lead up in succession to the magnificent Inari Mountain.

Join your traveling companions for the welcome reception this evening. (B,R)

Day 4 — Kyoto / Himeji

Enjoy a morning at leisure before the scenic transfer to tour the ground of the extraordinary Himeji Castle Complex, a World Heritage site regarded as the oldest and grandest surviving feudal castle from 15th- to 17th-century Japan. This elegant structure was crafted entirely out of wood and comprises 83 buildings. In Japanese, it is referred to as Shirasagi-jo, meaning “white egret castle,” for its resemblance to a bird taking flight.

Later this afternoon, embark the L'Austral. (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Hiroshima / Miyajima

Visit Hiroshima’s compelling Peace Memorial Park, a tranquil, urban green space where the remains of the Genbaku Dome, which survived the forces of the atomic bomb, are a designated World Heritage site and stand as a universal symbol of peace. Visit the Peace Memorial Museum, which chronicles the history of Hiroshima.

Continue to Miyajima, or “Shrine Island.” Tour the impressive sixth-century Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage site, and see its stunning vermilion Great Torii Gate, both of which appear to float on water during high tide.

Attend the Captain’s welcome reception this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 6 — Hagi

Originally a small fishing port, the cultural town of Hagi was fortified by Môri Terumoto in 1604. On the walking tour of the old samurai quarter, where many former samurai dwellings still stand and the roads are lined with original 19th-century earthen walls, visit the early 17th-century Kikuya House, the former residence of a merchant wealthy enough to live among the samurai and one of the best-preserved examples of merchant-style architecture from the Edo Period. Tour the 17th-century Toko-ji Temple, from the Obaku School of Japanese Zen Buddhism, and see its 500 moss-covered stone lanterns honoring the Môri clan lords. See a Hagi-yaki pottery kiln, where highly prized tea wares are produced using centuries-old skills and craft techniques, and visit the Hagi Uragami Museum, which displays over 5000 traditional woodblock prints and porcelain pieces. (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Sakaiminato for Matsue

Enjoy a scenic drive through Matsue to tour the acclaimed Adachi Museum of Art. This stunning combination of Japanese art and garden design features a collection of 20th-century paintings and modern art, while the perfectly landscaped gardens, featuring a kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden, are widely considered to be the best in the country.

Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon of cruising with lectures by our onboard study leaders. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Ulsan, South Korea for Gyeongju

Travel across the magnificent landscape from Ulsan, South Korea, to the cradle of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C. to A.D. 935) in the historic city of Gyeongju. Visit the glorious Bulguksa Temple, a World Heritage site and part of a religious architectural complex that represents a material expression of Buddhist utopia on Earth. The complex is divided into three areas—the Vairocana Buddha Hall, the Hall of Great Enlightenment and the Hall of Supreme Bliss—and comprises a series of wooden buildings on raised stone terraces, featuring multiple bridges and two pagodas. 

Visit Gyeongju National Museum, which houses priceless archaeological and historical artifacts. Enjoy a specially arranged Korean lunch in a local restaurant featuring the regional specialty, galbi gui, marinated, grilled short ribs.  

After 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, revealing over 10,000 royal treasures inside. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Moji

In Moji, visit the beautiful Mekari Shrine, built by Empress Jingu, wife of the 14th Emperor of Japan, to give thanks to the gods; and visit the Akama Shrine, dedicated to the child Emperor Antoku. Then, experience the lively excitement of the Karato Fish Market, a wholesale market where professional chefs come to purchase the freshest seafood to prepare time-honored recipes and sushi in their restaurants.

Enjoy the captain’s farewell reception on board this evening. (B,L,R,D)

Day 10 — Uno

From the port of Uno, participate in one of two included excursions.

Enjoy a scenic drive to the lovely town of Kurashiki, which translates to “storehouse village,” one of the best-preserved mercantile towns in Japan; its distinctive black and white latticed buildings remain from the 17th-century Edo period. Visit the old merchant quarter and walk among the traditional kara (granary) buildings beside small, tranquil canals framed by weeping willows.

Or, choose to visit the famous Koraku-en Gardens, situated on the outskirts of Okayama. Commissioned by Lord Ikedo in 1700, it is a classic strolling garden divided into three sections featuring bamboo, pine, plum and cherry trees and tea bushes. (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Osaka / U.S.

Disembark in Osaka and continue on the Kanazawa Post-Program Option, or transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S. (B)