Experience the timeless splendor of Japan while cruising the full length of the tranquil Inland Sea, plus stop in South Korea's port of Ulsan for a special visit to historic Gyeongju, the “museum without walls.”

Starting at: $5,995 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto  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

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

11-12 days from $5,995

Experience the timeless splendor of Japan while cruising the full length of the tranquil Inland Sea, plus stop in South Korea's port of Ulsan for a special visit to historic Gyeongju, the “museum without walls.”

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.

If you enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and discovering new cultures, Smithsonian Journeys is for you!

- Bill, L.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Overview

Activity Level 3: Moderate / Active


Expectations: Ocean-going cruise that pulls into a pier for embarkation and shore excursions. Excursions will be at a moderately active pace during the mornings and/or afternoons and some days will require early morning departures (8:00 or 8:30 a.m.). Some standing and walking for periods of time (up to one and a half hours) during outdoor activities and tours, city tours, and museum visits. Our guides will find a place for you to sit if necessary.   

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit, lead active lives, are comfortable participating in long days of activities, and expect some physical exertion. 

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.

If you enjoy meeting new people, learning new things, and discovering new cultures, Smithsonian Journeys is for you!

- Bill, L.

2019 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 the famed Kinkaku-ji Temple, the iconic 14th-century Temple of the Golden Pavilion, whose top two floors are adorned completely with gold leaf; and the Ryōan-ji Temple, originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period (794-1185), renowned for its contemplative rock garden. Drawing inspiration from the Zen gardens of Kyoto, Apple™ co-founder Steve Jobs used Ryōan-ji Temple as a place of meditation and its minimalistic simplicity as the guiding aesthetic principle of the company’s products.

Visit the captivating Fushimi Inari Shrine, dedicated to the deity of sake and rice and one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, whose earliest structures were constructed in A.D. 711. Its thousands of carefully aligned iconic red-orange torii gates lead to the magnificent Inari Mountain.

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

Day 4 — Kyoto / Himeji

This morning, visit grandiose Nijō Castle, built by the shogun of the powerful Tokugawa dynasty (1603 to 1867).

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before your scenic transfer to see the extraordinary Himeji Castle complex, a World Heritage site regarded as the oldest and grandest surviving feudal castle in the world, dating from 15th- to 17th-century Japan. Admire this elegant structure, which was crafted entirely out of wood and comprises 83 buildings. 

Later this afternoon, embark the Le Soléal. (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 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. Visit the Hagi Uragami Museum, which displays over 5,000 traditional woodblock prints and porcelain works of art. (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.

See distinctive Matsue Castle, a feudal structure whose five-story keep is the tallest in Japan, en route 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 South Korea’s verdant rural landscape from Ulsan 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 and a traditional dance performance.

After lunch, visit the Royal Burial Mounds at Tumuli Park where, in 1974, the 43-foot-high Cheonmachong Tomb (Heavenly Horse), dating from the fifth century, was excavated, revealing over 10,000 royal treasures inside. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Moji, Japan

Visit the beautiful Akama Shrine, near Moji, 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, 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.

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.  (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Osaka / U.S.

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

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2020 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 and 4 — Kyoto

An ethereal setting of grand imperial castles, tranquil Zen gardens, and graceful Shinto shrines, Kyoto manifests Japanese culture in its purest form. Visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites—14th-century Kinkaku-ji Temple, whose famed “Golden Pavilion” is almost entirely adorned with gold leaf; the peaceful Ryōan-ji Temple, originally an aristocrat’s villa during the Heian Period (A.D. 794 to 1185) and Kiyomizu-dera Temple that houses the temple’s primary object of worship, Kannon, the diety of mercy with 11 faces and 42 arms. Ryōan-ji Temple’s legendary karesansui (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.

Enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the Gion District known for its entertainment. 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 Inari’s Mountain lush summit.

Enjoy a welcome reception one evening in Kyoto. (2B,1R)

Day 5 — Kyoto / Himeji

This morning, visit grandiose Nijō Castle, built by the shogun of the powerful Tokugawa dynasty (1603 to 1867).

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before your scenic transfer to see the extraordinary Himeji Castle complex, a World Heritage site regarded as the oldest and grandest surviving feudal castle in the world, dating from 15th- to 17th-century Japan. Admire this elegant structure, which was crafted entirely out of wood and comprises 83 buildings. 

Later this afternoon, embark the Le Soléal. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — 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 7 — 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 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. Visit the Hagi Uragami Museum, which displays over 5,000 traditional woodblock prints and porcelain works of art. (B,L,D)

Day 8 — 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.

See distinctive Matsue Castle, a feudal structure whose five-story keep is the tallest in Japan, en route to the ship for lunch and an afternoon of cruising with lectures by our onboard study leaders. (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Ulsan, South Korea for Gyeongju

Travel across South Korea’s verdant rural landscape from Ulsan 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 and a traditional dance performance.

After lunch, visit the Royal Burial Mounds at Tumuli Park where, in 1974, the 43-foot-high Cheonmachong Tomb (Heavenly Horse), dating from the fifth century, was excavated, revealing over 10,000 royal treasures inside. (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Moji, Japan

Visit the beautiful Akama Shrine, near Moji, 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 11 — Uno for Kurashiki and Koraku-en Garden:

From the port of Uno, 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.

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.  (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Osaka / U.S.

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

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)