Cross the International Dateline and arrive in Osaka. Transfer to your hotel in Kyoto.
After breakfast enjoy a morning tour of Japan’s lovely cultural capital, Kyoto. Founded in the 8th century, Kyoto was the Emperor’s residence for more than one thousand years. Today, its historic shrines, monuments, art, and architectural landmarks represent nearly 20 percent of Japan’s national treasures. Among the tour highlights is a walk through the serene Sagano Bamboo Grove. Visit the Heian-jingu Shrine and its gardens, built in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto; the 12th-century Sanjusangen-do Temple, housing the Thousand-Armed Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy; and the exquisite Kiyomizu-dera Temple with its sacred waterfall. After lunch in the city return to your hotel with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Meet your expedition team tonight during an orientation dinner. Overnight at your hotel.
Depart Kyoto this morning on board one of Japan’s famed shinkansen, bullet train, for the trip to Kobe. Back-dropped by the Rokko Mountains, this important port city has been entirely rebuilt since the 1995 earthquake and international trade and commerce continue, as they have for centuries. Board motorcoaches for a drive to the spectacular city overlook on the verdant slopes of Mount Rokko. In town visit the Kobe City Museum where exhibits focus on international cultural exchange between East and West. Later this afternoon embark the Clipper Odyssey and set sail this evening into the fabled Inland Sea.
Disembark this morning in Okayama Uno-Ko and drive to the nearby town of Kurashiki, first established as an administrative center for the Shogunate in the early 17th century. The village evolved into a regional commercial center for rice, sake, and cotton and its name translates from kura, “warehouse” and shiki, “village.” Today the old village is a historic jewel, its black-tiled warehouses fronting a willow-lined canal which is criss-crossed with old stone bridges. The O’Hara Museum, whose collections were started by a local textile magnate, houses works by Cezanne, Monet, Degas, Picasso, Matisse, and other Impressionists. Return to Uno-Ko and enjoy a walk through one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, Koraku-en, a 17th-century formal garden encompassing 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees, and a classic teahouse. This afternoon reboard the ship and sail for Hiroshima.
Naoshima is known for its many contemporary arts museums. Visit the Benesse House Museum, with interesting displays that combine art and nature through the collaborative efforts of many world-renowned artists and architects. The Chichu Art Museum (literally, “in the earth”) houses a number of site-specific installations by James Turrell and Walter De Maria, and paintings by Claude Monet. The Ie (or House) Project takes empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art, weaving in the history and memories of the period when the houses were people’s homes.ed by bridges and walkways.
Considered one of Japan’s scenic wonders, Miyajima, “shrine island,” offers a superb vista of the scarlet Torii, a giant camphor-wood gate at the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine and a sacred site of pilgrimage. At high tide it appears to float in the surrounding waters. Take Zodiacs ashore to explore the World Heritage Site shrine, sacred both to Shintoism and Buddhism.
After lunch join a tour of Hiroshima and visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park located in the heart of the city. A World Heritage Site, the park and its monuments are dedicated to the hope for world peace; an arch-shaped cenotaph includes the names of all the known victims of the atomic bomb.
Uwajima Castle was built in the early 17th century and is one of only 12 surviving castle towers built in the Edo Period. The castle houses a small museum which includes armor, furnishings, and archives of the Date family. Then stroll though Tensha-en, a traditional Japanese landscape garden constructed in 1868 as the retreat of the Date’s seventh lord, Munetada. You will also visit the Flying Squirrel Temple. The temple’s abbot is a well-known inventor and photographer and many of his creations will be on display.
Today disembark in Oita to view the Usuki Stone Buddhas, carved during the 12th – 14th centuries. Continue to Yufuin, a hot spring resort town, for lunch at a local restaurant. Afterwards you may choose to stroll around town and perhaps browse through the charming folkcraft shops. Or choose to take a dip in one of the hot springs at a traditional onsen. A short drive brings you to Usa Shrine, founded in the early eighth century, its Main Shrine structure is designated a National Treasure. The tour ends at Nakatsu where you reboard the ship in time for dinner.
tDisembark in Hagi this morning to visit this exquisite medieval samurai town which served as the capital of the local daimyo, feudal lords, between 1603 and 1868. Stroll through the serene Tokoji Temple and burial site of the daimyo which is surrounded by thousands of stone lanterns. Hagi is also world-renowned for its pastel-glazed pottery and you will have the opportunity to watch a master-potter at work.
The coastline along the north shore of Honshu offers splendid views of craggy rock faces and rugged shores sculpted by waves. Matsue, the “town of water,” is nestled between a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Visit the cultural attractions of the town which include the Matsue Castle and a 250-year-old samurai house complete with tatami rooms. Afterwards take a drive though photogenic countryside to a rural village known for traditional Japanese paper-making.
After lunch on board disembark in the bustling port of Ulsan. From here you travel overland to visit the lively harbor-side Jagalchi fish market in Busan. Return to the ship for dinner and overnight pier side.
Magnificent Gyeongju, considered by UNESCO as one of the world’s ten most historically significant sites, is often described as a “museum without walls.”As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Gyeongju’s cultural heritage dates back to the first millennium when the dynasty began its rule of Korea after conquering and uniting divergent monarchies. The cultural flowering of Gyeongju reached its artistic pinnacle in the 8th century as craftsmen created masterpieces in wood, metal, stone, and pottery.
After breakfast disembark and transfer to the airport for your independent flight home