Basho and Beyond


Matsuo Basho, born in 1644, is Japan's most celebrated haiku poet, and has been our beloved Trip Leader Kate Ulberg’s “friend and guide” for the past 25 years, his spirit accompanying her and inspiring her on the many journeys she has led through Japan. Basho is famed for his epic travels in the wild north of Japan, where he visited poets, artists, and calligraphers and wrote his renowned haikus. Traveling as an itinerant priest and wandering poet-philosopher, Basho returned home to write his famous diary, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which over three centures later stands as one of the best travel journals ever written.

On our journey, we’ll follow in Basho’s footsteps, experiencing many of the fascinating places that he wrote about, including remote pilgrim trails, castle towns, pine-clad islets, and exquisite shrines set among ancient cedars. We’ll read our Basho haikus every day (and perhaps write a few ourselves), and take a riverboat trip down the Geibikei Gorge, with its scenery straight out of a Japanese brush painting. Continuing north, we leave Basho behind for a special visit to the village of Okuki, with its remarkable "re-found" Torii gates, a remarkable tale from the recent tsunami, interweaving Kate Ulberg's long relationship with Japan, a tiny town on its northern coast, and a walk on the beach in Oregon—we'll be part of the extraordinary connection that brings the three together.

We spend our last evenings enjoying the onsen (hot springs) near Aomori. Many nights will be spent in rustic ryokans, the charming inns that envelop us in a cozy world of Japanese tradition. Join us for a wonderful adventure with a Trip Leader who has a special knack for journeys that unlock the secrets of ancient Japan.

“Real poetry, is to lead a beautiful life. To live poetry is better than to write it.”
Matsuo Basho

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-3
Tokyo / Nikko

Discover the power of the shoguns at the dazzling shrines of Nikko, built in the 17th century by classical craftsmen and gracefully set among mountain forests. Nikko has been a sacred spot for 1200 years.

Days 4-7
Matsushima / Yamadera / Dewa Sanzan

We visit beautiful Matsushima Bay, with its wind-sculpted islands, the atmospheric temple complex at Yamadera, founded in 860 AD, and explore the sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan, long a center of Shugendo, a folk religion.

Days 8-9
Hiraizumi / Geibikei Gorge

At Hiraizumi, once the capital of the Fujiwara clan, we stroll the wooded pathways of centuries-old Chuson-ji, which holds the mummies of four Fujiwara lords, then board a traditional boat for a ride through the Geibikei Gorge, with its soaring cliffs.

Days 10-13
Okuki / Aomori / Depart

Traveling the scenic coast to Okuki, a fishing village, we visit the famous Torii gate that was torn from the shores of this village by the 2010 tsunami and eventually found floating on the Oregon coast, where it was identified and returned. At Aomori, we’ll discover the cultural museum and lively fish market, then return to Tokyo and depart on Day 13.



Enjoy Japan expert Kate Ulberg’s cultural insights and passion for Japanese culture
Explore the dazzling shrines of Nikko, where the power of the shoguns shines in living color
Visit spectacular Matushima Bay and the mountain shrines of the sacred peaks of Dewa Sanzan
Stroll centuries-old temple grounds and gardens, boat through the Geibikei Gorge
Experience traditional ryokans, the serene inns that reflect Japanese culture in miniature


Length: 13 days
Cost From: $7895  
Arrive: Tokyo, Japan
Depart: Tokyo, Japan
Lodging: 12 nights ryokans and hotels
Meals: All meals included except 10 lunches and 2 dinners
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

Walking, including some steep stairs, 6-7 hours a day, Japanese-style dining (sitting on floor)

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Haiku: A Journey

Recent Photo Blog Posts

Haiku: A Journey