With its 6,852 islands, the Land of the Rising Sun is the perfect place to explore by sea. Aboard the Caledonian Sky, contour the stunning coastline and explore offshore islands of the archipelago to discover ancient castles, serenely beautiful gardens, and opulent temples and shrines where tourists rarely set foot. You’ll also visit South Korea’s Kyongju, the “Museum Without Walls,” where history comes to life among its tombs, temples, shrines, and pleasure gardens. May is the ideal time to see the countryside at its most verdant, and while temperatures are still pleasant.
Note: This cruise is not exclusive to, nor operated by, Wilderness Travel, who acts solely as agent in booking your reservation with the ship operator. The itinerary, lecturers, and all other arrangements are subject to change at the discretion of the cruise line.
London to Osaka, Japan
Fly by scheduled indirect flight to Osaka.
Arrive this morning in Osaka and transfer to the Caledonian Sky and embark. Sail this evening.
Okayama / Kurashiki
This morning, visit one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Koraku-en. This 17th-century formal garden has 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees, and a classic teahouse where you will experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki where you'll explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi.
Hiroshima / Miyajima
Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the atomic bomb. Return to the ship for lunch and then continue to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii gate, the giant camphor wood gate at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. You will go ashore to explore the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. The shrine is a designated World Heritage Site.
Arrive this morning at Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation center. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting, and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. Continue to Sakiiya Square and Dairakuji Temple.
This morning, arrive on the island of Yakushima, which became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. Its natural wonders will astound you as Yakushima has a particularly diverse flora. Spend your time here on nature walks including Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi, and Sennensugi. This afternoon, relax at sea.
Nagasaki / Dejima, Japan
Arrive this morning in Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an atomic bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum, and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It also used to be the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku (Isolation) Period. For 200 years, until Japan reopened the country in the 19th century, Dejima was its only window to the world.
Ulsan for Kyongju, South Korea
Today, embark on a full-day excursion to magnificent Kyongju, a World Heritage Site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s cultural heritage dates back to the first millennium. Today, as you stroll through some of the hundreds of excavated monuments, temples, tombs, and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewelry, metal weapons, and distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy a cultural performance of traditional dance.
Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old samurai residential quarter. You will tour a samurai’s home and visit Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo and all the even-numbered daimyo. Also take time to explore Hagi Castle, Shizuki Park, and Tokoji Temple.
Matsue, called the "town of water," nestles between a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Visit the cultural attractions of the town including Matsue Castle. This afternoon is free to relax or explore the town at leisure. Alternatively, join an optional excursion to the Adachi Museum, set in a beautiful natural environment. Adachi Museum of Art is well known for both its superb Japanese gardens and its collection of contemporary Japanese paintings, comprising approximately 1,500 of the country’s most highly-regarded paintings produced after the Meiji period.
Kanazawa is a thriving center of the arts, long known for its lacquerware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship, and delicate handpainting of silk for kimonos and Noh theater dramas. The narrow and winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, crafts shop, historic samurai residence, and even a geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next to the Kanazawa Castle ruins is one of Japan’s premier highlights—the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens.
Kanazawa to Tokyo
Disembark this morning and take the bullet train to Tokyo. On arrival we enjoy an afternoon city tour including Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple and the Imperial Palace Plaza. We then transfer to the New Otani hotel (or similar) for an overnight stay. Remainder of the day at leisure to explore the vibrant metropolis independently.
Tokyo to London
Check out this morning and transfer to the airport for the return scheduled flight to London arriving this evening.
Tokyo to Osaka Itinerary-in-Brief
Day 1: London to Tokyo, Japan
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo to Kanazawa
Day 4: Kanazawa
Day 5: Matsue
Day 6: Hagi
Day 7: Ulsan for Kyongju, South Korea
Day 8: Nagasaki & Dejima, Japan
Day 9: Yakushima
Day 10: Uwajima
Day 11: Hiroshima & Miyajima
Day 12: Okayama & Kurashiki
Day 13: Osaka to London