Japan: Castles, Samurai, and Legends

Treasures of Feudal Japan and the Kumano Kodo Pilgrim Trails

Overview

Join us for a fascinating “insider’s” journey that tells the colorful story of a land of legends through its medieval castles and the tales of the men who built them—the samurais. In exploring the bushido (warrior), Zen, and tea cultures of the samurai, we gain a perspective on Japan’s history and a new understanding of its modern society. We’ll meet potters and artisans who have kept their crafts alive, visit soaring Himeji Castle, walk the samurai lanes of Hagi on the Sea of Japan, and on the tranquil Kumano Kodo, join pilgrims on thousand-year-old forest paths leading to ancient shrines. Our lodgings are a great mix of modern hotels and traditional ryokans.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2, Nov 7- 8, 2021
Osaka / Himeji Castle / Mt. Shosa

From Osaka, we head to 14th century Himeji Castle, Japan’s premier example of a feudal-era fortress (The Last Samurai was filmed here), and take the ropeway up to Mt. Shosa’s thousand-year-old Engyoji Temple complex.

Days 3-5, Nov 9-11, 2021
Kurashiki / Bitchu Matsuyama / Okayama

A bullet train takes us to the charming city of Kurashiki, which dates to the Edo Period (1603-1867). After exploring the ancient Bikan Quarter, we take a local train to the village of Bitchu Takahashi for a hike up to its mountaintop castle, then visit Okayama’s celebrated 17th century Koraku-en Garden, once the domain of a feudal lord.

Kurashiki Royal Art Hotel
Kurashiki, Japan
Days 3 to 5 (3 nights)
Days 6-10, Nov 12-16, 2021
Matsue / Samurai Homes / Izumo Taisha Shrine / Hagi / Hagiyaki Pottery

From our welcoming ryokan, we visit Matsue’s famous black castle, the samurai quarters nearby, and the venerated Izumo Taisha shrine associated with Japan’s creation legends. Heading to the quiet coastal town of Hagi, we’ll meet local potters who create the unique Hagiyaki pottery.

Ohashikan Ryokan
Matsue, Japan
Days 6 to 8 (3 nights)
Resort Hotel Mihagi
Hagi, Japan
Days 9 to 10 (2 nights)
Days 11-14, Nov 17-20, 2021
Kumano Kodo Pilgrim Trails

On the Kii Peninsula, a network of pilgrimage routes have been walked for centuries by Japanese from all levels of society. In an exquisite setting of rivers, waterfalls, mountains, and forests dotted with shrines, we join fellow pilgrims for walks on the pathways, enjoy soaks in the onsens (hot springs), and savor the peaceful atmosphere. Depart via Osaka on Day 14.

Shiraraso Grand Hotel
Wakayama, Japan
Day 11 (1 night)
Fujiya Ryokan
Kawayu Onsen, Japan
Days 12 to 13 (2 nights)

Highlights

Highlights

Get a fascinating insider perspective on Japanese culture
Charming Kurashiki, with its ancient streets from the Edo Period
Okayama’s striking black castle and enchanting garden of the daimyo (feudal ruler)
Finely preserved samurai homes of Matsue, famed potters of Hagi
Ethereal pilgrim trails of Kumano Kodo
Cozy traditional ryokans, a great way to experience Japanese life

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $8995  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 8 nights hotels, 5 nights ryokans
Meals: All meals except lunches and 2 dinners as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level:

Walking, including some steep stairs,