himeji castle hyogo japan

Spring Voyage to Japan

Aboard the Minerva


Experience Japan in springtime, when the cherry blossoms abound around spectacular feudal castles. Embarking in Kobe, explore Himeji, with its World Heritage-listed castle, and stroll among the koi ponds at the 16th century Koraku-en Garden. Visit Hiroshima’s serene Peace Memorial Park and the famous Shinto shrine at Miyajima, then call at the castle-town of Haji. Swing by South Korea to see the Buddhist temples at Gyeongju, and return to Japan to visit Nagasaki and Chiran, resonating with the memory of its Samurai past, before disembarking at Osaka.

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.


Day 1, May 13, 2024
Osaka, Japan

Arrive in Osaka and transfer to the Hotel Hankyu International (or similar) for overnight. This evening join fellow travelers for a welcome Reception.

Day 2, May 14, 2024
Osaka / Himeji / Kobe / Embarkation

After breakfast, join an excursion to Himeji Castle, widely acclaimed as Japan's most spectacular castle and a World Heritage Site. Unlike many Japanese castles, Himeji was never destroyed by war, earthquake or fire, and remains much as it was when it was completed in 1609. Its 83 buildings are described by UNESCO as "a masterpiece of construction in wood, combining function with aesthetic appeal." After lunch, continue to nearby Kobe to board Minerva and sail.

Day 3, May 15, 2024
Okayama / Kurashiki

Okayama, the capital of Okayama Prefecture, is the second largest city in the Chugoku Region. Your first stop is at the Koraku-en Garden, recognized as one of the three best landscape gardens in Japan. Encompassing about 33 acres, it was built in 1700 by the local feudal lord as a strolling garden for his relaxation and contemplation. It features a flat lawn with attractive ponds, a hill in the center, a tiny tea plantation with rice paddy, and a small waterfall. In the afternoon, travel to Kurashiki to explore the Ohara Museum of Art and tour the Ohashi Family House, typical of wealthy merchants of the 18th century. Also stroll in the historic town center, lined with beautifully-preserved old buildings.

Day 4, May 16, 2024
Hiroshima / Miyajima

Today you will pay a solemn visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of the most sobering monuments anywhere in the world. Also explore, in Miyajima, the Itsukushima Shrine, a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times, and home to an iconic "floating" tori gate. The present shrine dates from the 13th century and is a reflection of the style favored by the most powerful leader of the time, Taira no Kiyomori. Itsukushima’s balancing of the sea, the buildings, and the primeval forest on Mt. Misen are accepted as this tradition's standard of beauty.

Day 5, May 17, 2024
Moji / Hagi

Once the seat of the powerful Mori Clan from Japan's feudal period, Hagi is now best known for its well-preserved castle town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although only ruins remain of the castle itself, the basic plan of the Edo-period town has survived. Most of the streets are laid out exactly as they were four hundred years ago and retain the pure white walls and gray roof tiles of that period.

Day 6, May 18, 2024
Sakaiminato / Matsue

Made entirely of pine, Matsue Castle was built in 1611, and, with a partial reconstruction in 1692, never having been ransacked or burned, remains as it was in the late 17th century. Explore the five-story façade, including the uppermost floor, which offers views of the city, Lake Shinji, and the distant mountains. In the afternoon, visit the Adachi Museum of Art and its gardens. The Museum houses numerous works by the great masters of modern Japanese art—Yokoyama Taikan, Takeuchi Seiho, Uemura Shoen, and Ito Shinsui, among others. Most of the works were selected by Adachi Zenko (1899-1990), the museum's founder, who favored a wide and eclectic range of styles.

Day 7, May 19, 2024
Ulsan, South Korea / Gyeongju

From Ulsan, travel to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom. The Gyeongju Historic Areas, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contain outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art from the flowering of Silla culture between the 7th and 10th centuries. Visit Bulguksa Temple, home to many cultural relics protected as National Treasures, including the Dabotap and Seokgatap Pagodas, the Yeonhwa-gyo and Chilbo-gyo Bridges, and the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddhist Figure. You will also spend some time exploring the Gyeongju National Museum.

Day 8, May 20, 2024

Nagasaki is a busy and colorful city that was an early center of trade with the Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish. Explore the Sofukuji Temple, one of the finest examples of Chinese Ming dynasty temple architecture in the world, and pay a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park, which commemorates the awesome power of the weapon that brought an end to WWII in the Pacific. Also visit the Oura Cathedral, the oldest Christian church in Japan.

Day 9, May 21, 2024
Kagoshima / Chiran

From Kagoshima, drive through picturesque tea plantations to reach Chiran, a small town that resonates with the memory of its samurai past. Several of the authentic 18th and 19th century residences you will see are still used by descendants of the original owners. Their enclosed gardens, shut off from the narrow streets by walls and hedges, are fine examples of the samurai style of "borrowed landscaping," in which surrounding mountains and scenery are made part of the garden design. You'll also visit the lovely Senga-en Garden.

Day 10, May 22, 2024
Yakushima Island

Explore the small and seldom-visited Yakushima Island, located about 50 miles south of the main Japanese islands. Yakushima was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 in recognition of its incredible variety of ecosystems—ranging from subtropical coastal vegetation, through a temperate rainforest of thousand-year-old cedar trees, to bamboo grasslands on the peaks of its mile-high central mountains.

Day 11, May 23, 2024

Visit Uwajima Castle, one of the few original Edo-period castles, and then travel to the nearby town of Uchiko, whose picturesque old street of Yokaichi is lined with buildings dating from the last years of the Edo period and the early years of the Meiji Restoration. As you walk along this street you will encounter an old sake brewery, the Amazake Chaya Teahouse, the Uchiko-za Theater, and the Kami Hagi-tei, the former home and workshop of one of Uchiko’s most influential families.

Day 12, May 24, 2024

Spend the day in Takamatsu, where you will explore Shikoku Mur, an open-air museum situated at the base of Yashima Mountain that exhibits traditional buildings and structures relocated here from all over Shikoku Island. Visit the nearby studio of sculptor Isamu Noguchi, an extension of the famous Garden and Museum in lower Manhattan. And you will travel to the small island of Naoshima, home to a vibrant art scene that includes an underground museum designed by famed architect Tadao Ando.

Day 13, May 25, 2024
Kobe / Osaka / Disembarkation

After breakfast aboard, transfer to the airport for flights homeward.



Visit ancient castles including Himeji, Matsue, and Uwajima, one of the few original Edo-period castles
Explore Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, the well preserved castle town of Hagi, and Nagasaki
Enjoy a side trip to South Korea to see the Gyeongju Historic Areas, a World Heritage Site containing outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art
Take in an incredible variety of ecosystems at Yakushima Island
Explore the vibrant art scene on the small island of Naoshima


Length: 13 days
Cost From: $11,990  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 11 nights aboard a 152-passenger vessel, 1 night hotel
Meals: All meals aboard ship, including wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Special Interest
Trip Level:

11-day cruise, cultural explorations and walking tours