Shinto Shrines, Pearl Divers, and Pilgrim Trails

Kyoto, Shima Peninsula, and Japan’s Sacred Kumano Kodo

Repertory Trip: Next Offered March 20-April 1, 2024


Less-traveled sites both within and beyond Kyoto, the pre-Buddhist Shinto shrines of the Shima Peninsula, and the mystical trails of the Kumano Kodo define this unique WT cultural adventure. In these out-of-the-way places, we bring you special “insider” moments other travelers never experience. Delights include dinner with a geisha in a private home in Kyoto, a visit to architect I. M. Pei’s masterpiece Miho Museum, exploring the Grand Shrines of Ise surrounded by sacred forest, and meeting traditional ama (female pearl divers) in beautiful Toba Bay. We’ll stay in modern hotels as well as Japanese ryokans where we can relax with a traditional onsen bath.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2, Mar 20-21, 2024
Osaka / Kyoto / Miho Museum / Geisha Dinner

In rural Shigaraki, we visit a 5th generation Indigo artisan, then continue to the Miho Museum, an architectural wonder designed by I. M. Pei, and to a small town known for shigaraki yaki, a distinctive ceramic recognized as one of Japan’s “six ancient kilns.” Our private dinner in Kyoto with a geisha illuminates an ancient Japanese tradition of hospitality.

Noku Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan
Days 1 to 4 (4 nights)
Days 3-4, Mar 22-23, 2024
Kyoto Artisan Workshops / Tofukuji Temple

One of our workshop visits is to the Meiji-era wooden townhouse of Hakuya Noguchi, a gold-leaf artisan. Just outside Kyoto, we explore Tofukuji, one of Kyoto’s oldest temples, with its spectacular gardens and ancient wooden bridges. Founded in the 13th century at the behest of the powerful Fujiwara clan, Tofukuji is one of Kyoto’s most magnificent World Heritage Sites, yet less visited because of its distance outside the city.

Noku Kyoto
Kyoto, Japan
Days 1 to 4 (4 nights)
Day 5-7, Mar 24-26, 2024
Uji / Nara Park / Todaiji / Horyuji

In the atmospheric city of Uji, featured in the 11th century Tale of Genji, we taste Uji’s green-tea-infused cuisine, visit the serene Byodoin Temple, and sample the wares at a sake brewery. At Nara, explorations include the majestic Todaiji Temple, one of the world’s largest wooden structures, and Japan’s oldest Buddhist monuments, the mystical Horuji temples.

Hotel Nikko Nara
Nara, Japan
Days 6 to 7 (2 nights)
Days 8-9, Mar 27-28, 2024
Pearl Divers / Ise Shima Shrines

A ferry brings us to Mikimoto Island, where pearls have been cultivated for centuries, and we’ll meet with the traditional female pearl divers. The sacred Grand Shrines of Ise reflect the important Shinto belief in the renewal of nature and the impermanence of all things.

Days 10-13, Mar 29-Apr 1, 2024
Kumano Kodo Pilgrim Trails

Walking the ancient pilgrim trails of the Kumano Kodo is an unforgettable experience of the holy ground of Japan. Depart on Day 13 via Osaka.

Hotel Urashima
Katsuura, Japan
Days 10 to 11 (2 nights)
Fujiya Ryokan
Kawayu Onsen, Japan
Day 12 (1 night)



Meet Kyoto’s traditional artisans, dine with a geisha
Explore the ancient pilgrim trails of the Kumano Kodo
Visit the sacred Shinto shrines of the Shima Peninsula
Meet the traditional female pearl divers of the Shima Peninsula
Enjoy several overnights in traditional ryokans


Length: 13 days
Cost From: TBA  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 12 nights ryokans and hotels
Meals: All meals included except lunches and 1 dinner as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level:

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