Kyoto, Shima Peninsula, and the Kumano Kodo

Overview

Explore fascinating and less-traveled sites both inside and outside Kyoto, visit the pre-Buddhist Shinto shrines of the Shima Peninsula, and walk the mystical trails of Kumano Kodo on the Kii Peninsula. We’ll bring you to out-of-the-way places for special “insider” experiences other travelers won’t ever get. Delights include dining with a geisha in a private home in Kyoto, visiting architect I. M. Pei’s masterpiece Miho Museum, exploring the Grand Shrines of Ise—the ancestral shrine of the emperors of Japan—and meeting traditional ama (female pearl divers) in beautiful Toba Bay. We’ll stay in modern hotels as well as ryokans where we can relax with a traditional onsen bath.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Osaka / Kyoto / Shigaraki Potters / Miho Museum / Fushimi Inari Shrine

Just outside Kyoto in rural Shigaraki, we are welcomed by potters to learn about their town’s ancient craft, and we’ll visit the splendid Miho Museum, designed by I. M. Pei. We meet Kyoto’s artisans, dine with a geisha, and walk beneath vermilion torii gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

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Day 5-7
Uji / Nara Park / Todaiji / Horyuji

After we soak up the atmosphere of Uji, featured in the 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, we enjoy the majesty of the Todaiji Temple, one of the world’s largest wooden structures, and the Horuji temples, Japan’s oldest Buddhist monuments.

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Days 8-9
Ise Shima / Pearl Divers / Ago Bay

A ferry brings us to beautiful Ago Bay to visit Mikimoto Pearl Island and learn about farming pearls. Back on the mainland, we meet traditional female pearl divers, then visit the atmospheric Shinto shrines at Ise Shima, dedicated to the emperors of Japan.

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Days 10-13
Kumano Kodo Pilgrim Trails

Amid forests and waterfalls, we explore the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails, the holy ground of Japan. Depart on Day 13 via Osaka.

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Highlights

Highlights

Meet Kyoto’s traditional artisans, have dinner with a geisha
Explore the ancient pilgrim trails of 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

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $9095  
Arrive: Osaka, Japan
Depart: Osaka, Japan
Lodging: 12 nights ryokans and hotels
Meals: All meals included except lunches and 1 dinner (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)