Summary : The land of the rising sun holds many off the beaten track treasures. Full of ancient traditions, sacred temples and famous gardens and castles, it is also the land of underground caves, delicate craftsmanship and solemn history. From peaceful cities to the Tori Forest Park, experience Japan at its vibrant best with visits to Torii Gate, and Kyoto's Golden Temple in cherry blossom season.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$8,950 to $17,450
Embark Silver Discoverer and settle in, attend a safety briefing and be introduced to your Expedition Team. Enjoy a sail-away cocktail on deck.
Familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant. An aperitif will permit you to relax after your travels towards Silver Discoverer.
Located off the south coast of mainland Korea, Jeju Island’s natural, geological and cultural attractions are well known in Japan and Korea. The dormant volcano Hallasan stands 1,950 meters above sea level and is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve containing a crater lake, alpine plants, woodpeckers and butterflies. At another UNESCO Geopark, the Manjang cave is more than eight kilometers long and you can walk one kilometer of its eerie passageway. From a lush, ambling south coast route overlooking craggy islands, one can use coastal trails around much of the island, including to reach the sea over strange rock formations and see the caves that islanders were forced to dig by Japanese occupiers to hide weapons. Dry-stone walls protect fields from storms. Around the year 1750, masons started carving rocks into forbidding black “grandfather stones” to scare off invaders. Forty-five of these massive statues still exist. The stones remain a symbol of a distinct ancient culture furnished with many gods and legends. When you arrive in late March the yellow canola flowers should form spectacular sceneries, although it might be a little too early for the cherry blossoms to flower fully.
Visit Gyeongju, 1.5 hours north of Busan. The modern city of Gyeongju is often called “the museum without walls”, and its historical area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the southern part of Korea was first unified under the Silla Kingdom and many archaeological remains can be seen in the area. First stop at the Bulguksa Temple, a grand centerpiece of a religious architectural complex of exceptional significance. Bulguksa is considered a masterpiece of Far Eastern Buddhist Art and has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List since the temple complex is both an outstanding example of religious architecture of the region and the material expression of Buddhist belief.
After lunch at a local hotel continue to Daeneungwon. This is a Tumuli Park with more than 20 tombs from the Silla period. Most of the tombs are grass-covered mounds, creating a spectacular scene which resembles a small mountain range. Depending on the season, the park’s mounds take on different colors. One of the burial mounds can be visited and one can appreciate the painting of a heavenly horse that was found during the tomb’s excavation. The final stop will be at the Gyeongju Traditional Cultural Institute to witness and experience a series of various cultural traditions.
From Moji drive to Kokura, the financial and business capital of this area. Kokura’s landmark is its castle, which has been beautifully restored. In addition to Kokura Castle, stroll the small but remarkable garden located next to the main castle. Some of the best photos of the castle can be taken from this garden.
After lunch at a local restaurant see the Hiraodai Limestone Plateau, Japan’s most representative karst plateau. Approaching the area one could mistake the pure white limestone scattered throughout the landscape for sheep grazing in the grass. A “Natural Treasure” the plateau has underground caves as well. Explore Hiraodai Senbutsu Cave accompanied by local guides. To get deep into the cave you will have to walk in the stream running through the cave.
In the morning, visit the small island of Miyajima (“The Shrine Island”) and get to see one of “The Three Most Beautiful Views” of Japan: the Floating Torii Gate. Built in the water, the Torii Gate leads to the Itsukushima Shrine and at high tide it seems to float. The Torii Gate is one of the most photographed sites in all of Japan. To reach the shrine walk as a group for slightly more than 1 kilometer. There are more shrines and paths on Miyajima that invite you to walk. Mount Misen has a cable car leading partly up to the top with nice views and wild monkeys and deer roaming the trails.
During the afternoon, visit Hiroshima, a name linked to the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and the end of World War II. Drive to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in central Hiroshima. The area where the park lies was Ground Zero for the Atomic Bomb on August 6, 1945. The park is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack. The park has many memorials and monuments, and you can stroll through it before visiting the Peace Memorial Museum. The museum surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the nuclear bomb, focusing on the events of August 6 and the human suffering as a result of the bomb.
From the port, drive to Hagi’s “Old Town.” The tour will take you to Shizukiyama Park and Hagi Castle. Based around the ruins of Hagi Castle there will be some 600 Yoshino cherry trees in bloom. After the park and castle ruin visit reach a Samurai Quarter, which preserves the traditional style Japanese houses and old-fashioned streets. You will be taken to one of the old houses and will see how the Japanese lived in traditional ways. The house shows the typical interior of a Japanese residence. You will also have free time in the area, to wander around this charming district on your own.
After visiting the Samurai quarter, the next stop will be at Tokoji Temple. This is a temple of the Obaku-shu school of Zen Buddhism and is the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo, a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords. The main gate, the triple gate, the bell tower and the main hall have been listed on the National Register of Important Cultural Properties. Yoshinari M?ri and all odd-numbered generations of M?ri lords up to the 11th generation, their wives, children and those close to them in life are buried in the cemetery of the M?ri clan behind the main hall building. Facing these tombs stand more than 500 stone lanterns, donated by later generations of the Hagi Clan.
Inland from Sakaiminato the towns of Matsue and Yasugi offer very different, yet in their way traditional experiences: Matsue is known as the “Town of Water” next to scenic Lake Shinji and Lake Nakanoumi. Matsue has one of the very few wooden castles that still remain in Japan. Apart from touring the castle and enjoying magnificent views of Lake Shinji you can also use the opportunity to do a boat ride on the Horikawa River and the castle’s moat.
Yasugi has the Adachi Museum of Art, a private museum that houses one of the finest collections of contemporary Japanese paintings, but also has a 165,000 square meters garden with plants and rocks collected by the museum’s founder. Six different gardens will show different scenarios depending on the season. Under the motto that “the Japanese garden is like a living picture” these gardens have been selected as ‘Japan’s best garden’ for several years.
The Oki Archipelago consists of about 180 large and small islands. Many Japanese visit these romantic islands because of the historic places and old tradition. There are two excursions that will visit Yurahime Shrine, known as a guardian of the sea. When the goddess Yurahime-no-mikoto was crossing the see in a tub and washed her hands with sea water, a squid bit her hand. Since then, a large school of squids surge to the seashore before the shrine in autumn to express their regret. Squids swimming in the sea are depicted on the upper wall of the main hall of the shrine, an object d’art of squid is in the precinct and telephone boxes of squid-form are along the approach. Squids are everywhere in the shrine.
After making a photo stop at Akao Lookout, you will then be transferred to Matengai Cliff where you start a 2 km hike along the coast or just enjoy the panoramic views. Matengai Cliff is a sheer cliff rising 257 m above sea level. The cliff top is a smooth meadow with a well-maintained walking path. If you decide to walk, enjoy the magnificent view of Kuniga Coast.
Returning to the ship after excursions, you will also enjoy a scenic cruise along Kuniga Coast.
Today drive inland toward Kyoto, renowned for spectacular architecture. Your first visit will be at Nijo Castle, a fortification of cypress wood built in 1603 as the residence of the Tokugawa clan. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the castle is protected by a moat, stone walls, and ingenious nightingale floors, which chirp like a bird when walked upon to alert the guards of potential intruders. Despite its defensive elements, the castle was primarily a home. It is adorned with wooden carvings, artistically painted sliding doors and expansive tatami rooms.
After enjoying Japanese lunch, you will be transferred to Kyoto’s most famous landmark, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion). Built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu as a villa in 1397, the three-story home was converted to a temple by Yoshimitsu’s son. The Golden Pavilion is positioned at the edge of a tranquil pond. The three-story Chinese-influenced Golden Pavilion has delicately curving roofs, with the walls and eaves of the second and third stories covered in shimmering gold leaf. View the exterior of the pavilion and walk through the peaceful gardens, marveling at the mirror reflection of the temple on the still pond. While in Kyoto this is the peak for the cherry blossom in the city’s gardens and parks.
The last highlight of the day will be Arashiyama, a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. Okochi Mountain Villa consists of several beautiful gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and a Zen meditation hall. Take a walk through Arashiyama’s famous bamboo groves, which are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth.
Art in various forms will be today’s theme, as Kanazawa is known for its lacquer ware, Kutani-style pottery, gold-leaf workmanship and delicately painted silk kimonos. In addition to these purchasable products, Kanazawa has “Kenrokuen,” one of the most famous gardens in Japan. Located next to Kanazawa Castle, “Kenrokuen” is classified as, “One of the Three Gardens of Japan.”
Your tour will start with a visit to the Omi-cho Market with its many lively local seafood stalls, before time to walk through “Kenrokuen.” The garden has an artificial pond, and hills and houses are dotted within the 11.4 hectares. It has Japan’s oldest fountain using natural water pressure and a tea-house dating back to 1774. After the visit of the garden, you will enjoy lunch and Geisha performance at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon a visit to the Higashi Chaya Gai Geisha District (designated a National Cultural Asset) will permit you to see the biggest of the Geisha district of Kanazawa. Some of the houses not only retain the original structure, but still are used as Geisha houses. Some of the streets have traditional shops creating a nostalgic atmosphere.
Sado is Japan’s sixth-largest island and depends mainly on fishing and agriculture (rice-production). Today will be a day of unusual highlights as you will visit Tori Forest Park to see the successful “reintroduction” of Crested Ibises into Japan. The ibis species was believed to have a total world population of 12 birds in 1981. At that time, the last five wild ibises found in Japan were taken into captivity on Sado and both Japan and China cooperated in a breeding program for these birds. Fortunately, the work has paid off thus far, and released Crested Ibises successfully nested in the wild again in 2012.
Before returning to Silver Discoverer the Sado Gold Mine can be visited. For the adventurous a descent into the deep tunnels will show the conditions under which gold was extracted for almost 400 years.
After breakfast disembark Silver Discoverer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Suite accommodations; onboard meals and entertainment; butler service; gratuities aboard ship (except spa); complimentary beverages aboard ship (including select wines, champagnes, spirits, soda, water and coffee); 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Explorer and View Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Vista, Veranda, and Medallion Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; optional shore excursions; government fees and taxes; passport and visa expenses; some champagne, premium wine and spirit selections, caviar, cigarettes and cigars; laundry or valet services; items of a personal nature such as boutique purchases, medical care, and spa services; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Ray Stranagan (deer)