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Japan and South Korea – Land of the Rising Sun

Japan Cruise

Summary : Japan and South Korea are very modern and yet traditional countries. Visit some of the most outstanding natural and man-made sites Japan has to offer: the scarlet “floating” Torii gate, National Parks and three of its highest-ranked gardens. Visit the Nakdong Estuary and Eulsukdo Migratory Bird Park. See traditional castles and homes. Feel solemnity and serenity in shrines, temples and contemplate the memorial of Hiroshima. In South Korea, the plan is to visit Gyeongju, once the Silla royal capital, and now a historic UNESCO World Heritage. Under the Silla kingdom the southern part of the Korean peninsula was unified for the first time. Tongdosa, Korea’s largest temple, houses relics of the historical Buddha and Daeungjeon. Its main hall is a National Treasure.

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins


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Day 1
Otaru, Japan

Embark the vessel and familiarize yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals.

Day 2

Start your day with a morning at sea, cruising the Sea of Japan. Relax or attend a lecture about Japan’s natural history before you arrive in the port of Hakodate.

Hakodate was founded in 1454 and its port was one of the few open for Western contact in the 19th century. A beautiful view of the well preserved star-shaped Goryokaku Fort, now a park and Special Historical Site, can be had from the Goryokaku Tower.

In the afternoon, visit Onuma Quasi-National Park, known for its picturesque island dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. A mudflow from Mount Komagatake once caused a natural dam that blocked a stream and thus led to the formation of Lake Onuma. There are now 126 islets in the lake and 18 bridges connecting a select few -so travelers and locals alike can enjoy walking among the lakes and islands and the surrounding birch and maple forest. Mount Komagatake stands close to Onuma and is the main symbol of the park.

Join a Mount Hakodate night view tour. Mount Hakodate is located south of the harbor and from the top the whole city is spread out in front of you. This view is considered one of the “Three best night views of Japan”.

Day 3
Aomori / Noshiro

Arrve in Aomori and board a bus for a full-day overland excursion through Towada Hachimantai National Park to reach Noshiro –where the ship will be awaiting you in the evening. Drive through the area around Mt Hakkoda, taking you through one of the biggest beech tree forests in Japan. Ride the rope-way at Mt. Hakkoda –actually a set of volcanic peaks before reaching Lake Towada. A walk in the Tashirotai Marshland and areas surrounding will reveal many alpine flowers. At the Oirase Gorge, which is cut by the stream of the same name that flows out of Lake Towada, stroll along the stream and watch for wildlife such as Grey Wagtails and other birds.

After the walk, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then drive to Lake Towada. Continue towards Odiako no Yakata, a museum featuring the drums for which this region is famous. Finish with a drive to Noshiro Port, where the ship will be waiting.

Day 4

Sado is Japan’s sixth-largest island and depends mainly on fishing and rice-production. Visit the Sado Gold Mine. For the adventurous, a descent into the deep tunnels will show the conditions under which gold was extracted for almost 400 years. An amazing 240 miles of tunnels were dug and 41 tons of gold have been extracted. The walking distance in the mine will be only 300 meters, but you will have to manage some 200 steps.

Learn how to make Soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles, at a Soba Cooking School.

For the serious birders a visit to Tori Forest Park to see the successful “reintroduction” of Crested Ibises into Japan can be arranged. The Crested Ibis was down to what was believed to be 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 to create a successful breeding program.

Day 5

Kanazawa is known for its lacquer ware, Kutani-style pottery, gold-leaf workmanship and delicately painted silk kimonos. Located next to Kanazawa Castle, discover “Kenroku-en”, classified as “One of the Three Gardens of Japan”.

Visit the Omi-cho Market with its many lively local seafood stalls, before walking through “Kenroku-en”. The garden has an artificial pond, and hills and houses are dotted among the 11.4 hectares of land. It has Japan’s oldest fountain using natural water pressure and a tea-house dating back to 1774.

In the afternoon, visit to the Higashi Chaya-gai Geisha District to see the biggest of the Geisha districts 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. Later, appreciate the production of Kanazawa’s famous Gold Leafs at the Imai Golden Leaf Manufacture. More than 90% of all Gold Leafs in Japan come from Kanazawa.

Day 6

Inland from Sakaiminato, the town of Matsue offers a traditional experience. 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. Tour the castle and enjoy magnificent views of Lake Shinji, and later cruise the castle's moat and Horikawa River.

Day 7
Pohang, South Korea

Japan once occupied Korea and there are Japanese residential sectors with well-preserved buildings from the early 20th century, but your main point of interest is a very unusual museum for Korea. Established with the aim to be a museum ‘in which the past, present and future of POSCO (formerly the ‘Pohang Iron and Steel Company’) coexist’, the POSCO Museum has come into the spotlight in Korea from the onset of its planning.

Pohang is also famous for its traditional cultural villages and you will observe the largest traditional market in the Gyeongsangbuk-do area. Close-by is the Jukdo fish market. This is the largest open-run market in the east with more than 200 fish stores –offering the best of the area’s catch.

Day 8
Ulsan, South Korea

Visit Gyeongju, 1.5 hours north of Ulsan. 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.

Stop at the Bulguksa Temple, a grand centerpiece of a religious architectural. 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, 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.

Visit the Gyeongju Traditional Cultural Institute to witness and experience a series of various cultural traditions: a Tea Ceremony, traditional food preparation or the traditional Knot Craft, as well as traditional games like throwing arrows and dice.

Birders might want to head south to the Nakdong Estuary and Eulsukdo Migratory Bird Park. A large river mouth, sand dunes, tidal flats and reed beds are home to more than 150 bird species –depending on the time of the year. Snipes and waterfowl will pass through in autumn, and sightings of the rare White-naped Cranes and Black-faced Spoonbills have been recorded. White-tailed Eagles are known to frequent the area, as well.

Day 9
Moji, Japan

From Moji, drive to Kokura’s landmark castle, which has been beautifully restored. 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, 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.

Day 10
Hiroshima / Miyajima

The name Hiroshima is linked to the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and the end of World War II. Drive to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. 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. 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.

During the afternoon, visit the small island of Miyajima (“The Shrine Island”) and 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. Walk to the shrine and encounter more shrines on the path. Mount Misen has a cable car leading partly up to the top with nice views and wild monkeys and deer roaming the trails.

Day 11
Uno-Ko for Okayama

A day of cultural experiences awaits as you head for Okayama and another of Japan’s most significant gardens. Although the “Koraku-en” Garden was severely damaged by bombs in WWII, the descriptions and paintings from the Edo period permitted an exact reconstruction. Designed in the “Kaiyu”-style it is one of the “Three Gardens of Japan” and has been designated a “Special Scenic Location”. Stroll through the garden and have a chance to taste Japanese Green Tea –a specialty of the area.

After lunch, continue to Kurashiki, a town known as the center of rice-distribution in the Okayama area. The town’s name means, “town of storehouses”, referring to the many old warehouses next to the preserved canal. They have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes.

In the afternoon, visit The Ohara Museum, which was the first Japanese Museum to permanently exhibit Western Art. See an eclectic mix of paintings and objects by El Greco, Renoir, Gauguin, Pissarro, Degas, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Rodin, and Picasso.

In the evening, enjoy the onboard videographer’s highlights from the voyage. Afterwards the Captain will invite you to the Farewell Cocktail Party.

Day 12
Kobe, Japan

Following breakfast, disembark the vessel.


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.

Not Included:
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)

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