Arrive Osaka, Japan
Meet your A&K representative and transfer to your ideally located hotel. Spend the remainder of the day at leisure.
Osaka | Cultural Wonders
Begin your adventure with a chance to explore one of Japan’s most vibrant cities: Osaka. On a full-day excursion to Kyoto, visit the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji Temple), attend a talk about Zen Buddhism at Tenryuji Temple, and explore Nijo Castle. You can also enjoy a historic voyage to Nara, the first Japanese capital, including Horyu-ji, the country’s oldest temple. For an incredible overview, take a scenic drive to Uji, possibly enjoying the sight of cherry trees blossoming along Uji River. Gather this evening for a welcome reception and dinner with fellow guests.
Osaka | The Adventure Begins
After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy the morning at leisure or join a panoramic tour of Osaka that includes a visit to the Dotonbori district and the imposing Osaka Castle. Enjoy lunch followed by a stroll through the wandering paths of Taiko-en Garden, admiring its ponds and stone bridges. This afternoon, transfer to Kobe where you board your luxurious expedition cruiser and home for the next 11 nights.
Takamatsu | Explore Your Way
Wake up in charming Takamatsu, the gateway to Shikoku Island. Opt for a boat ride to Shodoshima, the heart of Japan’s olive-growing industry, for a full-day tour. You may otherwise remain on Shikoku Island. Here, your day starts with a visit to picture-perfect Ritsurin Park, one of Japan’s finest gardens. Next, explore the Kinashi area of Takamatsu, among the country’s main bonsai production centers, where you learn about traditional methods of growing and caring for these meticulously cultivated little trees. A few others may travel to Naoshima Island by ferry for a full-day excursion, celebrating its architecture and art museums. Visit the hillside Chichu Art Museum and stop at Benesse House, a complex featuring unique work by both Japanese and international artists.
Hiroshima & Miyajima | Memorials & Shrines
Vibrant and full of historical significance, Hiroshima is home to magnificent memorials and shrines. Start the day with a visit to the beautiful Peace Park and Museum, with its somber cenotaph containing names of atomic bomb victims. Then, take a speedboat ride to Miyajima Island, site of the iconic Torii Gate and the Daisho-in Buddhist temple. Or enjoy a full-day excursion through Hiroshima, visiting the Hiroshima Castle and namesake Peace Park and Museum, where you attend a private talk with an atomic bomb survivor. If you prefer a day in nature, head out to the tranquil island of Miyajima. Ascend Mount Misen by cable car for a hike, admiring the Shinto shrine and Torii Gate from above.
Uwajima | Seaside Splendor
Spend the day in Uwajima, situated on the west coast of Shikoku and home to Japan’s main producers of pearls, for a glimpse of small-town living. While there, learn the process of cultivating and sorting pearls during a visit to a pearl farm. Continue to the samurai-era gardens of Tensha-en, with their spectacular mountain backdrop. Alternatively, explore Nanraku-en Garden, the largest on Shikoku, and enjoy a scenic hike in picturesque Yakushidani Canyon. Another option is a historic stroll to Yoshida along a cherry tree-lined lane, followed by an old town visit that includes a historic Kabuki theater. Return to the ship for a relaxing evening on board.
Karatsu | Ancient Trading Post
This afternoon, your luxury expedition vessel arrives at the port of Karatsu. Once an early trading post between Japan and mainland Asia, Karatsu still maintains its medieval heritage. Visit Karatsu Castle, known as the “flying crane castle.” Tour the Hikiyama Exhibition Hall, which houses the floats and artifacts used in the annual Karatsu Kunchi autumn festival. Alternatively, head to the city of Imari to visit its celebrated porcelain pottery kilns and the Mifuneyama Rakuen garden.
Gyeongju, South Korea | Korean Capital
Disembark and spend a full day exploring Gyeongju, South Korea, the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gyeongju’s cultural heritage dates back to the first millennium. Witness its excavated temples, tombs and pagodas. Then, view the treasures of the National Museum, which houses an exceptional collection of jewelry, weapons and pottery. Sit down to a lunch of Korean delicacies and witness a traditional dance performance.
Matsue, Japan | Verdant Gardens
Return to Japan and disembark at Sakaiminato to visit Matsue, the “town of water.” Explore the countryside, pausing to wander through the picturesque Yuushien Garden. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before visiting historic Matsue Castle, one of Japan’s few remaining medieval castles, built in original wooden form. Art lovers can visit the Adachi Museum of Art, which melds the founders’ passions for art and garden design. After a traditional lunch at a ryokan (inn), visit Yakumo-mura village to learn about the art of Japanese paper making.
Kanazawa | Immersion into the Arts
Spend the day in the thriving art center of Kanazawa, known for its Kutani-style pottery and gold-leaf workmanship, followed by a visit to Edo-period Kenrokuen Garden, considered among the best in Japan. For a more active alternative, take a hike in Kakusenkei Gorge with a soothing onsen (spa) experience in the Yamanaka Onsen district. Wander Omicho Market, which features everything from fresh flowers to fish, and then stroll in the Higashi Chaya-gai geisha district, with its well-preserved historic geisha houses.
Sado-ga-Shima | Kodo Taiko Drummers
Arrive at pastoral Sado Island, with its rice paddies, bamboo groves and surf-pounded seacoasts. Political exiles and deposed emperors were once “banished” to live on this beautiful isle. Enjoy an exclusive, private performance by the Kodo taiko drummers, and then visit the Hakusanmaru Exhibition Hall and Ogi Folk Museum, followed by a farmer’s talk at the rice paddies.
At Sea | Hokkaido Island Cruising
Enjoy a relaxing day on board while cruising toward Hokkaido. Share stories and photographs with newfound friends and take advantage of the ship facilities, including relaxing lounges, the panoramic fitness room and sauna.
Otaru | Historic Canals
Arrive in Otaru, your gateway to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Visit the city known for its canals, sake distilleries, architecture and views of Mount Tengu. Opt for a historical and cultural tour of the city, once a prosperous fishing village. Afterward, discover Otaru’s storied glassmaking and visit a sake distillery, where you may sample the rice wine. Whiskey lovers can learn about Japanese whiskey during a visit and tasting at Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery while others can choose to stroll along the city’s canals.
Disembark luxury ‘Le Soleal’ in Otaru. Transfer to the airport in Sapporo and board your homebound flight or continue on the Tokyo extension.
Note: Itinerary is for guidance purposes only and may be adjusted due to unforeseen circumstances including weather, medical emergencies and other conditions beyond A&K’s control at the sole discretion of the Captain.
While the itinerary is scheduled over estimated cherry blossom dates, this natural phenomenon is subject to climate and weather, and cannot be guaranteed. Excursions may be altered to offer optimum opportunities to view the cherry blossoms if available.