Discover the people and places of the "land of the rising sun"... a showcase of timeless traditions, revered settings and modern-day memories taking you beyond the Japan you think you know and introducing you to the rich culture this island nation has to offer.
Your explorations begin during your stay in Osaka and include nearby Nara and Kyoto – city of two thousand temples and shrines – and end in Tokyo; on your cruise, sightseeing excursions include Uno Ko, Uwajima, Kagoshima, Nagasaki… Uncover layers of Japanese culture – past and present; explore historic sights and trend-setting neighborhoods... attend a taiko drumming performance, a geisha performance, a sumo wrestling demonstration... and more. You'll explore the volcano Sakurajima, visit a pearl farm, tour modern and historic museums, and see how the Japanese produce one of their most popular beverages – Kirin beer. Travel in style aboard Le Lapérouse – with outside staterooms; a choice of chic or casual dining; and all-day complimentary beverages, including wine and spirits. And that's just the beginning of the amenities and services onboard.
Tour Begins: 6:00. You have a choice of hotel accommodation for nights 1, 2 & 3 and 12 & 13 – The St. Regis Osaka nights 1, 2 & 3 and The Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo nights 12 & 13 or The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka nights 1, 2 & 3 and The Palace Hotel, Tokyo nights 12 & 13 or The Conrad Osaka nights 1, 2 & 3 and The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo nights 12 & 13 (please note – hotel selection is by pairs only and can’t be mixed). A transfer is included from Osaka's Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport to The St. Regis Osaka, The Ritz-Carlton, Osaka or The Conrad Osaka. After settling in to your hotel, depart for a Tauck Exclusive evening in Osaka that includes a welcome reception, a Geiko / Geisha cultural lecture and performance, and a welcome dinner.
Temples and traditions in Kyoto
Immerse yourself today in the loveliness of classic Kyoto, city of 2,000 temples and shrines. Like a divine dream the Zen Golden Pavilion, bathed in gold leaf and capped by a golden phoenix, sits in a landscape design meticulously preserved since the 1400s, with a strategically placed pond that hauntingly reflects the shimmering golden temple. Next visit the Sanjusagen-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto's Higashiyama District – officially called "Rengeo-in" ("Hall of the Lotus King"). After lunch at a local restaurant, attend a traditional Japanese Taiko drumming experience and explore more of Kyoto before returning to your hotel in Osaka (Note: Sightseeing on days 2 and 3 may alternate.)
Exploring historic Nara
Head to the city of Nara this morning to visit Todai-ji (Eastern Great Temple), a Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the city's powerful Seven Great Temples. Its Great Buddha Hall houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site officially called the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara," Todai-ji temple also serves as headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism in Japan. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Nara Park at the foot of Mount Wakakusa; established in the 14th century, it is one of the oldest public parks in Japan and is a national treasure – as are the more than 1,200 free-roaming wild sika deer that call the park home. Return to your Osaka hotel for an evening spent as you please.
Head to the city of Nara this morning to visit Todai-ji (Eastern Great Temple), a Buddhist temple complex that was once one of the city's powerful Seven Great Temples. Its Great Buddha Hall houses the world's largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese as Daibutsu. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site officially called the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara," Todai-ji temple also serves as headquarters of the Kegon school of Buddhism in Japan. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a pleasant visit to the Kasuga-Taisha (known as the Kasuga Grand Shrine) a Shinto shrine found in Nara. Known for its many bronze and stone lanterns that lead up to the shrine, the Shrine has been rebuilt several times since its establishment in 768 CE. On your way to the shrine, pass through Deer Park where more than 1,200 wild sika deer roam. Return to your Osaka hotel for an evening spent as you please.
Osaka discoveries & embark Le Laperousé
Begin the day with morning sightseeing in Osaka by motor coach, walking tour and visits to local markets. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a walking tour through one of Osaka's local markets followed by some free time to explore as you wish. Then drive to the port of Osaka, where your yacht, Le Laperouse, awaits. Begin your cruise along the southwestern coast of Honshu, the largest island in the Japanese archipelago, bound for Uno Ko and Naoshima.
Art, bicycling & beer in Uno Ko & environs
Anchor in Tamano (Uno Ko) and travel to the old merchant town of Kurashiki for a walking tour of its historic quarter, where warehouses, shops, and mills remain virtually unchanged by time. Another Kurashiki treasure, the Ohara Museum of Art, reveals a great collection of Western art. Enjoy a choice of three activities this afternoon. On one, you'll ferry to the unique little island of Naoshima, exclusively devoted to art installations and the work of the world-class architect Tadao Ando. Another choice is a bicycle ride through Uno Ko. Beer is considered by many to be the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan… and your third choice today is a visit to Kirin Yokohama Beer Village, one of nine factories of the Japan Kirin Group. Your tour winds its way around parts of the factory, offering views from above through observation windows of various parts of the manufacturing process – and includes the tasting bar, where you can sample Kirin beers. Back onboard ship, enjoy your captain’s welcome dinner tonight.
In your next port of call, Hiroshima, you'll set off on a morning sightseeing tour and visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and sites associated with the WWII atomic bomb blast of August 1945. After lunch at a local restaurant serving regional fare, visit the iconic Miyajima-Itsukushima Shrine that seems to float on water (a photographer’s dream). This evening, set sail to Uwajima.
Choices galore in Uwajima
Spend a morning in a rural area around the port city of Uwajima on Shikoku, with a choice of three excursions. One takes you into the countryside to visit a pearl farm – where you’ll view a hatchery and see farmers working on bamboo rafts from which baskets of pearl oysters are suspended in the water for culturing – and the 16th-century Dairakuji temple, known as Musasabi-dera (“Flying Squirrel Temple”) for the wild flying squirrels that live there, for an eclectic tour led by a Buddhist monk. Another explores Nanrakuen Garden, the largest traditional garden on Shikoku, presenting a series of beautiful gardens based on themes of “mountain, village, city, and sea;” your guided visit includes a walk through the exquisitely maintained gardens, a calligraphy demonstration and a tea ceremony. A third choice includes a visit to a series of danbata (terraced fields) that form a “staircase” on a steep mountain slope, appearing to roll right down the hillside and into the sea; and a walk through the forest to a beautiful waterfall in Yakushidani Canyon outside Uwajima. Return to your ship for lunch, and sail on to Kagoshima.
From a volcano to a peace museum in Kagoshima
Kagoshima lies on the southwestern tip of Japan’s southernmost main island, Kyushu. This morning, take a short ferry ride across the bay to see Sakurajima (“Cherry Blossom Island”), an active volcano; take a guided scenic drive and stop at its visitor information center to learn about Sakurajima’s volcanic history… and immerse your feet in a volcanic hot spring. Excursion choices today include; a visit to Sengan-en Garden, a traditional Japanese garden and stately home in Kagoshima, passed down in the Shimadzu family for over 350 years. The charming garden boasts spectacular views of Sakurajima across the bay, while the house provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of a powerful feudal lord. Or, in Chiran, visit the well-preserved samurai district’s Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots, on the site of a former airstrip used by Kamikaze pilots during World War II. Return to the ship late afternoon.
A day in Nagasaki
Arrive in Nagasaki for another day of historic sights: the Nagasaki Peace Park, filled with notable monuments and memorials; and the Atomic Bomb Museum. After lunch aboard the ship you have a choice of a visit to the Glover Gardens, an al fresco museum memorializing the Europeans who settled in Nagasaki in the late 19th century, and the Dejima Museum; or the Nagasaki Ropeway up Mount Inasa. Set sail this evening for South Korea.
Busan, South Korea
Your crossing of the Strait of Korea to Busan, South Korea, today is a perfect time to enjoy some of the amenities aboard ship. After docking in Busan, city sightseeing includes the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, honoring troops from many nations who fell during the Korean War; and a tour of the renowned Jagalchi Fish Market, a traditional seafood market on Busan's waterfront, and the largest in the country. In Korea as in Japan, seafood has been a mainstay of local cuisine for millennia, and your visit to this vast cooperative market offers an in-depth look at this longstanding cultural tradition. Return to the ship this afternoon and set sail for Sakaiminato.
Matsue’s Black Castle
Your yacht arrives in Western Japan’s fishing industry center, Sakaiminato, for a visit to the Adachi Museum. Following lunch, you can take an excursion to Matsue, known as “the water city” for its river, canals, and setting on two lakes and the Sea of Japan (weather permitting, take in a great view of the city and beyond from its feudal fortress; visit the Black Castle, which presides over the city in solemn majesty); or enjoy free time in Sakaiminato to pursue your own interests. Tonight say goodbye to captain and crew of your Tauck small ship at the captain’s farewell dinner.
Bullet Train to Tokyo – and Ginza
After disembarking your small ship in Maizuru, take a scenic drive to Kyoto to board the Bullet Train for a quick trip to Japan's capital city, Tokyo. Walking from your premier Tokyo hotel, your guide introduces the luxury shopping district of Ginza. Enjoy dinner and time to check out this remarkable city on your own.
From shrine to sumo in Tokyo
Plunge into an eclectic day in cosmopolitan Tokyo with a visit to the Meiji Shrine – honoring the deified spirits of Japan's Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, who died in 1912 and 1914, respectively – plus a guided tour of the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Lunch is at a local restaurant before an afternoon spent poking around on your own. Finish the day in style with our farewell reception and dinner at Happo-en with traditional music and what’s sure to be a highlight of your cruise adventure in Japan, an unforgettable sumo wrestling demonstration that has to be seen to be believed.
Tour ends: Tokyo. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, Shangri La Hotel, Tokyo or Palace Hotel, Tokyo to Narita International Airport or Haneda Airport. Allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in.