Best of Shikoku, Kyushu and Western Japan

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With its mild climate and tranquil gardens, famous hot springs and active volcanoes, historic castles, beautiful countryside, and warm-hearted people, this part of Japan offers a dramatic experience.

Destinations

Osaka, Kurashiki, Takamatsu, Kotohira, Okayama, Beppu, Usuki, Aso-san, Nagasaki, Yoshinogarikoen, Miyajima Island, Hiroshima, Kyoto

The rural, mountainous island of Shikoku will charm you with its natural beauty. The island of Kyushu with the largest onsen (hot springs resort) in Japan, active volcanoes and the history-filled city of Nagasaki will surprise you with its diversity. Add the must-see destinations of Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Miyajima Island and Okayama, and you have a tour that creates travel memories for a lifetime.

You will climb to the top of a samurai castle, stroll through some of Japan’s most beautiful and serene gardens, visit a phenomenal onsen where you can take a relaxing hot sand bath on a beach covered up to your neck in warm sand, walk along the rim of an active volcano, meet a “Maiko” (geisha-in-training) face-to-face, see where the Kyoto geishas live and work, discover Japan’s religious traditions, explore history-filled Nagasaki and enjoy three gourmet Kaiseki-style dinners and much, much more!

DAY 1Arrive Osaka

You lose a day flying to Japan due to crossing the International Date Line, and gain the day back when you fly home. You are met at Osaka’s Kansai Airport by a Samurai Tours guide, who escorts you and the group to the ryokan in Osaka. After checking into the ryokan, we dine on a meal of Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), which is one of the specialties of Osaka. Dinner at a local restaurant is included.

Travel: 1-1/2 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 2Osaka – Kuromon Market, Osaka Castle, Tennoji Temple, Sumiyoshi Shrine

After breakfast, we visit the Kuromon open-air market. Here you will see many different and exotic foods as buyers for restaurants purchase daily specials. We then travel to Osaka Castle. In its day, Osaka Castle was one of the largest and most important castles in Japan. It was the home of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the son of a farmer who unified Japan after a 100-year civil war. At the top of the castle, you get an excellent bird’s-eye-view of Osaka. At the museum inside the castle, we learn about the castle’s colorful history. After lunch, we visit Tennoji Temple, first established here by Prince Shotoku, who was primarily responsible for importing Buddhism from Korea and China in the 6th century. We then travel to Sumiyoshi Shrine. It is said that this shrine was first established more than 1,800 years ago. The sea gods are enshrined at this Shinto Shrine, and in ancient Japan – when sending diplomatic missions to Korea and China – the emperor of Japan would come to this place to pray for a safe journey. Here we also learn about Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, and how the Japanese use it in their daily lives. A local English-speaking, licensed guide joins us for the day in Osaka. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch and dinner at a local restaurant are included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 3Kurashiki – Canal Area, Museum of Folkcraft; Travel to Takamatsu

We continue on to Takamatsu with an overnight bag only. The rest of the luggage is delivered to our ryokan in Takamatsu. On our way to Takamatsu, we stop at the city of Kurashiki. The city has a preserved canal area that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867), when Kurashiki served as an important rice distribution center. In fact, the name “Kurashiki” can be roughly translated as “town of storehouses”, which refers to the storehouses in which the rice was kept. Many of Kurashiki’s former storehouses have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes. We will tour the Museum of Folkcraft which contains examples of everyday items from around Japan, including textiles, ceramics and lacquerware. We will also tour the toy museum which is located in a number of converted storehouse buildings. There are four main display rooms, which feature examples of old toys from all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Late in the afternoon, we will continue to Takamatsu by express train. Breakfast at the ryokan, lunch and dinner at a local restaurant are all included.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 4Takamatsu – Ritsurin Garden; Kotohira – Kompira Shrine

After breakfast at the ryokan, we tour the Ritsurin Koen. This is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, taking more than one hundred years to create. Here we can also take a short break to enjoy green tea and sweets in a peaceful teahouse overlooking a koi-filled pond. Then we are off by streetcar to the nearby city of Kotohira. Here we will visit Konpira Shrine, one of Japan’s most famous Shinto Shrines. Kompirasan, formally known as Kotohiragu, is the main shrine of multiple Kompira shrines found around Japan that are dedicated to sailors and seafaring. Located on the wooded slope of Mount Zozu in Kotohira, the approach to Kompirasan is an arduous series of 785 stone steps. Over many centuries, Kompirasan had been revered as a mixture between Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple, until it was officially declared a shrine in the beginning of the Meiji Period during government efforts to separate the two religions. Nevertheless, the former symbiosis is still visible in Kompirasan’s architecture which displays both Shinto and Buddhist elements. We will return to Takamatsu by train. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch and dinner at a local restaurant are included.

Travel: 2-1/2 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 5Okayama – Korakuen Garden; Travel to Beppu

We travel by express train back to the city of Okayama with overnight bags only. The main luggage is transferred to the ryokan in Beppu. In Okayama, we tour the Korakuen-koen Garden. This garden is considered to be one of the three most exquisite gardens in Japan by the Japanese themselves. It was built in the late 17th century by one of the local warlords. After touring the garden, we continue on to the city of Beppu on the island of Kyushu. The city of Beppu is one of the largest, if not the largest onsen (hot springs resort) in Japan. There are thousands of small therapeutic baths with mineral-laden water or thermally-heated sand baths that can steam, boil or poach vitality into aching muscles and weary travelers. Breakfast at the ryokan included and lunch and dinner at a local restaurant are included.

Travel: 4 Hours; Walking: Medium

DAY 6Beppu – Beppu Hells; Usuki – Usuki Stone Buddhas

We start the day by touring the famous Beppu “Hells.” The boiling mud, forming concentric circles as it oozes through the ground and the colors of the ponds of this “hell-on-earth” are sure to fascinate and entertain. In the afternoon we will travel by train to the nearby city of Usuki. Here we will find 60 Buddha statues that were carved into the soft stone cliffs. These statues were carved during 12th to 14th centuries, and have been designated as National Treasures. We will return to Beppu by train. The evening is free to enjoy the hot springs, or visit the Takegawara Onsen. Built in 1879, it is Beppu’s most famous onsen and offers both sand and regular hot spring baths in an atmosphere of the past. Breakfast at the ryokan is included.

Travel: 2-1/2 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 7Aso-san; Travel to Nagasaki

We will travel by bus through a very scenic rural area to the city of Aso. Aso-San (Mt. Aso) is a huge volcanic caldera consisting of five volcanic cones, one of which is still active. After arriving at the rim of the crater by cable car, we will walk around the rim of the crater to observe the many gas vents and the lake bubbling and spitting scalding steam at the bottom of the crater (weather and volcano conditions permitting). Later in the afternoon, we travel to the city of Nagasaki. Nagasaki was once the most culturally significant port in Japan. It was here most foreigners and missionaries entered Japan during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. And it was here where the only foreigners were allowed to stay from the mid 17th century to the mid 19th century. However, they were restricted to a tiny, artificial island in the harbor, and were only allowed one ship in and out per year. Nagasaki is best known, today, as one of the cities destroyed by A-Bombs at the end of World War II. Breakfast at the ryokan, lunch at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 10 Hours; Walking: Light

DAY 8Nagasaki – Dejima, Glover Garden

We will start the day by visiting Dejima. Dejima was a man-made island in the port of Nagasaki and was constructed in 1636. A few years later, the Dutch trading factory was moved to Dejima. The Dutch workers, the only remaining Westerners allowed in the country, were restricted to Dejima during Japan’s two centuries of isolation. Today, Dejima is not an island anymore, as the surrounding area has been reclaimed during the 20th century. However, a number of Dejima’s historical structures have been reconstructed, including various residences, warehouses, walls and gates. Many displays in these building document the daily life for the Dutch residents. Next, we will tour Glover Gardens. Glover Garden is an open air museum, exhibiting mansions of former Western residents of Nagasaki. It is located on the hill where Western merchants settled down after the end of Japan’s era of seclusion in the second half of the 19th century. You can enjoy a panorama of the city from the garden. The rest of the day will be free. Breakfast at the hotel included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 9Yoshinogarikoen Historical Park; Travel to Miyajima Island

After breakfast, we will travel to Miyajima Island. On our way, we will stop at the Yoshinogarikoen Historical Park. The park contains a reconstructed village of the Yayoi Period (3rd Century BC to 3rd Century AD). Archaeological records were carefully studied to recreate the life and culture from this time. In its day, the original village was one of Japan’s largest villages. Continuing on to Hiroshima by express train and Shinkansen, we board a ferry for Miyajima Island, and check into our ryokan. Miyajima Island is said by the Japanese to be one of the top three scenic sights in Japan. The evening is free to enjoy the solitude and ambiance of the island after all of the day-trippers head back to the mainland. Breakfast at the hotel and kaiseki-style dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: 5 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 10Miyajima Island – Free Day

The entire day is free to enjoy and relax in the beauty and ambiance of Miyajima Island: ride the cable car to the top of the mountain on Miyajima Island where you can visit with the local monkeys, or visit the Itsukushima-jinja shrine which was built in its present form in 1168. Or just take in the stroll around the island while enjoying grilled oysters, the island’s specialty. Breakfast and kaiseki style dinner at the ryokan included.

Travel: TBD; Walking: TBD

DAY 11Hiroshima – Peace Park and Museum; Travel to Kyoto

After taking the ferry back to Hiroshima, we tour the Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park, which are both sobering testaments to the dropping of the A-Bomb on August 6, 1945. Afterwards, we are off to Kyoto via the Shinkansen. Once in Kyoto, we will pick up our luggage and check into our ryokan where we will be staying for the remainder of the tour. The evening in Kyoto is free. Breakfast at the ryokan included.

Travel: 3 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 12Kyoto – Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Tea Ceremony, Gion Geisha District, Meet a Maiko Session

We start the day at Nijo Castle. Built in 1603, it was the Kyoto home of Tokugawa Ieayasu, the first Tokugawa Shogun. The ostentatious style of construction was intended as a demonstration of Ieyasu’s prestige, and to signal the demise of the emperor’s power. The finest artists of the day filled the castle with delicate transom woodcarvings and paintings by the Kano School on sliding doors. One of the castle’s most intriguing features is the so-called “nightingale” floors. To protect the Shogun from real or imagined enemies, these floorboards creak when stepped on. Next, we will visit Kinkaku-ji. Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of Kyoto’s, as well as Japan’s, most recognizable attractions. The gleaming building covered in gold leaf seems to float on the aptly named Mirror Pond, especially on a sunny day. After lunch at a local noodle shop, we will participate in an authentic tea ceremony. The stylized and regimented Japanese tea ceremony has been performed the same way for over 400 years. Once considered standard training for Samurai, today the tea ceremony is enjoyed by the modern Japanese as a means of relaxation. You will also be given an opportunity to make tea yourself. Afterwards, we will tour the Gion Geisha District. Here we will see the tea houses and geisha houses where the Geisha live and work, to learn more about this mysterious world. In the evening we will have our Shabu-Shabu Sayonara Dinner. During the dinner a “Maiko” (a Maiko is a Geisha in training) will join us for a private Maiko dinner party. You will have an opportunity to meet an actual Maiko face to face, who will perform a traditional Geisha dance, pose for pictures with you, answer any of your questions and play traditional Japanese party games. Breakfast at the ryokan and lunch and dinner at a local restaurant included.

Travel: 1 Hours; Walking: Heavy

DAY 13Home

It’s time to say “sayonara” (goodbye). You will be escorted to the Kyoto Train Station, where you will take the express train on your own to the Kansai International Airport, just outside Osaka. Or if you prefer, you can fly out of Tokyo’s Narita Airport. (If you plan to fly out of Narita, it is best to schedule a flight after 3 p.m. as it takes four hours to travel from Kyoto to Narita Airport.) (Breakfast at the ryokan is included.

Travel: 1-1/2 Hours; Walking: Light

Inclusions

Local, licensed, English-speaking, Japanese guides where indicated in the itinerary detail.

Travel Guard Gold Policy from Travel Guard, one of the world’s largest travel insurance providers, will be provided to everyone from the United States and Canada (except for Quebec). All others will receive a $100 per person credit and will be responsible for obtaining their own travel insurance in their own home country. (The insurance provided by Samurai Tours will cover the land portion only. Insurance to cover airfare and other additional expenses is the tour member’s responsibility.)

Download a PDF of the Travel Guard Gold Policy

The provided insurance coverage includes:

  • Trip Cancellation (up to trip cost)
  • Trip Interruption (up to 150% of trip cost)
  • Trip Delay (up to $750)
  • Missed Connection (up to $250)
  • Baggage and Personal Effects Loss (up to $1,000)
  • Baggage Delay (up to $300)
  • Medical Expense (up to $25,000)
  • Medical Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains (up to $500,000)
  • Accidental Death or Dismemberment (up to $10,000)
  • Coverage for financial default of tour operator
  • Cancel for Work Reasons
  • A waiver of any pre-existing medical conditions that could eventually cause you to interrupt your trip

Travel Insurance Surcharge: Depending on your age at the time the travel insurance is purchased, you may be subject to the following surcharge for your travel insurance. Travel insurance surcharges will be due at the same time as your tour deposits.

  • 70-74 – $79
  • 75-79 – $155
  • 80-84 – $306
  • 85+ – $495

Travel Insurance Opt-Out: If you would prefer to opt out of the travel insurance, please note this at the time of registration. You will receive a $100 credit per person, which will be reflected on your invoice. In the event that you would need to cancel your tour, cancellation penalties may apply. See the Terms and Conditions page for the Cancellation Fees Schedule.

Meeting service at Osaka’s Kansai Airport and sending service to the Kyoto train station. (The meeting service will meet you at the airport and escort you to the ryokan in Osaka. The sending service will escort you to the Kyoto train station and make sure you board the correct train. The sending service will not accompany you to the airport. For those requiring meeting or sending services on other than the scheduled arrival/departure dates, there will be a $100 fee for the meeting service from the airport into Osaka or the sending service to the Kyoto train station.)

Lodging for 14 nights in Japanese-style ryokans and western-style hotels

Meals

  • Japanese-style or Western-style breakfast every morning?(Please Note: Some ryokans offer Japanese breakfasts only.)
  • Six Japanese-style or Western-style lunches
  • Eight Japanese-style or Western-style dinners (including two gourmet kaiseki dinners at the ryokans)

14-day Japan Rail Pass (allows unlimited train travel.)

The appropriate amount of free time to allow you to explore and discover your own personal Japan.

All transportation costs when traveling with the group. (Transportation costs during scheduled free times are the tour member’s responsibility.)

Luggage delivery from Osaka to Takamatsu
Luggage delivery from Takamatsu to Beppu
Luggage delivery from Beppu to Nagasaki
Luggage delivery from Nagasaki to Kyoto

Each tour member receives a tour handbook. This handbook is full of tips and suggestions taken from our Japan travel experiences that allow you to better plan and prepare for your trip, and therefore enjoy your trip even more. The tips and suggestions included cover everything from how to save while exchanging money, what to pack, some basic Japanese-language tips, general etiquette do’s-and-don’ts, ryokan customs, etc.

Exclusions

Airfare is NOT included

Alcoholic beverages are NOT included – except at the dinner the first evening and the sayonara dinner

Tour Map

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Overall Customer Ratings

Individual Customer Reviews

Richard & Cheryl Vieira