Shofukuji Zen Temple, Fukuoka
Shofukuji Zen Temple, Fukuoka

Japan: Temples, Treasures & Traditions

16 days From $9,270

March 22 2019

Still relatively little-known to Western travelers – a legacy of an isolationist society virtually closed to the outside world until the 19th century – Japan’s archaeological heritage today yields an excitingly ‘different’ perspective on the complex mosaic of mankind’s early history. The country’s many state-of-the-art museums and government-sponsored excavations (including the huge Yoshinogari site dating back over 2,000 years) are testimony to the scale and diversity of Japan’s rich cultural inheritance.

After an introductory visit to Tokyo’s world-class National Museum on Honshu island, we focus upon the archaeology of mountainous Kyushu (meaning ‘nine provinces’), most south-westerly and third largest of the country’s four main islands and the closest to continental Asia. Volcanoes, lush forests, beaches and hot springs provide a vivid backdrop to a journey of discovery throughout which the Japanese people’s ancient origins, their flamboyant traditions and enigmatic religions are expertly interpreted for you by our specialist tour leader.

From Shinto shrines and Zen Buddhist temples to ruined castles and restored Dutch houses, serene Japanese gardens to lively moonlit night markets, this is a fulfilling itinerary on which even the everyday can bring its own fascination and surprises. It also provides the bonus of springtime travel in perhaps the most beautiful of Japan’s seasons.

To experience even more of Japan’s colours, delights and sounds, add on an optional extension; Power and Spirituality in Nara and Kyoto, an extra 8 days to explore two or Japan’s historic and vibrant cities.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Dr Ilona Bausch

Dr Ilona Bausch is a Visiting Professor at Kokugakuin University, Tokyo.

Book Now $9,270
Includes deposit: $500 Single supplement: $1,600

Tour highlights:

  • Visit Kyushu island’s beautiful ‘other-worldly’ forest temples and formidable medieval castles
  • Travel back to the Japan of bygone eras at expertly preserved and reconstructed archaeological sites like Yoshinogari – and Uenohara, whose recently-discovered pit dwellings may be nearly 10,000 years old
  • Savor the sounds, smells, and tastes of Fukuoka’s evening Yatai street market with its open-air food stalls and local delicacies
  • Learn how Japan first opened up to the outside world, viewing Dutch merchants’ houses and Chinese Buddhist temples
  • Explore authentic Samurai warriors’ houses in the Samurai district of Kitsuki

Tour details

Dates March 22 2019 - April 06 2019
Duration 16 days
Cost $9,270
Single supplement: $1,600
Deposit: $500 , balance due by 28 December 2018
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code A19JAP

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

March 22 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Tokyo and transfer to our first hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax after our flight, before coming together for our welcome dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

We begin our first full day of the tour with an opening lecture from our expert scholar. Following this we head out to the National Museum, where we spend the rest of the morning viewing some of the thousands of Japanese artworks and artifacts housed on site. After pausing for lunch, we visit the Imperial Palace East Garden, an immaculate expanse of moats, lawns, ponds and plantings dating back to the 17th century, when this spot was the site of Edo Castle. If we are lucky, we may even see the cherry blossom start to bloom.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba

This morning we have a short flight to the island of Kyushu. Upon arrival we drive to the city of Dazaifu, a regional capital during the Nara period. After lunch, we explore Dazaifu Tenman-gū — a majestic Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, a revered 10th-century poet and scholar. Our next stop is the Kanzeon-ji Temple, home to various artifacts.  We round off the afternoon at the Kyushu Historical Museum, where we find numerous remains unearthed from local excavations.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk

Our fourth day begins at Yoshinogari, a large Yayoi Period archaeological site dating from around 300 BC to 300 AD, featuring reconstructed prehistoric dwellings. Many fascinating objects have been found here, including ancient bronze mirrors and iron weapons. After taking lunch on site, we continue to Onta, a village famed for its traditional pottery. Onta’s most famous export is still made here in the traditional fashion. Its mountainous clay is prepared by water-powered hammers and baked in wood-fired kilns.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk

We start today at the Fukuoka City Museum, where permanent exhibits present the history of the city, and the people who have made their lives here. Next, we take a stroll in the scenic Ohori Park, and admire the nearby ruins of Fukuoka Castle. Following lunch, we continue on to the Asian Art Museum, where innovative exhibitions showcase modern and contemporary works from a number of Asian cultures. Our final visit is to the Shōfuku-ji Zen temple, a highly significant landmark. This evening we browse the city’s famous Yatai – open air food stalls selling a wide variety of local delicacies.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk

After breakfast we drive east to Usa Jingū, a prestigious and expansive Shinto shrine surrounded by primeval forest. Founded in the 8th century, the shrine has strong imperial links, and continues to attract a large number of pilgrims from all corners of the country. We spend our afternoon touring the intriguing historic quarters of Kitsuki, a small castle town famed for its samurai districts, with authentic samurai houses still open to be explored. The town also contains a sake brewery, which dates from the Edo Period and continues to be used today.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel & Resorts Beppuwan

Today we embark on a full and exciting day of temple visits, beginning with those on the Kunisaki Peninsula. As part of our tour we visit enigmatic Futago-ji, nestling in the forested slopes of Mount Futago; elegant Fuki-ji, the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu, dating from around 718 AD, and Kumano Magaibutsu, home to the largest stone carvings of Buddha in Japan. We also enter Makioto Temple, where we view a collection of precious wooden statues rescued from the fire which ravaged the original temple building some 700 years ago.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel & Resorts Beppuwan

We depart for Saitobaru Kofungun, a site in Saito city comprising of hundreds of tumuli (or kofun) – burial mounds for some of the area’s most prestigious figures. Thought to date from between the 4th and 7th centuries, this is one of the largest sites of its type in Japan and is well worth a detailed visit. Later we continue to the city of Miyazaki, where we spend our evening pleasantly located between the mountains and the coast.

All meals included

Hotel: Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort, Miyazaki

Today’s journey takes us east through mountain forests to Uenohara, where a series of Jōmon-era pit dwellings were discovered by construction workers in 1997. We continue to Kagoshima, a friendly seaside city overlooked by the majestic Sakurajima volcano. Here we find Iso-teien, a formal garden originally created for Shimazu Mitsuhisa, the region’s ruler in the 17th century. Our final visit of the day is to Shoko Shudeikan, a 19th-century factory-turned-museum.

All meals included

Hotel: Sun Royal Hotel, Kagoshima

We spend our morning in Kumamoto, a city that surrounds the imposing Kumamoto-jo Castle. Both sustained damage in the April 2016 earthquakes, but the castle remains one of Japan’s largest forts, there is much to admire whilst reconstruction continues. This afternoon we take a reviving ferry ride across the Ariake Sea to Nagasaki, to our next hotel, and our home for the next three nights.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

Our entire day is spent exploring the reconstructed site of Deshima Island. It was originally created in Nagasaki Bay in order to house and contain Portuguese traders. Deshima became redundant only when commercial relations with the Western world were relaxed. Here we view an assortment of restored Dutch houses and Chinese Buddhist temples – an extraordinary window on to Japan’s isolationist past.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

We continue our exploration of Nagasaki today and our morning visits include the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, and Glover Garden, home to Japan’s oldest extant Western-style house. This afternoon we enjoy some free time to spend in the city, choose to explore by yourself or join an optional visit to the fascinating Atomic Bomb Museum.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

Today we head to Kyushu Ceramic Museum, enabling us to get up close to some of the finest 17th century Hizen porcelain.  Next we make our way to Arita to visit the site of one of the oldest kilns in all of Japan. Moving on to Imari, we find Okawachiyama Pottery Village, where Japanese porcelain has its earliest roots – this being an area rich in kaolin, an essential material in the porcelain-making process. We see many skilled craftsmen hard at work in the village, with over 30 traditional businesses still in operation. Tonight, we stay in Saga, a city bordering the lush Sefuri Mountains.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel New Otani, Saga

We travel to Yame for a visit to the Traditional Craftwork Center. The attraction displays and sells traditional Yame City handicrafts, ranging from Buddhist altars to delicate paper lanterns. We return to Fukuoka, where there will be time to unwind and take things at our own pace. Visit the city’s exquisite boutiques, enter some of the local temples, or stroll through one of the traditional Japanese gardens.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk

Kitakyushu’s modern Municipal Museum of Art has been home to masterpieces of Japanese art since opening its doors in 1974, displaying them alongside certain pieces from Western artists. We explore its exhibits this morning before taking the bullet train, from Kokura Station. We head directly to Osaka, a city affectionately known as the “nation’s kitchen”, where we enjoy a farewell dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Imperial Hotel, Osaka

We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

March 22 2019: Additional Info

March 22 2019: Accommodation

Situated in the Tokyo Bay area in Odaiba, this property is the closest city resort hotel to central Tokyo, a 20-minute monorail and train ride away from JR Tokyo Station. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

The spacious guestrooms of this hotel feature elegant European-style decor and come with free wired internet access throughout. All rooms include a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, feather pillow and seating area. The upper floors boast panoramic views of Tokyo Bay, as well as views of the Rainbow Bridgeand Tokyo Tower.

Teppanyaki Restaurant Hamayu and the grill restaurant, The Grill on 30th offer spectacular skyline views from the 30th floor. There is also a sushi restaurant, a Japanese and Chinese restaurant in addition to several other cafes and bars on site.

This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. Overlooking Hakata Bay, the high-rise Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk offers 5 dining options. It features a large outdoor pool, a spa and a fitness center.

The spacious air-conditioned rooms at the Fukuoka Hilton feature light natural colours and city or bay views. They are furnished with a flat-screen TV and extra-long beds.

Guests at the Hilton Sea Hawk can soak in the public bath or relax in the sauna or hot tub. The hotel has several shops, an ATM and a concierge. An airport shuttle is available at an additional cost.

A buffet breakfast with Western dishes is offered under a 132 feet high glass ceiling at Brasserie and Lounge Seala. The Hilton offers cuisines ranging from Japanese, Chinese and European.

Hotel & Resorts Beppuwan offers Western-style rooms with free WiFi. A 10-minute drive to Beppu Museum, this hotel features free private parking and a hot-spring bath.

All rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV and electric kettle. They also come with a private bathroom with bath, shower and hairdryer. Slippers are provided. Some rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) flooring and Japanese futon bedding.

Guests can relax in the sauna or with a karaoke session. During the summer, guests can cool off in the outdoor swimming pool, which offers beach views. Bicycle rental and coin launderette machines are available.

Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort boasts hot springs, swimming pools and golf courses. Guests can enjoy, indoor or outdoor tennis, scuba diving or shopping, or they can relax with a massage at Banyan Tree Spa. Services include a concierge, childcare and free shuttle service within the surrounding area.

Spacious rooms overlook the ocean or golf course through large windows, and they come with a comfortable sofa, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and movies-on-demand and a minibar. All rooms offer a personal safe, toiletries and a bathroom with a bathtub and a walk-in shower.

At in-house fitness centre The Ocean Club, at a charge you can work out with advice from a personal trainer, try the high-pressure oxygen capsule or participate in classes like yoga, swimming or belly dance. You can unwind in Onsen at Shosenkyu's hot spring baths, while golf lessons and tennis lessons are also available at the hotel.

Buffet restaurant Pine Terrace offers an international spread of dishes, while the resort also offers authentic Japanese, Chines and Italian cuisines. There are 2 bar lounges, karaoke rooms and a café with its own bakery.

Boasting a 13th-floor hot-spring bath overlooking Kagoshima Bay, French and Japanese restaurants and a 24-hour reception, Sun Royal Hotel is 15 minutes from JR Kagoshima-Chuo Train Station on the free shuttle.

Rooms offer views of either Kagoshima city or Sakurajima Island, and include an en suite bath with slippers and amenities. All are air-conditioned, with free wired internet and green tea. Guests can watch satellite channels and pay programes on the LCD TV.

Temmonkan-dori Road is 1.9 miles from the hotel, and Kagoshima University is 1.2 miles away. Bicycles are available for hire.

Massages and saunas offer relaxation, while a concierge is available to help with activities. Currency exchange and luggage storage services are available at the front desk.

The colonial-style Trian serves a daily Western buffet breakfast, and French cuisine and bay views are on offer at the 13th-floor Phoenix. Shichisai offers fresh Japanese dishes. Sky Bar Subaru has cocktails and panoramic views. 

Decorated with classical elegance, Hotel Nagasaki Gloverhill offers 2 dining choices and massage services just 350 yards from Glover Garden. Rooms come with free wired internet, an LCD TV and a private bathroom.

Each air-conditioned room at ANA Hotel Nagasaki Gloverhill has wood furnishings and a seating area. You can make green tea, watch satellite channels or unwind with a soak in the tub.

The hotel has its own beauty shop, and offers dry cleaning services. Luggage storage is provided at the 24-hour front desk.

French restaurant Pave boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and fine cuisine. Junkei serves fusion dishes that combine Chinese and Japanese flavors with fresh local ingredients. 

Hotel New Otani Saga features 3 restaurants, a café-bar and a shopping arcade including beauty treatments. Free WiFi is available. The hotel has a 24-hour reception and charged internet terminals.

Comfortable rooms are air-conditioned and fitted with a flat-screen TV, a minibar and a seating area. Amenities also include an electric kettle, free toiletries and a hairdryer. Yukata robes are provided.

The Saga New Otani offers currency exchange between US dollars and Japanese yen, dry-cleaning services and safety deposit of valuables. Yukata robes and slippers for children and additional amenities like Japanese shogi chess or an air humidifier can be borrowed at the front desk.

Restaurant Lotus offers French dishes in a casual atmosphere, while other restaurants offer Japanese seasonal dishes and contemporary Chinese cuisine. Cafe Green Breeze features floor-to-ceiling windows with garden views, and offers cocktail time from 18:00. Room service is also available.

Situated along the Okawa River renowned for beautiful cherry blossoms, Imperial Hotel Osaka is a prestigious 5-star hotel with elegant guest rooms, a fitness center and various fine dining options.

Featuring chic décor and a relaxing ambience, each spacious room comes with a satellite LCD TV, a fridge and a minibar. A wide work desk and a safety box are also included. The en suite bathroom is fitted with a bathtub and free toiletries.

While staying at Osaka Imperial Hotel, guests can work out at the fitness club and swimming pool at an additional charge, or receive rejuvenating massage treatments in the room or at the on-site salon. The business centre comes with work desks and chargeable internet PCs. A hair salon and a flower shop are also available.

Les Saison restaurant offers panoramic city views and sophisticated French cuisine. Kamon serves fresh seafood and steaks in teppanyaki-style, while lavish Chinese dishes can be enjoyed at Jasmine Garden. 

March 22 2019: Enquiries

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