'Our Full Series'


Vibrant Taipei; Taroko Gorge - scenic highlight of Taiwan; Historical Tainan; Seoul: city tour & DMZ; Mt Seorak: craggy peaks, waterfalls, forests, hiking trails, mysterious temples; Haeinsa Temple: Buddhist treasure; Gyeongju: royal tombs, temples, palace sites, fortress ruins; Hakone Outdoor Museum; Kyoto: Temples & shrines; Hiroshima: Peace Memorial Park; Aso-Kuju National Park: five cone volcano; Nagasaki: feudal castles, samurai houses, Meiji-era villas, smoking volcanoes


Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.

Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Tue 22 Mar 2016Mon 25 Apr 2016 $11580
Wed 05 Oct 2016Tue 08 Nov 2016 $11580

Optional Single Supplement: $2191 (number of singles limited).
This tour may require a mandatory single supplement charge of $1095, if twin-sharing accommodation is unavailable.

Tour Overview

Regions visited: Central Asia And Far East
Countries visited: Taiwan; South Korea and Japan


It was a great tour. I feel as though I was really immersed in the cultures of all 3 countries. All modes of transportation - buses, trains, subways, boats - were excellent.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Taipei
Arrival in Taipei -- welcome to Taiwan!

Lying off the south-eastern coast of mainland Asia, and across the Taiwan Strait from China, Taiwan is an island truly on the edge of the Pacific. One of the most densely-populated places on earth, this is also a natural wonderland with steep mountains, magnificent forests and an array of scenic attractions. Being situated on the western edge of the Pacific "ring of fire", continuous tectonic movements have created majestic peaks, rolling hills and plains, spectacular coastlines, and other natural wonders. 8 national parks and 13 national scenic areas preserve Taiwan's best natural ecological environment and cultural sites.

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Dinner

Day 2 Taipei: City Tour
We will spend today exploring vibrant Taipei, modern and old, where Taoist temples sit alongside shopping malls. Many have rated Taipei as one of the region's most dynamic, comfortable and liveable cities. Situated at the northern tip of the island, the capital is located on the Tamsui River, about 25 km southwest of the Pacific Ocean. This is the political, economic, and cultural center of Taiwan. Originally founded in the early 18th century, Taiwan quickly became an important center for overseas trade in the 19th century. Today this truly is one of Asia's most dynamic and fascinating cities. Taipei is the thriving heart of Taiwan and the bustling centre of commerce, government and culture.

Our sightseeing will first take us to the world-famous National Palace Museum, the world's largest collection of Chinese artifacts. Here we will see porcelain, paintings, jade, bronze, tapestries and other art objects that once belonged to the emperors of China. This truly is a breathtaking selection of Chinese Imperial Art. In 1949, the collection was brought to Taiwan by Chiang Kai Shek's armies. Nearby is the wonderful Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines. This museum houses exhibits relating to the cultures and histories of the Taiwanese aborigines. These Austronesian peoples are related through blood or linguistic ties to people across precolonial Oceania, as far away as Madagascar. The tribes developed pottery, basketry, woodcarvings, musical instruments and colourful costumes. We will view some fine examples of Taiwanese aboriginal handicrafts and learn about the history of these people.

After a break for lunch we will continue with our tour of the city. A must is a visit to the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, located in the heart of the city. This Memorial Hall (C.K.S. Memorial Hall) was constructed in memory of the former president of R.O.C. During our touring of the city we will pass by the Presidential Buildings Presidential Square. Originally built by the Japanese, it originally served as the governor's mansion.

A must during the tour will of course be a visit to Taipei 101, with its outstanding views over the city. Taipei 101 is a 101-floor landmark skyscraper that claimed the title of world's tallest building when it opened in 2004 (now the world's second tallest building, second to the Burj Kalifa in Dubai).

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Taipei - Taroko Gorge
This morning we will depart Taipei and travel to the famous Taroko Gorge. Our route will take us to the hilly suburbs of Taipei, and through the Hsuehshan Tunnel ("Snow Mountain" tunnel), the longest tunnel in Taiwan. From the coastal city of Yilan we will continue along the coast via the Suao Highway.

The eastern coast of Taiwan is the least populated region and yet covers more than a fifth of the landscape. In every sense, nature is less tamed on this side of the island. Our drive will take us past the Qingshui Cliffs, located on a section of the highway that provides some of the most spectacular sights on Taiwan's Pacific coast. The cliffs here are more than 1,000 meters high and they drop almost vertically into the sea. The highway snakes along its curving face, with the sheer cliffs rising on one side and a sheer drop to the ocean on the other.

The Taroko Gorge is the undisputed scenic highlight of Taiwan, the jewel of the beautiful national park of the same name. The gorge itself is a marble canyon featuring a rushing white water river, towering cliffs, hiking trails and even the odd hot spring. The most phenomenal aspect of the park is the amazing relief and change in terrain. In a single afternoon we will travel from the rugged coastal cliffs through a maze of subtropical forest. The road is carved into the sheer walls of rock, winding its way past forested peaks and cliffs towering thousands of feet above it, while hundreds of feet below a river roars past gigantic marble boulders.

Many consider this area to be the most attractive region of Taiwan. This steep ravine, with its high marble cliffs, is permeated with a network of tunnels. Shrines, waterfalls and grottoes are found throughout the area. We will spend the afternoon touring the gorge, with plenty of scenic viewpoints and trails to explore.

Overnight at Taroko Gorge.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Taroko Gorge - Sun Moon Lake
This morning we will drive out of the Taroko Gorge region and travel southwest to Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwan's most famous and most beautiful vacation spots, situated in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range. Our route will take us from the canyons of gorge through a high elevation sub alpine coniferous forest. We travel via Puli, a town in the heart of Taiwan and surrounded by mountains.

We will have a guided tour of the spectacular Chung Tai Chan Monastery located on the outskirts of Puli. This is massive temple is more than just another modern temple - it is an international centre of Buddhist academic research, culture and the arts.

We continue to the Sun Moon Lake, and will tour the region upon our arrival. In this idyllic environment we will see the deep blue waters of the lake and the mountainous surroundings. We will visit some of the local temples in the surrounding area. This area of Taiwan has a pleasant climate year round, and the surrounding region is dotted with temples and pagodas, which afford plenty of exploration. This region has also been a center of aboriginal life for thousands of years, with aboriginal people involved in its tourist industry since the 1930s.

Overnight at Sun Moon Lake.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Sun Moon Lake - Tainan via Alishan
After breakfast we will enjoy a cruise across the lake before we set out for the city of Tainan on the west coast. Our journey today will take us south via the scenic central region of Taiwan.

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, and was its capital for over 200 years. This city has managed to maintain much of its historical character, and its many historical sites make for some great exploration. Most of the Han migrants who sailed for Taiwan in the 17th and early 18th centuries landed on the islands southwest coastline, an area of flat land suitable for rice cultivation. Often
compared to Kyoto, Tainan is an essential destination for those interested in history, religion and traditional ways of life. Upon arrival in the city we may enjoy some sightseeing this afternoon.

Overnight in Tainan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Tainan Sightseeing
Today we will enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Tainan. This is an enticing city and a true highlight on the west coast of Taiwan. Being home to over monuments and temples, Tainan retains a stronghold of traditional Taiwanese culture, with frequent Buddhist parades and ceremonies. Our exploration will take us to several of Tainan’s historic sites and temples, as well as the Dutch fort of Anping on the coast. We will explore both the Chihkan Cultural Zone and the Confucius Temple Cultural Zone.

The Chihkan Cultural Zone covers the northern part of the old city, and highlights here include several temples and the Chihkan Tower. This was the site of Fort Provintia, built by the Dutch in the 1650’s. Meaning ‘eternity’ in Dutch, the Chihkan Tower has been a significant administration centre of Tainan ever since the Dutch invaded the country. The tower has been through various periods of Chinese rule, such as the Ching and Ming Dynasties, as well as a period of Japanese Colonization. Many of its original architectural features can still be seen today.

Anping is considered to be the cradle of Han Chinese civilization in Taiwan, and the first European base on the island. It took the Dutch nearly 10 years of hard work to construct the impressive Fort Zeelandia (Anping Old Fort) in the town of Anping. This noteworthy fortress is a clear reminder of colonial rule in the country. When constructing the fortress the Dutch selected a sandy peninsula in Tainan, and the strategic location was aimed at providing direct access for various supplies and support from Batavia (now known as Jakarta, Indonesia). Yanping Street is one of the oldest streets in Tainan. Also known as Anping Old Street or Taiwan’s 1st Street, it was the first established merchant street in the area. We will walk along the narrow and winding streets with their little shops and food stalls that cover a full range of souvenirs and handmade products.

As well as these sites we will also explore the southern half of the old city of Tainan where we see the well-preserved Great South Gate and the Confucius Temple. Built in 1665, the Confucius Temple is believed to be the oldest Confucius temple in Taiwan.

Overnight in Tainan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Tainan - High-speed train to Taipei - Taipei Sightseeing
Today we will leave Tainan and travel back to Taipei by high-speed train. This high-speed line opened for service in 2007, using trains with a top speed of 300 km/h (186 mph). The journey time from Tainan to Taipei will take just over 90 minutes!

This afternoon we will complete our sightseeing of Taipei. A visit to the Taoist Lungshan Temple provides some insight into the local culture. Dedicated to Kuanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, this is one of the city’s most popular and busiest temples. Like most temples in Taiwan, the Temple worships a mixture of Buddhist, Taoist, and folk deities such as Matsu.

We will walk through the Dihua Street Area, where one can get a true feel for the city’s past. The old-town market has dozens of shops selling a variety of traditional goods such as Chinese medicines and herbs, temple icons and incense, spices and dried food, colourful bolts of cloth, and bamboo and wooden crafts. This is a fascinating patch of the past.

Built on a green hillside in 1969, the impressive Taipei Martyrs Shrine was architecturally inspired by the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing's Forbidden City. The shrine is dedicated to the 390,000 soldiers killed in the service of their country during the War of Resistance against Japan and the civil war between the Chinese Republican and communist forces.

Overnight in Taipei.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 8 Taipei, Taiwan - Seoul, South Korea
Today we fly to Seoul / Incheon, South Korea and transfer to our hotel.

Seoul is a city of contrasts. In this rapidly evolving metropolis, the traditional exists with the modern in a state of harmony. For over 500 years the seat of Joseon Dynasty kings, Seoul is now the beating heart of modern Korea, the centre to which all else in the country is drawn.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Seoul: City Tour
Today we tour Seoul, including the National Folk Museum, North Seoul Tower, War Memorial, and Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Of all the tourist attractions in Seoul, the Joseon Dynasty Palaces and, particularly Gyeongbokgung Palace, are the most tangible link between modern Korea and its not-too-distant monarchical past. Not merely inert relics, they are symbols of a deep history and rich culture. Although substantially reduced in number, the remaining palace buildings provide a glimpse of traditional architecture and the overall organization of a palace grounds.

General Yi Seong-gye (King T'aejo) ordered the construction of Gyeongbokgung-gung ("Palace of Shining Happiness") in 1394, two years after founding the Joseon Dynasty. In its original form, it is said to have had about 500 buildings. For the next 200 years, Gyeongbokgung-gung was the seat of government and the royal residence of Joseon Dynasty kings.

Overnight in Seoul.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Seoul - the DMZ - Mt Seorak
Today we travel along the Jayuro (Freedom Road) to Imjingak, the northernmost point bordering North Korea.* On the way, we will be able to view barbed wire fences and military guards on duty all the way along the river, as well as serene rice paddies and the North Korean propaganda village over the confluence of the Han River and the Imjin River. At Imjingak, we visit the Mangbaedan memorial ritual altar which was established in 1985 for those who were separated from their families or displaced from home during the Korean War. It is a symbolic spot used to hold traditional memorial services for ancestors or to pray for separated family members living in the North and for reunification of the country.

We will see the Freedom Bridge, the very locale where 12,773 Korean War prisoners walked to freedom to South Korea in 1953. We then board a tour bus that will take us to the 3rd infiltration tunnel dug up by North Koreans. On the 20-minute ride to the tunnel, we pass through the check points, military camps and mine fields.

Before going down to the tunnel, we will view a short video presentation and visit exhibition hall for information on the divided Koreas. A seven-minute tram ride (if available) or a walk down a steep access through a narrow and steep interception tunnel, leads us to the lower platform, a point where we are only 170 meters from the Military Demarcation Line.

Our next stop is the Dora Observatory where we can see the whole expanse of the Demilitarized Zone, North Korean propaganda village, Gijeong-dong, where the world's largest flag hangs on a 160 meter-tall flagpole, South Korea's northernmost village of Daeseong-dong and Panmunjom where the armistice that ended Korean War was signed.

Finally, we visit the functioning northernmost railway station Dorasan, located 700 meters from the Southern Limit Line of DMZ. Here, the mile marker "Seoul 56km/Pyeongyang (the North Korean capital) 205km" still stands tall for all to see.

We continue to Mt Seorak through the picturesque countryside to the vicinity of Seoraksan National Park, with its towering craggy peaks, waterfalls, forests, hiking trails, mysterious temples, and remote hermitages.

* Due to an ever-changing security situation, our activities today may be altered, re-routed, or curtailed without notice.

Overnight Mt Seorak.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Mt Seorak Area
We depart for Mt Seorak National Park where we take a cable car to one of the peaks for panoramic views of Mountain Seorak. Seoraksan's aerial tramway runs 1100 metres (3,608 feet) from the valley floor to the ridge above. The 5-minute ride offers a bird's-eye view of the Outer Seorak area.

We later proceed to Sinheungsa Temple. A short, easy stroll from the park plaza brings you to Sinheungsa ("Divine Undertaking Temple"), the principal temple of Seoraksan. At the junction of two major valleys below high peaks, this small compound has one of the most spectacular settings of any temple in Korea. It was established in 653 as Hyangseongsa Temple by the monk, Chajang. We have time for an optional afternoon hike to the Gyejoam Hermitage -- a religious site for Buddhist monks still practicing in the area.

Overnight in Mt Seorak.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Mt Seorak - Daegu
We depart for Daegu, one of the metropolitan cities of Korea.

En route, we will visit Gangneung's famous Gyeongpo beach area, then Buseoksa Temple (a masculin temple that differentiates itself from other temples by its huge size and the beautiful and refreshing scenery,) followed by a short stop in Andong area at Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy which was established by esteemed Confucian scholars to pay tribute to the memory of Seong-nyong Yu (1542-1607), who was well-respected for his writings and personality. His mortuary tablet is enshrined at this school.

Overnight in Daegu.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 13 Daegu - Haeinsa - Gyeongju
In the morning we have brief visit within Daegu: Daegu Oriental Medicine Museum, Dongseongno Street.

Then we travel to Haeinsa Temple, one of the most important Buddhist treasures in Korea. Haeinsa Temple features the famous Korean cultural treasure, Tripikata Koreana, built during the Goryeo Dynasty to protect the country from the invasion of Mongolian troops. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tripitakana Koreana consists of over 80,000 pieces of inscribed wooden plates carved during the Goryeo Dynasty. It took more than 15 years to complete this incredible work.

Finally, drive down to Gyeongju, Korea's ancient cultural city and the capital of the once great Silla Kingdom. It is to Korea what Kyoto is to Japan. During its 1979 meeting in Thailand, UNESCO selected Gyeongju as one of the world's most important ancient cultural cities, both for its position in the historical and cultural development of East Asia and for its role in the formation of the Korean nation.

Overnight in Gyeongju.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 14 Gyeongju: Area Tour
We will spend a whole day sightseeing in Gyeongju with visits to Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, Tumuli Park-Royal Tombs. While many important sites are scattered in the vicinity, Gyeongju, as the heart of the former Silla Kingdom, still has the largest concentration of remains. Mounded tombs, the most obvious remnant of the city's past, dominate your view as you approach this historic city. Many of the early tombs were constructed near the Banwolseong Palace site-- then undoubtedly the city centre but now at the edge of downtown. Later others were constructed outside the city, in the midst of flat farming fields and at the foot of the low hills that rim this valley.

Over the centuries these mounds have, by and large, been left un-plundered. Some informal excavation was done in the early 1900's, but the first government-sponsored excavations were authorized by the Japanese during the occupation.

Overnight in Gyeongju.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 15 Gyeongju - Busan: City Tour
Our journey continues to Korea's second largest city, Busan (formerly Pusan). The city's name derives from two place names: Suwon, which means "water source" -- the land depression that the city occupies was for centuries known for its clear-water wells. High above the city rises P'aldal-san, a tall hill at its height of beauty in the spring, with its slopes awash with the colour of pink cherry blossoms. In the late 1600's the military established a garrison here as one of the five principal fortifications set up to protect the approaches to Seoul. Intending to move the official capital from Seoul to Suwon, King Chongjo the 22nd Joseon Dynasty King, had the fortress wall constructed in 1794. Battlements and palace buildings were erected, but the king died before he could initiate the move. Although there were great plans for this city, they never had the opportunity to mature, as the decision was made to keep the capital at Seoul.

Our tour continues with a visit to Kukje Market and Jagalchi Fish Market. We will also visit the impressive UN Cemetery and head up Busan Tower for impressive views. We finish with the Gamcheon Cultural Village, spread out in a panorama of endless rows of low-rise cubicle homes climbing up the steep hillsides, earning it the nicknames "Santorini of the East" and "Lego Village." The cheerful blue, yellow and pink hues a delight to the eye. Narrow stone and concrete alleyways wind their way through the homes, yielding something new at every turn. The village used to house the city’s poorest people, but during the Korean War, refugees fled their homes for Busan, which was the only area which was free from fighting.

Overnight in Busan.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 16 Busan, South Korea - Tokyo, Japan
Today we fly from Busan to Tokyo.

Tokyo is Japan's capital and the country's largest city. Prior to 1868, Tokyo was known as Edo. A small castle town in the 16th century, Edo became Japan's political center in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government there. A few decades later, Edo had grown into one of the world's most populous cities.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 17 Tokyo: City Tour
First thing this morning we visit the exciting Tsukiji Fish Market.* Here we are able to witness the bustling activity of the central wholesale market, the largest fish market in the world. Although the market contains stalls selling meats and vegetables, the real product is the two million
kilograms of fish sold here every day. Over 1,500 fishmongers scurry about on motorised fish-mobiles in a cavernous warehouse where huge blocks of ice, all expertly hand-sawed, not only to cool the interior but also to miraculously keep all odour of fish at bey.

We then make our way to the Imperial Palace or Kokyo, built on the site of the Edo-jo Castle, an impregnable fortress that housed the Tokugawa Shogunate for 265 years. Surrounded by moats, the original outer walls extended for over 16 km (10 miles) and were thick enough for a squad of samurai to walk six abreast on top. Even in its original state, it deceptively looked more like an administrative villa than a fortress. Once inside, it was a maze of moats, bridges, dead-ends and cul-de-sacs, all perfect for defense, and now perfect for private and public strolling parks and gardens. Occupied by the shogunate for 265 years until Emperor Meiji moved the court here in 1860's, the buildings survived until they were all but obliterated by the fire bombings of WWII.

After peering into this amazing complex, we continue on to Ginza. We will take a brief walk through the food halls where you will see the amazing variety of beautifully presented foods being sold at unbelievable prices. Seeing where and how the Japanese shop, what they buy, for whom and for what occasion, offers instructive glimpses into a highly sophisticated social strata where conventions of human interaction and presentation are minutely-defined.

We continue from here on to Ueno, home to the National Museum and the finest collection of Japanese art in the country. After our guided tour of the museum we will return to our hotel.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 18 Tokyo - Kamakura - Tokyo
This morning we venture to Kamakura, the capital established by the Shogun Minamoto Yoritomo in 1192. He was the first permanent shogun and ruler of Japan. His motivation was to get away from the corrupt imperial court of Kyoto. Within the next century many grand monuments were built, and has 65 Buddhist temples and 19 Shinto shrines located amongst its wooded hills. An easily defendable site, surrounded on three sides by hills and the fourth by the sea, is a dramatic setting for our wanderings through the area. One of the highlights here will be a visit to the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha; the second largest bronze image in Japan. We will also visit a beautiful Zen garden set within a bamboo forest.

We return to Tokyo in the mid-late afternoon.

Overnight in Tokyo.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 19 Tokyo - Hakone
This morning we enjoy our first Shinkansen, or "bullet train," ride as we head towards Hakone (OVERNIGHT BAG ONLY PLEASE; excess baggage will be sent ahead to Takayama). Wedged between Mt Fuji and the Izu Peninsula, Hakone is a large region encircled by several forested mountains with a beauty accented by deep glens and ravines. In the feudal era, Hakone was a very important checkpoint that safeguarded the security of Edo (now Tokyo) as the seat of the Shogunate. This onsen (hotspring) area has been popular since the 1500s, when Hideyoshi Toyotomi came here to relax in an open-air bath after the hard fought Battle of Odawara.

From the castle town of Odawara we board a train that takes us into the National Park. We then board a funicular that takes us to Gora. One of the highlights today will be our visit to the Hakone Outdoor Museum, or Chokoku-no-mori, a beautiful park filled with sculptures by renowned Japanese and international artists such as Rodin, Bourdelle, Moore, Zadkine and Picasso.

Weather permitting, we can enjoy views of Mt Fuji from a cable car. We will be able to see down into the sulphuric springs of Sounzan from which the hotels take water for their hot-spring baths. The entire area of Sounzan smells of sulphurous fumes as these clouds of steam rise from crevasses, and hots-prings bubble out. Later this evening you will be able to enjoy bathing in these therapeutic waters at our hotel.

Tonight we will enjoy a Keiseki-type meal at our hotel. Originally this type of dining was to accompany tea ceremony and is a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. You can feel free to wear your yukata, or bathrobe (provided by the hotel) to the dining room tonight as many of the Japanese do when they stay in these types of hotels. It is a perfectly wonderful place to relax after leaving busy Tokyo behind.

We use the rail system quite extensively on this tour, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Japanese stations can be large and crowded and may not have escalators or elevators. Packing lightly is essential. If you are unsure about your suitability for this type of trip, please call and speak to one of our sales agents for more information.

Overnight in Hakone.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 20 Hakone - Takayama
Today we travel by local tram and Bullet Train to Takayama. The region known as Hida, which surrounds Takayama, was cut off from the rest of Japan by almost impregnable encircling mountains. Hida lacked good farmland, which made taxpaying from an agricultural livelihood an impossible burden upon the people. Necessity caused them to diversify, so the craftsmen of Takayama honed their tools to a sharpness matched by their skills and became known as the finest woodworkers in the land. The mountains yielded the most coveted lumber in the empire, which Takayama's artisans fashioned into magnificent works worthy to adorn Japan's finest temples, shrines and palaces. During the Nara period, the central government, in lieu of taxes, required ten Takayama craftsmen to relocate to the capital, where their considerable talents were employed. During the Tokugawa era, the ancestral daimyo of Takayama was reassigned to the far north.

Our train journey today takes us through the scenic Hida River Valley. We arrive in the late afternoon and will have time to wander through the lovely town of Takayama and the merchant quarter of San-machi with its historic wooden structures.

Overnight in Takayama.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 21 Takayama: City Tour
This morning we will visit the colourful early morning market before heading to the Hida Folk Village, consisting of over 30 unique houses which had been scattered in the Hida region. The houses are attractively laid out around a small lake and display valuable articles showing the way of life and culture of the past. The style of architecture is called gassho-zukuri, or praying hand houses, because of the steep pitch of the roofs reminiscent of two clasped hands in prayer. This was to protect the occupants from the large amounts of snow that fall here over the winter months. Upon our return to the town centre we will visit the Yatai Kaikan, or Float Museum.

Your afternoon is at leisure. Takayama is a small, interesting and manageable place for those who enjoy easy going, on-foot exploration.

Overnight in Takayama.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 22 Takayama - Kyoto
Our journey continues by train to Kyoto, back through the Hida Valley to connect to a Bullet Train in Nagoya.

Kyoto vibrates with creative energy. For 1,000 years, skilled craftsmen, wise masters, and the nation's most promising fine artists have been lured here. The deep impress of culture and the refinement is indelible; it's in the soul of the city. A long line of Japanese emperors was enthroned here, and the city retains this regal bearing through myriad festivals and commemorative customs preserved from feudal times. In diminutive home workshops along cobblestone alleyways no wider than a footpath, lacquerware, cloisonne, damascene, kimono fabrics, pottery, porcelain, fans, dolls, embroideries, and bamboo ware are still expertly turned out by hand. Kyoto attracts a sophisticated crowd to its vibrant Noh and Kabuki theatres, while the last geisha finishing schools are found in the lantern-lit side streets of the Pontocho and Gion sections of the city.

Thankfully, Kyoto's treasures were spared from bombing during WW II, when American scholars persuaded the military to leave this masterpiece of a city alone. Though Kyoto is now a thoroughly modern city, much of its spirit is intact, with over 200 Shinto shrines; 1,600 temples, 30 of which administer to the major sects of Buddhism throughout Japan; three Imperial palaces; nine major museums; and countless classic gardens.

We arrive in this fascinating city mid-afternoon. Tonight we will venture to the Pontocho District, one of the traditional geisha quarters of Kyoto and next door to its rival Gion. Wandering down the narrow lanes with the Kama River flowing alongside gives a sense to what this city was like long ago.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 23 Kyoto: City Tour
We have a full day sightseeing in Kyoto.

We visit Heian Shrine, built in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of the capital. It is a replica to three-fifths of the size of the first imperial palace in the ancient capital Heiankyo. Behind it, there is a beautiful go-round style garden with a total area of 30,000 sq m which is well known for the beauty of its weeping cherry trees, Japanese iris, and waterlilies.

Next is Sanjusangendo, the popular name for Rengeo-in, a temple famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. The temple was founded in 1164 and rebuilt a century later after the original structure had been destroyed in a fire. The temple hall is with 120 meters Japan's longest wooden structure. The name Sanjusangendo (literally "33 intervals") derives from the number of intervals between the building's support columns, a traditional method of measuring the size of a building. In the center of the main hall sits a large, wooden statue of a 1000-armed Kannon (Senju Kannon) that is flanked on each side by 500 statues of human sized 1000-armed Kannon standing in ten rows. Together they make for an awesome sight.

We continue to Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavillion, and proceed to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, one of Japan's most famous architectural and historical icons. We also visit Ryoan-ji, the famous raked gravel Zen Garden, for which the Zen Buddhists are renowned. The essential dichotomy and harmony of the universe, which lies at the heart of this belief system, is symbolized in these tranquil gardens.

NOTE: In order maintain a certain spontaneity during our time in Kyoto, the exact sites visited and their order in the itinerary may vary at the discretion of your Tour Leader.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 24 Kyoto - Nara - Kyoto
Today we travel by local train to Nara.

The crest of every mountain, the slope of every hill, the mute testimony of every rock, the waterfall, rivulet, and the valley of Nara are infused with the intangible spiritual energy that accompanied the birth of the Japanese civilization. Nara, meaning "level land, " occupies the great basin of what was Yamoto, or the Land of Great Peace. Here was the centre of the half-real, half mythical kingdom of Japan before it became a nation. Jimmu Tenno, the first emperor of Japan, was purportedly buried at Nara, the Imperial Japan, the oldest existing dynasty in the world, established its first permanent court within the city in 710. Arts, culture, and literature also bloomed in this fertile valley. The earliest histories of the nation were compiled in Nara by noble court ladies in colloquial Japanese, and from the ancient city Buddhism spread throughout the land.

In its glory days, Nara covered an expansive area linked by palaces, temples, shrines, public buildings, and nobles' villas. The temples were massive and extremely powerful, almost like independent city-states. Numerous fires, the ravages of time, war, and pestilence have reduced many of the ancient structures, but plenty remain in their original states, especially in the eastern sections of the city. Part of this legacy is the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Otera, the largest bronze statue in the world, tipping the scales at over 500 tonnes.

Nara Koen, at over 500 ha (1235 acres), is Japan's largest park and is home to the sacred deer of nearby Kasuga Taisha. This shrine, moss-covered and illuminated by over 3000 stone lanterns, was first erected in 768 and is second in importance only to the Grand shrines of Ise. As we walk through this park dotted with temples and deer wandering about, you will be struck at how the sublime cultural richness of the quiet past lingers on.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 25 Kyoto: Nijo Castle & Leisure time
This morning we visit Nijo Castle, built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle's palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep. After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.

The balance of the day is yours to explore Kyoto on your own. A good place to start may be the small Japanese garden named Shoseien, located another few street blocks east of Higashi Honganji. Your Tour Leader can help you plan your afternoon.

Overnight in Kyoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 26 Kyoto - Hiroshima
Today we take the Shinkansen train to Hiroshima. Passing through Osaka and Kobe, just minutes from Kyoto on this fast train, we will arrive at our destination in just a couple of hours.

Modern Hiroshima rose like a phoenix from its own ashes. Less than five decades since its obliteration, it is once again the most vital city of San-Yo with a population of one million and growing. Hiroshima is referred to as the "River City." In its confines, the Ota-gawa River fans out into six delta tributaries that flow into the immense and very busy bay. In the years just following the A-bomb blast, scientists doubted if Hiroshima could ever live again. Today the streets hum with activity, trees and flowers grow, and birds sing. Nature may not forget, but it does forgive!

On the morning of August 6, 1945, the people of war-torn Japan hurried to begin the day. Then suddenly buildings melted, people evaporated, and humankind lost the first battle of the atomic age. Seventy thousand buildings were flattened and 200,000 people perished, the lucky ones quickly; the unlucky lingered. Hiroshima, fringed by mountains forming a natural amphitheatre, seethed and fumed.

Our visit takes us to the Peace Memorial Park (Heiwa Kinen Koen). Here the Cenotaph, shaped like an ancient tomb, holds the names of the dead. The prayer, the hope, the Japanese reads "Repose ye in peace, for the error shall not be repeated." The skeleton of the Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Domu) turns green with age against a blue sky. Until all nuclear arms are banned and destroyed, the Eternal Flame will flicker. We will visit the Peace Memorial Museum and walk to the A-Bomb Dome, passing the many monuments, memorials, and statues.

Overnight Hiroshima.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 27 Hiroshima - Miyajima - Hiroshima
Today we travel by train and ferry to Miyajima where we spend the day.

Since ancient times, Miyajima has been regarded as one of the "Three Most Beautiful Spots" of Japan and, as part of the Seto Inland Sea National Park, it has received several distinctions, such as a place of extraordinary scenic beauty, exceptional history, and a natural monument. The virgin forests neighbouring Mt. Misen are representative of the lush greenery and abundance of nature which still covers the entire island even now. A surprisingly large number of southwestern Japan native botanical specimens can still be found on Miyajima. The island is like a miniature model of Japan, showing the harmonious ecology of all living things from the ocean depth to the top of mountains.

Our walking tour of the island will include a visit to the famous Itsukushima Shrine, which together with its large wooden tori, stands in the ocean during high tide. You will also have some free time to admire this World Heritage Site before returning to Hiroshima.

Overnight in Hiroshima.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 28 Hiroshima - Kagoshima
Today's Shinkansen train journey takes us along the eastern coast of Kyushu to Kagoshima.

Kagoshima City is the capital of Kagoshima prefecture. The city originally prospered as the castle town of Lord Shimadzu, and was the first city to introduce western civilisation to Japan. Today, it is the largest City in Southern Kyushu with about 540,000 people. Kagoshima City nestled on the west shore of beautiful Kinko Bay with majestic Mt. Sakurajima (the symbol of Kagoshima) is referred to as the Naples of the Orient.

One of Kagoshima's greatest contributions to modern Japan is it's role over the centuries as a gateway for trade and exchange between Japan and the world. Japan has traditionally been a closed culture and only recently pursued international ties. Kagoshima is the catalyst city credited for "opening Japan to the World".

In 1543, a Portuguese vessel landed on Tanegashima one of the southern islands, bringing the first firearms to Japan. In 1549 The Spanish missionary Francisco Xavier landed in Kagoshima and introduced Christianity to Japan. During the 17th century, the shogunate had an "isolation policy" which prohibited contact with other nations; however, Satsuma (now Kagoshima) continued to trade with China, and sent students to England to study Western culture.

We visit Iso Ko-en Gardens, a wonderful garden with Mount Sakurajima as borrowed scenery in the background. Sakurajima is one of the world's most active volcanoes and lies just 4 km (2½ miles) from the city across the bay. The volcanic soil is extremely rich and the farmland at the base of this mountain is testament to its value.

Overnight in Kagoshima.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 29 Kagoshima - Kumamoto
Our day will start with our last train journey of the tour, bringing us to Kumamoto.

Shaped by nature's fires and the winds of history, Kumamoto is a highlight of our tour of Kyushu. We begin our tour with the Kumamoto Castle, considered one of the most beautiful and the third largest in the country. Built between 1601 and 1607 (known as the period of the Warring States) this castle was designed as impenetrable, and the curved stone walls are practically impossible for invaders to scale. A true fortress, within the castle walls are numerous wells and camphor trees; the wood from these trees can be used for firewood even when fresh. Authentic artifacts related to the castle as well as a siege in 1877 are on display in the castle's donjon.

From here we will go to the Hosokawa Mansion, a beautiful home that gives us an opportunity to see how the rich lived in Japan during the Tokugawa Period. We will end our day at the Suizenji-koen Park. Created in 1632 as a place of rest for the lords of the Hosokawa clan, the park is sublime in its aesthetic detail. Considered one of Japan's six most beautiful landscape gardens, the park was designed to represent the old road from Tokyo to Kyoto. Stop and enjoy a cup of green tea served with a delicate sweet while you relax in an authentic tea house (not included).

Overnight in Kumamoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 30 Kumamoto - Mt Aso Kuju National Park - Kumamoto
Today we travel by bus for our day trip to the Aso Kuju National Park.* At 80 km (50 miles) in circumference, its caldera is one of the world's largest. This volcano has five cones, one still active. The five peaks of Mt Aso are Takadake, Nekodake, Kishimadake, Eboshidake and Nakadake. Nakadake Crater is 4 km (2.75 miles) in circumference and 125 m (410 feet) deep. Because of its situated and particular shape, it is the only active volcanic crater in the entire world that you can actually look down into. The lava flow created by eruptions over millennia forms a unique landscape that has a radius of 100 km (62 miles). Mt Aso is the reason Kumamoto has been known since early times as the "Land of Fire."

Halfway up Mt Takadake is the ravine known as Sensuikyo. In May, the entire ravine turns a glorious pink when 50,000 azalea burst into full bloom. From Daikanbo, 936 m (3088 ft) above sea level, one commands the best view of the five peaks of Mt Aso which are said to resemble the figure of a reclining Buddha. The noted writer Tokutomi Soho, deeply impressed by the view, gave it the name Daikanbo, "Great View Peak."

Senomoto Kogen (Senomoto Highland) is 1000 m (3,280 feet) above sea level. Looking beyond the highland, the five peaks of Mt Aso and the Kujyu mountain ranges come into view. Many people come here in spring to enjoy picking a wide variety of wild, edible plants. In summer there is a welcome cool breeze, while in autumn the area is made lovely with the sight of pampas grass swaying gracefully in the wind. From May through the end of October the scenery is one of pastoral peace as contented cows graze freely.

* Due to a recent increase in volcanic activity, our activities in the vicinity of Mt Aso may be adjusted according to current conditions.

Overnight in Kumamoto.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 31 Kumamoto - Nagasaki
This morning we leave by bus for Misumi Port just south of Kumamoto. From here we will board a ferry which will take us across the Ariake Sea to Shimabara. This old castle town sits in the shadow of Fugendake, which began erupting in 1990 after two centuries of inactivity and didn't stop until just a few years ago. The area worst affected is slowly being rebuilt but we will be able to see a number of homes still half buried and left as a reminder of the destructive forces. From here we make our way up the mountain and on to Unzen where we will see these bubbling jigoku, or "hells" as they are known in Japanese. We will be able to walk amongst these pools on walking trails. From here we make our way down the other side of this mountain and on to Nagasaki.

Overnight in Nagasaki.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 32 Nagasaki: City Tour
Blessed with a temperate climate, a superb setting, and a history unlike that of any other prefecture in Japan, Nagasaki easily ranks as one of Japan's most rewarding and exotic destinations. Much of the prefecture's considerable charm can be traced to the unique role which the region played in Japanese history. From 1639 to 1859, while the rest of the country was secluded from foreign contact by governmental decree, the port of Nagasaki alone was allowed to conduct trade with Europe and the Asian mainland. This free-port status and the prolonged exposure to foreign cultures which it brought resulted in the creation of a sophisticated and liberal climate which no other part of Japan could hope to emulate.

Nagasaki's attractions are as varied as they are plentiful: feudal castles, samurai houses, Meiji-era Western villas, smoking volcanoes, mineral-rich hot-spring baths, architecturally pleasing resorts, rugged islands, beautiful beaches, and a hospitable and friendly people are just a few of the rewards awaiting the traveller to this diverse and dynamic prefecture.

This morning we will start with a trip to Glover Garden, named after Thomas Glover. This is a collection of European style houses which have been collected in to this park which cascades down the side of a hill. In addition to the houses which you can go through is the Museum of Traditional Performing Arts which contains beautifully decorated floats from the Kunchi Festivals. We will then ride the streetcar to the Nagasaki Dejima Museum. Dejima was an artificial island built in 1636 in Nagasaki Bay for foreign traders, as foreigners were banned from the country. This was a vital portal through which culture, money, goods, and ideas flowed in and out of Japan.

This afternoon is free for you to enjoy this wonderful city. Nagasaki has an interesting Chinese Confucian Temple that you may like to visit on your own, as well as a vibrant Chinatown. And, of course, the compelling Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum commemorates the explosion of the atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki at 11:02am on 9 August 1945.

Overnight in Nagasaki.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 33 Nagasaki - Saga Prefecture - Fukuoka
Today we travel by bus through Saga Prefecture, Japan's most important area for the production of traditional porcelain and pottery. Many of the kilns were established by potters who were taken to Japan from Korea after the war between Japan and Korea in the 1590s.

Arita ware originated in the beginning of the 17th century when layers of kaolin, the main component of porcelain, was discovered and the first porcelain kiln was built in present day Arita town. Arita is also called Imari ware because the products of the Arita Kiln were mainly shipped from the nearby port of Imari. Arita porcelains of the early days were typically made in the Chinese style of the period, with deep blue patterns on a white background, called "sometsuke." In the 1640s, a new style called "aka-e," characterised by bright colours and bold patterns principally in red, was invented. These two styles, sometsuke and aka-e, dominated Arita-Imari ware. These beautiful pieces of white earthenware from the Orient won tremendous acclaim in Europe and influenced the European porcelain industry.

Our first stop will be at the hidden village of Imari, then Arita. Karatsu will be our last stop before arriving in Fukuoka.

Overnight in Fukuoka.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 34 Fukuoka: City Tour
Fukuoka is a city blessed with a beautiful climate and a seaside location. Since ancient times the city has flourished as a crossroads of international exchange.

It is said that the earliest Japanese state mentioned in historical records, Nakoku, was located in the area where the city is now located. Foreign culture first entered Japan through Fukuoka. The Gold Seal discovered across the bay from Fukuoka City on Shikanoshima Island symbolises the long history of the area. This seal, inscribed "King of the State of Na of Wa, or Japan, and Vassal of the Han Dynasty", dates back to AD 57.

Today we embark on a half-day tour of Fukuoka, including the Kanzeonji Temple, Dazaifu Temmangu Square, and the Kyushu National Museum. The afternoon is at leisure to explore on your own.

Overnight in Fukuoka.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 35 Departure
Departure from Fukuoka.*

* LAND ONLY PASSENGERS: It is in theory possible to travel by train from Fukuoka back to Tokyo, but this is a rather long journey (8 hours) and can involve multiple train changes which, in Japan, can be daunting. Accordingly, if you need to return to Tokyo to fly from there, we recommend that you fly from Fukuoka.


Meal plan: Breakfast

Tour Map

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

Hotel List

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

Landis Taipei Hotel

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Taipei
Country: Taiwan

Landis Taipei Hotel is situated in the business and financial area of Taipei City. It only takes a 15 minute
... to Taipei SongShan Airport and a 40 minute drive from Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport.

Read More.

Hotel Silks Place

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Taroko Gorge
Country: Taiwan

Offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding greenery, Silks Place Taroko Hotel is located within the Taroko National Park in Hualien
... It features an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. Guests can relax in the sauna, or enjoy scenic mountain views while exercising in the gym.

Rooms at Silks Place Taroko Hotel have private balconies with mountain or river views. Amenities include a flat-screen TV, a safety deposit box and tea/coffee making facilities.

Read More.

Landis Tainan Hotel

Rating: 5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation5 Star Accommodation
Location: Tainan
Country: Taiwan

Tayih Landis Hotel boasts of 315 spacious and comfortable guest rooms that are equipped with modern amenities such as air
... cable TV, hairdryer, ironing board, mini bar, telephone and a private bathroom.

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Haeinsa Tourist Hotel

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Haeinsa
Country: South Korea

Located near Haeinsa Temple and Mt. Gayasan National Park, Haeinsa Tourist Hotel provides you with good service and beautiful environment.
... TV, refrigerator, slippers, safe box, mini bar.
Read More.

Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu

Location: Tokyo
Country: Japan

Right in the city heart, this hotel with its distinctive exterior is perfectly located for business and pleasure, served by
... subway lines and convenient to business, government, fashion and entertainment districts. A shopping arcade runs the length of the block-long building, with a variety of designer labels represented. Features: Satellite TV, telephone, refrigerator, hair dryer.

Read More.

Hotel Kagetsu-en

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Hakone
Country: Japan

Hakone Kagetsu-en is beautifully surrounded by the colorful cypress grove and from your room's window you can enjoy its amazing
... The real draw are the hotel's hot spring baths, the hotel's cuisine and the beautiful scenery of Hakone. This hotel offers an authentic Japanese experience. Hakone Kagetsu-en comprises 70 well-appointed guest rooms with air conditioning, colour TV, hairdryer, IDD telephone, 24 hour room service.

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Hotel Mitsui Garden

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Kumamoto
Country: Japan

This charming property has long been a favourite for both business and leisure travellers. Every room in the hotel offers
... telephone, air conditioning, television, toiletries, slippers and hairdryer. The rooms are further provided with satellite television, radio and IDD phone.

Read More.

Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►


Breakfast and dinner (mostly at local restaurants) are included daily. All transport, accommodation, sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for restaurant staff, porters, local guides. Airport transfers for land & air customers arriving / departing on tour dates.


Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), domestic and international (if applicable) air taxes, and any excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on shopping, not included meals.

Seasonality and Weather

Our autumn tour can expect warm temperatures with moderate humidity. For our fall (Sep/Oct) departures, temperatures range from 20-25C (68-76 F). Rain showers can occur at any time, though their likelihood decreases the later we get into the fall.

Spring will experience slightly cooler temperatures and the same possibility of rainfall. Our spring date may feature annual cherry blossoms at some locations.

Transport and Travel Conditions

TAIWAN & KOREA: Private air-conditioned bus; internal flight via scheduled carrier.

JAPAN: Our primary means of transportation throughout Japan is via the very efficient rail system, including the famous Shinkansen, or Bullet Train. Distances are not great and most journeys are only a few hours duration. A combination of buses and taxis will be used elsewhere as part of our local sightseeing program.

The tour is physical in that it is busy and that YOU MUST BE ABLE TO MANAGE YOUR OWN BAGS ONTO / OFF TRAINS AND IN TRAIN STATIONS. Japanese stations can be large and crowded and may not have escalators or elevators. You must pack VERY lightly, preferably in "wheelie" type, soft-sided baggage or backpacks that you can fit into the overhead luggage compartments in the trains. You must also be steady on your feet and be able to endure some long days. We have numerous walking tours and visit several sites that are LARGE with steps and uneven surfaces.


All hotels are centrally-located, Western style, air-conditioned, 3-4 star standard with private bath facilities. Laundry service is available at most hotels (except Hakone) for a rather high price. All hotel rooms are well equipped and usually include coffee/tea making facilities. Most hotels have hairdryers and irons. Some hotels have indoor/outdoor swimming pools.

NOTE: Specially designated non-smoking rooms are generally not available (they are unfamiliar with the concept). We automatically request non-smoking rooms wherever they are available, though we cannot promise this. Single rooms are limited and possibly smaller than twins. Porters are generally available (see 'Inclusions').

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, local guides at various locations.

Group Size

10-21 plus Tour Leader