AUG 31- SEP 15 2023
TOKYO IN / NAGASAKI OUT
Sea of Japan, an unforgettable journey off the beaten track
Have you visited the Land of the Rising Sun before and would like to experience something a little different this time? Have you thought of visiting Japan but are put off by the large crowds in huge cities such as Tokyo and Osaka? Would you like to head away from crowded tourist spots and visit smaller locations and have more unique experiences? If so, then the Sea of Japan Tour is the perfect tour for you!
Join us on a 16-day journey along the beautiful Sea of Japan coastline and discover the other side of this fascinating country. Not only will you be able to visit some real hidden gems such as the remote Sado Island, the beautiful Noto Peninsular, the historic city of Matsue, and the tiny seaside town of Masuda, but you will also be able to enjoy unique experiences such as being entertained by real geisha in Niigata's Furumachi district, riding in a tarai bune (washtub boat) in the crystal clear waters of Sado Island, and experiencing the joy of playing taiko (Japanese drums) in beautiful natural surroundings. Join us on this unforgettable tour and discover the Japan less traveled!
・Be entertained by real geisha in Niigata's Furumachi district
・Explore beautiful Sado Island in the Sea of Japan
・Enjoy an leisurely ride in a tarai bune (washtub boat)
・Visit the historic Matsue Castle and Maruoka Castle
・Enjoy a day trip to Shirakawago and Gokayama villages
・Take in spectacular views at Amonohashidate in Kyoto
・Visit Kenrokuen and Yushien Japanese gardens
・Spend two nights in the historic city of Nagasaki in Kyushu
Airport-hotel transfers in Japan
Transport and entry to all places described in the itinerary
15 nights accommodation in carefully selected hotels/inns
2 dinners (welcome dinner and farewell dinner)
The services of Craig Campbell (tour guide/driver/interpreter)
*Please note that tour prices do not include airfares to and from Japan
DATE: Aug 31st, 2023 Tokyo
Travel to Tokyo by Thursday August 31st, 2023.
Arrive at Narita International Airport (NRT) by own arrangements.
Craig will meet you at the airport and assist you with the transfer to your hotel in central Tokyo. Once you have checked in to your hotel you will have free time to relax, or enjoy some local sightseeing, shopping, dinner, etc.
DATE: Sep 1st, 2023 Niigata
Travel from Tokyo to Niigata by shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Niigata we will take a guided tour of the Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery. Niigata prefecture boasts more sake breweries than any other prefecture in Japan, and this historic brewery has been producing some of the highest quality sake in the region since 1767. After enjoying an informative 30-minute guided tour through this amazing brewery, you will have the opportunity to experience a tasting of more than a dozen varieties of delicious premium sake.
In the evening we will make our way to Niigata's famous Furumachi district to be entertained by real geisha! Unlike geisha in Tokyo and Kyoto, visitors can actually get up close to real geisha in Niigata. We will enjoy an unforgettable performance by beautiful geisha in a traditional Japanese room, and then get to take photos with them afterwards.
We will end the day by enjoying a delicious welcome dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Sep 2nd, 2023 Sado Island
Travel from Niigata to Sado Island by ferry.
After arriving on beautiful Sado Island we will spend the afternoon exploring the northern half of the island by private vehicle. Our first stop is Futatsugame Beach, perhaps the most beautiful beach on the entire island. This spectacular beach was selected as one of the Top 100 Sea-Bathing Spots in Japan, and was awarded two stars by the Michelin Green Guide.
Our next stop is the historic Sado Kinzan Gold Mine. This mine used to be the most productive mine in all of Japan, producing more than 400 kilograms of gold per year. Today the mine is open to the public, and visitors can enjoy two fascinating courses that lead deep into the mining tunnels.
We will finish the day by visiting the most famous Buddhist temple on Sado Island - Myozenji Temple. This serene temple was built in 1278 A.D. by the ruling Takeda Honma clan, and has the only five-story pagoda in Niigata prefecture.
DATE: Sep 3rd, 2023 Niigata
Spend the day exploring the southern half of Sado Island by private vehicle.
Our first stop of the day is the Sado Taiko Center, where members of Kodo (Sado Island's world-famous taiko drum group) will teach us how to use traditional drum sticks and play various types and sizes of taiko drums in a fun, hands-on learning experience.
Our next stop is the historic seaside township of Shukunegi. This tiny township has been a port since medieval times, and is characterized by its narrow streets and crowded rows of over 100 houses built with plate walls made from ship planks. It has been designated as a National Important Preservation Area for Traditional Buildings and Architecture.
The beautiful turquoise water of Shukunegi is the perfect place to enjoy our next unique activity, a leisurely ride in a tarai bune (washtub boat). These tiny oval shaped boats were first used in the mid 1800s by local fishermen to catch abalone and molluscs in the area's narrow, winding coves. These days a ride in a tairai bune has become one of the islands most popular activities.
In the evening we will travel from Sado Island back to Niigata by ferry.
DATE: Sep 4th, 2023 Kanazawa
Travel from Niigata to Kanazawa by limited express train and shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Kanazawa we will visit the bustling Omicho Market in central Kanazawa. This market has been Kanazawa's largest fresh food market since the 1600s, and is an excellent place to enjoy fresh local seafood.
In the afternoon we will visit the magnificent Kenrokuen Garden, which is justifiably classified as one of Japan's three most beautiful landscape gardens. The spacious garden used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and was constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries.
After enjoying a leisurely stroll through these beautiful gardens we will then explore the sprawling grounds of Kanazawa Castle itself. This castle was the seat of the powerful Maeda clan from 1583 to the end of the Edo period.
DATE: Sep 5th, 2023 Kanazawa
Enjoy an unforgettable day trip to the historic villages of Ainokura and Suganuma in the Gokayama region and Ogimachi in the Shirakawa-go region. These three small villages were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1995, and are famous for their traditional "gassho-zukuri" architecture. Some of the buildings in these historic villages are more than 250 years old, and their unique designs and beautiful natural surroundings have made them some of the most photographed buildings in all of Japan.
DATE: Sep 6th, 2023 Kanazawa
Enjoy a slow-paced day trip to the seaside city of Wajima on the beautiful Noto Peninsular by private vehicle.
Once arriving in Wajima we will head straight to the Wajima Morning Market. This bustling market is believed to date back over one thousand years, and is still perhaps the city's most famous attraction. This is a great opportunity to buy local goods, including lacquerware, fresh fruits and vegetables, locally caught seafood, and much more.
Nearby the morning market is our next stop, the Kiriko Museum. This beautiful museum displays huge illuminated festival floats known as "kiriko". These spectacular floats are used for summer and autumn festivals all along the Noto Peninsular each year.
After enjoying lunch in Wajima, we will then head further up the peninsular enjoying the spectacular ocean views as we go. We will make stops at the scenic Senmaida Rice Fields and the centuries-old Tokikuni Historic House. We will also make a stop at a traditional Japanese salt field where we will enjoy a hands-on salt making experience.
DATE: Sep 7th, 2023 Fukui
Travel from Kanazawa to Fukui by private vehicle.
Today we visit the top three destinations in Fukui prefecture, starting with the awesome Tojinbo Cliffs. This one kilometer long stretch of rocky coastline has been carved out by the power of the Sea of Japan over millions of years. These spectacular cliffs can be explored via trails which lead along the rocky embankment or by pleasure boat cruises.
Our next stop is Eiheiji Temple, one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples on this side of Japan. This large temple complex was founded in 1228 A.D. and consists of more than 70 buildings and structures. To this day it remains an active monastery where more than 100 Buddhist monks devote themselves to practice of "shikantaza" (single-minded sitting).
Our final destination is the historic Maruoka Castle. This amazing castle is one of only 12 original castles remaining in Japan, and is widely considered to be the oldest of the twelve.
DATE: Sep 8th, 2023 Amanohashidate (Kyoto)
Travel from Fukui to Amanohashidate by private vehicle stopping by Maizuru on the way.
On the way to our destination of Amanohashidate, we will make a stop in the port city of Maizuru to visit its historic Red Brick Museum. Maizuru is home to the only naval base on the Sea of Japan coast, making it the closest base to North Korea. The Red Brick Museum was originally built in 1903 as a torpedo warehouse for the navy. Its steel-frame brick construction is now extremely rare, and it has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
The highlight of the day however is undoubtedly Amanohashidate. This amazing pine covered sandbar is ranked among Japan's three most scenic views along with Miyajima Island near Hiroshima and Matsushima Bay near Sendai. When viewed from above Amanohashidate (roughly translated as heaven's bridge) looks like a pathway between heaven and earth. We will not only view this beautiful natural wonder from the Amanohashidate Observatory, but also have ample time to explore the sandbar itself and maybe even have a swim in the clear waters of Miyazu Bay.
DATE: Sep 9th, 2023 Tottori
Travel from Amanohashidate to Tottori by private vehicle.
Our first stop after we arrive in Tottori will be its most famous tourist attraction, the Tottori Sand Dunes. These spectacular sand dunes are the largest in Japan, spanning approximately 16 kilometers of coast along the beautiful Sea of Japan. You will have ample time to explore these amazing sand dunes in your own way, as well as perhaps try some other optional activities such as camel riding, paragliding, or sandboarding. A short distance from the sand dunes is our next destination, the Tottori Sand Museum. This unique museum displays large sand sculptures created by famous artists from all around the world.
Next we will enjoy a leisurely drive south along the scenic Tottori coastline to beautiful Hakuto Beach. This white sand beach is popular with both swimmers and surfers, and offers magnificent views back towards the Tottori Sand Dunes.
Having enjoyed some of Tottori's most beautiful nature spots, we will next visit some of the city's more historic sites, including the serene Kannon-in Temple, the Tottori Castle ruins, and the majestic Jinpukaku Mansion.
DATE: Sep 10th, 2023 Matsue
Travel from Tottori to Matsue by limited express train.
Once we arrive in the historic city of Matsue we will head straight to its most famous attraction, the beautiful Matsue Castle. This majestic castle was built in 1611 A.D. and is one of only twelve original castles remaining in Japan. It is sometimes referred to a the "black castle" because of its dark colored exterior. Our next stop, the Matsue Samurai District, is located just a short distance north of Matsue Castle's inner moat. This historic district features a number of former samurai residences, some of which are now open to the public. Take a trip back in time and see how the ruling samurai used to live with your own eyes!
To end the day we will enjoy a leisurely stroll along the shores of beautiful
Lake Shinji where we may be lucky enough to see one of the areas spectacular lakeside sunsets.
DATE: Sep 11th, 2023 Masuda
This morning we will visit Yushien Japanese Garden, one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens in all of Japan. This large landscape garden was created in 1975 as a private garden. Its 40,000 square meter grounds feature a number of traditional landscape garden elements, such as a central pond, waterfalls, streams, stone lanterns, a rock garden, and a variety of beautiful seasonal flowers.
After enjoying the beauty of Yushien Japanese Garden in the morning, we will then travel from Matsue to Masuda by limited express train. Masuda is a small seaside town located at the southern end of Shimane prefecture. Once we arrive in Masuda we will visit three of its best beaches - Inoura Beach, Mochiishi Beach, and Kamate Beach. At Inoura Beach we will walk out to beautiful Ebisu Shrine, which is precariously located on a rocky outcrop which is cut off from the mainland whenever there is a king tide.
DATE: Sep 12th, 2023 Fukuoka
Travel from Masuda to Fukuoka by limited express train and shinkansen.
Once we arrive in Fukuoka we will enjoy a leisurely stroll through Ohori Park, and then visit the beautiful Ohori Park Japanese Gardens and Gokoku Shrine.
At night we will go for a walk together through the famous Nakasu "Yatai" District. Yatai (open air food stands) are scattered throughout Fukuoka, and are perhaps the city's best known symbol. Most yatai seat about eight or so people and provide an atmospheric outdoor setting to enjoy various local foods and beverages.
DATE: Sep 13th, 2023 Nagasaki
Travel from Fukuoka to Nagasaki by limited express train.
Once we arrive in the multicultural city of Nagasaki, we will visit the emotional Nagasaki Peace Memorial Museum and Peace Memorial Park. Here you will see the aftermath of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 with your own eyes.
In the late afternoon we will make our way to the very top of Mt. Inasa (333 meters) by an aerial ropeway gondola to enjoy the sunset and stunning night views. The night views of Nagasaki from the top of Mt. Inasa are ranked among Japan's three best night views alongside those from the top of Mt. Hakodate in Hokkaido and Mt. Rokko in Kobe.
DATE: Sep 14th, 2023 Nagasaki
This morning we will enjoy a leisurely cruise out to the eerie sightseeing spot of Gunkanjima (otherwise known as Battleship Island). This small abandoned island is located about 15 kilometers off the coast of Nagasaki. Until 1974 the island served as a coal mine and was home to more than 5000 residents, but nowadays it is deserted with only deteriorating former residences and mining facilities remaining. Depending on weather conditions we may even be able to land on the island and enjoy 45 minutes or so to see this amazing place up close.
After returning to Nagasaki you will have free time to enjoy lunch at Dejima Wharf. After lunch we will spend the afternoon exploring some of Nagasaki's most famous attractions, including Holland Hill, the Dejima Historic Buildings, China Town, and Meganebashi Bridge. Nagasaki's colorful history makes it one of the most interesting cities in Japan and the perfect place to end our 16-day journey along the Sea of Japan coastline.
At night we will enjoy a lovely farewell dinner together at a local izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant/bar).
DATE: Sep 15th, 2023
Relax in Nagasaki before transferring to Nagasaki Airport (NGS) for your return flight. Depending on your flight time you may be able to enjoy some last minute local sightseeing or shopping in Nagasaki.