In alliance with Smithsonian Journeys.
This cruise is part of a collection of PONANT voyages that are specially-tailored for English-speaking travelers who want to engage with the world. In addition to the usual elements of the PONANT experience, the listed price for these voyages includes transfers to and from the ship, talks and discussions aboard ship by world class experts, and a shore excursion or activity in each port of call that encourages guests to embrace the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the local environment and culture.
Set sail with PONANT aboard Le Soléal for an 8-day cruise to discover the many traditions and emblematic sites of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Your voyage begins in endearing Kobe, one of the first Japanese ports to open to international trade in the 19th century and home to its famous eponymous marbled beef.
Arrive in the port of Takamatsu, the largest city on the island of Shikoku. You will find the splendid Ritsurin Garden here, a masterpiece constructed during the early Edo period as an escape from the bustle of daily life. Takamatsu is also renowned for its most famous dish – udon noodles.
Continue to Hiroshima, whose UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hiroshima Peace Memorial bears witness to the horrific aftermath of the world’s first atomic bomb explosion on August 6, 1945.
You will then call at Miyajima, the gateway to the majestic Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, whose magnificent vermillion torii gate appears to float on water.
Le Soléal sails on to Hagi, whose contributions to Japan’s industrialization and modernization have been honored by UNESCO. At Hagi Castle Town, walk in the steps of the samurai as you stroll its beautifully-preserved streets.
You continue to South Korea to discover Busan. A place of great contrasts, Busan offers a spectacular view over its port, as well as over the ancient district of Jalgachi and its emblematic fish market.
Back in Japan, call in Moji, which enjoyed its heyday in the early 20th century as the center for Japanese trade with China. Nearby is Kozan-ji Temple, founded in the Kamakura period and the oldest Zen style temple in Japan.
End your voyage in the small Japanese city of Tamano, a former feudal domain with a unique cultural heritage. Here you will be able to admire its famous Korakuen Garden, one of the country’s must-see landscaped gardens.
You will disembark in Osaka, a modern city in the heart of the Japanese archipelago.
Choose your stateroom
Choose your stateroom
Complete your trip
Included in your cruise
For more peace of mind, PONANT organizes your trip before or after the cruise. This package is included in the price of your cruise.
You may also like...
*Price is per person, double occupancy, is based on availability, and subject to change at any time. The category of cabin to which this price applies may no longer be available.
PONANT has organised the following included programme for you, which starts the day of embarkation.
Choose your stateroom category
Important trip details
Passport valid for at least six (6) months beyond the completion of your trip. Passport must contain at least two completely clear, blank, unused visa pages for each visa required, not including any amendment pages. Visa pages with stains or ink from other pages in the passport are not usable. Guests who deviate from the scheduled embarkation or disembarkation port should research the foreign entry requirements for the port country. Due to government regulations, regrettably, Ponant will have to deny boarding to any guest who fails to obtain the appropriate travel documentation for this trip.
The information below is current but subject to change at any time without advance notice from government authorities. Please consult your respective government agencies for visa and health information.
The evolving COVID-19 health formalities are available in real time by clicking here.
Given the particularly changing international sanitary context, this itinerary as well as the land programmes and shore excursions may have to evolve according to port authorisations and governmental regulations in force at the time of your trip.
Therefore, for even greater peace of mind, we strongly recommend that you book your land programmes and flights before and after your cruise with PONANT.
Health formalities related to COVID-19 will be confirmed to you before your departure.
In this exceptional context, your safety remains our first priority. The effectiveness of our procedures, our cutting-edge medical equipment and the smaller scale of our ships means we can offer maximum safety so that you can relax and enjoy your cruise. The revised passenger circuit and our enhanced hygiene measures can be found on this page: https://en.ponant.com/sail-with-confidence.
Warning about the use of drones: the use of drones aboard PONANT ships, whether they are sailing at sea, at a port of call or anchored, is strictly forbidden. The use of drones on land in the Arctic and Antarctic regions is also strictly forbidden by international polar regulations. In other regions, it may be possible to use drones on land if permission has been obtained from the relevant authorities of each country and each region travelled through, as well as a pilot’s licence that should be obtained from your home country. Passengers are responsible for obtaining these permits; they should be able to present them at all times. Passengers who do not obtain these authorisations expose themselves to the risk of legal proceedings.
Ideal clothes for life on board:
During the days spent on board, you are advised to wear comfortable clothes or casual outfits. The entire ship is air-conditioned, so a light sweater, a light jacket or a shawl may be necessary. When moving about in the public areas of the ship and the decks, light but comfortable shoes are recommended.
In the evening, you are advised to wear smart-casual attire, especially when dining in our restaurants where wearing shorts and tee-shirts is not allowed.
Depending on the itinerary and the program of your cruise, an Officer’s Evening with a white dress code may be organized. Therefore, we encourage you to bring a stylish white outfit for the occasion (otherwise black and white).
During the cruise, two gala evenings will be organised on board. Thus, we recommend that you bring one or two formal outfits.
A small shop is available on board offering a wide range of outfits, jewellery, leather goods and many accessories.
A laundry service (washing/ironing) is available on board, but unfortunately there are no dry cleaning services. For safety reasons, your cabin is not equipped with an iron.
OUTFITS ON BOARD:
In your hand luggage, remember to bring any medicines that you need, and possibly a small spare bag of toiletries (in case of delay in the delivery of your baggage by the airline). Remember to always have your travel documents with you in case you need them: hotel vouchers, cruise vouchers, return flight tickets... Never leave them in your hold luggage.
All our cabins have a safe. We recommend not to go ashore with valuable jewellery.
Smithsonian Journeys is the travel program of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education and research complex, consisting of 19 museums, the National Zoological Park and nine research facilities. Drawing on Smithsonian's resources dating back 175 years, these sailings will feature notable experts and experiences that embrace local cultures and dive deeper into a destination’s history, cuisine, language, environment, and wildlife. For more than 50 years, Smithsonian Journeys has been rooted in and focused on cultural immersion and discovery – with a goal of inspiring guests to become global citizens through travel.
Jonathan M. Hall is Visiting Assistant Professor in Japanese Studies at the University of California Riverside where he teaches courses in Japanese literature, history, film, and aesthetics. His broad range of courses includes Classical Japanese Literature, Cultures of the Floating World, Japanese film history, and modern Japanese women’s literature. His published articles and book manuscript include writing on kabuki dance, Japanese postwar photography and performance, and twentieth-century Japanese film. Jonathan is also active as a film subtitler and occasional dramaturge for contemporary performance. Following graduate work pursued dually at the University of Tokyo and the University of California Santa Cruz, Jonathan has taught at the University of Chicago, the National University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo, the University of Leeds (UK), and several University of California campuses.
Language spoken: English
Professor of the History of Art at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies), University of London, Timon Screech has devoted his career to the study of Japanese art and culture and to the interplay between art and the broader social landscape. Educated at Oxford and Harvard, Tim is the author of some dozen books on the visual culture of the Edo period. Perhaps his best-known work is Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan, 1700-1820. More recently, he has introduced and edited the writings of two 18th-century travellers, as, Japan Extolled and Decried: Carl Peter Thunberg and the Shogun’s Realm, 1775-1796 and Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822.
His field-defining general study, Obtaining Images: Art, Production and Display in Edo Japan was published in 2012 and issued in paperback in 2017. Tim has just completed two new books, one on the early history of the East India Company and its role in cultural exchange, and also the Oxford History of Japanese Art.
Tim’s upcoming books include The Shogun's Silver Telescope: God, Art and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625 (Oxford University Press), and Tokyo before Tokyo: Power and Magic in the Shogun's City of Edo (UK: Reaktion Books; US: Chicago University Press).
Language spoken: English
Subject to withdrawal in case of force majeure
15 April 2022 Kobe
Embarkation 15/4/2022 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Departure 15/4/2022 at 6:00 pm
A coastal city on the main island of Honshū, Kobe is a vital Japanese port. You will be inspired by the authenticity, way of life and heritage of the capital of Hyōgo Prefecture, which is bordered by the sea. Its beef is internationally renowned, but there is much more to the city’s attractions than this delicate speciality. As soon as you arrive, you will be welcomed by the Kobe Port Tower, located, along with the Maritime Museum, in the much appreciated Meriken Park. The Mount Rokkō National Park is a real island of greenery in the very heart of the vibrant city. Long frequented by Shinto monks, then popular with the expatriates who flocked to Kobe during the second half of the 19th century, it is one of the symbols of the city.
16 April 2022 Takamatsu
Arrival 16/4/2022 early morning
Departure 16/4/2022 evening
A former fortified city, ruled over by the Matsudaira clan from the Tamamo castle with its seawater moats, the city is home to one of the most beautiful classic gardens in Japan, the Ritsurin. It was created by the barons of the city at the start of the Edo period, during which time gardening became a profession in its own right. Its landscape incorporates Mount Shiun in the background, an example of what is known as the shakkei technique, which uses the surrounding landscapes to increase the beauty of the gardens.
17 April 2022 Hiroshima
Arrival 17/4/2022 early morning
Departure 17/4/2022 midday
Visiting Hiroshima is a moving experience. The town spreads along Honshu Island, along the inside coasts of Seto. While firmly focused on the future, Hiroshima doesn't forget its past, and a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Genbaku Dome is a must. You'll enjoy the city's modern, cosmopolitan atmosphere and effervescent nightlife just as much as the peaceful stillness of its natural parkland areas such as splendid Shukkei-en, the town's historic garden.
17 April 2022 Miyajima Island
Arrival 17/4/2022 early afternoon
Departure 17/4/2022 evening
At the heart of the Inland Sea, Miyajima, the “island sanctuary” will reveal its treasures. In the background you will see the Shinto Grand Sanctuary, whose entrance is guarded by a magnificent vermillion “Torii“. Considered to be one of the most beautiful sites in the Japanese islands, you will be transported by the unique character and the serenity of this sacred site.
18 April 2022 Hagi
Arrival 18/4/2022 midday
Departure 18/4/2022 late afternoon
In the south of Honshu island, surrounded by mountains, Hagi is a city of water. For good reason; it was built on the delta of the Abu-gawa river. Its castle was built in the 12th-century and its outer walls remain in the lovely Shizuki Park. The old town was one of the cradles of the Meiji revolution. Youﾒll discover its rich past in streets lined with old houses and samurai manors, or within the walls of the many museums and Hagi-yaki ceramics workshops.
19 April 2022 Busan
Arrival 19/4/2022 early morning
Departure 19/4/2022 late afternoon
With around four million inhabitants, Busan is the second largest metropolis on South Korea, after Seoul. This dynamic harbour city, located in the south-east, surrounded by the warm waters of the Sea of Japan, benefits from a mild, pleasant climate. You’ll find delightful simply to stroll around the lively streets and explore the city’s outstanding cultural heritage of art galleries, museums, and Buddhist sites, such as the Haedong Yonggungsa temple, which elegantly sits on the waterfront. Rich too in magnificent beaches and superlative natural landscapes, Busan’s peaceful atmosphere will win you over, as will its inhabitants, whom you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.
20 April 2022 Moji, Kitakyushu
Arrival 20/4/2022 early morning
Departure 20/4/2022 early afternoon
21 April 2022 Tamano
Arrival 21/4/2022 early morning
Departure 21/4/2022 evening
Located on the island of Honshu, hugging the banks of the Sento Inland Sea, Tamano is a popular destination thanks to its sun-drenched climate. Upon arrival, marvel at the way in which the city has been built along the coast at the foot of a deep, dark forest. In the area surrounding Tamano, stroll down the streets of Kurashiki, known as the 'white-walled city' in a nod to the pretty façades of the houses that line the streets of this ancient Edo-period trading town. Another major regional attraction is the Seto Ohashi bridge. Its 12.5 kilometres make it the world's longest double-decker bridge.
22 April 2022 Osaka
Arrival 22/4/2022 early morning
Disembarkation 22/4/2022 at 6:00 am
Like its big sister Tokyo, Osaka is the product of ancestral traditions and amazing technological innovations. And despite its size, its location on the Pacific Ocean give it a sense of serenity. The main historic landmark is the 16th-century Osaka Castle, which stands proud in the midst of majestic skyscrapers. The lively streets of Dotomburi and the bizarre Shinsekai district attract thousands of locals and visitors. A multitude of restaurants offer menus full of regional specialities: takoyaki, made with octopus, and other succulent dishes such as kushikatsu kebabs.
A 15-minute drive from the pier brings you to Ritsurin Garden, built by local feudal lords during the early Edo Period (1603-1867) as a retreat from worldly business. Considered one of the best gardens in Japan, this spacious park features koi ponds, pedestrian bridges, hills, historic trees and beautiful pavilions divided into a Japanese style garden in the south and a western style garden in the north. The present-day garden is the result of work by generations of landscape artists intent on creating such beauty that visitors are mesmerized. During your visit you will have the opportunity to enjoy a taste of Japanese tea and sweets while enjoying the views.
Another short drive brings you to Shikokumura, an open-air museum at the base of Yashima Mountain. This "village" (mura) is actually a collection of traditional buildings brought here from all over the island of Shikoku to recreate a sense of what life was like in an earlier period. Scattered throughout the sprawling forest are 27 different structures, including a Country Kabuki theatre, a sugar-making house, a salt refinery, a paper making house, and many more.
Before returning to Takamatsu and your ship, you will be treated to a typical Japanese lunch a local restaurant.
This excursion provides a sampling of several different aspects of the cultural traditions of northern Shikoku Island, ranging from landscape design to noodle-making to bonsai.
A 15-minute drive from the pier brings you to Ritsurin Garden, built by local feudal lords during the early Edo Period (1603-1867) as a retreat from worldly business. Considered one of the best gardens in Japan, this spacious park features koi ponds, pedestrian bridges, hills, historic trees and beautiful pavilions divided into a Japanese style garden in the south and a western style garden in the north. The present-day garden is the result of work by generations of landscape artists intent on creating such beauty that visitors are mesmerized.
Another short drive brings you to Shikokumura, an open-air museum at the base of Yashima Mountain. This "village" (mura) is actually a collection of traditional buildings brought here from all over the island of Shikoku to recreate a sense of what life was like in an earlier period. Scattered through the sprawling forest are 27 different structures, including a Country Kabuki theatre, a sugar-making house, a salt refinery, a paper making house, and many more.
You will be treated to a typical Japanese lunch at a local restaurant before continuing to the Nakano Udon School, where you will be invited to make your own udon, a type of noodle for which the area is famous. Time at leisure will allow you to shop in the school's store, which features the elements of local cuisine.
Your final visit of the day will be Bonsai Kandaka Shojuen Garden. A collection of some of the very best bonsai in Japan, it was built to commemorate the owner's receiving the Order of the Sacred Treasure for his service to the art form.
Sake is Japan's national drink, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice and enjoyed hot or cold, depending on the weather and the type of food with which it is being consumed. The Saijo district of Hiroshima has long been a prime location for sake production, due to the quality of the spring water in its vicinity. The water used in the breweries originates in the mountains outside of Saijo, but its mineral content increases dramatically as it makes its way to the city. According to connoisseurs, the levels of calcium and magnesium in the well water in Saijo are perfect for sake.
A one-hour coach ride brings you to Sakagura-dori (Sake Brewery Street) for a guided walking tour through the main brewery district. The area is recognizable by the number of red brick chimneys poking into the sky. Saijo's brewing industry began at the turn of the 20th century, so many of the buildings in the area have an old-world charm. There are nine breweries in close proximity here, making this street the ideal site for the October Festival that draws about 200,000 each year. You will visit two of the breweries to learn about the production process and to taste a variety of brews.
On the way back the pier, your coach will make a brief stop at Hiroshima Castle for an external visit of this example of a castle built in the center of a city rather than on a hilltop. Its main keep is five stories tall, and its grounds are surrounded by a moat. The castle tower was designated a National Treasure in 1931, but was destroyed by the 1945 bombing. The castle's renovation was completed in 1989.
The heart of this excursion is a solemn visit to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome, perhaps the most sobering monuments anywhere in the world. In the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb blast on August 6, 1945, scientists doubted whether Hiroshima could ever recover. But it did, and today is a vital city with a population of one million and growing.
A 30-minue drive from the pier brings you to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. A variety of exhibits tell the history of Hiroshima and of the invention of the nuclear bomb. But the main focus is on the events of August 6: the dropping of the bomb and the resulting human catastrophe. The details on display can be unnerving, but they serve to remind you of the consequences of war.
Leaving the museum, you will walk through the Peace Memorial Park on the way to the Atomic Bomb Dome. The park's central feature is the tree-lined Pond of Peace, leading to a cenotaph that records the names of all known victims of the bomb. Just to the north is the Children’s Peace Monument, inspired by Sadako Sasaki, who was two years old at the time of the blast. When Sadako developed leukemia at age 11, she determined to fold 1,000 orizuru (paper cranes). In Japan, the crane is a symbol of longevity, and Sadako believed if she folded 1,000, she would recover. She died before reaching her goal, but her story inspired a nationwide practice of folding paper-cranes in remembrance.
The Hiroshima Orizuru Tower, located next to the Atomic Bomb Museum, stands nearly 500 feet tall and offers a panoramic view of the surroundings. At Orizuru Square on the 12th floor of the tower, you can try your hand at making your own orizuru, which you may then either keep as a souvenir or drop into the Orizuru Wall, a glass panel that will eventually be filled with these folded cranes.
As its name suggests, Miyajima ("shrine island”) is nearly synonymous with the Itsukushima Shrine that dominates a small inlet on the island's north coast. The shrine was established in 593, the first year of the reign of Empress Suiko, and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A leisurely 15-minute walk from the pier, the present shrine dates from the 13th century, and its emblematic torii gate, which at high tide appears to float on the water, was rebuilt in 1875. The massive torii rises 48 feet above the sea on a foundation of columns made of camphor 30 feet in circumference, which are in turn supported by smaller pillars buried in the seabed. The shrine complex consists of multiple buildings, all of which are connected by boardwalks and supported by pillars. The artistic vision and technical skill of the artisans who built these structures provide an exquisite example of the Japanese habit of turning art to worship.
You will have time at leisure after your visit to the shrine to browse the numerous shops located in the narrow streets surrounding the temple complex. When the sun sets, the shrine will be illuminated, providing an entirely new perspective on this holy place.
Hagi, once the seat of the powerful Mori Clan from Japan's feudal period, is now best known for its well-preserved castle town and for its Hagiyaki pottery. This excursion discovers both.
Your first stop will be at the Tokoji Temple, one of the family temples of the Mori clan and the burial site of half of their lords. Tokoji Temple belongs to the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism, which was introduced from China during the 17th century, and exhibits more Chinese influences (most obvious in the vivid red outer gate) than are typical in Japanese temples. You will want to visit the impressive burial site of the Mori lords, where each tomb is marked by its own large stone torii gate and looks out over hundreds of stone lanterns.
A short drive from the temple brings you to a kiln where Hagiyaki pottery is made. Hagiyaki flourished during the Edo Period and was highly prized as tea ware for the tea ceremony, in part because the color of the pottery changes over time with use, as tea residuals enter the miniscule openings on its surface. This characteristic is highly appreciated by tea enthusiasts.
Your final visit on this tour is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hagi Castle Town. Although only ruins remain of the castle itself, the basic plan of the Edo-period town has survived. Most of the streets are laid out exactly as they were four hundred years ago and retain the pure white walls and soft gray roof tiles of that period. Your walking tour of this beautifully preserved area includes an exploration of the Kikuya Residence, built by a samurai family turned merchants. The residence is built like a warehouse and displays articles of everyday use — ceramics, utensils, clothing — from earlier times.
This tour visits all three of Hagi's UNESCO World Heritage sites, each of which harkens to a different period in Japan's history. The first site you visit is from the very end of the Edo period (1603-1867), and is the remains of an experimental Reverberatory Furnace built in an effort to smelt the iron necessary for cannons to reinforce coastal defenses. Records show that it operated briefly during 1856, but Japan's full Industrial Revolution would not happen until the Meiji returned.
Shoukasonjuku Academy was a private school headed by Yoshida Shoin, a scholar of military science in the mid-19th century. It is a small one-story wooden house with a tiled roof, divided into a lecture room of 8 mats and a waiting room of 10.5 mats. Shoin began lecturing to students in the 1850s, but soon ran afoul of the Shogunate for his advocacy of the Emperor's return. He did not live to see the Meiji Restoration, but a number of his students played important roles in Japan's industrialization, including Ito Hirobumi, the country's first Prime Minister.
Your final visit on this World Heritage tour is Hagi Castle Town. Although only ruins remain of the castle itself, the basic plan of the Edo-period town has survived. Most of the streets are laid out exactly as they were four hundred years ago and retain the pure white walls and soft gray roof tiles of that period. Your walking tour of this beautifully preserved area includes an exploration of the Kikuya Residence, built by a samurai family turned merchants. The residence is built like a warehouse and displays articles of everyday use — ceramics, utensils, clothing — from earlier times.
During your 45-minute drive to the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, you will cross the Gwangan Grand Bridge. At 4.6-miles, it is Korea's longest suspension bridge and offers panoramic views of city and sea: a spectacular beginning to a deeply rewarding day of discovery, sampling the richly varied cultural tapestry of South Korea's second-largest city.
Unlike most Korean Buddhist temples, which are typically found in the mountains, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is built on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea — a dramatic setting that contributes to its popularity with both worshippers and secular visitors. The temple complex is centered on the Daeungjeon Main Sanctuary, which is reached via a stairway of 108 steps. It was restored in 1970 with great care taken to replicate the original colors, which had appeared to the initial architect in a dream. Next door is a magnificent three-story pagoda guarded by four stone lions symbolizing joy, anger, sadness, and happiness.
Back in Busan, you will have time to explore the Busan Museum of Arts and its annex, Space Lee Ufan. The Museum comprises five floors of exhibition halls, archives, and function rooms. Exhibitions change frequently and are drawn from a rich array of arts and genres. Space Lee Ufan is a sculpture garden and building, designed entirely by the artist, and devoted to the works of this much-heralded global master of minimalism, who was born in Hamun-gun, about 20 miles from this site.
After a buffet lunch at a restaurant with both Korean and international menus, your tour comes to an end at the Jagalchi Fish Market, located next to the Fisherman’s Wharf. Emblematic of Busan and famous throughout the country, the enormous Jagalchi Market offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of the people of Busan.
This excursion will introduce you to the ancient kingdom of Silla, centered on Gyeongiu, which flourished between the 7th and 10th centuries. During these three hundred years of Silla dominance of the peninsula, Buddhism was introduced to Korea, along with printing, a refinement in porcelain production, and a written language still in use today.
Your 90-minute drive to this UNESCO World Heritage site, often referred to as "the world's largest museum without walls," brings you first to the Bulguksa Temple, located on the slopes of Mt. Tohamsan. The temple is a monument to Silla architectural skill and home to many cultural artifacts protected as national treasures, including the Dabotap and Seokgatap Stone Pagodas, the Yeonhwa-gyo and Chilbo-gyo Bridges, and the Golden Seated Vairocana Buddha. A gallery attached to the temple displays art produced by the monks.
After a typical Korean lunch at a local restaurant, your tour continues with a visit to Tumuli Park, a royal burial ground containing the tombs of 23 Silla kings. You will be able to visit inside the Cheonmachong (“Flying Horse Tomb”) to see how these huge mounds were constructed.
Your final stop of the day is the Gyeongju National Museum, a treasure trove of Silla relics, ranging from magnificent golden crowns to prehistoric stone implements. One of the museum's prized possessions is the massive bronze Bell of King Seongdeok. Cast in the 8th century, it weighs in at 25 tons and stands 12 feet tall.
A 30-minute drive from Moji Port brings you to the town of Chofu, a samurai stronghold of the 17th century and the center of the uprising against Tokugawa rule that led to the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The town is a virtual museum of samurai history and culture.
Your walk into the old town takes you past a number of longhouses with lattice windows and earthen walls, where high-ranking samurai warriors lived during the Edo period (1603-1867). At the Chofu Mori residence, you will discover an elegant main building surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden inside white walls. The Emperor was a guest here in the early 20th-century, and part of the room has been preserved as it was then.
A short distance on you will encounter the Kozan-ji Temple, founded in the Kamakura period and the oldest Zen style temple in Japan. It is the family temple of the Chofu Mori family, and it has been at the center of a number of historical events — including serving as the rallying point for Takasugi Shinsaku as he raised the army that turned the tide in the battle to restore the Meiji.
Your final stop before returning to the ship is at the Akama Jingu Shrine, dedicated to the child emperor Antoku who committed suicide by drowning after the defeat of the Heike at the final battle of the Genpei War (1180- 1185). In May of every year a festival is held in memory of Antoku, in which women come to the shrine in beautiful kimonos to mourn his memory — a scene straight out of a traditional Japanese picture scroll.
Mojiko (Moji Port) enjoyed its heyday during the early 20th century, when it was the center of commerce and finance for the China trade. When Japan lost World War II, the city went into decline, but it remains a showcase of the urban architectural style of the Meiji and Taisho Periods.
Your excursion begins with a 30-minute drive to Kokura Castle, a beautifully restored structure, originally built in 1602, at the very beginning of the Edo period. It was destroyed by fire in 1837, rebuilt, and damaged again in 1868 in fighting between Imperial forces and the Tokugawa shoguns. The castle keep was rebuilt in 1959 and the castle buildings completely restored in 1991. After your exploration of the castle, visit the authentic Shoin-zukuri style Tea House on the castle grounds and enjoy a stroll in the Chisen Kaiyu style garden (a garden with a path around a central pond and spring).
On your return to Mojiko, you will visit the Mojiko Retro area — a collection of shops and trendy restaurants in repurposed buildings in the area of the old port. From the Mojiko Retro Observation Room, located on the 31st floor of a high-rise condominium designed by Japan's leading architect Kisho Kurokawa, you will enjoy marvelous views overlooking the Kanmon Straits and the city below. There will be time at leisure to appreciate the historical architecture of the Mojiko Retro district and enjoy a bit of shopping before you return to the ship.
Located in the mountains of western Okayama, Fukiya Village was, during the Edo period (1603-1867), the center of production of a precious ore called Bengara. The discovery of this iron oxide in 1707, the primary pigment in the red ochre paint that colors the walls, blinds, and roof tiles of the houses of Fukiya, transformed a once sleepy copper-mining village into a prosperous town.
Your first stop on the way to Fukiya will be a guided tour of the outside of Hirokane-tei. This 56-room residence was built in 1810, on an impressive 28,000 square feet of property. Due to its beautiful Edo period architecture, the house is frequently used as a movie set. See the main residence, workers’ homes, the stables, and the gardens.
On arrival in Fukiya you will visit the Bengara Museum, a former factory for the production of the red iron oxide pigment that was the source of Fukiya's wealth. The museum tells the story of Bengara's discovery in the local copper mines, explains how it is produced, and details its many uses in paints, textile dyes, and cosmetics.
The Former Katayama Residence, established in 1759, continues the story of the economic and cultural importance of Bengara. Its main room, treasure room, rice warehouse, and workplace are all registered as Important Cultural Property of the country.
After a typical Japanese lunch in a local restaurant, enjoy some time at leisure to stroll through Furusato village, known for the uniform red color of its buildings, a color rarely produced even in Japan, which has earned recognition as an Important Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings.
To begin this excursion into Japan's Edo period (1603-1867), you embark your coach for the one-hour drive to the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Area. From the 17th to the 19th century, Kurashiki was a vital part of the distribution network for goods throughout Japan. Many of the buildings you see were originally storehouses or rice granaries built in the late 18th century and now converted to other uses. Their tiled roofs, white-washed walls, and lattice windows are emblematic of the city.
From among the many museums in Kurashiki, you will visit the Museum of Folk Craft. M. Kichinosuke Tonomura, the first President of the museum, gathered together more than 10,000 items encompassing a wide range of practical goods — ceramics, textiles, lacquers, baskets, wood works, metal works, pictures and so on. The collection provides an intriguing glimpse into everyday life during the Edo period.
A short walk brings you to the Ohashi Family House, a 200-year-old merchant's house appointed as an Important Cultural Property in 1978. The Ohashi family built their wealth during the Edo period on a combination of salt farming and financial services. The main wing of the house is simple and solid; but the fire-resistant architecture and the lovely gate terrace testify to the family's prosperity.
After a Japanese lunch at a local restaurant, you continue to Korakuen Garden, rated as one of the three best landscape gardens in Japan. With an area of 133,000 square miles, the garden was built in 1700 by the local feudal lord in the Enshu landscape style of a stroll garden. It features a flat lawn, attractive ponds, a tiny tea plantation and rice paddy, and a small waterfall. As the seasons change, pine trees, maples, cherry, and plum trees reach their peak of beauty in succession.
Aboard your ship, English-speaking lecturer will enlighten you about the culture and history of your destination to deepen your knowledge of the origins of local traditions, the history of emblematic sites, the stories involving famous personalities and those of major historical significance. During on-board lectures or your shore visits, this expert will be there to share his precious knowledge with you throughout your PONANT cruise.