Japan's National Parks, Art & Culture

16 Days from
$12,250 USD
Ship Trip
Highlights

Highlights

  • Circumnavigation of Japan's main island Honshu and exploration of its wilderness, arts, culture and rich history
  • Explore Japan's most sacred shrine complex Ise Jingū with 125 different shrines including grand shrine Kotai Jingū
  • Meet Japan's iconic amulet-wearing ama divers
  • Discover Japan Geopark Izu Oshima Island's unique natural and human history
  • Visit Japans famed island-dotted seascapes of Matsushima and Argo Bays
  • Impressive lakes, hot springs and volcanic wonderland of Shikotsu-Toya National Park
  • Visit two of Japan's best contemporary art museums - Hachinhoe Art Museum and the Towada Art Center
  • Explore stunning Lake Towada, a 2,000-year-old flooded double caldera, in Towada Hachimantai National Park
  • Discover the Kakunodate Samurai District, a living museum that showcases the samurai way of life
  • Admire art island Naoshima's architecture and galleries including Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House
  • Experience the flora of famed Japanese gardens Mifuneyama Rakuen and Ritsurin Park
  • Look for Asiatic black bears and the rarely seen gigantic lotus Euryale Ferox at Bandai-Asahi National Park and Fukushimagata Wetlands
  • Celebrate Japan's internationally-renowned magna culture at Ishinomaki
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park & Miyajima famous Torii gate and Shinto Shrine
  • South Korea's Gyeongju ‘Museum Without Walls' and Haeinsa Temple
  • Explore Kobe's Buddhist temple Sanjusangen-do renowned for its 1,001 statues of the goddess of mercy Kannon, and the ultimate torii gate experience Fushimi Inari Shrine
  • Kanazawa's thriving centre of the arts, Samurai history, Geisha house and castle ruins
  • Explore the wilderness, beaches and history of Dogojima Island
Map

Map

Map for Japan's National Parks, Art & Culture

Tour Overview

Join us on an unforgettable circumnavigation of Japan’s main island Honshu and exploration of its wilderness, arts, culture and rich history. A Circumnavigation of Honshu, Osaka – Kobe to Kobe, including South Korea.
This voyage has been specially designed to explore and experience Japan’s seamless blend of ancient customs with ultramodern living, incredible wilderness, wildlife and renowned arts as we cruise from iconic cities to remote coastlines and islands.

Highlights include Kanazawa’s thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquerware, outstanding collectable pottery of the Kutani style, goldleaf workmanship, delicate hand painting of silk for kimonos and classical Noh theatre dramas performed since the 14th Century, and Naoshima Island – Japan’s Art Island. Visit two of Japan’s best contemporary art museums – the recently-opened Hachinhoe Art Museum and the Towada Art Center, celebrate Japan’s internationally-renowned magna culture at Ishinomaki, explore the living museum Ise- Shima National Park and Japan’s most sacred shrine complex Ise Jingū.

Our voyage will see us visiting the iconic Japanese island-dotted seascapes of Matsushima and Argo Bays and discovering the unique plants, wildlife and wilderness hiking trails on UNESCO registered Global Geopark Dogojima Island and Izu Oshima Island, Bandai-Asahi National Park and the impressive lakes, hot springs and volcanic wonderland of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

Also on the itinerary is the iconic the five-storey Pagoda of Miyajima, sobering Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with its eternal Flame of Peace, a day in South Korea’s Ulsan visiting the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site Gyeongju – the ‘museum without walls’ and Karatsu’s medieval heritage.

Join us for this rare opportunity to sail around Japan exploring its unspoiled nature, world renowned arts scene, culture and history.

Departures & Cabins

DEPARTURES & CABINS

Itinerary

Day 1: Osaka

Arrive at Honshu’s largest port city Osaka where modern architecture and a vibrant dining scene are nestled alongside the 16th Century shogunate Osaka Castle, and make your way to your hotel where our group will spend the first night of the expedition. This evening meet your fellow voyagers and expedition guides over dinner at the hotel.

Japanese Garden

Day 2: Kobe

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before exploring Kobe, opportunities include visiting Pure Water Temple Kiyomizudera, one of Japan’s most revered temples and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, built over the Otowa Waterfall and dating back to 780.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before exploring Buddhist temple Sanjusangen-do or Rengeo-in, renowned for its 1,001 statues of the goddess of mercy Kannon, and the ultimate torii gate experience Fushimi Inari Shrine, dedicated to the gods of rice and sake. This afternoon board Heritage Adventurer where your Captain and Expedition Team will welcome you aboard.

Kobe, Japan skyline at the port and tower.

Day 3: Ise-Shima National Park

Expect a day like no other as we explore Ise-Shima National Park. Often likened to a living museum the peninsula of Ise-Shima, or just ‘Shima’ as it is known to the locals, there is much to discover here including endless forests and abundant nature, rich maritime history, incredible coastal scenery and Japan’s most sacred shrine complex Ise Jingū.

Comprising some 125 different shrines hidden among a labyrinth of mossy walls and dating back to the third century Ise Jingū is considered the spiritual home of Shinto cosmology. Explore grand shrine, Kotai Jingū, made entirely of Japanese cypress where no metal nails or screws have been used in its construction and, in accordance with Shinto practice, is rebuilt every 20 years in order to preserve its purity. Currently in its 62nd iteration, it was last rebuilt in 2013.

Shima has been an official source of seafood for Japan’s imperial family since the 5th Century and the iconic amulet-wearing ama divers, female seabed foragers have been responsibly harvesting these waters since Japan’s Jomon era. At Ago Bay gaze out over the fascinating seascape created by more than 60 islands dotting the water and observe Shima’s sacred Meoto Iwa, Wedded Rocks, connected by a shimenawa rope near the Futami-Okitama Shrine.

Ise-Shima National Park

Day 4: Izu Oshima Island

Izu Oshima is the largest of the Izu Islands, a chain of islands lying to the south of the Japanese mainland, which preserves its own unique natural and human history.

Mount Mihara towers over the landscape at the island’s centre, to the east a dramatic cliff drops into the ocean, while gently sloping plains extend towards the west. Almost entirely covered by forests, Oshima Island was certified as a Japan Geopark in September 2010 in recognition of its unique status.

This morning we will explore and discover the unique plants and birds that call the island home as well as meeting the local inhabitants to discover their way of life.

Miharayama seen from the mountain trail of Izu Oshima

Day 5: Ishinomaki

After a morning at sea with presentations from our on board experts we arrive in the port city of Ishinomaki. The city is renowned for the Shiogama Seafood Wholesale Market and its colourful urban core showcasing its ‘manga’ culture – the art of Japanese comic books and illustrated novels – thanks to famed pioneer Shotaro Ishinomori and creator of the popular Kamen Rider series.

Throughout the city you can observe artworks and statues celebrating the importance of the artist and the art on Japanese culture. South of the city is Matsushima Bay, studded with more than 200 pine-covered islands and considered one of Japan’s three most iconic views, take the opportunity to explore this beautiful landscape from the shores or discover from the water.

Scenery of Matsushima in spring

Day 6: Hachinohe & Lake Towada

With a Pacific shoreline of outstanding natural beauty, a clutch of fantastic cultural sights, thronging markets and delectable seafood, there is a lot to see and experience during a visit to Hachinohe and the Aomori Region.

Today there will be the opportunity to explore the region’s fascinating connection with contemporary art through visits to two of Japan’s best contemporary art museums – the recently opened Hachinhoe Art Museum and the Towada Art Center. Reflecting a new approach to contemporary art, Hachinhoe Art Museum, also known as an ‘art farm’ offers a dynamic new interpretation of how and where art is created, housed in an innovative design intended to bring the community together to utilise the space. At Towada Art Centre, one of Japan’s foremost contemporary art institutions, the striking Ryue Nishizawa designed building features contemporary artists such as Leandro Erlich, Yayoi Kusama and Ron Mueck.

Alternatively join a visit to the stunning Lake Towada, a 2,000-year-old flooded double caldera some 400 metres above sea level, and its surrounding forest in Towada Hachimantai National Park. Lake Towada is the largest caldera lake on Honshu, and is characterised by two large peninsula’s which extend nearly a third of the way across the lake. On a clear day Mt Towada is reflected in the still waters of the lake creating a picture post card scene. While a short walk brings you to Oirase Stream with its beautiful and dynamic cluster of 30 waterfalls.

Aomori fresh green Oirase mountain stream

Day 7: Muroran

Adventures abound at Shikotsu-Toya National Park, named after its famous twin caldera lakes. Another picturesque natural hot spot, the park’s spectacular scenery including its impressive lakes, hot springs and volcanic wonderland, are all easily accessible and offer multiple hiking and walking options.

Activities here could include riding the cable car to the top of Mount Usu to take in the grand scale views over Lake Toya or visiting the geothermal spectacle of steaming vents and sulphurous streams at Jigokudani aka ‘Hell Valley’ and the Upopoy National Museum of the Ainu which stands on the shores of Lake Poroto where you have the opportunity to see and experience the Ainu culture including cuisine, music and crafts.

This afternoon enjoy free time to explore Muroran at your leisure, visit the scenic cape and lighthouse or take in the city from above after a walk up Mount Sokuryo.

Cable Car on Mount Usu in Toya Caldera and Usu Volcano UNESCO Global Geopark

Day 8: Akita

A key city in the Tohoku region since medieval times, Akita was once a castle town of the Satake clan, but today is a vibrant, prosperous city that seamlessly honours its past while still embracing its young energetic spirit. Noted for its burgeoning art community, there are several fine museums to explore including the Hirano Masakichi Art Museum housing a collection of work by Western and Japanese artists as well as the Akita City Folklore Museum.

Venture inland to discover the Kakunodate Samurai District, a living museum that showcases the samurai way of life in a picturesque setting that remains largely unchanged since it was established in 1620. Beyond Kakunodate in the mountainous spine of Honshu is Mount Akita-Komagatake where there are excellent hiking opportunities in sub-alpine and alpine habitats at the southern-most extension of Towada-Hachimantai National Park.

Day 9: Niigata

Today sees us visiting the bustling port town of Niigata, famous for snow, rice, sake, hot springs and the six-arched, granite-sided stone Bandai Bridge, designated as an Important Cultural Property in 2004, and one of the most scenic spots in the city.

Highlights here include Bandai-Asahi National Park, Japan’s second largest national park, combining stunning volcanic scenery and hot springs with lush forests, verdant highlands crisscrossed with walking trails and home to Asiatic black bears, squirrels, foxes, and migratory birds.

Elsewhere Takada Castle Site Park, with its 3-storey castle from the Edo Period, offers panoramic views of the Takada Plain, while the 193 hectares of Fukushimagata Wetlands is home to endangered flora and fauna, including the rarely seen gigantic lotus Euryale Ferox, and listed on Japan’s 100 greatest natural environments.

Day 10: Kanazawa

Options today include exploring the historic mountain settlement and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, high in the remote mountains of the Shogawa River Valley in Hakusan National Park. Take in the sights on mountain walks and experience the unique cultural traditions including the region’s iconic Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old, designed to withstand the heavy snow in winter an provide a large attic space for cultivating silkworms.

Alternatively explore the rich art centre of Kanazawa discovering some of the unique styles of Japanese art. Kanazawa is rightly famous for its Kutani-style pottery, exquisite lacquerware, gold-leaf workmanship, hand painted silk, and classical Noh dance-drama performed since the 14th Century. Wander winding cobblestone streets, elegant restaurants, craft galleries and visit the impressive Edo-period Kenrokuen Garden, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and explore the Omicho Market boasting everything from flowers, to crafts and food.

Shirakawa-go in the Spring Dusk, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Japan

Day 11: Dogojima

Picturesque and otherworldly, Dogojima Island is the largest of the Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan and part of the Daisen-Oki National Park and a UNESCO registered Global Geopark.

Accordingly it is home to outstanding coastal scenery to explore and experience. With its clear water beaches, bays, inlets and coves, impressive towering cliffs and rock formations eroded by the elements to the dense forests and steep mountains, including Mount Daimanji which rises more than 600-metres, and ancient sacred sites of its interior, today we discover a rarely visited corner of Japan.

Day 12: Ulsan, South Korea

Today we cross the Sea of Japan to Ulsan in South Korea where we plan to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gyeongju. The capital of the Shilla Dynasty and dating back to the first millennium, Gyeongju is known as ’the museum without walls’ and is full of ancient Korean history and Buddhist culture.

Enjoy strolling through hundreds of excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, and experience Korean delicacies, cultural performances, and visit the National Museum with its gold jewellery, metal weapons, and distinctive pottery. Today provides a perfect taste of the best South Korea has to offer.

Bulguksa Temple UNESCO World Heritage Korean old architecture in Gyeongju, Korea

Day 13: Karatsu, Japan

Once a major stop for ships and trading post between Korea and China, Karatsu is well known for its medieval heritage including the Karatsu Castle. Built on a plain, construction began in 1602 and the castle is also known as the ‘flying crane castle’ as its shape resembles a bird in flight.

We will tour the castle including the Exhibition Hall, which houses the floats and artefacts used in the annual Karatsu Kunchi autumn festival. If you have an interest in plants and/or pottery, an alternative option for today is a visit to the city of Imari celebrated for its porcelain pottery kilns and the flower-laden Mifuneyama Rakuen garden.

Karatsu Castle, Japan

Day 14: Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Despite its history including being the site of the world’s first atomic bomb attack on the 6 August 1945, Hiroshima is a vibrant and thriving cosmopolitan community. We plan to visit the beautiful Peace Park and Museum, with its sombre cenotaph containing names of atomic bomb victims, and the permanently lit ‘Flame of Peace’.

After visiting the Peace Park we will travel to Miyajima Island, considered one of Japan’s most scenic spots and the location of the Torii Gate and the Daisho-in Buddhist temple. For those after a nature fix, ascend Mount Misen on Miyajima Island by cable car and enjoy a hike, admiring the views below of the Shinto Shrine and Torri Gate.

Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dome is the Nuclear Memorial at Hiroshima , Japan

Day 15: Takamatsu

Shikoku Island’s Takamatsu has had a long history as a port town earning itself the nickname ‘Gateway to Shikoku’, although more recently locals have been calling it ‘Udon Kingdom’. If you have an interest in plants a visit to Ritsurin Park, considered one of Japan’s finest gardens, is sure to be a highlight.

Next you will enjoy a visit to Kinashi, one of Japan’s main bonsai production centres, where you will learn about traditional methods of growing bonsai. For those interested in history and art you may wish to travel to Naoshima Island for a full-day excursion. Shikoku Island is known for its art and this excursion to Naoshima will have you admiring its architecture and art museums, including Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House, featuring work by Japanese and international artists.

Takamatsu is a Japanese city on the island of Shikoku famous for Bonsai cultivation

Day 16: Kobe

This morning sail back into Kobe, after breakfast there will be a complimentary coach to a central hotel or to the Osaka airport. To allow time for disembarkation procedures and travel from Osaka, we do not recommend booking flights departing before 1300 hours.

What's Included

Tour Price Includes

  • Landing fees
  • Pre and post cruise transfers
  • One-night hotel accommodation equivalent to your on board accommodation (incl. dinner/breakfast)
  • All on board ship accommodation with meals
  • House beer, wine and soft drinks with lunch and dinner
  • All shore excursions and activities.
  • Programme of lectures by noted naturalists

Tour Price Does Not Include

  • All items of a personal nature (e.g., Laundry)
  • Drinks
  • Gratuities
  • International/domestic flights
  • Visas and travel insurance

What to Expect

The focus and emphasis of every expedition is getting you ashore as often as possible for as long as possible with maximum safety and comfort. Our Expeditions are accompanied by some of the most experienced naturalists and guides, who have devoted a lifetime to field research in the areas that we visit.

Every day we offer a combination of interesting shore excursions and fun shipboard activities. Our excursions onshore will involve a relatively low level of exertion, but you will need a reasonable level of mobility to get up and down the gangway and climb into and out of Zodiacs (with assistance).

For this tour we have a combined focus and most days will have a wilderness/wildlife option as well as an alternative arts and culture option, so you can pick your shore activities based on your interests.

When the ship is underway, it is a wonderful time to join a naturalist on deck, take photos of the stunning scenery, or get caught up on some reading in the library. In addition, our resource staff will give informative talks at various times throughout the voyage.

Meals in the ship’s dining room are a great opportunity to meet new friends and recount the day’s adventures. Special diets can be accommodated with advance notice. Safety is also a top priority with Eagle-Eye Tours – our team has extensive experience in the field, and all of our Voyages are run in conjunction with operators with the highest safety standards.

We know that everyone travels for different reasons. Over the years, however, we have found one common element among the guest who choose to travel with us – a thirst of knowledge and authentic experience. Knowing this drives us to ensure the highest quality learning experience on our trips, by taking time to carefully design each trip we offer.

Ship & Deck Plan

Heritage Adventurer

Heritage Adventurer

Heritage Adventurer is a true pioneering expedition vessel of exceptional pedigree. Often referred to as the ‘Grande Dame of Polar Exploration’ due to her celebrated history and refined design, she was purpose-built for adventure in 1991 at Finland’s Rauma shipyard and specifically designed for Polar exploration.

Setting a peerless standard in authentic expedition travel, Heritage Adventurer (formerly known as MS Hanseatic) combines the highest passenger ship iceclass rating (1A Super) with an impressive history of Polar exploration. Having held records for the most northern and southern Arctic and Antarctic navigations, and for traversing both the Northwest and Northeast Passages, makes Heritage Adventurer perfect for pioneering New Zealand-based signature experiential expedition travel.

Originally designed to accommodate 184 guests, Heritage Adventurer now welcomes just 140 expeditioners ensuring spacious, stylish and comfortable voyages, while a fleet of 14 Zodiacs ensures all guests are able to maximise their expedition adventure. Heritage Adventurer proudly continues our traditions of exceptional, personalised expedition experiences.

Learn More