Southern Japan Experience

Japan
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One of Japan’s greatest attractions is its ability to offer modern and traditional versions of itself. On this 12-day trip, you’ll veer off the main island of Honshu and travel to the less-touristy southwest. Discover revived art on the island of Naoshima, wander the castle in Matsuyama and spend a night in a tranquil homestay in the village of Usuki. Steam away your worries in the onsens in Beppu and be treated to two nights in the volcanic Mt Aso, staying right in the middle of a caldera in a traditional Japanese inn surrounded by rice terraces. Remind yourself of the sobering history of Nagasaki and end it all back where it began – in thriving Osaka. This adventure is the ultimate combination of modern art, bullet trains, countryside villages, traditional inns, delicious feasts and onsens, surrounded by impressive views of rice terraces, volcano craters and deep gorges. If you’re looking for a new side of Japan – this is it!

Availability

From 22/03/2024 to 08/12/2026

Departure dates & prices

Dates Availability Price
  • Mar Fri 22 2024 to Apr Tue 02 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,857*
  • Mar Fri 29 2024 to Apr Tue 09 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,636*
  • Apr Tue 02 2024 to Apr Sat 13 2024
    Available
    From
    $6,716*
  • Apr Fri 05 2024 to Apr Tue 16 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,136*
  • Apr Fri 12 2024 to Apr Tue 23 2024
    Available
    From
    $9,815*
  • May Fri 10 2024 to May Tue 21 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,485*
  • May Fri 17 2024 to May Tue 28 2024
    Limited Availability
    From
    $8,760*
  • May Tue 28 2024 to Jun Sat 08 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,910*
  • Jun Fri 14 2024 to Jun Tue 25 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,840*
  • Jun Fri 28 2024 to Jul Tue 09 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,695*
  • Jul Fri 12 2024 to Jul Tue 23 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,060*
  • Jul Fri 26 2024 to Aug Tue 06 2024
    Available
    From
    $6,964*
  • Aug Tue 20 2024 to Aug Sat 31 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,330*
  • Aug Tue 27 2024 to Sep Sat 07 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,330*
  • Sep Fri 06 2024 to Sep Tue 17 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,085*
  • Sep Fri 13 2024 to Sep Tue 24 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,565*
  • Sep Fri 20 2024 to Oct Tue 01 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,395*
  • Sep Fri 27 2024 to Oct Tue 08 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,395*
  • Oct Fri 11 2024 to Oct Tue 22 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,900*
  • Oct Fri 18 2024 to Oct Tue 29 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,900*
  • Oct Tue 22 2024 to Nov Sat 02 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,085*
  • Oct Tue 29 2024 to Nov Sat 09 2024
    Available
    From
    $8,085*
  • Nov Fri 01 2024 to Nov Tue 12 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,935*
  • Nov Fri 15 2024 to Nov Tue 26 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,935*
  • Nov Tue 26 2024 to Dec Sat 07 2024
    Available
    From
    $7,935*

What's included

Explore the unique island of Naoshima – transformed from a sleepy fishing community into a world-class art destination, with sleek and stylish museums and artworks that harmonise with the landscape.
Stay in a countryside homestay, taking you off the beaten track to experience excellent Japanese hospitality.
Feast on home-cooked meals over fascinating conversations with your welcoming hosts and learn about rural life in Japan.
Watch the steam coming out of the ‘hells’ (hot spring pools in Jigoku) of Beppu and enjoy a soak in a Michelin star onsen, followed by a unique experience for dinner – you’ll steam your food in the hot spring water, creating authentic flavours rich with healthy minerals!.
Take in the stunning view of the five peaks of Mount Aso from the Daikanbo Observatory, then a light hike on the moon-like terrain to the largest crater of Nakadake before hopping in a rowboat to paddle through the deep gorge of Takachiho.
Expect the unexpected in Nagasaki, tragically famous for being one of the only two cities that were bombed during the war.
Discover the unique charm of this port-side Dutch influenced city and all the history it has collected over the years.
By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Eden Reforestation Projects.
Donations help them provide local employment opportunities and tackle climate change one tree at a time as they restore forests across 10 different countries.
Breakfasts Included: 3.
Dinners Included: 4.
Hotel (8 nights),Homestay (1 night),Japanese Inn (2 nights).
Train,Ferry,Public Bus,Private bus,Metro,Bullet Train.
Age: min 15.
Group Size: 1 - 12.
Takamatsu - Ritsurin Garden & Sanuki Folkcraft Museum.
Takamatsu - Naoshima day trip (ferry, public bus & bicycle).
Matsuyama - Matsuyama Castle.
Usuki - Local Sake brewery visit and tasting.
Usuki - Japanese home-cooking experience.
Beppu - 'Hells' of Beppu (Jigoku).
Beppu - local onsen.
Beppu - Steamed dinner (Beppu style).
Mount Aso - Ogi Rice terraces.
Mount Aso - Daikanbo Observatory.
Mount Aso - Nakadake Crater.
Mount Aso - Sunasenri trail hike.
Takachiho - Takachiho gorge rowing boat ride.
Takachiho - Takachiho Shrine.
Arita - Tonbai Wall Alleys walking tour.
Arita - Tozan Shrine.
Nagasaki - Peace Park & Atomic Bomb Museum.
.

Itinerary

  • 1 - Osaka Konnichiwa! Welcome to Osaka, Japan. Ever-vibrant Osaka is also the country's unofficial culinary capital, whose motto is 'Kuidaore' (eat until you drop). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your trip leader and fellow travellers. You can arrive at any time during the day, as no activities are planned until then. After the meeting, perhaps join your new travel companions for an optional dinner at a local restaurant.
  • 2 - Takamatsu Depart Osaka this morning and begin the journey west. Take the train across the bridge spanning the stunning Inland Sea and onto Takamatsu. This may be the largest city on the island of Shikoku (the smallest of Japan's four main islands), but it's a beautifully unpretentious town full of history, top-notch food and interesting local art. Here, you'll visit Ritsurin Garden - one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. Dating back to the Edo period, it comprises several ponds and arched bridges designed around strolling paths, tea pavilions and historic trees, with a western garden in addition to the Japanese one. The garden also houses the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum, which displays a variety of ceramics and basketwork dating from the time of the Tokugawa shoguns.
  • 3 - Naoshima Island Take the ferry this morning for a daytrip to the island of Naoshima, in the Inland Sea between Takamatsu and the mainland - famous worldwide for its modern art galleries, museums, avant-garde architecture and lovely natural setting. Explore the island by public bus or bicycle to take you between the galleries and installations. Wander between artworks, hear the sound of waves lapping at quiet coves and stumble upon the wonderful outdoor sculptures. Return to Takayama after a full day on the island, where you'll have a free night.
  • 4 - Matsuyama This morning, take the train and head west to Matsuyama - one of Japan's least discovered prefectures coined 'the citrus state' by the locals. When you arrive and have maybe picked up a mikan (mandarin) or two, visit the hill-top Matsuyama Castle with your group. This is one of Japan's most impressive surviving castles, sitting right in the middle of the city. Unlike most castles in Japan, this one has an exciting collection of artefacts inside, so take the chance to check them out and learn a little more about Matsuyama's feudal history while you're there. This afternoon, you'll have some free time to relax and unwind at the Dogo Onsen - one of the oldest bath houses in Japan - or if you'd prefer more exploration, maybe visit Ishiteji Temple - the 51st of the 88 temples that make up Shikoku's 88 Sacred Temples circuit (Japan's most famous pilgrimage route).
  • 5 - Usuki Homestay Get ready for a bit of a travel day today. Jump on a train and then ferry for Usuki, on Kyushu Island - the third largest of Japan's four main islands. When you arrive around midday and get on a public bus to the village. You'll visit the local sake brewery, where you'll get to see how sake (the national drink of Japan, beloved by the locals) is made, followed by a tasting of the brewery's finest. Your hospitable hosts will be waiting for you as well and will welcome you into their house once you arrive. Your evening here will be filled with fun, collaborative dinner preparation, followed by a feast of delicious home-cooked dishes. Share stories with your hosts, get to know about their life here and learn a few things about Japanese cooking that you can bring home with you.
  • 6 - Beppu Say goodbye to your hosts after a traditional home-cooked breakfast together. Then, head to Beppu, famous for its variety of hot springs and onsens in Kyushu. When you arrive, you'll visit Jigoku (translated to 'hell' & you'll see why locals call it that) - a collection of differently coloured steaming hot spring pools that showcase different benefits. After, head to a local Michelin star onsen for an authentic onsen experience including a relaxing soak. After the soak, a special steamed dinner awaits! This specialty restaurant offers a unique dining experience where you can select the food you'd like, put the dishes in a steamer and watch as they're cooked by the steam of the hot springs! This means your food will be infused with all the healthy minerals of the baths. Some may find this a little bland as very limited seasoning is used however this is the perfect chance to enjoy the true original flavors of the food.
  • 7 - Mount Aso Today is all about chasing stunning views! Hop in your private transfer this morning and head to Mt Aso, stopping at Ogi Rice Terrace along the way. Soak up the scenic landscape of Ogi, which locate between Mt. Aso and Kuju Mountains Range. When you've snapped some photos, head on to the Daikanbo Observatory for some pretty excellent views of the five central peaks of Mt Aso. This viewpoint is also known as the Nehan-zo, or Nirvana Buddha, referencing the image of Buddha in repose. Fuel up your energy with a lunch stop and then get ready for a hike on the moon-like Sunesenri trail to Nakadake Crater - the largest among the five craters of the mountain. After your hike, continue your journey to your accommodation for the next two nights - you'll be staying in a traditional Japanese inn, right in the caldera formed from ancient volcano eruptions. Surrounded by rice fields, you're in for a peaceful couple of days and nights here.
  • 8 - Mount Aso This morning after breakfast, you'll head out and visit the stunning Takachiho Gorge - a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River. This gorgeous spot has sheer cliffs of volcanic basalt columns, which the locals say represent the scales of a dragon. Here, you'll hop in rowing boats and head out on a serene paddle through the gorge, passing Minainotaki Waterfall against the backdrop of the green foliage (this area is especially colourful in autumn!). After, take a walk above the gorge for a different perspective, followed by a visit to Takachiho Shrine. Return to your guesthouse in the mid-afternoon.
  • 9 - Arita This morning, say goodbye to your scenic guesthouse and hop back on the train to the porcelain town of Arita - porcelain in Japan was first produced here and this small town is known nationwide for its pottery, known as Arita-yaki. Embark on a walking tour to see the old part of town and the Tonbai Wall Alleys. Then, continue to Tozen Shrine, dedicated to the god of pottery - you'll see the locals' dedication to the art form here, as they even have a porcelain Torii gate and a porcelain guardian dog! Continue to Nagasaki via train, arriving in the late afternoon. You have a free evening, so maybe ask your leader where to grab the best local fare.
  • 10 - Nagasaki Wake up in Nagasaki this morning - the coastal city set on a natural harbour, with the surrounding hills providing gorgeous viewpoints over the scenic hub. Visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum for a sobering reminder of what happened on that dreadful day - the 9th of August 1945. If you wish to reflect and explore further, there are some other interesting museums nearby worth visiting. Take the time to explore Nagasaki in your free afternoon. Consider heading over to Dejima - this fascinating artificial island was once a Dutch trading post in the 17th to the 19th centuries (and the sole foreign presence in the whole country at one point). The 26 Martyrs Memorial, Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Dutch Slopes also give you a glimpse into the life of the early Christians and European traders in Japan. This evening, maybe slurp up some champon noodles (ramen, Nagasaki-style)!
  • 11 - Osaka Say goodbye to Kyushu and jump on the shinkansen back to Osaka. When you arrive this afternoon, soak up some free time to relax or explore. Tonight, why not head out for dinner and drinks with your leader and fellow travellers, to celebrate an amazing trip in southern Japan?
  • 12 - Osaka With no further activities planned, your trip comes to an end this morning. That doesn't mean your time in Japan has to end! There is plenty to do and explore in Osaka, so if you'd like to extend your stay, just speak to your booking agent ahead of time.
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