Landscapes thaw and nature tints the country a radiant shade of pink. Delicate pink blossoms between forests of skyscrapers. Cotton candy bows arch gracefully over picnickers like umbrellas, petals flutter gently to the ground. An ephemeral work of art, flourishing sakura (cherry) trees are an annual reminder of the beauty and fragility of life.
The tour takes all the pressure of organization off our shoulders - we just enjoy!!
G & D Gjergja, Trans-Siberian Express by Private Train
Please note: on this expedition cruise and the itinerary should be used as a guide only. This tour requires a moderate degree of physical fitness and may not be suitable for all our guests. Please consult a medical practitioner before booking. For more information on the ship, and to view a deck plan, please download a brochure.
Cosy in on your overnight flight with Qantas. The Land of the Rising Sun awaits.
Teahouses and timber temples are tucked beneath soaring skyscrapers. Age-old customs merge flawlessly with the futuristic pace. We touch down as Japan’s capital stirs to another day. The Conrad Hotel rests just beyond the polished boutiques of Ginza and the waters of Tokyo Bay. An early check-in has been arranged for our convenience.
Our discovery of Tokyo gets underway with a guided walk around the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace. Cotton candy bows arch gracefully over the palace’s moat. This is one of the city’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spots.
We discover the subtle intricacies of Japanese food during tonight’s Welcome Dinner.
There’s no snooze button in the fast-moving city of Tokyo. We rise bright and early to experience Hamarikyu Gardens in the soft morning light. Wander through 300 years of history as you explore stunning gardens that were once duck-hunting and falconry grounds for the Tokugawa shoguns.
From the garden’s pier, we board a boat and cruise along the Sumida River to Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhood. Sensoji Temple, the district’s centrepiece, stands sentinel, veiled in a haze of fragrant wood smoke.
We browse the stalls wedged along Nakamise Street and sit down to a Japanese-style lunch. Later, take a look back at Tokyo’s history at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.
Enjoy a degustation of Japanese delicacies with a French twist at La Rochelle restaurant tonight. This memorable meal is created by none other than Chef Sakai of Iron Chef fame. While away the evening amongst Tokyo’s elite as a succession of dainty dishes arrives one-by-one.
The bright lights of Tokyo fade as we drive towards the hush of Hakone National Park. This scenic area is known not only for its hot springs, but for its views of Mt Fuji. We enjoy lunch overlooking Lake Ashi. Across its blue shores, the famous peak stands perfectly symmetrical. Then, cruise to Togendai Station. Aboard the Hakone Ropeway, we glide above blossom carpeted hillside to the Owakudani volcanic valley.
Back in Tokyo tonight, choose to dine at your hotel or join your Captain’s Choice World Guide who will reveal one of their favourite local restaurants.
Geared up for our expedition along the southern region of the Japanese archipelago, Silver Discoverer awaits at the port of Niigata on the northwest coast of Honshu.
The first of many memorable meals will be served in the restaurant this evening as we edge away from the shore.
Skirring through the Sea of Japan we reach realms witnessed by very few foreign travellers. There’s not a skyscraper in sight as we land on Sado Island’s untamed shores.
Along the dim passageways of Sado Kinzan, once Japan’s largest gold mine, we tunnel back in time on a guided tour. Then, learn to make soba noodles with a local master. For keen twitchers, a rare Your World experience awaits today.
Affectionately known as ‘Little Kyoto’, Kanazawa is reminiscent of Japan’s former imperial capital. See octopus writhing and giant tuna on ice at Omicho Market before drifting beneath radiant cherry blossoms at Kenrokuen, one of the country’s most famous Japanese gardens. We spend the afternoon amongst the teahouses in the historic geisha district.
Screened by hundreds of weeping sakura (cherry) trees, Matsue’s elegant wooden castle has earned its place among the country’s top 100 places to view cherry blossoms.
A gentle boat ride around the castle’s moat and along the Hori River is a fine way to take in this magical sight.
Upturned roofs gather on the northern coast of Honshu. Today we disembark in the sleepy little town of Hagi.
The delicate beauty of cherry blossom season flourishes before our eyes at Shizuki Park. From meandering pathways we observe the endemic Yoshino cherry trees and walk to the ruins of 15th-century Hagi Castle, dusted in muted pinks.
Under the late afternoon sun, we take a walk through the samurai quarter where locals welcome us into their traditional wooden residences. At Tokoji Temple, relish the quietude among steely stone lanterns lined up in neat rows.
Sweeping into South Korean waters we are bound for the World Heritage-listed city of Gyeongju. We explore Bulguksa Temple and Daereungwon. Here, 20 ancient tombs are set within round grassy mounds. We also call upon the Gyeongju Yangdong Village to learn the intricacies of the South Korean tea ceremony and attempt a game of Tuho.
Like ancient beacons, the five torii gates of Watazumi Shrine guide us to Tsushima Island for a Your World experience.
We sail towards Kyushu, Japan’s westernmost main island. Once ashore, scoot through rural countryside and up to the summit of Mt Eboshi for views of Aso Bay and its clutch of islands below.
A dusting of pink and white dances into vision as we approach Kumamoto Castle. This is one of the country’s most popular cherry blossom viewing destinations. Close to 1,000 cherry trees fill the castle’s grounds adding a renewed grace after the devastating earthquakes of 2016.
Pretty green hinterland folds around Nagasaki, a city known not only for its devastating history, but also as the setting for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. A visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum is followed by a sombre stroll through the Peace Memorial Park, dedicated to the victims of the 1945 bombing. Up in the hills we find tranquility amongst Glover Garden, then engage with the city’s European heritage at man-made Dejima Island. Constructed in 1636 to segregate Portuguese Christian missionaries, it was later occupied by Dutch traders.
On our ship this evening, we are regaled by the grace and elegance of performing geisha.
Cobblestone streets lead the way to Kokura’s castle, and we capture the best views from its Japanese garden. For lunch we sample the washoku style of cooking, awarded UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage status. The silvery rock formations of the Hiraodai Limestone Plateau coax us out of town this afternoon. From a distance, the rolling hillside, dotted with white stones, looks much like a pasture of sheep. We enjoy a closer inspection underground at the Hiraodai Senbutsu Cave.
Curious drinkers will enjoy swirling sake with local craft brewers on board this evening.
We arrive in Hiroshima, a vibrant centre that has risen from the ashes of its past. Along the Ota River, we visit the Peace Memorial Museum, the Peace Memorial Park and Genbaku Dome, the only structure left standing in the zone where the first atomic bomb was dropped. Here, cherry trees bloom where it was once thought nothing would ever grow.
After lunch aboard our ship we sail a short distance to Miyajima Island. Itsukushima Shrine, with its floating vermilion torii gate in the sea, is one of the most famous snapshots of the island and indeed the country. Stroll along the water’s edge with the island’s resident deer.
With our ship in port in Okayama for the day we have the pleasure of visiting one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, Korakuen, built in 1687. Pathways meander between a series of shimmering ponds and teahouses. Fragrant plum groves merge with rice fields, tea plantations and a flourishing iris garden.
Along the narrow lanes and stone bridges of the Kurashiki district, we observe tiny restaurants, shopfronts, and original warehouses which have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes. There’s also time to visit the Ohara Museum of Art, the first Japanese museum to permanently exhibit Western art. Inside, view works by Monet, Renoir, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Segantini, Picasso, Matisse among many others.
We farewell our ship in Kobe as the bullet trains sweeps us into the graceful embrace of Kyoto. Far from the neon glimmer of Tokyo, life here flutters gloriously between the old and the new. We uncover Kyoto’s ancient elegance on an excursion to World Heritage-listed Nijo Castle complex. Gravel pathways lined with cherry trees guide the way to the 1603 palace, its golden eaves curled up like scrolls. We remove our shoes and tread the ancient wooden boards in the footsteps of shoguns, feudal lords and imperial messengers of old.
A Your World experience awaits after lunch.
We enjoy our first taste of Kyoto’s vibrant fare at tonight’s dinner.
To the imperial city of Nara to observe its World Heritage-listed temples and shrines. We enjoy a gentle walk through Nara Park towards the Todaiji Temple complex, tame deer in tow. Across a sprawling lawn stands the soaring Daibutsuden, Great Buddha Hall, home to the world’s largest bronze Buddha.
In Kyoto this evening, you may like to further your education of Japanese cuisine or enjoy a quiet dinner at the hotel.
Veiled in gold leaf, three-tiered Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, is a vision of Zen architecture reflected in the mirror-like pond surrounding it. We admire its splendour, before a stroll through the bamboo groves of the Arashiyama district to Tenryuji Temple.
Perhaps your free afternoon will lead you down the cherry tree-lined pathways of Philosopher’s Walk? Or into Gion where geisha can be seen dashing between wooden inns.
Tonight’s farewell dinner is set to dazzle. We can’t disclose all the details but it’s sure to be one to remember.
Spend your final morning as you please. Or, join us for a Your World experience.
We savour our last taste of authentic Japanese cuisine during lunch, then take the bullet train to Tokyo from where we will board our flight home.
We land on home soil and part ways with fond impressions of Japan etched in our memories. We hope to see you on your next Captain’s Choice adventure.
Imagine a trip where you won’t have to lift a finger, or worry about bringing your wallet.
Sightseeing in each destination is included. Select Options even allow you to tailor aspects of the touring to your individual tastes when there are multiple touring options.
This area has a24-hour self-service coffee, tea & juice bar, which makes it an ideal place to relax and reflect on the day’s activities and future expeditions to come.
Fares are based on an Explorer Suite aboard Silver Discoverer and are in Australian dollars. Per Person, Twin Share.
Supplements (add to base tour cost, per person, twin share)
View Suite $1,740
Vista Suite $8,770
Veranda Suite $13,070
Solo supplements are available on application – please contact our Tour Sales Consultants for details.
Please note: on this expedition cruise, the itinerary should be used as a guide only. This tour requires a moderate degree of physical fitness and may not be suitable for all our guests. Please consult a medical practitioner before booking.