We are especially captivated by the Japanese talent for integrating the country’s proud ancient culture with its equally proud embrace of the modern. With a coastline longer than the United States and 6,852 islands, with only 426 inhabited, you can appreciate the logistical complexities that are overcome through travelling by a ship such as Orion II. Your luxury hotel goes with you. Unique islands and cities become accessible overnight. The sea is Japan’s life blood. The cultures, art and cuisine are the links you will come to appreciate on this remarkable itinerary.
Inland Sea of Japan - Discovery of an Ancient Culture itinerary:
Day 1 - Aomori, Japan
Aomori is a paradise for lovers of onsen, Japan’s hot springs, and superb culinary treasures. Throughout the Prefecture, hidden in mountain valleys or nestled among the shops and offices of a city street, there are hot springs. The waters are rich in minerals. Mutsu Bay is the ideal habitat for scallops made plump from fresh plankton. The scallops of Mutsu Bay have a higher amino acid content than those of other regions and are prized for their sweetness and the Hakkoda Cattle from elevated ranches, are a rare, region-specific breed of “Japanese shorthorn.” This means your arrival or departing stopover here is an exceptionally culinary one. There are multiple daily flights to and from Tokyo and other major Japanese airports.
Day 2 - Cruise Sea of Japan
Cruise Sea of Japan
Day 3 - Mano, Sado Island & Cruise Sea of Japan
Sado is a great summer getaway with rugged coastlines, mountainous interior green hills and quaint fishing ports. The island is famous for Japanese traditional Taiko drumming and serves as a base for arguably Japan's best Taiko drum troupe "Kodo". Sado is also home to a unique form of traditional fishing boat, the Taraibune. These round barrel boats were traditionally used to collect Abalone and other molluscs from narrow coves formed by earthquakes. Their small size and unique shape were perfect for getting in and out of these narrow rock crevices.
Included in today's expeditions is a visit to Kodo's Taiko Centre for an interactive traditional drumming experience. Learn about the Taiko tradition, hear members of Kodo play the drums, experience for yourself the power of Taiko. After the drumming experience we will also have the chance to experience a short traditional boat ride in the waters off Sado in Taraibune "barrel" boats. The experience continues at a nearby small traditional village which has some fine examples of traditional Japanese architecture in it's narrow and twisting laneways.
The other half of today's visit to Sado will consist of some more interactive experiences with the chance to learn to make Soba noodles (and even then consume your noodles if you're game enough) and a visit to the local Sake brewery where you can try various grades of sake and numerous other local products. (Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different times throughout the day)
Day 4 - Kanazawa, Honshu Island
Kanazawa, “marsh of gold”: the name derived from the legend of a peasant who washed gold dust from potatoes into a well. The city is famous for silk-making and tea with flakes of gold leaf which is considered by the Japanese people to be good for health and vitality. Gold leaf plays a prominent part in the city’s cultural crafts and today even soft serve ice cream is served with flecks of gold leaf throughout. The sensational Kenrokuen Garden was originally built as the outer garden of Ishikawa Castle, and considered one of the “three most beautiful gardens in Japan.” Kanazawa has a 100 year old former geisha house, retaining the look and feel of 19th century Japan. Kanazawa is one of the few places where the geisha culture is still alive in Japan.
Explore the traditional Geisha area and take part in a geisha experience in Kanazawa today. Also included is the opportunity to visit the extensive Kenrokuen Gardens and take part in a traditional tea ceremony.
Kenrokuen is an old private garden developed between the 1620s to 1840s by the Maeda clan who ruled the former Kaga Domain. Local volunteer guides will show us through Kanazawa's traditional Samurai residences today as well. (Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different times throughout the day)
Day 5 - Sakai Ko
Sakai Ko is the port in Miho Bay, serving the city of Sakaiminato and further into Shimane prefecture. Sakaiminato, once known as the land of gods, is now a mixture of new city, lush mountainous parks, quaint harbours and shrines. A great example of Japanese pop-culture, Sakaiminato has over 100 bronze statues dedicated to cartoon characters from a long running Japanese animated cartoon series Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, the author of which is one of the city's "favourite" sons. Further west is Matsue City’s Matsue Castle, the city’s best known symbol, built as a working fortress-watchtower in the 17th century. Lafcadio Hearn in his writings described the beauty of his home and Lake Shinji. Lafcadio Hearn was oddly of Greek, Irish parentage, and best known for his books about Japan, his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories.
The Adachi Museum of Art holds a stunning array of Japanese art covering many eras and is also to home to one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, regularly voted as the best in Japan. Travelling further west we will take a boat ride on the moat surrounding the imposing Matsue Castle. We will also visit the house of the writer Lafcadio Hearn. Back closer to the port we can get a feel for Japan's love of it's animated characters with a walk along the main street of Sakaiminato with hundreds of bronze statues depicting the "monsters" of the Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro animated cartoon series. Finish with a visit to Sakai's Sake brewery for some sampling of their fine product. (Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different times throughout the day)
Day 6 - Busan, South Korea
Busan, South Korea, is located on the South easternmost tip of the Korean Peninsula, and faces the Korea Strait. In the 15th century, the Korean government designated Busan to be a trading port with the Japanese. Busan is now the fifth busiest seaport in the world. Some of the restaurants in this district are locally famous, with family recipes passed down the generations. Jagalchi Market is an area of narrow street stalls and is well known for its fish market. Nearby crowded Haeundae beach has to be seen to be believed as thousands of beach goers flock here every day in summer.
A shuttle bus from the port to the central shopping area and fish markets will be available all day in Busan as well as an included expedition visiting several local attractions. The inclusive tour will visit Tongdosa Temple, a colourful Korean Buddhist temple where we can participate in a Korean tea ceremony with the Monks. We will briefly stop at Haeundae beach to witness the spectacle of colour and sound as thousands of Koreans pack themselves onto the beach strip. We then progress to the UN Memorial Cemetery to pay our respects to those who served and lost their lives during the Korean War. As no visit to Busan is complete without a visit to the Jalgachi Fish Market, arguably the best of its kind in the world, where every kind of edible sea creature is on sale, the inclusive tour will also visit here. (Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different time throughout the day)
Day 7 - Nagasaki (Kyushu Island), Japan
Nagasaki City, makes up almost half of the total land area of the prefecture with the same name. The prefecture also consists of 971 islands. It has the dubious honour of being the site of the second atomic bomb explosion, after Hiroshima. The Nagasaki Peace Park has been established beside "ground zero" to remind the world of the horrors of atomic weapons and to encourage future peace. Nagasaki has had a long history of European contact with missionaries arriving as early as 1542. St Francis Xavier is believed to visited the area in 1549. As such it is essentially the centre of Japanese Christianity, the Ouru Church of 26 Japanese martyrs (built by the French in 1864) commemorates the killing of 26 missionaries in 1596 by the Shogun of the time. Portuguese and later Dutch and British traders have also had a long history in Nagasaki.
Today we will use the local street cars to transport us to the Nagasaki Peace Park and Ground Zero and also to Dejima, a designated Japanese history site. During Japan's self imposed period of isolation, Dejima was created as a man made island to "contain" Portuguese traders in 1634. From 1641 to 1851 it became a Dutch trading base up until the point it was integrated into the rest of the city as the isolationist period came to an end. Today we also visit Glover Garden, the one time home of Thomas Glover, a Scottish business man who helped to establish ship building and other industries in Nagasaki, and to the Ouru Catholic Church of the 26 Martyrs. A complimentary shuttle into the city area will also be available today.(Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different time throughout the day)
UNZEN PARK & SHIMABARA EXPLORER (Full day with lunch)
Drive inland from Nagasaki through the mountains to Unzen National Park, stopping along the way at a roadside "station" famous for Castella Portuguese sponge cakes, introduced by the first European contact. The Unzen National Park has numerous walking trails through the hot spring areas. Further on you will reach Shimabara and it's castle dating back to the 1600's. The Samural residences of Shimabara, which will also be visited have waterways filled with colourful Koi Carp. This tour includes a Japanese lunch at a local hotel. English speaking guides will accompany the tour. (This tour will preclude you from undertaking the inclusive experiences today)
Price: To be confirmed
Day 8 - Kanmon Channel, Cruise Inland Sea & Uwajima, Shikoku Island
Uwajima, Shikoku Island, is a window into Japan’s rural past. So much of life in Uwajima traditionally revolved around the spirit of the Bull Demon, Ushioni. A giant representation of Ushioni will greet us at the pier on arrival. Normally only held a few times a year, Uwajima holds a special event which basically translates as Sumo of the Bulls. Far from the barbaric Spanish bull rings, the Uwajima affair steeped in history and tradition treats the bulls with great respect in keeping with the respect shown to Ushioni, the great bull demon. Two bulls pit their intuition against each other, locking horns until one of the bulls is brought to its knees. This signals the end of the Sumo of the Bulls. The coast line around Uwajima is dotted with pearl farms and the hill sides full of terraced gardens. Uwajima town area has a local gourmet shopping precinct highlighting local produce and also has the Uwajima Pearl Centre, showcasing several of the local pearl producing families and their work.
After our dockside welcome we will proceed to the city for a unique experience with the Sumo of the Bulls. Other experiences available today include a visit to the Flying Squirrel Temple, where the local priest will invite us into his small temple with its beautiful gardens and eclectic collections of all kinds of things including hundreds of cameras. The priest and his late father are known all over the world for their unusual inventions including a torch that switches itself on in the event of an earthquake (note the actual Flying Squirrels are nocturnal, so are unlikely to be seen although a video and photographs of the squirrels "in action" will be displayed). We will also have an opportunity to visit Doi Pearls, the Doi family being one of the top pearl producers in Japan, where as well as the pearl farm itself we can browse their extensive showroom of the finished product. The Date Museum and the nearby gardens exemplify classical Japan. The Date family ruled the Uwajima area in previous centuries and the Museum features many important objects tied to the history of the region. The Uwajima Castle perched high above the city is reached by a reasonably strenuous walk, large birds of prey usually circle the castle through the day. A shuttle bus to the main shopping area, the gourmet centre and the pearl pavilion will be available throughout the day. (Guests will be split into different groups to participate in the included activities at different time throughout the day)
UWAJIMA SNORKEL & SEA KAYAK
A half day tour which includes about an hour of sea kayaking followed by an hour of snorkelling over a great little reef system in the inland sea is available as an option today. All essential equipment is provided. (Wet suits are not available but the water is warm in summer) English speaking guides will accompany the tour. (This tour will preclude you from several of the inclusive experiences today)
Price: To be confirmed
Day 9 - Miuajima Island & Hiroshima, Honshu Island
Hiroshima is an intensely resilient city. Having suffered in recent history from atomic bomb destruction and severe typhoons, Hiroshima is now the centre for international peace representations and a major automotive industry. During the 1870’s Hiroshima had one of only seven English speaking schools in Japan. Hiroshima also recently made it onto Lonely Planet’s list of the top cities in the world, with commuting times ranking amongst the shortest in Japan, and the cost of living lower than the other large cities.
Our visit to Hiroshima revolves around the Peace Park, Peace Museum and the A-Bomb Dome. The Peace Park, and the A-Bomb dome (being one of the only buildings to survive the horrific blast), stand in peaceful contrast to the images displayed inside the museum. No visit to Japan is truly complete without visiting the Peace Museum, which is quite an emotional experience for most. The Atomic detonation at Hiroshima forever changed the psyche of the Japanese people and the history of the entire world. One of the few remaining survivors of the actual bombing will talk to us about their personal experiences that day and their life since the bombing in Hiroshima (the lecture will be translated into English).
TRADITIONAL FLOWER ARRANGING
An optional half day experience in Hiroshima is to take part in a traditional flower arranging session with local experts. Learn about the Japanese techniques of flower arranging and participate in a class using those techniques. English speaking guides wil accompany this tour. (This activity will preclude you from participating in the inclusive program in Hiroshima)
Price: To be confirmed
Day 10 - Uno Ko, Honshu Island & Cruise Inland Sea
Uno Ko (Uno Port) is a small coastal port that gives us access to areas such as Okayama and Kurashiki. Korakuen, a 17th century formal garden encompassing 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees, and a classic teahouse is one of the most significant formal gardens of Japan, with Okayama castle towering high above it. Kurashiki is a historic city of 400,000 people, located further to the west of Okayama sitting on the Takahashi River, on the coast of the Inland Sea. Before the days of modern port facilities, rice and other goods were offloaded onto small boats from ships anchored offshore, which would travel into the centre of Kurishiki via the river and then further offload their goods into store houses lining the river banks. In recent times these abandoned storehouses have been converted to museums, galleries, cafes and boutiques. With the scenic river & cobblestone streets adding to the atmosphere, Kurashiki has a unique charm to it. Leaving Uno mid-afternoon gives us a chance to enjoy some daylight cruising in the Seto Inland Sea.
From the port we will travel by coach to both Okayama and Kurashiki today. In Okayama we will spend time exploring the world famous Korakuen gardens, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and participate in a tea ceremony in the gardens. In 1687, the daimyo Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered the construction of Korakuen, finally completed in 1700, it has retained its original appearance to the present day. In Kurashiki we will visit a traditional family house dating back to the 17th century and also visit the Ōhara Museum of Art. Established in 1930 by Magosaburō Ōhara, the museum houses works by El Greco, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, and Renoir. The collection also presents fine examples of Asian and contemporary art. We will have free time in Kurashiki to explore the cobblestone streets and the boutique shops lining the river. Today's inclusive tour also includes a formal Japanese lunch in Kurushiki.
NAOSHIMA - ARTISTS PARADISE
The small island of Naoshima in the inland sea has been, in recent years, converted from essentially an industrial wasteland to a private millionaires playground, showcasing both Japanese and global art forms. Numerous museums and galleries can be found on the island. The Chichu Art Museum (literally, "in the earth") houses a number of site-specific installations by James Turrell, Walter De Maria and paintings by Claude Monet. Designed by Tadao Ando, it is located on one of the highest points of the island, and various exhibits and facets of the museum's architecture take advantage of its commanding view. Another contemporary museum (and hotel) is Benesse House, also designed by Ando. Virtually every space on the island seems to house some form of artistic expression. Sculpture is everywhere and even the local fishing village has become part of the experience with local homes becoming unique art works in their own right. A full day experience on Naoshima, including an incredible lunch experience at Benesse House, is available as an option today. Vehicle ferries will carry you and your coach transport from Uno Ko to Naoshima across the inland sea. (this full day experience will preclude you from participating in the inclusive experiences)
Price: To be confirmed
Day 11 - Kobe
In 1180, Kobe was briefly the ancient capital of Japan and an important hub for trade with China and other countries. In the 13th century the city was known as Hy go Port. The history of the city is closely tied to that of the Ikuta Shrine, and the name “Kobe” derives from “kanbe”, a name for those who supported the shrine.
There are regular flights from Tokyo airport to Kobe airport.
Orion II is a private yacht-like expedition cruise ship built by Cantieri Navale Ferrari of Italy. After a number of years as a private yacht, Orion II was relaunched in 2009 following an extensive technical refit. Little expense was spared with this stylish, Italian built, all-suite Mega Yacht. Orion II now offers the finest standards in small-ship cruise travel. She also has an ice-strengthened hull for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic and is fitted with stabilisers.
The expedition equipment includes Zodiacs and fast tender to deliver the Orion expedition experience. Combining luxury and service will require staffing by 68 offices and crew to serve Orion II’s capacity of 100 guests. Excellence of design, craftsmanship and quality materials combined with Orion II’s spaciousness and intimate ambience make her ideal for distinctive cultural and expedition voyages.
Length: 88 metres
Beam: 15.3 metres
Draft: 4.5 metres
Hull: Ice- strengthened hull for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic
Gross Tonnage: 4,077
Engines: MAN B&W Diesel 2 x 2520 KW
Speed: 14 knots. Cruise speed 13.5 knots
Stabilisers: Retractable fin stabilisers
Manoeuvrability: Bow thrusters
Built: January 1991. Refitted 2009
Builder: Cantieri Navale Ferrari (Italy)
Guest Capacity: 100 (twin occupancy).
Regulations: Orion II is built according to the latest international safety regulations, including those of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Public Health, Canadian Arctic Shipping, and St. Lawrence Seaway.
Additional Craft: 6 Zodiac Heavy Duty MK5, 1x36 passenger tender
Communications: Direct-dial satellite telephones; fax; e-mail; Internet access; internal telephone system.