Japan is a fascinating balance of unique heritage and culture contrasting with the sprawling metropolises of the world’s most advanced technological civilisation. Made up of 6,852 islands, the perfect way to explore the Land of the Rising Sun is by sea.
During our voyage aboard the all-suite MS Caledonian Sky, we will visit the historic and serene castle town of Matsue and the ancient feudal town of Hagi, experience the tranquility of sacred Miyajima and discover one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Koraku-en. Although we will also visit the awe-inspiring contemporary landscape of Tokyo, what makes our itinerary truly unique is our visits to parts of Japan where relatively few tourists set foot such as our excursion inland to the picturesque five-storied Pagoda of Rurikoji Temple which dates back to 1442.
In addition to visiting the major sites on Japan’s main island of Honshu, our course also takes us to the islands of Sado and Hokkaido as well as spending a day in Gyeongju in South Korea, the ‘Museum Without Walls’ where we visit the Haeinsa Temple, considered one of the three great temples in Korea.
• Travelling with You - Reverend Dr Judith Thomas. Judith has lived and worked in many countries including the USA, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Japan. Her early work as a Management Training specialist for overseas assignments developed her interest in globally mobile families and the cultural changes they confront. Her earliest experience of Japan dates from the 70’s up to the present day, including two extended periods of living and working there. Her expertise is Japanese Culture; gardens are a cultural expression in their own right. Traditional Cultures adapting to the modern world are of particular interest to her.
Fly by scheduled indirect flight to Osaka.
Arrive this morning and transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky moored in Kobe. Enjoy welcome dinner and drinks as we sail this evening.
From the port of Uno-Ko we will visit one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Koraku-en, which translates as “Garden of pleasure after”. This 17th century formal garden has 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees. After a Japanese lunch in a local restaurant we will continue to Kurashiki where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. There is also a chance to visit the Ohara Museum of Art which includes rare works by Matisse, Picasso and Renoir as well as collections from Japan’s mingei movement including ceramics by Hamada Shoji.
Arrive this morning in Hiroshima for our visit to the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the Cenotaph which contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb and the permanently lit “Flame of Peace”. Just outside the park, the A-Bomb Dome is a haunting reminder of the destructive forces that were unleashed on the city being one of the few original buildings to survive. In the museum we will see photos, videos and victim’s personal effects relating to the bomb. Over lunch we sail to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture postcard vista of the scarlet Torii gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will use the vessel’s Zodiacs to go ashore and explore the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses.
We continue our exploration of Japan and visit some sites of the historic, southern Yamaguchi prefecture. From our base at the port of Ube we will travel inland to visit the picturesque five-storied Pagoda of Rurikoji Temple and the surrounding park. Dating back to 1442, the pagoda was built in memory of Yoshihiro Mori Terumoto who ruled this area during this period. We also hope to visit the Fujigochi Tea Plantation and enjoy a tour of the tea factory and plantation where the local Ono Tea is produced from 70 hectares of gentle rolling countryside.
Hagi was a minor fishing port until Mori Terumoto fortified it in 1604 and it was Mori Samurai that helped spark off the anti-Tokugawa revolt in the mid-19th century. Today it is better known for its traditional pottery making traditions. On our morning tour we will explore the Teramachi District with its temples and shrines, the Jokamachi District, where we find the old samurai houses and also take time to explore Hagi Castle, Shizuki Park and Tokoji Temple. Return to the vessel for lunch and this afternoon is free to relax or perhaps travel to the outskirts of the city and the Yoshika Taibi Memorial Museum which is dedicated to a large collection of Hagiyaki pottery.
Today we embark on a full day excursion to magnificent Gyeongju, a World Heritage Site, which is often described as the world’s finest open-air museum embracing ancient Korean history and Buddhist culture. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Gyeongju cultural heritage dates back to the first millennium. Today, as we stroll through some of the hundreds of excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and distinctive pottery. At lunch time, we will sample Korean delicacies and enjoy a cultural performance of traditional dance.
Spend the morning at sea as we return to Japan and the port of Sakaiminato. This afternoon choose to either visit Matsue, the ‘town of water,’ which nestles between a scenic lake and a large lagoon. We will visit the cultural attractions of the town including the 17th century Matsue Castle before enjoying a boat ride on the local canals. Alternatively visit the Adachi Museum of Art which is set in a beautiful natural environment and well known for both its superb Japanese gardens and its collection of contemporary Japanese paintings, comprising approximately 1500 of the country’s most highly regarded paintings produced after the Meiji period.
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship, delicate hand painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The narrow and winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm with oldfashioned streetlamps and woodenlattice windows hiding elegant restaurants and craft galleries. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, historic samurai residence and even a geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish and local handicrafts. Next to the Kanazawa Castle ruins is one of Japan’s premier highlights, the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top three gardens. Enjoy a morning garden visit and an afternoon city walking tour.
Sado is Japan’s sixth largest island, made up of two parallel mountain chains, between which lies an extensive plain with small rice farms. In its early history, the island was a place of exile for intellectuals and political dissidents whilst in the Edo Period a rich gold mine was found. Sado Island is now famous for its premium quality rice and sake (rice wine) and is also the home base for the taiko drumming group, Kodo (“heartbeat”). During our full day call we will visit the Taiko centre to learn more about the history of the drums and visit the picturesque fishing village of Shukunegi, where over one hundred traditional Edo period houses line the narrow streets. You may wish to take a ride aboard one of the unique local boats called tarai-bune. These circular wooden tub boats are rowed with a single oar and designed to be capable of tight turns in order to manoeuvre through the deeply indented shores of the island as locals head out to collect shellfish and seaweed.
Arrive this morning in the Akita Prefecture, known for its rice farming, traditional festivals, and treasured dog breed of the same name. This morning choose to either drive inland to Kakunodate which was established in 1620 by the Lords of Akita as a military outpost with a castle built on Mount Furishiroyama. Two distinct areas were then developed, one for samurai and the other for merchants. Today it remains one of the best examples of a castle town in Japan and the Uchimachi samurai quarter maintains a number of the original wooden houses and well-maintained gardens which we can explore. Alternatively explore Akita at your own pace. Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy a relaxing afternoon of cruising.
From our berth in Aomori there will be a choice of tours today. Maybe head inland to the spectacular Towada Hachimantai National Park which involves a scenic drive through the Kayano plateau, Hakkoda mountains to the scenic Oirase Valley and Lake Towada, a magnificent ancient caldera lake surrounded by deciduous forests. We will wander the trails at the Tsuta Nana-numa Ponds a collection of seven lakes which are surrounded by a forest of Japanese Beech trees before continuing to Oirase Gorge. The gorge runs for14 kilometres from Lake Towada to Yakeyama and we will walk alongside the crystal clear Oirase Stream seeing the beautiful scenery and waterfalls. Alternatively, visit the former Feudal town of Hirosaki which was the political capital of the region in the Edo period. A tour of the city will include the threestory castle, which was the focal point of the old city and the base of the powerful Tsugaru Clan.Surrounding the castle was the samurai and merchant district where we can visit the preserved houses and the Fujita Kinen Teien, a Japanese landscape garden built in 1919. Both tours will return to Aomori for some free time before we set sail later this evening.
Today we are on the island of Hokkaido at the southern port of Hakodate. This morning we will make our way to Onuma Park, on the outskirts of the city and known for its picturesque, island-dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake. We have the option to take a series of walks around the lake’s peninsulas and islands, several of which are connected with each other by small bridges and surrounded by birch and maple forests. On our return to the ship we will see the 19th century Fort Goryokaku, built as a citadel but now a public park. After lunch on board we will spend the afternoon at sea.
Disembark this morning and transfer to Sapporo airport for our scheduled flight to Tokyo. On arrival transfer to our hotel and enjoy an afternoon and evening at leisure for independent exploration.
After breakfast in the hotel we will check out and transfer to the airport for our scheduled flight arriving into London this afternoon.
Itineraries are subject to change.
Suites on the Castle Deck measure 22.7 square metres and feature four port holes, en-suite bathroom with shower and spacious wardrobes.
Caledonian Superior Suite
Suites on the Caledonian Deck measure 21.6 square metres and feature en-suite bathrooms with bath tub and shower (except for suites 329, 330 and 331 which feature only a shower), spacious wardrobe and large window.
The Premium Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a spacious wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower (cabins 431 and 432 feature a bathtub) and a large window.
Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
Balcony Suites The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite
The Premium Balcony Suites on the Promenade Deck measure 20.2 square metres and feature a walk-in wardrobe, en-suite bathroom with shower and a private balcony measuring 5.6
Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
The two corner suites on the Promenade Deck measure 22.6 square metres and feature one window facing to the side and two forward facing portholes, a walk-in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom with shower.
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition
Length: 90 metres
Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites)
Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012
The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows.
If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere.
Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub.
Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort.
The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request.
With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board.
For your comfort, safety and security
The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only.
Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.