In partnership with Heritage Expeditions, be enchanted by unspoiled nature, primeval wilderness, astounding rare wildlife, limpid lakes and alpine flowers as we go beyond Japan’s national parks, to see nature at its purest. Immerse in the history of ancient cities and temples as you peruse priceless treasures and trinkets from the past that exist in stark contrast to country’s more contemporary cities for which it is so readily renowned. Join us on the ultimate exploration of Japan’s wilderness and traditional culture, beyond the well trodden paths to uncover the true essence of the Land of the Rising Sun on this unforgettable land and sea adventure.
Pricing for cruise and land:
Main Deck Single: $31,805AUD per person
Deck 4 Superior: $25,980AUD per person
Deck 5 Superior: $26,995AUD per person
Superior Single: $33,605AUD per person
Worsley Suites: $33,755AUD per person
Heritage Suites: $38,005AUD per person
Arrive at Japan’s famed neon lit capital Tokyo, where tradition meets ultramodern and towering skyscrapers sit alongside ancient temples. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel by private car. Free time at your leisure in Tokyo. This evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner with your group tour and taste monjayaki, a
popular dish in Tokyo.
Overnight at Hyatt Centric Ginza or similar
The next morning, your journey continues by private coach to the Lake Chuzenji, a scenic lake in the mountains at the foot of Mount Nantai volcano. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a sightseeing cruise on the lake and admire the famous 100-metre Kegon waterfalls. Chuzenji temple also offers nice views over the lake.
Overnight at Hoshino Kai or similar
Today, visit the Tosho-gu mausoleum built in homage to Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. Erected in 1636, it is probably the most richly decorated temple in the whole country. And with its gilding, ornate roofs, columns, balconies with complicated patterns, this highly colorful Baroque masterpiece is the opposite of all Zen culture. Rinnoji Temple is famous for its Hall of Three Buddhas, erected in 1648. Founded in the 8th century, this temple contains three gilded and lacquered statues representing among others a 1000-armed Kannon. In the afternoon, road to Sendai and dinner at your leisure.
2 nights at The Westin or similar
This morning, you’ll have the chance to discover the pine-covered islands of Matsushima Bay, considered to be one of the three best views in Japan. Before enjoying the view of the bay from your boat cruise, you’ll visit Zuiganji, one of the largest Zen temples in Tohoku, built by the Date clan of Sendai. This afternoon, visit Zuihoden, mausoleum of Masamune Date, the founder of Sendai and one of the most charismatic feudal lords of the 16th century. Composed of several richly decorated pavilions and
numerous lanterns, the historic site also includes the tombs of his descendants.
This morning, we visit World Heritage site, Hiraizumi, which was once a powerful city when Kyoto was the capital of Japan, then collapsed with the rise to power of Minamoto no Yoritomo, Japan’s first shogun. Established in 850, Chuson-ji is said
to be the first temple of the Tendai Buddhist sect in northern Japan. Chuson-ji had up to 40 buildings and more than 300 monk tenants. Today, the few preserved pavilions pay wonderful homage to the golden age of this monastery. After a walk in the forest, you’ll reach Konjiki-do, a spectacular building often compared to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. This small wooden building houses statues of Buddha finely gilded. Under the central altar, you’ll see the remains of three great leaders of the Fujiwara family. The temple grounds also house a superb open-air Noh scene and a museum with thousands of national treasures. Our journey continues to Tazawako,
the deepest and clearest lake in Japan. With its very deep blue waters and a mystical aura, it offers a spectacular view of the surrounding nature. A boat cruise will bring you to the most iconic landmarks of Lake Tazawa — the statue of Tatsuko and the torii gate of Goza-no-ishi shrine.
Overnight at Folkloro or similar
Kakunodate is a fortified town founded by the local lord Ashina in 1620. Nowadays this charming town, called “the little Kyoto of Tohoku” has many samurai residences dating back more than 350 years and can be easily explored on foot. After lunch, you’ll take a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo and then transfer by coach to your pre-cruise hotel. This evening meet your fellow voyagers and expedition guides over dinner at the hotel.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before travelling by Shinkansen again to Kanazawa. This afternoon, you will board Heritage Adventurer where you will be able to settle into your cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship. We will also go through our voyage plans as we moor overnight.
Options today include exploring the historic mountain settlement and UNESECO 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 and 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.
We set sail towards the port of Sakaiminato and the entry point to Matsue, known as ‘the town of water’ due to being situated between Lake Shinji and Lake Nakaumi. A highlight of our visit will be the Matsue Castle, a national treasure and one of Japan’s few largely intact 17th century castles. Other options today may include exploring Daisen-Oki National Park, steeped in beauty and history it’s also the home of rare flora and fauna including the giant salamander. Other options include a visit to the picturesque Yuushien Garden or the Adachi Museum of Art; learning about the art of Japanese paper making at the Yakumo-mura village, or perhaps you may wish to spend some time exploring the local streets and canals.
Relax on board as we sail south to Hagi, originally a minor fishing port but now famously known for its traditional pottery making, which you will have a chance to learn about. We will also have the opportunity to discover the Teramachi District with its temples and shrines, including the famed ‘Ninja Temple’, the Jokomachi District with its old Samurai houses, Hagi Castle ruins at Shizuki Park, and beautiful Zen Tokoji Temple.
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, all the while experiencing Korean delicacies, cultural performances, and visiting 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.
Picturesque and otherworldly, Dogojima Island is the largest of the Oki Islands in the Sea of Japan and is part of the Daisen-Oki National Park and a UNESCO-registered Global Geopark. Accordingly, it is home to some outstanding coastal and interior 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 Mt Daimanji which rises more than 600-metres, and ancient sacred sites of its interior, today we discover a rarely visited corner of Japan.
At sea en route to Niigata, there is time to unwind after the adventures of Dogojima Island. Look for cetaceans and sea birds, join a lecture or catch up on your photos or journaling.
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 it three-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.
Famous for its local beef, pork and chicken and rice soup (known as Kiritanpo), tranquil Noshiro is a modern city flanked by nature with the Yoneshiro River winding through its heart. Gateway to the iconic Juniko (12 Lakes) park, this national treasure is actually a collection of 33 crystal clear ponds and lakes formed by an earthquake in 1704 and surrounded by ancient beech forest. Here we will have the option to explore the forested walks that lead to these serene blue holes including 10-metre-deep Aoike (Blue Pond). Other options may include visiting stunning Lake Towada, a 2,000- year-old double caldera 400m above sea level, and its surrounding forest in Towada- Hachimantai National Park and Japan’s largest pine forest, Kaze no Matsubara, where more than seven million trees were planted to prevent coastal erosion. Known as the ‘Wind of Matsubara’, in 1996 it was designated as one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.
Adventures abound at ShikotsuToya 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’. 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.
Major fishing port city Kushiro is rightly famous for Kushiro Shitsugen, Japan’s largest marshland and national park home to Japan’s sacred Red- crowned Cranes (tancho). Once thought to be extinct, a flock of 20 birds were discovered here in 1926; despite numbers now reaching almost 2,000 individuals, the cranes’ status remains endangered due to the shrinking of its wetland habitat. Exploring the marshland’s walking trails, we hope to see the cranes in their natural habitat before visiting the Kushiro Crane Reserve to learn about its breeding programme and rehabilitation for sick and injured birds. This afternoon explore the architecturally striking Kushiro City Museum. Equally fascinating inside, discover Kushiro’s natural history and beauty of the indigenous Ainu culture.
This morning position yourself on the Observation Deck or in the Observation Lounge to enjoy views of the coastline and look for wildlife as we sail through the Nemuro Channel and around the Shiretoko Peninsula to Abashiri. This afternoon we plan to visit Lake Kussharo, a stunning tree- lined caldera lake, the largest in Akan Mashu National Park with a circumference of 57 kilometres. During our time here we also plan to visit Higashimokoto Shibazakura Park and its 10 hectares of flowering fields which turn vivid pink from May to early June during the park’s annual Shibazakura Festival.
Also known as Japan’s ‘island of flowers’, we plan to explore Rebun Island, a scenic isle off the northwest tip of Hokkaido and treasure trove of natural beauty. This tiny island is famous for its rich flora, including many alpine flowers not found anywhere else in the world which carpet the island from late April to mid September. We plan to take advantage of several opportunities to explore the floral splendour along the coastline which also offers excellent views over the surrounding crystal clear waters, of Rishiri Volcano and the rugged beauty of Cape Gorota. This afternoon we will explore neighbouring Rishiri Island where the skyline is dominated by the dormant volcano of Mount Rishiri climbing to 1,721 metres. Our tour of the island may include walking around man-made Himenuma Pond listening to the birdlife and taking in majestic Mount Rishiri and surrounding flora reflected in the pond’s surface, and Kutsugata Cape Park where we hope to see Japan’s famed Black Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit exploring the forest walks. There will also be free time to venture into the town or visit the hot springs.
This morning we arrive in Otaru, a port city in Hokkaido known for glassworks, music boxes, sake distilleries and the picturesque Otaru Canal flanked with shops and cafes built within repurposed 1920s warehouses. After breakfast, there will be a complimentary coach to a central hotel or to New Chitose/Sapporo Airport. To allow time for disembarkation procedures and travel from Otaru, we do not recommend booking flights departing before 1300 hours.
Download this tour’s PDF brochure and start your planning offline!
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 25% per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.