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May 7 - 20, 2014

Operated by National Trust Tours, Japan by Sea: In the Land of the Rising Sun is an experience that uncovers the time-tested traditions, sacred cultural sights, and modern, cutting-edge offerings of Japan and South Korea's fascinating variety of major cosmopolitans, tranquil historic towns, artistic centers, and remote islands aboard The Caledonian Sky.

The Caledonian Sky
Formerly the Hebridean Spirit, The Caledonian Sky is a newly-refurbished 114-passenger luxury expedition ship. All cabins boast an ocean view, en suite bathroom with walk-in shower and/or bathtub, spacious wardrobe or walk-in closet, safe, mini-bar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, flat-screen television, and sitting area with sofa. 23 of the suites feature private balconies. The ship’s amenities include a dining room, two lounges with bar service, small library and gym, sun deck with comfortable lounge chairs, salon, laundry service, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. The Caledonian Sky’s chefs prepare quality international meals served in an open seating dining room. A friendly crew provides exceptional, personalized service, with more than a 1:2 crew-to-passenger ratio. The ship features advanced satellite navigation and communication equipment, roll stabilizers, and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft.


  • Cruise Japan's island sea and beyond for 8 nights aboard the premier expedition ship Caledonian Sky
  • Learn about the life and training of a Geisha and enjoy entertainment by a maiko (apprentice geisha)
  • Explore the World Heritage city of Gyeongju, South Korea, often referred to as “the museum without walls” for its many historical treasures from the ancient kingdom of Shilla
  • View the dry Zen rock gardens of Kyoto’s Ryoan-ji, the perfectly landscaped grounds of the Adachi Museum of Art, and the intricate stroll garden of Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en
  • Meet the world-famous Kodo Drummers on remote Sado Island and enjoy a thrilling private performance

Study Leader Information

  • Constantine Vaporis, Professor of History and Director of Asian Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
  • Helen Hardacre, Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions and Society at Harvard University.
  • Mimi Hall Yiengpruksawan, Professor of the History of Art at Yale since 1990 and is a specialist in the Buddhist art of traditional cultures in Asia.

Tour Itinerary
May 7/8 - Wednesday/Thursday - US/Kyoto, Japan
Depart the US on an overnight flight to Osaka and transfer to the Kyoto Hotel Okura, ideally located in the heart of Kyoto.
May 9 - Friday - Kyoto
Visit the designated National Treasure of Nijo Castle, built in 1603 by Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The castle’s Ninomaru Palace is decorated with wall paintings by the Kano school and is famous for its “nightingale” floors, designed to creak when trod upon to warn residents of intruders. After lunch, visit UNESCO World Heritage Kinkaku-ji, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, one of the most iconic sites of Japan. The shimmering central pavilion is covered in bright gold leaf, reflected in the surrounding pond, and surrounded by winding garden paths. Conclude the afternoon with a visit to Ryoan-ji’s elegant Zen rock garden. In the evening, enjoy a private presentation by a former geisha and a maiko, an apprentice geisha, and a festive welcome reception and dinner.
May 10 - Saturday - Kyoto
Today choose among three day excursion options: a day trip to the Miho Museum, which is built into a mountain slope west of Kyoto and is considered one of the master achievements of architect I.M. Pei; an exploration of Kyoto’s cuisine and crafts, with visits to the Nishiki Food Market, a textile studio, and a calligraphy class; or an active exploration by bicycle along picturesque paths, followed by a specially arranged visit to the Moss Temple at Saiho-ji.
May 11 - Sunday- Kyoto/Nara/Kobe
Depart Kyoto in the morning and drive to nearby Nara. While Nara was the capital of Japan for only 74 years (710–784), Buddhism became firmly established and some of the country’s most magnificent temples and works of art were created. In Nara, visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Todai-ji, famous for its monolithic statue of the Great Buddha, and Horyu-ji, Japan’s oldest surviving Buddhist temple and the world’s oldest wooden structure. In the late afternoon, embark on The Caledonian Sky in the port of Kobe.
May 12 - Monday - Inland Sea / Hiroshima
Relax onboard and admire the scenery as The Caledonian Sky cruises through Japan’s Inland Sea, dotted with tiny islands. Call at Hiroshima this afternoon for a visit to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which documents the atomic explosion that ravaged the city. This thriving modern city is a testament to Japan’s post-war recovery.
May 13 - Tuesday - Miyajima
Anchor offshore on Miyajima Island in the morning and board Zodiacs to access the island. Visit the 6th-century Itsukushima Shinto Shrine and view its iconic vermilion torii, a grand wooden gateway that appears to float on the sea at high tide. After a lively performance of ancient bugaku music and dance at the shrine, enjoy ample free time for hikes, visits to tiny temples, and strolls through the picturesque streets of the town.
May 14 - Wednesday - Hagi
Explore Japan’s medieval heritage at Hagi, which boasts one of the best-preserved samurai and merchant quarters in Japan as well as a 400 year old traditional ceramics community. Stop at the kiln of a master potter to learn how the highly acclaimed Hagi-yaki is made. Walk the grounds of Toko-ji, where hundreds of moss-covered stone lanterns guard the graves of five Mori lords. Cruise overnight across the Korea Strait.
May 15 - Thursday - Gyeongju, South Korea
From the South Korean port city of Ulsan, drive inland to Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Shilla kingdom that ruled for 1,000 years and home to many treasured UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Enjoy a guided tour of the National Museum’s highlights. After a Korean-style lunch and folkloric performance, explore Bulguksa, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Korea, boasting intricate paintings inside and out and two original 6th-century pagodas.
May 16 - Friday - Matsue, Japan
Drive through lush countryside to the Adachi Museum of Art to explore its collection of modern Japanese works, set in exquisite gardens. Continue to charming Matsue and visit one of the few surviving castles in Japan, built in 1611. Enjoy free time to stroll through Matsue’s historic quarter.
May 17 - Saturday - Kanazawa
Call at the artistic center of Kanazawa for a visit to Kenrokuen, considered by many to be the finest landscape garden in Japan. Enjoy a tea ceremony at a classic teahouse.
May 18 - Sunday - Sado Island
Arrive at the remote Sado Island, once a place of exile for intellectuals and political dissidents and now the home base for the taiko drumming group Kodo (“heartbeat”). Enjoy an exhilarating private performance and a rare opportunity to meet this world-famous troupe. In the evening, enjoy the captain’s farewell reception and dinner aboard the ship.
May 19 - Monday - Niigata / Tokyo
Disembark in Niigata and board a high-speed “bullet train” to Tokyo. Experience the excitement of cutting-edge, contemporary Japan during an architectural tour of Tokyo, including a stop for a panoramic view from one of the city’s tallest buildings. Also enjoy a cruise along the Sumida River before gathering for the evening's special farewell dinner.
May 20 - Tuesday - Tokyo / U.S.
Transfer to Narita International Airport for flights home or begin an optional post-trip extension.

Special Offer!
Mention Historic Hotels of America when booking your tour and receive three $100 gift certificates, each good toward a $100 refund when you book through and stay for at least two-nights at a Historic Hotels of America hotel.*

To book a tour please contact our tour VIP desk at +1 202 772 8000 or

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*Maximum of one $100 certificate may be claimed for a refund with a minimum two night stay booked through following the return of your tour and completion of your hotel stay. The refund will be issued within 45 days of the completion of your stay upon submitting a Great Experiences & Tours $100 refund application. Refund application must be submitted with a copy of your hotel folio receipt, the original confirmation number from your booking on, and the Certificate number issued to you for booking your tour through Historic Hotels of America. Certificates issued are a promotion only valid toward future reservations made through and do not have any cash value. One certificate may be used per room per two night or longer stay at the same hotel. Eligible rates include rates publicly available at time of booking. Reduced rates, rooms included in another travel or tour package, employee rates, advance purchase rates, and certain last minute sale rates are not eligible for this promotion.