Explore the coast of the Sea of Japan, then head across southern Japan to visit towns and islands on the Seto Inland Sea. You'll spend twelve days discovering Japanese history and culture as you visit shrines, temples, castles, museums, and even a preserved silver mine. See how miso paste, sake, and pottery are made and soak in hot spring baths. You'll come away with a true appreciation for the traditions and history of southern Japan.

Highlights

  • Visit a miso paste factory and sake brewery that has been operating since 1785
  • Explore castles and samurai dwellings and try your hand at making pottery in Hagi
  • See the world-famous "floating" Great Torii on Miyajima Island
  • Stay in hot spring inns and enjoy a relaxing soak in an onsen (hot spring bath)
  • Discover Japan's mining history at the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Meet in Kyoto Kyoto
Day 2 Sightseeing in Kurashiki Kojima
Day 3 Sightseeing in Kojima Kojima
Day 4 Yunotsu Onsen Oda City
Day 5 Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine Oda City
Day 6 Tsuwano Tsuwano
Day 7 Hagi Castle Hagi
Day 8 Sightseeing in Hagi Hagi
Day 9 Miyajima Island Hiroshima
Day 10 Sensuijima Island Sensuijima Island
Day 11 Tomonoura and Osaka Osaka
Day 12 Tour ends  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Meet in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the Kyoto Skyline, Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the Kyoto Skyline, Japan

Meet your guide and other members of the group at the tour hotel in central Kyoto. With your group, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2: Sightseeing in Kurashiki

Canal in Kurashiki, Japan
Canal in Kurashiki, Japan

After breakfast, you'll travel by train to Kurashiki, famous for the picturesque scenery of its preserved canal area. Kurashiki's canals are edged with green weeping willow trees and white plastered storehouses (kura) from the Edo Period. Many of Kurashiki’s former storehouses have been converted into museums, shops, and cafés. After lunch, we'll explore this lovely section of Kurashiki. You'll have some free time in the afternoon. Tonight you'll stay in Kojima, which is on the coast near Kurashiki.

Day 3: Sightseeing in Kojima

Great Seto Bridge as Seen from Mount Washuzan, Photo Courtesy of Okimo/Shutterstock
Great Seto Bridge as Seen from Mount Washuzan, Photo Courtesy of Okimo/Shutterstock

Today you will explore the Kojima area of Kurashiki with your guide. Kojima faces the Seto Inland Sea and was once known for its sea-salt production. You'll visit a sake and miso paste brewery that has been operating since 1785 to learn about the traditional way of making miso paste and taste some sake. Next, you'll head to Mount Washuzan. Its short walking trail leads to stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea. After lunch, you'll continue to Shimotsui Port and listen to a local artist play the shamisen, a traditional three-stringed instrument, and sing a beautiful song.

Day 4: Yunotsu Onsen

Boats in Yunotsu, Photo Courtesy of Izo/Shutterstock
Boats in Yunotsu, Photo Courtesy of Izo/Shutterstock

We cross to the San-in Coast (coast of the Sea of Japan), traveling by train to Yunotsu, a hot spring town whose waters were discovered over 1,300 years ago. Yunotsu flourished as a port during the Edo Period, when silver from Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine was delivered to Yunotsu's harbor for shipping. Yunotsu is home to the wonderful, pure hot spring, Yakushi-yu, whose water properties received the highest rating from the Japan Spa Association. Your accommodation tonight has its own onsen baths, but you should try Yakushi-yu's baths, too, if you love onsen (hot spring baths).

Day 5: Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine

Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, Courtesy of Kawamura_Lucy/Shutterstock
Omori-cho, Photo Courtesy of Kawamura_Lucy/Shutterstock

Today we visit Omori-cho, a town first settled by Iwami Ginzan silver miners. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. It was Japan's biggest silver mine, flourishing from the 16th to the 20th century. The distinctive landscapes connected to silver mining are still preserved today, including mining sites, miners’ settlements, fortresses, transportation routes, and ports. The area is now wooded and is dotted with Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, shops, and cafés. You'll visit one of the major remaining silver mineshafts and then explore the town, both with the group and on your own.

Day 6: Tsuwano

Taidokani Inari Shrine, Tsuwano, Photo Courtesy of Applepy/Shutterstock
Taidokani Inari Shrine, Tsuwano, Photo Courtesy of Applepy/Shutterstock

After breakfast, you'll travel to Tsuwano. Popularly called the "Little Kyoto of San-In," Tsuwano is known for its main street, which is lined with Edo-era buildings and koi (carp) ponds. Tsuwano was a castle town which was ruled by the
Kamei clan from the 17th to the mid-19th century. Tsuwano is also home to the famous mountainside Taidokani Inari Shrine with its one thousand vermilion torii gates. You'll visit the shrine and the ruins of Tsuwano Castle, then have time to wander Tsuwano's pretty streets.

Day 7: Hagi Castle

Hagi Castle, Japan
Hagi Castle, Japan

Today we travel by local bus from Tsuwano to the historic town of Hagi. For 260 years, Hagi was the castle town of the Mori lords of Choshu. Hagi is protected on two sides by the forks of the Aibagawa River and by the sea on its north side. Hagi Castle, now in ruins, was further fortified by moats and a defensive checkerboard of samurai dwellings. The remains of the dwellings, with their earthen walls, old gates, and colorful citrus orchards, are Hagi’s most famous sight. You'll explore the area and visit the Kikuya Residence, a complex of historic dwellings that belonged to the influential Kikuya family, merchants who lived in Hagi during the Edo Period.

Day 8: Sightseeing in Hagi

Street in Hagi, Japan
Street in Hagi, Japan

After breakfast, you'll stroll around another part of town to enjoy more of the historic houses. Hagi is famous throughout Japan for its pottery. Hagi-yaki (Hagi ware) is a pinkish-beige stoneware that ranks among the most highly esteemed tea ceremony pottery. Hagi-yaki ripens to its full beauty as it is used. Tea seeps into the porous crazing and deepens and softens the pale tones of the tea bowl. After lunch, you can try your hand at pottery making. You'll also have time to shop for pieces made by local artists.

Day 9: Miyajima Island

Deer and Great Torii at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Japan
Deer and Great Torii at Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Japan

After breakfast, you'll travel to Miyajima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea near the city of Hiroshima. This island is famous for its Itsukushima Shrine, which features a giant red torii gate that seems to float on the sea at high tide. The sight is ranked as one of the most scenic views in Japan, and the shrine has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wild deer live on the island, but they have now become accustomed to people. We will arrive on Miyajima around noon. After lunch, we will visit Itsukushima Shrine and the nearby Daisho-in Temple. Daisho-in Temple is closely associated with Kōbō-Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Our hotel tonight is in Hiroshima.

Day 10: Sensuijima Island

Five-Colors Rock on Sensuijima Island, Japan
Five-Colors Rock on Sensuijima Island, Japan

Before you leave Hiroshima, there will be a little free time; you may visit the Peace Memorial Museum and Park if you wish. This morning you'll travel to Tomonoura for lunch, then continue on by ferry to Sensuijima Island, an island paradise on the Seto Inland Sea. Tonight you'll stay at an island ryokan (traditional inn) with wonderful hot-spring baths. Bathing at this ryokan is not gender-segregated and bathing clothes will be provided. The onsen is set just above the beach and overlooks the sea, so the view is wonderful and relaxing.

Day 11: Tomonoura and Osaka

Tomonoura Bay, Japan
Tomonoura Bay, Japan

Today, you'll spend the morning exploring the quiet fishing town of Tomononura. The town preserves its old-fashioned fishing townscape well and is known for its views of the Seto Inland Sea. In recent years, Tomonoura has been chosen as a shooting location for several international and local films, such as “Wolverine” with Hugh Jackman and “Ponyo on the Cliff,” created by the popular Studio Ghibli. After lunch, you'll head to Osaka, where you will have some free time in the afternoon before meeting your group at a local restaurant for a farewell dinner.

Day 12: Tour ends

Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima Island, Japan

 

Our tour ends after breakfast. Your guide will be available to offer advice on travel to the airport if you are flying home, or on local travel if you are extending your stay in Japan.

Map

Map of In the Shadow of Mountains: From Sea to Sea in Southern Japan - 12 Days
Map of In the Shadow of Mountains: From Sea to Sea in Southern Japan - 12 Days