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Ancient Japan: Temples and Treasures

Kyushu — literally “nine provinces” — has served as Japan’s gateway to continental Asia and the West since ancient times. We’d be hard-pressed to think of a more apt focal point for our tour. From ruined castles to restored Dutch houses, lively night markets to Zen Buddhist temples, see how ancient and modern amicably rub shoulders on this idiosyncratic island.

April 5 – 21, 2018 (17 Days)
$8,995(exc. international airfare)
Single supp: $1,395

Secure your place with a fully-refundable $750 deposit.


Tour Description


  • Visit serenely beautiful forest temples and formidable castles across the island of Kyushu
  • Experience the Japan of bygone eras through expert reconstructions and archaeological sites
  • See how Japan was opened up to the outside world, with Dutch houses and Chinese temples

  • Be immersed in the sounds, smells, and tastes of a ‘Yatai’ market on the moonlit streets of Fukuoka
  • Admire beautiful local handicrafts at Yame City’s Traditional Craftwork Center
  • Join an optional 8-day extension taking in the many beautiful sights of Nara and Kyoto

All meals included


April 2018
Dr Christine Guth


April 6: TOKYO
We arrive in Tokyo this evening and transfer to our hotel.
Hotel: Courtyard Mariott Hotel, Tokyo

April 7: TOKYO
We begin our first full day on tour with an opening lecture from our Expert Scholar, before moving on to the National Museum, where we spend the rest of the morning. This afternoon is spent at the Palace East Garden.
Hotel: Courtyard Mariott Hotel, Tokyo

April 8: DAZAIFU
This morning, we transfer to Haneda Airport for our flight to Fukuoka. Once landed, we drive to Dazaifu, arriving just in time for a bite to eat. After lunch, we explore Dazaifu Tenman-gū — a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane — Kyushu Historical Museum, and Kanzeon-ji Temple, home to artifacts from the Nara and Heian periods.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

April 9: ONTA
We spend the first part of today at Yoshinogari, a large, complex Yayoi Period archaeological site with reconstructed prehistoric dwellings. After lunch at the site, we move on to Onta, a village famous for its pottery. Its most famous export is still made in the traditional fashion, the clay prepared by water-powered hammers and baked in wood-fired kilns.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

April 10: FUKUOKA
Our first visit of the day is to Fukuoka City Museum, whose permanent exhibits take us through the history of the city and the people who have made their lives there. We then take a stroll in the scenic Ohori Park, and admire the nearby ruins of Fukuoka Castle before stopping for lunch. Then, it’s on to Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, whose innovative exhibitions showcase modern and contemporary works from a number of Asian cultures, before we round off our afternoon with a visit to Shōfuku-ji Zen temple, Japan’s very first. This evening, we have the chance to browse the Yatai and sample local delicacies at a street food market.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

April 11: KITSUKI
We spend the morning driving to Usa Jingū, an expansive Shinto shrine surrounded by primeval forest, before spending the afternoon exploring the historic quarters of the small castle town of Kitsuki.
Hotel: Suginoi Hotel

April 12: KYUSHU
Today we embark on a full day of temple visits, beginning with those on the Kunisaki Peninsula. We pay visits to Futago-ji, on the slopes of Mount Futago; Fuki-ji, the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu; Kumano magaibutsu, with its Buddhist reliefs, and Makiodo, home to a collection of precious wooden statues.
Hotel: Suginoi Hotel

April 13: SAITO CITY
This morning, we drive to Saitobaru kofun-gun, a site in Saito city comprised of hundreds of tumuli (or kofun) and rich in ancient myths. After lunch, we continue to Miyazaki, where we make our base this evening.
Hotel: Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort Hotel

Our first visit this morning is to the site of Uenohara, where a series of Jōmon-era pit dwellings were discovered by construction workers in 1997. We then continue to Kagoshima, a friendly seaside city presided over by the majestic (and very active) Sakurajima volcano. It is here that we find Iso-teien, a wonderful formal garden originally created for Shimazu Mitsuhisa, ruler of the region in the 17th century. Our final visit is to Shoko Suseikan, a 19th century factory-turned-museum, where Western industrial technology was first introduced to Japan.
Hotel: Nishitetsu Solaria Hotel Kagoshima

April 15: NAGASAKI
This morning is spent in Kumamoto, a city radiating outwards from the imposing Kumamoto-jo Castle. Both sustained damage in the April 2016 earthquakes, but we will still be able to admire the well-preserved fortification from the outside. This afternoon, we take the ferry to Nagasaki, the site of tonight’s hotel.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Nagasaki


Today, we spend our entire day on a reconstruction of Deshima Island, where the Dutch were confined, and we visit restored Dutch houses and Chinese Buddhist temples.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Nagasaki

April 17: NAGASAKI
We continue our exploration of Nagasaki today, beginning with the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. Its permanent exhibits are themed ‘overseas exchange’, and hold items from the Netherlands, China, and Korea. We round off the morning with a visit to Glover Garden, built for Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover. After lunch, we have some free time to spend as we wish.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Nagasaki

April 18: ARITA
Today we head to Kyushu Ceramic Museum, which has a focus on fine Hizen porcelain. Continuing our theme, we drive to Arita to visit the site of the Tengudani Kiln — thought to be Japan’s first — before moving on to Imari. Just outside the town we find Okawachiyama Pottery Village, where you can still see porcelain-makers hard at work.
Hotel: New Otani Saga Hotel

April 19: YAME
We drive to Yame for a visit to the Traditional Craftwork Center. The Center displays and sells traditional Yame City handicrafts ranging from Buddhist altars to delicate paper lanterns — the perfect place to pick up some authentic souvenirs. This afternoon, we continue to Fukuoka.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

Kitakyushu’s modern Municipal Museum of Art has been home to masterpieces of western Japanese art since opening its doors in 1974, as well as some pieces from Western artists. We explore its exhibits this morning before taking the Shinkansen from Kokura Station. From here, we head to Osaka, where we have a farewell dinner and settle in for our final night on tour.
Hotel: Mariott Osaka Miyako Hotel

April 21
This morning, we transfer to the airport for our flights home or onward travel.*
Optional 8-Day Extension

Instead of going straight home, why not join us in Nara and Kyoto for further exploration.

April 22: NARA
Today we enjoy a full day in the culturally vibrant city of Nara. Explore Horyuji, a Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts the oldest wooden structure in the world. We also visit the Toshodai-ji Temple and the fascinating archaeological site at Heijo-kyu.

April 23: NARA
Start the morning with a visit to the Kasuga Grand Shrine – perhaps Nara’s most celebrated shrine and most famous for its lanterns. Later, we enjoy the delightful Nara Deer Park, which is home to hundreds of free roaming deer. We also make stops at the Todai-ji Temple with its impressive Nandaimon Gate, the Kaidan-in and Sangatsudo temples, and we will visit the Byodo-in temple on our way to our next destination, Kyoto.

April 24: KYOTO
The Ryoan-ji Zen temple is our first stop today and this UNESCO World Heritage Site features a beautifully-maintained, mesmeric stone garden. Explore the living Shokoku-ji temple before enjoying a delicious lunch at Kushikura and discovering the Sanjusangen-do temple, which is revered for its 1001 golden statues of Kannon. We end our day with a walking tour around the cultural and entertainment district of Gion, Kyoto.

April 25: KYOTO
Visit another of Kyoto’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites this morning as we explore To-ji temple and the ancient Matsuo Taisha shrine, which has around 3,000 rose bushes that bloom during the months of April and May. After lunch, we arrive at the flatland Nijo Castle and spend some time here before returning to our hotel, Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto, for the night.

April 26: KYOTO
The reflective Shisen-do Villa makes for a perfect first stop of the day. Its garden is bursting with maple trees, the leaves of which gleam in varying shades of red. From here we walk Kyoto’s stunning Philosopher’s Path and visit the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion), which features a meditative sand garden. In the afternoon, we explore the Nanzen-ji temple and admire its Leaping Tiger Garden. During dinner in the evening, we will be treated to traditional Geisha entertainment and a special shamisen performance by a Maiko.

April 27: KYOTO
Following an early morning lecture at 8am, we spend several hours at the Kyoto National Museum where you can pore over archaeological artifacts, artworks and special collections that reflect Japan’s incredibly rich culture and history. The afternoon will be spent at our leisure and we will be free to discover the city’s heart at our own pace.

April 28
Today we transfer to the airport for our flights home.

Additional Information

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2018 Accommodation


Courtyard Marriott Hotel Tokyomarriot-1

In the center of Tokyo in the world-famous Ginza- district, this hotel has stunning views of the neon city. The hotels has a fresh and crisp interior with dark furnishings and bold red statements. The rooms are spacious and airy, equipped with the Marriot’s signature mattresses & decorated in a contemporary style. Start the day with scrumptious breakfast noodles for a full hearted embrace of Japanese culture.



Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotelhitlon-1

Look over stunning panoramic views across Hakata Bay and the City of Fukuoka as the hotel Towers above the water’s edge. The hotel’s design makes the most of the location and the sleek interior is truly luxurious. Bringing the outside in, the hotel has a lagoon-style stone bath for your relaxation pleasure… and as if you needed an excuse, why not put your feet up, to be in top form for the tomorrow’s exploring.



Suginoi HotelSuginoi-1

You won’t be stuck for things to do in the evening at this hotel. Why not challenge your tour group to a game of bowling, and after than a round of karaoke? If you’d prefer something more Zen, sneak away to the hotel’s own hot spring bath – ‘The Aqua Garden’ – a reflection of the serene Beppu Bay outside. The interior of the hotel continues the Zen vibe with classical Japanese décor.



Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort HotelSheraton-Grande-Ocean-Resort-Hotel-1

Situated next to the beach, this idyllic location invites you to continue your stay in peace and tranquillity. If you’ve got any tension remaining, the renowned Banyan Tree Spa is the quintessential indulgence. The rooms are clean and spacious, many with a nautical feel to reflect the sweeping views of the sea.



Nishitetsu Solaria Hotel KagoshimaNishitetu-1

Nishitetsu Solaria Hotel has been designed with comfort in mind. The natural hues of the décor are relaxing and rooms have a sofa area which overlook the magnificent Sakurajima. You’ll be greeted with friendly and welcoming Japanese hospitality, which you would have grown to love throughout your trip. Wake up in the mornings to refreshing green tea toiletries – a refreshing start to explore the rest of the island.



ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel Nagasaki Crown-plaza-1

On the mountain-side, we stay in the calm space of the ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel. Gentle breezes sweep down the mountain and sunsets fade over the horizon while your three night stay in the hotel. The premium bedding makes for the perfect nights’ sleep.



New Otani Saga Hotelsaga-1

The classic rooms are spacious and clean. Each room is well equipped and comes with a selection of Japanese tea. Enjoy the beer terrace on the roof or wander through town to the nearby castle gardens and the main shopping area. The traditional Asian breakfast selection will have you refueled for a day full of exploring.



Marriott Osaka Miyako Hotel


Make sure you remember to pack your head for heights, as this hotel is in the tallest building in Japan! With floor to ceiling windows in all rooms, you’ll get stunning panoramic views out across Osaka city. This hotel has everything that you have come to expect from a Marriott hotel, spacious rooms with luxurious mattresses, contemporary décor and modern amenities.  Don’t miss the observation floor either which is on the top floor.