Shofukuji Zen Temple in FukuokaThe Gate Of Nijo Castle in KyotoOhori ParkKumamoto CastleHiroshima Peace ArchNagasakiNara parkKasuga Taisha Srine in Nara

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.

Mar 21 – Apr 6 2019
Price TBC
Deposit $750


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



DAY 1 & 2: TOKYO
We arrive in Tokyo on the evening of day 2 and transfer to our hotel.
Hotel: Courtyard Mariott Hotel, Tokyo

We begin our first full day of the tour with an opening lecture from our Expert Scholar for an early introduction to the area. Following this we head out to the National Museum, the oldest museum in the country, where we spend the rest of the morning viewing some of the thousands of Japanese artworks and artifacts housed on site; a stunning selection with pieces dating back over several millennia.

After pausing for a local lunch, we visit the Imperial Palace East Garden, an immaculate expanse of moats, lawns, ponds and plantings dating back to the 17th century, when this spot was the site of Edo Castle.

We return to our hotel for a delectable dinner of Japanese cuisine.
Hotel: Courtyard Mariott Hotel, Tokyo

This morning we transfer to Haneda Airport for a short flight west to Fukuoka. Upon arrival we drive to the mountainous city of Dazaifu, arriving in time for a bite to eat.

After lunch, we explore Dazaifu Tenman-gū — a majestic Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, a revered 10th-century poet and scholar. Our next stop is the Kyushu Historical Museum, where we find numerous remains unearthed from local excavations. We round off the afternoon at Kanzeon-ji Temple, the 7th-century home to various artifacts from the Nara and Heian periods, including wooden statues, masks, and a historic bell.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

Our fourth day begins at Yoshinogari, a large Yayoi Period archaeological site dating from around 300 BCE to 300 CE, featuring reconstructed prehistoric dwellings. Many fascinating objects have been found here, including ancient bronze mirrors and iron weapons.

After taking lunch on site, we continue on to Onta, a village famed for its traditional pottery. Onta’s most famous export is still made here in the traditional fashion, its mountainous clay prepared by water-powered hammers and baked in wood-fired kilns – a process that has been ongoing since the early 18th century.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

We start today at the Fukuoka City Museum, where permanent exhibits present the history of the city, and the people who have made their lives here. The museum’s star attraction is undoubtedly the King of Na Gold Seal, a national treasure dating from 57 CE. Next we take a stroll in the scenic Ohori Park, and admire the nearby ruins of Fukuoka Castle, which sit atop the country’s only existing remnants of a korokan, an ancient guest house for foreign diplomats.

Following lunch we continue on to the Asian Art Museum, where innovative exhibitions showcase modern and contemporary works from a number of Asian cultures. We round off our afternoon with a visit to Shōfuku-ji Zen temple. The temple was completed in 1195, making it the first Zen temple in Japan – and a highly significant landmark. This evening we browse the city’s famous Yatai: open air food stalls selling a wide variety of local delicacies.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

After breakfast we drive east to Usa Jingū, a prestigious and expansive Shinto shrine surrounded by primeval forest. Founded in the 8th century, the shrine has strong imperial links, and continues to attract a large number of pilgrims from all corners of the country.

We spend our afternoon touring the intriguing historic quarters of Kitsuki, a small castle town famed for its samurai districts, with authentic samurai houses still open to be explored. The town also contains a sake brewery, which dates from the Edo Period and continues to be used today.
Hotel: Suginoi Hotel, Beppu

This morning we embark on a full and exciting day of temple visits, beginning with those on the Kunisaki Peninsula. As part of our tour we visit enigmatic Futago-ji, nestling in the forested slopes of Mount Futago; elegant Fuki-ji, the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu, dating from around 718 CE, and Kumano Magaibutsu, home to the largest stone carvings of Buddha in Japan. We also enter Makiodo Temple, where we view a collection of precious wooden statues rescued from the fire which ravaged the original temple building some 700 years ago.
Hotel: Suginoi Hotel, Beppu

We depart for Saitobaru Kofungun, a site in Saito city comprising of hundreds of tumuli (or kofun) – burial mounds for some of the area’s most prestigious figures. Thought to date from between the 4th and 7th centuries, this is one of the largest sites of its type in Japan, and is well worth a detailed visit.

Later we continue to the city of Miyazaki, where we spend our evening pleasantly located between the mountains and the coast.
Hotel: Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort Hotel, Miyazaki

This morning we head to the site of Uenohara, where a series of Jōmon-era pit dwellings were discovered by construction workers in 1997 – an amazing find thought to be almost 10,000 years old.

We continue to Kagoshima, a friendly seaside city overlooked by the majestic (and active) Sakurajima volcano. Here we find Iso-teien, a wonderful formal garden originally created for Shimazu Mitsuhisa, the region’s ruler in the 17th century. Our final visit of the day is to Shoko Shuseikan, a 19th-century factory-turned-museum, where Western industrial technology was first introduced to Japan.
Hotel: Nishitetsu Solaria Hotel, Kagoshima

We spend our morning in Kumamoto, a city that surrounds the imposing Kumamoto-jo Castle. Both sustained damage in the April 2016 earthquakes, but the castle remains one of Japan’s largest forts, and there is much here to admire from over 500 years of its history.

This afternoon we take a reviving ferry ride across the Ariake Sea to Nagasaki, the location of our next hotel, and our home for the next three nights.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

Our entire day is spent exploring the reconstructed site of Deshima Island. This artificial island was originally created in Nagasaki Bay in order to house and contain Portuguese traders, but soon became a place where Dutch merchants were confined to do their business from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Deshima became redundant only when commercial relations with the Western world were relaxed. Here we view an assortment of restored Dutch houses and Chinese Buddhist temples – an extraordinary window on to Japan’s isolationist past.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

We continue our exploration of Nagasaki today, beginning with the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. Its permanent exhibits are centered around the theme of “overseas exchange”, and contain many thousands of significant items from the Netherlands, China, and Korea – remnants of Nagasaki’s position as the only city allowed to trade with foreign countries. We cap the morning with a visit to Glover Garden, which was built for the Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover, and is home to Japan’s oldest extant Western-style house.

This afternoon we enjoy free time to spend in the city at our leisure. Those who wish to may make an optional visit to Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum for an opportunity to learn more about the horrific 1945 attack that killed at least 129,000 people.
Hotel: ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel, Nagasaki

Today we head to Kyushu Ceramic Museum, enabling us to get up close to some of the finest 17th-century Hizen porcelain. Continuing on the theme of ceramics, we next make our way to Arita to visit the site of one of the oldest kilns in all of Japan.

Moving on to Imari, we find Okawachiyama Pottery Village, where Japanese porcelain has its earliest roots – this being an area rich in kaolin, an essential material in the porcelain-making process. We see many skilled craftsmen hard at work in the village, with over 30 traditional businesses still in operation.

Tonight we stay in Saga, a city bordering the lush Sefuri Mountains.
Hotel: New Otani Saga Hotel

We travel to Yame for a visit to the Traditional Craftwork Center. The attraction displays and sells traditional Yame City handicrafts, ranging from Buddhist altars to delicate paper lanterns, and is the perfect place to pick up some authentic souvenirs. It is also the site of the largest Buddhist altar in Japan.

We return to Fukuoka, where there will be time to unwind and take things at our own pace this afternoon. Visit the city’s exquisite boutiques, enter some of the local temples, or stroll through one of the traditional Japanese gardens.
Hotel: Hilton Fukuoka Seahawk Hotel

Kitakyushu’s modern Municipal Museum of Art has been home to masterpieces of Japanese art since opening its doors in 1974, displaying them alongside certain pieces from Western artists. We explore its exhibits this morning before taking the Shinkansen, or bullet train, from Kokura Station. We head directly to Osaka, a city affectionately known as the “nation’s kitchen”, where enjoy a rousing farewell dinner as a group, and settle in for our final night on tour.
Hotel: Mariott Osaka Miyako Hotel

This morning we transfer to the airport for our return flight home.



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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.