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Japan – with optional extension

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

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


Friday, April 6
We arrive in Tokyo this evening and transfer to our hotel.

Saturday, April 7
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.

Sunday, April 8
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.

Monday, April 9
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.

Tuesday, April 10
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.

Wednesday, April 11
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.

Thursday, April 12
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.

Friday, April 13
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.

Saturday, April 14
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.

Sunday, April 15
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.

Monday, April 16
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.

Tuesday, April 17
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.

Wednesday, April 18
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.

Thursday, April 19
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.

Friday, April 20
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.

Saturday, April 21
This morning, we transfer to the airport for our flights home or onward travel.*

We stay in a selection of hotels in Ginza,
Fukuoka, Beppu, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Saga, Fukuoka and Osaka.

*This is where we begin our optional 8-day extension. If, instead of going straight home, you would like to join us in Nara and Kyoto for further exploration, please see our website for further details and a full itinerary.


April 2018
Dr Christine Guth

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