AIA Tours: cruise

Japan by Sea: Land of the Rising Sun

Tour Dates: April 14-28, 2020 Cancelled (15 days)

Tour Leader(s): Mikael Adolphson ,

This tour has been canceled for 2020. If you are interested in traveling to this region and would like to be contacted when a tour becomes available, please call 800-748-6262 or email

Cruise through the Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan on a delightful springtime exploration of Japan with AIA lecturer and host Mikael (Mickey) Adolphson, professor of Japanese Studies at the Universit of Cambridge.  This small nation of nearly 7,000 islands is wonderfully suited for exploration by small ship, and the all-suite, 57-cabin Caledonian Sky conveys us comfortably to a fascinating variety of tranquil historic towns, artistic centers, and remote islands that larger ships cannot access, plus we spend three nights ashore in Kyoto.

Experience dramatic coastlines, sacred temples, celebrated gardens, and cutting-edge art and architecture. Meet and interact with a Zen Buddhist monk and the owner of a traditional geisha house, and participate in a hands-on taiko drum workshop with the world-famous Kodo drummers on remote Sado Island. Take part in a traditional tea ceremony, visit a pearl farm in Uwajima, marvel at the stunning iconic beauty of Miyajima’s torii gate, and enjoy a full-day excursion in South Korea. Several optional post-cruise extensions are also available, to discover highlights of Otaru, Sapporo, and/or Tokyo.

Pricing starting at $10,995 Per Person/Double Occupancy
Single pricing starting at $18,795

Download brochure for complete pricing.

Japan by Sea_ Itinerary Map 2020

The torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Itsukushima. Image ©Jordy Meow

Kinkaku-Ji Temple of the Golden Pavilion seen across Kyōko chi © PublicDomain

Horyu-Ji Buddhist Temple Nara, Japan. Image ©663highland

Miho Museum, Japan. Image ©663highland

A stone lantern at the Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima © PublicDomain

Caledonian Sky Standard Suite on the Castle Deck

Caledonian Sky's Dining Room


This tour has been cancelled for 2020. If you are interested in traveling to this region and would like to be contacted when a tour becomes available, please call 800-748-6262 or email

Main Voyage

Tuesday & Wednesday, April 14 & 15, 2020 – Home / Kyoto, Japan
Thursday, April 16 – Kyoto
Friday, April 17 – Kyoto & Shiga
Saturday, April 18 – Kyoto / Nara / Kobe (Embark)
Sunday, April 19 – Naoshima
Monday, April 20 – Miyajima
Tuesday, April 21 – Uwajima & Rural Shikoku
Wednesday, April 22 – Hagi
Thursday, April 23 – Ulsan, South Korea
Friday, April 24 – Matsue, Japan
Saturday, April 25 – Oki Islands
Sunday, April 26 – Kanazawa
Monday, April 27 – Sado Island
Tuesday, April 28 – Niigata / Disembark / Fly home

Optional Extensions

Pre-Trip Extension: Shikoku Island’s Iya Valley
April 11-15, 2020

Post-Trip Extension: Tokyo
April 28-May 1, 2020

Additional details and pricing for the optional extensions will be sent to confirmed participants.

View Detailed Itinerary

This tour has been cancelled for 2020. If you are interested in traveling to this region and would like to be contacted when a tour becomes available, please call 800-748-6262 or email

U.S. / Kyoto, Japan

Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight to Osaka, arriving on April 15. Transfer to Kyoto and check in to the Kyoto Hotel Okura. An optional afternoon tour is available at additional cost of $70 per person, with visits to Sanjusangendo temple, featuring 1,001 gilded wooden statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, and Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine with tunnel-like paths formed by a seemingly unending line of vibrant orange torii gates. An
early evening walk is also offered through the historic Pontocho and Gion districts. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA

Explore the lovely gardens and learn about Zen Buddhism at Tenryu temple, then stroll through the adjacent Sagano Bamboo Grove, with its atmospherically dense stands of tall green bamboo offering wonderful photographic opportunities. This evening, enjoy a private presentation by a former geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) and a festive welcome reception and dinner. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA (B,L,R,D)

Kyoto / Shiga
Venture this morning to the Miho Museum, built into a mountain slope in Shiga prefecture and considered one of the master achievements of architect I.M. Pei, with innovative skylights and windows creating a shifting pattern of light and shadow. Return to Kyoto for an afternoon visit to the UNESCO
World Heritage–designated Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), whose shimmering central pavilion is covered in bright gold leaf. The evening is at leisure, with organized dinner options available at additional cost. KYOTO HOTEL OKURA (B,L)

Kyoto / Nara / Kobe (Embark)
Historic and beautiful Nara was the capital of Japan for only 74 years (710-784), but during that time Buddhism became firmly established within Japan and some of the country’s most magnificent temples and works of art were created. Visit UNESCO World Heritage-designated Todai-ji, famous for its Daibutsu —a monolithic seated bronze statue of the Great Buddha. Also explore the priceless collection of Buddhist sculptures at the Nara National Museum before continuing to Kobe to embark the Caledonian Sky. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Disembark in Uno Ko and take a ferry to Naoshima, an island that has become a mecca for bringing contemporary art and architecture in harmony with the pristine nature of the Seto Inland Sea, a landscape with a rich cultural and historical fabric. Explore the world-class Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House Museum, both designed by Tadao Ando. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Anchor offshore of Miyajima Island this morning and board Zodiacs to access the island. Visit the 6th-century Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, with its iconic vermilion torii, a grand, wooden gateway that appears to float on the sea at high tide. Enjoy ample free time for hikes, visits to tiny temples, and strolling the picturesque streets of the town. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Uwajima / Rural Shikoku
Call at Uwajima on Shikoku Island for a chance to experience some of Japan’s rural countryside, with fishing hamlets and farm villages nestled along rugged coastlines. Visit Uchiko, a beautifully preserved merchant town that evokes Japan’s traditional past, and step inside the Uchiko-za, a full-scale kabuki theater with unique rigging and under-stage technology. After a local lunch, visit a pearl farm to learn about the methods of culturing, harvesting, and distributing natural Uwajima pearls, among the highest graded in the world. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Explore Japan’s medieval heritage at Hagi, which boasts one of the best-preserved samurai and merchant quarters in Japan as well as a ceramics
tradition nearly 400 years old. Stop at the kiln of a master artisan to learn how the highly acclaimed Hagi-yaki pottery is made. Walk the grounds of
Toko-ji temple, where hundreds of moss-covered stone lanterns guard the graves of five Mori lords. Cruise overnight across the Korea Strait. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Ulsan, South Korea
From the South Korean port of Ulsan, drive inland to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Silla kingdom, which ruled for 1,000 years. Visit Bulguksa, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in South Korea, with intricate paintings inside and out and two original 6th-century pagodas. After a lunch of Korean specialties and a performance of Korean folkloric music, explore the royal tombs in Tumuli Park and the
Gyeongju National Museum, largely devoted to Silla artifacts. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Matsue, Japan
After a morning of cruising, call at Sakai port for lunch and an exploration of charming Matsue, with the option to visit one of the few surviving castles in Japan, built in 1611, or stroll through Matsue’s historic samurai quarter, with a visit to the Lafcadio Hearn Museum to learn about this beloved 19th-century author who lived in the city and assumed the Japanese name of Yakumo Kaizumi after his naturalization. Drive through lush countryside to
visit the Adachi Museum of Art, with a collection of contemporary Japanese works set in exquisite, highly manicured traditional gardens. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Oki Islands
This morning anchor offshore of the remote and tranquil Oki Islands, and take Zodiacs ashore for views of the coastal scenery with its majestic cliffs, sea coves, and rock formations, followed by hikes of varying levels to take in the ancient Japanese cedars, grasslands, and mountain views of the Daisen-Oki National Park, a UNESCO site. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Kanazawa Call at the refined artistic center of Kanazawa for a visit to Kenroku-en, considered by many to be the finest landscape garden in Japan. Enjoy a tea ceremony at a classic teahouse, and time at leisure to explore Kanazawa’s historic neighborhoods as well as artisan shops and museums dedicated to the city’s renowned cultural pursuits, including silk dyeing, ceramics, and the production of gold leaf and lacquerware. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,D)

Sado Island
Call this morning at remote Sado Island, home base for the taiko drumming group Kodo (“heartbeat”). Attend a hands-on drumming workshop, a short
performance by several of the resident drummers, and a guest lecture on this ancient art form. Also take a guided walking tour through the picturesque fishing village of Shukunegi, where more than one hundred traditional Edo-period houses line the narrow streets. Return to the ship and gather for a farewell reception and dinner on board. CALEDONIAN SKY (B,L,R,D)

Niigata / Disembark / Fly home
Arrive this morning in Niigata. Disembark and transfer to the Niigata Airport for flights home (arriving the same day), or join the optional post-tour extension to Tokyo. (B)

Optional  Extensions

Pre-Trip Extension: Shikoku Island’s Iya Valley
APRIL 11-15, 2020
After an initial night near Osaka’s Kansai Airport, travel to Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands. Enjoy a two-night stay in a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, in the remote Iya Valley, where vine suspension bridges, thatched-roof farmhouses, and village traditions date back to the Edo period and hot spring baths offer a welcome chance to recharge

Post-Trip Extension: Tokyo
APRIL 28-MAY 1, 2020
Three-night post-trip extension to Tokyo. After disembarkation in Niigata, travel by bullet train to Tokyo and experience the city’s contrasts as you discover celebrated museums, temples and historic neighborhoods. Sample the local cuisine and marvel at one of the world’s largest fish markets.

Additional details and pricing for the optional extensions will be sent to confirmed participants.


For reservations or questions, please email us at (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

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