South Japan: Starting from and Returning to Kobo 12 Day Expedition Cruise

05/19/23 to 05/30/23
SH Minerva
12 Days
2 Guest
Price From
$ 11,382
Per Person
Trip Details

Neon-lit cities, jagged skyscrapers; paths running under vermilion torii gates that lead to sublime Shinto shrines; ancient forests; exquisite gardens; smoking volcanoes; centuries-old Buddhist temples: it’s no wonder that Japan tops a travel wish list. Explore the southern part of the Land of the Rising Sun on our 11-night South Japan cruise around the Seto Inland Sea and East Sea (Sea of Japan), including the western end of Honshu island, Kyushu and Yakushima islands, with a short hop to South Korea. From poignant memorials in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to friendly cities and colourful gardens, experience this varied region on board our boutique expedition ship and discover a country that stirs the emotions.

Trip Highlights
Stroll through Korakuen, one of Japan’s ‘Three Great Gardens,’ in Okayama
Reflect on Japan’s history and witness a heartfelt commitment to world peace in Hiroshima
Admire the ‘floating’ red Torii Gate of the Itsukushima Shinto shrine, one of Japan's most revered Shinto sites
Explore one of Japan’s few remaining feudal castles retaining the original structure, Matsue Castle, built in 1611
Hike through ancient cedar forests on Yakushima Island, a World Heritage Naturaal Site
Itinerary Map
Kobe Day 1

Your luxury expedition cruise starts in Kobe on Osaka Bay. It’s famed for its beef, but there’s so much more to discover about this buoyant port city: a vibrant music scene, memorable museums, a laid- back atmosphere and, of course, an urban waterfall. The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum, which narrates the story of Japanese architecture and woodworking, is excellent. For an art fix, visit the Tadao Ando-designed Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art and the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art. The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Museum is moving. And for views of, firstly, the Nunobiki Falls, and then the urban sprawl and even the Seto Inland Sea (on a good day), ride the Shin- Kobe Ropeway to the mountain-top observation deck, then wander downhill through the Nunobiki Herb Garden. Having explored if timings allow, board your ship and settle into your cabin or stateroom. Take time to explore your home from home’s luxurious facilities.

Okayama Day 2

This sunny city brims with summer’s delights. Known for its mild climate, Okayama on Honshu island is often referred to as ‘Japan’s fruit basket’ thanks to its abundance of peaches, grapes, strawberries and oranges. Okayama is famed as the site of Korakuen, one of Japan’s ‘Three Great Gardens,’ a formal garden with ponds and tea houses completed in 1700. The city is also firmly associated with the hero of one of Japan’s most famous folk-tales about Momotaro, the demon-conquering boy, who was born from a peach. He and his trusty companions (a dog, monkey and pheasant) can be seen all over town.

Miyajima & Hiroshima Day 3

Disembark for a poignant day of memorials and shrines. Your first port of call is the tranquil Miyajima Island, site of the iconic red floating Torii Gate of the Itsukushima Shinto shrine, and the Daisho-in Buddhist shrine. Ascend sacred Mount Misen by cable car for the island’s most beautiful walk, amidst a primaeval forest. Take a moment to admire the views of the Torii Gate and the Shinto shrine from above. Then it’s off to Hiroshima when you might like to visit Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was designed by Kenzō Tange and inaugurated in 1955. The museum is now a national and international symbol for peace. Reflect on the bombing as you gaze at the sombre cenotaph containing the names of the victims. See the iconic Genbaku Dome, the only structure left standing at the blast site, and the Flame of Peace lit in 1964. Or you might opt to discover Japan’s breath-taking architecture at the reconstruction of feudal Hiroshima Castle, also known as Carp Castle.

Moji Day 4

Once a major trading port, Moji offers an intoxicating mix of old-world architecture and natural beauty. Stroll along the waterfront in the Mojiko Retro district and marvel at its elegant 1900s red-brick buildings of the first Meiji era, then soak up panoramic views across the Kanmon Strait and the Kanmon Bridge at Mekari Park Observation. On the other side of the sea, Shimonoseki has the Chofu area, where the remains of the residences of the Mori family, an Edo period samurai family, and a Japanese garden can still be seen to feel a contrast of history with Moji area. Further afield, Kokura Castle is a modern reconstruction of a 17th-century landmark.

Sakaiminato Day 5

A haven for seafood lovers, manga fans and nature enthusiasts, Sakaiminto’s offerings are fairly eclectic for the seemingly slow-paced port town. Fish markets and world-class seafood restaurants line the streets, offering delights including local delicacy, Matsuba snow crab. You can also feast on Pacific bluefin tuna, Sakaiminto salmon, Natsuki rock oysters, swordtip squid and plenty more. The city was also once home to local hero, Shigeru Mizuki, a celebrated manga comic artist. Visit the Mizuki Shingeru museum for a fascinating insight into his life and the world of manga. Stretch your legs and enjoy a hike up the volcanic Mount Daisen, the highest mountain in the region (1730m). Or you may wish to take a gentler trek though the tranquil and restorative beech and cedar forests whilst connecting with nature and indulging in the Japanese pastime of ‘forest bathing’.

Busan Day 6

Disembark and spend a day exploring Busan, South Korea’s second city. Seoul’s languid little sister, Busan is home to miles of beaches, rugged mountains, and delicious seafood. Moreover, there’s also kinetic energy here that can be enjoyed in its cafes, boutiques and arts scene. Where to start in this dynamic city? How about from above? From the 120-metre Busan Tower, you can really get a sense of the cityscape. Head to the beach, there are six to choose from, including Haeundae and Gwangalli. Gamcheon Culture Village, once a slum, is a colourful haven of art. The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a beautiful beachside Buddhist temple. And Jagalchi is the largest fish market in the country. All that and so much more besides.

Nagasaki Day 7

Gateway to the sublime Kujukushima Islands, the former fishing town of Sesebo has been a major naval port since the late 19th century. Located in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, the city’s look and culture has been shaped by the many nationalities it has housed over the years. As you wander past the gabled buildings of Huis Ten Bosch or enjoy a drink in Sasebo’s downtown bars, you’ll notice the blend of Japanese, Dutch and American influences. The city is easily explored on foot, and whilst here you may wish to stop in at the Maritime Museum to learn more about the region’s naval history. Get a little closer to nature by joining a longship tour of Sakai National Park’s islands. Or perhaps take in the wonderful view of the islands from above at Tenkaiho Tower’s observation deck.

Kagoshima Day 8

Spend today in Kagoshima – Japan’s friendliest city, located on the southwest tip of Japan’s Kyushu Island. Visitors enjoy the hospitable welcome, but also wandering the palm-lined streets and enjoying the mild climate. Beyond this small city’s mix of classic Japanese architecture and modern high-rise structures, Kagoshima also has a notable spattering of Art Deco buildings, which celebrate this architectural period’s optimism and hope. Look beyond the building tops, and you’ll see Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano on an island just three miles away that dominates the skyline here. It regularly smokes – visit one of the observation points for dramatic views. You can get there by ferry. Other good volcano-viewing spots are mountain-top Shiroyama park’s look-out point and Sengan-en Garden, a coastal garden that includes ponds, streams, shrines and a bamboo grove.

Miyanoura, Yakushima Island Day 9

Quiet, low-rise Miyanoura port is the gateway to Yakushima Island’s renowned forest-clad mountains. This 90% forested island is also known for its abundant rainfall, which is said to fall “35 days a month”. The ecosystem and natural beauty fostered by this unique natural environment led to the island's registration as Japan's first World Natural Heritage site in 1993. Choose from a range of hiking trails suitable for all levels, and head into the primaeval rainforests to find ancient cedar trees, bubbling streams and tumbling waterfalls.

Uwajima day 10

This bustling coastal city is anchored by its namesake castle, an elegant, multi-tiered tower that’s one of only twelve remaining from the Edo period. Follow in the footsteps of warriors as you hike uphill to the keep, where you will be rewarded with spectacular cityscapes. Then stroll amid bamboo groves and seasonal blooms at tranquil Tensha-en Garden. Enjoy the traditional townscape of Uchiko with hisotoric buildings lining up the main street.

Takamatsu Day 11

Arrive this morning in Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku. The city offers a refreshing small-city perspective on Japanese urban life. A day in Takamatsu wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Ritsurin Park, one of Japan’s most exquisite gardens. An expansive space, Ritsurin was begun by a feudal lord in the 17th century and took 100 years to establish. Dedicate several hours to these immaculately maintained gardens where shaded clearings give way to sun-dappled paths, which wind around pretty ponds and lead to bright red bridges over gentle streams. Enclosed within the garden are the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum and several lovely teahouses in which visitors can sip matcha. Another park, Tamamo-koen, contains the ruins of the city’s 16th-century castle Takamatsu-jo. Like many of Japan’s castles, it was decommissioned in 1869 following the Meiji Restoration, and nowadays only several original turrets, some walls and a moat survive.

Kobe Day 12

Your final port of call is Kobe on Osaka Bay, famed for its succulent beef. , this buoyant port city has a laid-back atmosphere and, even, an urban waterfall. A highlight is a ride on the Shin-Kobe Ropeway cable car up to Mount Rokko for views of, firstly, Nunobiki Falls, the urban sprawl and, on a good day, the Seto Inland Sea.

Rates Include
Return regional flights to the port of embarkation and/or disembarkation (where specified)
Group return transfers from the airport to the cruise port (via our included accommodation where applicable)
One night pre-cruise accommodation with breakfast in a 4/5-star hotel or onboard
All meals onboard
Onboard accommodation in a stateroom selected category
24-hour room service
Coffee, tea, soft drinks and selected alcoholic beverages available 24-hours per day
Lecture programmes by our experienced expedition team and guest speakers
One selected shore excursion/expedition activities per port of call
Branded Swan Hellenic expedition parka and use of rubber boots in Polar Regions
Standard WiFi
Onboard gratuities & port taxes
Itinerary Map

09:00 AM – 05:30 PM (EST)

+1 (800) 537 6777
Number of Guests
Oceanview D4
19 m2 Sleeps 2
Oceanview staterooms features 2 single beds, bedroom and living room and a luxurious ensuite bathroom.
Price From
$ 0
Oceanview M4
19 m2 Sleeps 2
Oceanview staterooms features 2 single beds, bedroom and living room and a luxurious ensuite bathroom.
Price From
$ 0
Balcony D5
28 m2 Sleeps 2
Located at the forward and aft of the ship, these balcony staterooms feature 2 single beds or double bed bedroom with living room area, a luxurious bathroom and your own private 6m2 balcony
Price From
$ 0
Balcony M5
28 m2 Sleeps 2
Located at the centre of the ship, these balcony staterooms feature 2 single beds or double bed bedroom with living room area, a luxurious bathroom and your own private 6m2 balcony
Price From
$ 0
Balcony D6
28 m2 Sleeps 2
Located on deck six, these balcony staterooms feature 2 single beds or double bed bedroom with living room area, a luxurious bathroom and your own private 6m2 balcony
Price From
$ 0
44 m2 Sleeps 2
Our Suites features a superking bed and separate living room with and a soothing flame-effect fireplace a luxurious ensuite bathroom and a 12 sq.m. private balcony.
Price From
$ 0
Premium Suite
49 m2 Sleeps 2
Our grandest suites features a superking bed and separate living room with and a soothing flame-effect fireplace a luxurious ensuite bathroom, spacious walk in wardrobe and a 12 sq.m private balcony.
Price From
$ 0

09:00 AM – 05:30 PM (EST)

+1 (800) 537 6777