Our family's trip to Japan was extremely well planned and well executed, on very short notice... Hats off to you!
Family from Minneapolis

Castles and Coastline: From Kyoto to Osaka

Explore Japan by taking an uncommon route on this 11-day luxury itinerary, exploring lesser-visited cities on the country’s southwestern shores. Launching from Kyoto, you’ll head west to Matsue and Izumo, taking in scenic ocean views, visiting ancient shrines and temples and wandering old castle towns. Also during this trip you’ll spend time on the sacred island of Itsukushima before looping back to Osaka, Japan’s third most populous city. During your journey, you’ll have the chance to stay in Japanese guesthouses - ryokans -  modern yet traditional boutique properties with private onsen baths.

Highlights   Pricing
  • Go sightseeing in Kyoto, a city replete with UNESCO historic landmarks and fantastic food
  • Explore old castle towns such as the Edo Period Hagi
  • Walk around Shrine Island - Itsukushima - with its iconic red torii gate and free-roaming sika deer
  • Take in the Akiyoshido-Dai karst plateau, home to Asia’s largest limestone cave
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Kyoto today, where you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Kyoto is Japan's former imperial capital and much of its historic sites are still intact. We recommend staying in a luxury hotel within the historic area, such as the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, or in a ryokan guesthouse where you can experience traditional Japanese hospitality, sleeping in suites with sliding door partitions and futon mattresses rolled out on tatami floors.

Day 2

Kyoto is home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites and no matter how modernized it becomes, there’s seemingly a remnant of its past on every corner. Today you have a full day of sightseeing with your guide to explore the city’s attractions, whether it’s a 6th-century landmark such as Shimogamo Shrine, or a futuristic structure like Kyoto Tower. Return to your hotel or ryokan in Kyoto tonight.

Day 3

Kyoto is a great place to experience traditional Japanese culture, such as ikebana - flower arranging, noodle making, sushi preparation or calligraphy. Today you can spend some time delving into the Japanese tradition of your choosing before heading to Nara. In Nara you’ll find spectacular examples of imperial architecture, such as the 8th-century Kasuga Grand Shrine - and have the chance for a close-up look at another of Japan’s national treasures - the sika deer. Check into a traditional ryokan guesthouse in Nara tonight, we recommend the secluded Tsukihi-tei located within a primeval forest.

Day 4

Today you’ll fly to Izumo, located on the coastline of Shimane Prefecture. The city is home to a collection of significant historic sites, the most important of which is the ancient Izumo Taisha Shrine. No official documentation states the shrine’s date of construction, though there are records of it being down-sized in 1200 AD. One of the shrine’s major features is a towering gate festooned with straw, and its halls and museums house many more important local artefacts. Tonight, check into an onsen guesthouse and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of Japan’s famous hot springs.

Day 5

Today you’ll spend a full day touring the neighboring cities of Matsue and Yasugi, accompanied by a private guide. Matsue is the capital of the prefecture and its lake and canals have earned it the nickname of “water city.” Here, you’ll enjoy far-reaching city and ocean views from the castle and visit the Adachi Museum of Art, famous for its beautifully-designed grounds. These gardens are considered Japan’s best and have been awarded three stars by Michelin Travel. Return to your ryokan tonight.

Day 6

Travel further along Japan’s western coastline to Nagato in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Far from the urban frisson that electrifies Japan’s big cities, in Nagato, travelers can relax in a serene mountain atmosphere, capitalizing on the location’s natural hot springs. The best way to do this is by checking into an onsen ryokan - Nagato has a premium selection of modern, design-savvy ryokans that combine traditional hospitality with sleek bathing facilities and unobtrusive technology.

Day 7

Spend the day sightseeing in Hagi today - a quiet city whose claim to fame is hagi-yaki, a form of pottery known for its simple forms and transparent glaze. You can visit a kiln in Hagi, take a cruise on Hashimoto River or explore the castle town’s “bent key” streets - twisted alleys built in feudal times to confuse invading armies. Return to your ryokan in Nagato tonight.

Day 8

Today you’ll enjoy a half-day private tour of Akiyoshido-Dai Quasi-National Park, home to a remarkable limestone cave and beautiful karst pinnacles dotted in green meadows. This is the largest limestone plateau in the country and the biggest limestone cavern in Asia - you can hike the area along trails or enjoy the views from a cable car. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure before returning to your ryokan in Nagato for the night.

Day 9
Miyajima Island

Enjoy a leisurely morning before being chauffeur-driven to the train station where you’ll catch the shinkansen - bullet train - to your next destination, Iwakuni. In this former castle town, you’ll enjoy some sightseeing, visiting the famous five-arched Kintai Bridge. Next, it’s on to Itsukushima - also known as Miyajima Island - just off the coast of Hiroshima. The island is a tranquil mountain destination renowned for its lush maple forests, shrines, and protected sika deer. Check into a ryokan on the island for a truly immersive experience.

Day 10

Explore the island of Miyajima today, wandering its forest trails and enjoying the famous view of Itsukushima Shrine. Take the ferry to Hiroshima before transferring via shinkansen to the port city of Osaka. A modern metropolis in every sense, Osaka is a great destination to enjoy the best of Japan’s urban offerings, including fine dining, nightlife and shopping. For more history, there’s Osaka Castle, moated on 15 acres of land and one of Japan’s most iconic buildings. Check into luxury accommodation tonight - the Ritz-Carlton and the St Regis are both excellent hotels in Osaka.

Day 11

Enjoy your final morning in Japan with a leisurely breakfast before being chauffeur-driven to Kansai airport in time for your departure flight.


Suggested Accommodations

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, Tawaraya Ryokan

Ritz-Carlton Kyoto

Just steps away from the popular streets of Gion, Kawaramachi and Pontocho, the hotel is the perfect gateway for seeing Kyoto’s fabulous sights. The large meeting facilities and services also make the hotel ideal for business. Respecting the ancient traditions and culture of Kyoto, the extravagant space is inspired from the natural surroundings and traditional architecture. Famous for Zen Temples, palaces and gardens, the Kyoto atmosphere is incorporated in the Ritz-Carlton’s design. Built in the style of a traditional Meiji House and courtyard, this is truly a cultural experience. A four-story waterfall is featured in the hotel entrance amidst patterned motifs. Guests are always guaranteed world-famous luxury at Ritz-Carlton, and Kyoto is no exception: guests enjoy high-thread count linens, plush Japanese “IMABARI” robes and towels, complimentary WiFi, Kyoto soap and seasonal bath salts, LED TVs and touch-panel environmental controls for automatic drape closure.  Accommodation amenities include a concierge service, swimming pool, banquet room, babysitting service, four delicious dining options and a spa for any pampering needs. 


Tawaraya Ryokan

One of the finest ryokans in Japan, Tawaraya opened 300 years ago and has stayed in the family ever since. Today, the 11th and 12th generations, a matriarch of the family and her son, share the majority of management duties, continuing the renewal of the beautiful house such that your stay here is a perfectly calibrated immersion in Japanese culture and history. There are three types of rooms, no two alike in design: bedrooms, small rooms and suites. The suites offer the best views of the garden, which is meticulously kept such that peering upon it from any angle gives one the sense of looking at a classic Japanese painting. Rooms have traditional tatami mats and futon mattresses, although low-rise beds are options for guests who prefer them. Breakfasts and dinner are served ryokan-style, meaning rice, miso soup, grilled fish, and Japanese pickles for breakfast, and traditional multi-course meals for dinner. There are two libraries, one with English language books and the other with Japanese ones, filled with art and design tomes, as the general manager, the son, is a lecturer on architecture at Kyoto University. Your stay here will assuredly be a highlight of your time in Kyoto.
Iwaso Ryokan

Iwaso Ryokan

Opened pre-Meiji Era by Iwakuniya Sobei, Iwaso has seen all walks of famed figures pass through its doors - the imperial family of Japan, Mother Teresa, and Helen Keller, to name a few. Set on a hillside at the base of the ropeway leading up to Mount Misen, Iwaso is a 10-minute walk from the main ferry harbor and village and is also a short walk from Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Breakfast and dinner are served to guests onsite; breakfast is served in the ryokan's restaurant, Momoji, while dinner is usually taken in the rooms, of which there are 38, spread across three buildings. Its traditional baths are fed by Wakamiya Hot Spring, and other amenities include a Tea Lounge and Banquet Hall.

Ritz-Carlton, Osaka, St. Regis Osaka

Ritz-Carlton, Osaka

This luxury hotel is an oasis in the vibrant and bustling city that is Osaka. The Ritz-Carlton Osaka is a business hotel that aims to provide its guests with a soothing and serene atmosphere in the heart of Osaka�s business and shopping district. With nearly 300 rooms, including a selection of Executive Suites, Club rooms, and more, each providing stunning views of the city below, as well as exclusive amenities, the options for comfort are bountiful. Egyptian cotton linens, down comforters, designer tea, a bathroom flat screen TV, fully-stocked refreshment cabinets, and complimentary newspaper and overnight shoe-shine are just a few of the exceptional surprises that await guests at this top-end hotel. Furthermore, two of its fine dining restaurants, La Baie, and Xiang Tao, are recipients of Michelin stars.


St. Regis Osaka

In the heart of Osaka’s Midosuji area lies the St. Regis Osaka, a classically-elegant five-star hotel on the “Champs Elysee of the Orient.” With stunning and extensive views of the city, the spacious rooms offer guests luxury comforts ranging from 300-thread-count sheets, to Nespresso machines, to 42-inch HD flat screen TVs. Enter the bathroom, and find a whole new world of luxury, where plush bathrobes hang above marble floors leading to an exotic rainforest shower, a roomy soaking bathtub, and even a built-in LCD TV. What’s more, the vibrant Dotonburi area is only a 15-minute jaunt away, while culture enthusiasts will enjoy Osaka Castle, at only a 10-minute drive. Enjoy first-class dining at La Veduta, where sophisticated Italian cuisine is served to discerning diners.
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Our co-founder Jay Tindall finds Japan both a challenging and rewarding travel destination, which requires several visits to truly understand. It's also his favourite food destination in Asia.
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