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A Japanese Adventure: Volcanos, Valleys, Shrines, & Spas

How can you hit the city, the coast, the volcano and the valley in just two weeks? With this carefully-curated two-week Japan itinerary focused on the remote areas of Kyushu and Shikoku, it’s more than possible. Your trip will start and end in bustling Osaka, and bring you to the Natural World Heritage Site of Yakushima Island, the  Takachiho Gorge and Shrine, Mount Aso, an active volcano, and the incredible landscape of the Iya Valley. From city nights to mountain treks, you’ll experience the cultural charm and natural beauty of remote Japan, without surrendering luxury! 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Visit some of the oldest trees in the world in the Kirishima-Yaku National Park
  • Ride an aerial tramway up Mount Aso, an active volcano
  • Explore Mikurodo Cave, an ancient Buddhist site of enlightenment
  • Trek over vine bridges through the majestic Iya Valley
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1

Your exciting Japanese adventure begins in the cosmopolitan city of Osaka, home to 19 million people. You will arrive in the afternoon and be transferred to the Ritz Carlton or St. Regis hotel where you may rest for the evening or refresh yourself for a night on the town.

Day 2

After an optional morning tour of Osaka, you will fly to Yakushima Island, located off the southern tip of the mainland. Settle into the Sankara Hotel & Spa and soak up the sea views before enjoying a delicious, authentic dinner.

Day 3

Spend the day touring the incredible Yakushima Island, most of which is covered by the Kirishima-Yaku National Park. Enjoy a scenic drive through the rainforest, where you will see some of the oldest trees in the world, as well as a wide array of flora and fauna.

Day 4

Enjoy one more day on Yakushima Island: today, you’ll hike through the rainforest - designated a Natural World Heritage Site – and view an incredible waterfall up-close before returning to the Sankara Hotel & Spa for one more night.

Day 5

After a free morning to soak up the island, you’ll leave Yakushima and fly to Fukuoka, where you’ll be picked up and transferred to Kurokawa Onsen, a town best-known for its incredible natural hot springs. Spend the afternoon and evening exploring the town before relaxing for the night at a local guesthouse.

Day 6

Today, enjoy a day of touring local sites, including the Takachiho Gorge, an incredible natural landscape formed by volcanic lava, the Takachiho Shrine, an ancient Shinto shrine, and Kunimi Hill, the perfect spot for mid-afternoon hike. After your full day, you’ll return to your guesthouse to relax for the evening, ahead of the second-half of your journey.

Day 7

For a full day excursion, you’ll head to Mount Aso, an active volcano. If available, board the aerial tramway to ascend to the incredible volcanic vent viewing spot and take in panoramic views from several different hiking trails. If the tram is deactivated due to volcanic activity, embark on a half day hike to the cusp of the vent or visit the Kurokawa hot spring for a dip in a volcanic onsen. 

Day 8

This morning, you’ll drive to the city of Beppu, located 2 hours away in Oita Prefecture,and visit Beppu’s Eight Hells – multicolored volcanic pits filled with boiling water and mud with menacing names like Blood Pond Hell and Shaven Monkey’s Head Hell. From Beppu, you’ll enjoy a ferry ride to the city of Uwajima, where you will check into a local ryokan and enjoy the afternoon at your leisure.

Day 9

Spend the morning exploring Uwajima, from the Warei Shrine to the Date Museum, the Uwajima Castle to the Doi Pearls. After lunch, take a hike along the coast for beautiful views. If the dates line up, you may be able to see a bullfighting event before spending an evening under the twinkling lights of the city.

Day 10

After a leisurely morning, you’ll drive 4.5 hours to the small city of Muroto. Check into the luxurious Hoshino UTOCO Auberge & Spa, settle in to your new surroundings, and enjoy your evening overlooking the ocean from the expansive patio.

Day 11

This morning you’ll explore Muroto, visiting tourist destinations such as the Ransho Promenade and Global Geopark. You’ll also venture to the Mikurodo Cave, famous for being the place where the revered Buddhist monk Kukai became enlightened. End the day with a bang by taking a thrilling hike along the coast before returning to your luxury hotel.

Day 12

Today, you’ll spend a full day touring: first driving to Iya Valley, deep between the mountains of the Tokushima Prefecture. Here, you’ll board a cable car to ascend into the mountains for some hiking before retiring to the Iya Onsen Hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Day 13

After a hearty breakfast, set out to explore Iya Valley: trek through the incredible landscape, over historic vine bridges and traditional mountainside villages for a true glimpse into valley life. Return to the Iya Onsen Hotel for your last night.

Day 14

Today, your Japanese adventure comes to an end – but not before one last bout of sightseeing. You’ll drive to Takamatsu where you can squeeze in a visit to the Ritsurin Garden & Tea House and the Yashima-ji temple, and perhaps even a hike in Shikoku Mura Park. Afterward, you’ll board a train for Osaka, where you’ll catch your flight home or onto your next destination.


Suggested Accommodations

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.
Sankara Hotel & Spa

Sankara Hotel & Spa

Yakushima Island, on the southernmost tip of Japan’s toes, is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Nestled between its mountains and cedar forests, still within close proximity of the ocean, is the Sankara Hotel & Spa. The ideal secluded retreat for nature lovers, the hotel is surrounded by stunning, rugged scenery and hiking trails which lead intrepid explorers to ravines and waterfalls and through forests filled with exotic flora and fauna. Guests seeking a more relaxing experience will be delighted with the cozy on-site library, a perfect spot to curl up with a good book. What’s more, the resort boasts the first Asia Herb Association spa in Japan, where a range of Thai herbal treatments are available. The auberge-style hotel pays homage to French style and elegance, with delicious French cuisine cooked in an open kitchen and served in Okas Restaurant. Meanwhile, the 29 suites and villas are warm and sumptuous, clad with deep cedar wood, yet maintaining a sense of space and light with their high ceilings.

Oyado Nonohana, Ryokan Sanga, Takefue

Oyado Nonohana

This cozy, homey hotel feels almost like a private residence - with only eight rooms, it possesses an intimate atmosphere that blends perfectly with the serene natural surroundings. Each room has its own private hot spring bath attached. Guests may choose from either Japanese-style, or Japanese-Western-style rooms, according to their tastes. Rooms are spacious, comfortable, and provide a relaxed environment. There is limited public space offered at Oyada Nonohana. Meals are made with freshly-picked vegetables from the hotel’s own farm. The hotel is located an hour’s drive away from the nearest railway station, making it somewhat isolated, but that is often just what guests who choose to stay here are looking for. 


Ryokan Sanga

Located in a secluded forest along a mountain stream, Ryokan Sanga is the perfect getaway for travelers looking for peace and relaxation. Featuring 16 traditional Japanese-style rooms, each accommodation is equipped with tatami flooring, a low table and chairs, a flat-screen TV and a mini kitchenette. Once settled in, guests can unwind at one of the eight on-site hot springs or spoil themeselves with a soothing in-room massage. After, patrons can relax in the spacious lobby, which is equipped with cozy sofas, a fireplace and complimentary WiFi. Visitors will also enjoy authentic Japanese cuisine in the privacy of their guest room and have the opportunity to try kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Other services provided include luggage storage, a souvenir shop, photocopying, a free shuttle service and more. The majestic Aso Mountain is also an hour’s drive away while the stunning Mangan-ji Temple is a 10-minute drive from the hotel.



This ryokan sits on an expansive property 32 acres wide, on which bamboo groves grow amidst many varieties of lush greenery. A natural hot spring makes up its centerpiece, which boasts healing waters for guests to enjoy. Its 11 lodges are set amongst the bamboo forest, and provide guests with unique touches, such as a stone coffee grinder, an aroma diffuser mister, and gauze yukatas, which are softer on the skin. An expansive communal outdoor hot spring is available for all guests’ use, rich in minerals and containing fewer impurities than most hot springs, which has healing music playing to add to the natural, healthy atmosphere. From Takefue, it’s only 10 minutes by car to Kurokawa Onsen. 

Kiya Ryokan

Kiya Ryokan

This traditional Japanese-style ryokan in Uwajima is a beautifully presented two-story wooden building providing comfortable accommodation, delicious local cuisine and luxurious natural hot spring baths. After closing in 1995, it was left untouched for several years before being brought back to life in the spring of 2012, thanks to a makeover by the famous Japanese architect Yuko Nakayama. She combined modern technology with traditional Japanese furnishings and it is this mix of contemporary and classic styles that makes Kiya Ryokan so unique. With just one room, which sleeps between two and 10 guests, you can enjoy a peaceful stay here with the utmost freedom while you take advantage of the ryokan’s many facilities, including massages and beauty treatments.  In the room you will discover an air conditioner, an LCD television, dining table and safe, as well as an audio system with bluetooth connection.

UTOCO Auberge & Spa

UTOCO Auberge & Spa

On the very tip of Muroto in Kochi, surrounded by the rugged and dramatic landscape on the very edge of the ‘black sea’,  the UTOCO Auberge is a truly unique retreat. The super-modern resort resembles a sleek, white, circular spaceship, amidst the craggy rocks of Muroto geopark and its mysterious caves. And from the black current, the bubbles from the seabed provide health-giving benefits available in the hotel spa. Guests can unwind in the pool or indulge in deep sea therapies designed to relax and re-invigorate the whole body and spirit. Meanwhile, the hotel restaurant, Italian Kuroshio serves a smorgasbord of flavorful dishes made from the freshest seafood and local ingredients and inspired by the Mediterranean. The 17 guest rooms are arranged so that each enjoys a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean; decorated with a simple and sleek style, not a single detail has been overlooked, and the accommodation at UTOCO is perfectly designed to conduce to a restful stay. At sunset guests can take to the fresh air on the Typhoon Terrace for unforgettable views of sea and sky.

Iya Onsen Hotel

Iya Onsen Hotel

The unexplored beauty of Iya Valley attracts intrepid visitors with its green terraces and soaring mountains dotted with rural hamlets. Nature has protected this small corner of Shikoku Island and it remains largely untouched. What’s more, its life-giving hot springs are a huge draw, and what better way to reap their benefit than with a stay at the Iya Onsen? Here, a cable car carries guests down into the ravine, where open-air baths are filled with bubbling hot spring water. After a day of hiking, exploring and full immersion into nature, guests can retreat to their comfortable rooms at Iya Onsen, complete with tatami mats, gorgeous mountain views and a choice of indoor or outdoor baths. What’s more, the rooms are stocked with traditional yukata robes and Japanese tea and equipped with WiFi, audio player and massage chair for complete comfort in authentic surroundings. Keikoku no Sato restaurant also enjoys views of the valley and here, guests can take their time over multi-course Japanese meals, made with fresh and delicious ingredients.

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