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Kyoto – Okayama – Takamatsu – Matsuyama – Hiroshima (7 Days/6 Nights)
Located in Western Japan, the stunning Setouchi coastal area surrounds Japan’s largest inland sea. Setouchi’s unique beauty stems from its more than 700 islands dotted throughout the calm sea between two of Japan’s main islands, Honshu and Shikoku. Each island having its own customs and own traditions.
On this 7 Day/6 Night journey, we look beyond this areas incredible natural beauty and introduce four of Setouchi’s main cities – Okayama, Takamatsu, Matsuyama, and Hiroshima – along with Naoshima Island, renowned for its many art installations much loved by art enthusiasts throughout the world.
With your local Tour Manager, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the rich variety of culture, history, and unique foods of this region, much lesser known by foreign visitors, yet growing in popularity from more experienced travellers to Japan.
Min 2 / Max 6
Welcome to the ancient capital of KYOTO!
Our adventure begins with the all important “Welcome Meeting”, conveniently held at your Kyoto hotel from 5pm (JST).
Here you will meet your Tour Manager and fellow travellers, followed by a walking tour around the beautifully historic area of Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, and learn about the history of geisha culture as you explore old wooden teahouses and exclusive restaurants. You may spot Geikos (geishas), or Maikos (apprentice geishas) with their elaborate dress and make up on their way to their various appointments.
Our first day in Kyoto will end with a superb “Kaiseki” dinner, a highly elaborate and beautifully presented “course-style” meal of seasonal dishes prepared with local ingredients. This special style of cuisine grew out of 16th-century Buddhist tea ceremonies before being introduced to the Emperor’s court right here in Kyoto. The presentation of each dish is truly spectacular, offering a very unique Kyoto experience.
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting important insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent, hotel reception or your “Two Streets Back” Japan representative know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.
This morning, after forwarding your suitcase on to Takamatsu, we’ll enjoy a leisurely 1-hour “Shinkansen” (bullet train) ride to Okayama, located on the eastern side of the Setouchi region. This town prospered as a castle town dating back to the 16th Century.
You can still feel the atmosphere when we visit one of the three great Daimyo gardens of Japan, the impossibly beautiful Okayama Korakuen Garden with Okayama castle as its backdrop.
Our lunch in Okayama is a local specialty called “Demi-Katsu Don”, a rice bowl with Japanese style pork cutlets layered with demi-glace sauce, offered only in this area.
After our delicious lunch, we will make our way to the historic town of Kurashiki, a perfectly preserved town from the Edo era known for its characteristically Japanese white walls and willow trees lining a central river. Kurasaki also prospered as a hub for transporting goods to this region, and later for the textile industry. Immerse yourself in the charm of this picture-perfect town, and explore the unspoiled historical streets at your own pace. You may even enjoy a small boat ride on the river, or take in some Impressionist masters with a visit to the Ohara Museum of Art.
We will be staying overnight in this quaint little village so you can soak up the historic atmosphere and enjoy a meal of local delicacies at one of the town’s most popular “Izakaya” restaurants.
After a relaxing breakfast, we will board a local train to the port city of Uno, before catching our 20 minute ferry ride to Naoshima Island.
This island is known worldwide as Japan’s Art Island for its contemporary art museums, stunning architecture from renowned Japanese architect Ando Tadao, and the various sculptures and art installations dotted all over the island.
On arrival your Tour Manager will introduce you to Benesse House Museum. Designed by Tadao Ando, the facility is built on high ground overlooking the Seto Inland Sea and features large apertures that serve to open up the interior to the splendid natural surroundings. The Museum’s artworks are found not just within its galleries, but in all parts of the building, as well as in scattered locations along the seashore that borders the complex and in the nearby forest. Benesse House Museum is truly a rare site where nature, art, and architecture come together.
Then we are off to the Honmura area, a small port village on the island, where you will explore some of the art houses of your choice. These unique art installations utilize abandoned houses scattered throughout the village, each with its own unique character. If you have had your fill of art, no problem, you may choose to relax at one of the many cafes to enjoy a latte, wine or lunch.
After leaving Naoshima Island we take to the water again on our ferry ride to another port city. This time we discover the delights of Takamatsu, a bustling hub located on the island of Shikoku.
Unwind and enjoy the view of passing islands as we cross the calm Setouchi sea during this 1-hour journey. Takamatsu’s skyline will appear as the ferry approaches the harbour city.
After checking into our hotel, we will head out for dinner at a local Izakaya to try the local specialty, grilled chicken-on-the-bone, together with seafood and other delicacies unique to this very special region of Japan.
As we awake in the port city of Takamatsu, we’ll enjoy a relaxing breakfast before our visit to Ritsurin Garden, the largest strolling “daimyo” garden in Japan.
Completed in 1745, after more than 100 years of planning, this garden has been awarded a 3-star status, the highest by the Michelin Green Guide of Japan. Designed as a special place of scenic beauty, you can still enjoy the changing landscape surrounding the beautiful ponds and old tea houses hiding around every corner.
Today’s lunch is a regional specialty, “Sanuki Udon” noodles, characterized by its firm texture, this lunch time treat is an extremely popular and surprisingly healthy fast-food dish in this area. Do as the locals do and pile as many different combinations of toppings on these delicious noodles to ensure you have a memorable Shikouku meal.
This afternoon our 2.5 hour train journey takes us to our next destination, Matsuyama, the largest and busiest city on the island of Shikoku.
The magnificent old castle sitting on top of a steep hill still dominates the city skyline of Matsuyama.
This evening, join your Tour Manager as they take you to one of Japan’s oldest and best known hot springs, the beautifully preserved Dogo Onsen area. The main building in this beloved hot spring town is said to have inspired the image of the bathhouse in the animated movie “Spirited Away”.
As you explore this bustling city with your Tour Manager, you will be amazed how vibrant the nightlife is in this regional city. Tonight’s dinner will feature popular local seafood including delicious sea bream. This region catches more sea bream than any other in Japan, and the friendly locals are only too happy to regale you with their fishing stories over some local sake.
The symbol of Matsuyama is without doubt its magnificent hilltop castle, dating back to the early 17th century. The present castle tower was re-built in 1854, and is listed as one of the twelve surviving castles in Japan. A visit to the castle this morning will provide you with a bird’s eye view of the city and the vast Setouchi Inland Sea.
While we take a leisurely stroll through the downtown area of Matsumoto, you will notice a vast array of orange-coloured signs. Of course, the reason for this is simple, this area is renowned for its production of citrus fruit, more specifically a huge variety of mandarins. You may like to try a chilled glass of fresh mandarin juice, tangy gelato, or even be tempted by a sweet mandarin sandwich.
After a local lunch, we’ll board our ferry for our 3 hour journey to Hiroshima, the largest and most famous city in the Setouchi region. You may wish to catch up with folks back home, sort through your photos or simply relax and watch the islands drift by.
On our first night in Hiroshima, your Tour Manager will accompany you to one of our favourite local restaurants to feast on Hiroshima’s signature dish “Okonomiyaki”. Comprising a delicious savoury pancake freshly cooked on a hot plate right in front of you. This is always a highlight for many of our guests, and with good reason, it’s absolutely delicious !!!
In the morning, we will visit Miyajima Island by ferry. Miyajima is thought to ve the island where Gods live. Today it’s equally famous for its beautiful shrine and world famous red ‘floating’ torii gate. Keep your eyes out for inquisitive and hungry deer that freely roam the streets looking for tasty treats from surprised visitors.
After visiting the sacred island of Miyajima, we’ll make our way to Saijo town on the eastern side of Hiroshima to learn about Japan’s beloved national drink “Sake”. Here we will find one of the most important sake brewing communities in Japan, not to mention the birthplace of “Ginjo” grade sake, one of the most desirable sake and a keyword to remember when looking to buy your own bottle of the tasty national drink. We’ll stroll the atmospheric streets lined with white-walled sake breweries, and red chimneys standing side by side as they have for hundreds of years. We’ll learn all about the brewing process, while tasting the different sake on offer.
In the evening, let’s celebrate the end of our adventure with more delicious food including another famous local produce – the Hiroshima oyster, fresh seafood, refreshing sake and great conversation.
There are no activities planned for today, so feel free to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 10am, however if you wish to depart later, we can arrange luggage storage for you at the hotel. Your tour manager will be more than happy to help plan your post-tour itinerary or advise you on your onward journey.
Please note a visit to Hiroshima Peace Park & Museum is not included in this tour. However, if you haven’t visited the museum in the past, you may like to add this important site to your post-tour itinerary while in Hiroshima. Your tour manager will be happy to point you in the right direction.