Cultural Experiences

Encounter 400+ years of art, history & tradition

Contemporary art and age-old religion, stunning architecture and iconic shrines, complex history and unique culture. Japan has captivated the imaginations of Westerners for eons. On our Far East itineraries, you’ll travel with passionate experts—a cultural specialist, historian, and local guides—who will illuminate every facet to give you an intimate perspective on this distant land. Our Coastal Japan is jam-packed with cultural highlights while Sailing the East China Sea touches on some of the experiences that follow:

Trace centuries of history along storied shorelines

From the stately castle towns of the powerful Edo period and the elegant merchant districts of the Meiji era, to the poignant sites of World War II, Japan’s captivating history will unfold at every step. Marvel at the indelible influence of the daimyo (feudal lords)—imposing fortresses, lavish shrines, and the well-preserved homes of the samurai who protected their property. Walk among beautifully crafted wooden dwellings that recall the prosperity of the Meiji period. Watch geisha entertain in the teahouse district, sustaining the traditions of centuries past. In Okinawa, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, visit peace memorials and somber monuments. Plus, experience some of Japan’s most cherished sites like the crimson “floating” torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine; Himeji Castle, a soaring architectural masterpiece of the early Shogun era; and Hagi's Mystical Tokoji Temple with its 500 stone lanterns standing sentinel-like over noble burial mounds.

Encounter an astounding range of art

For centuries, the Japanese have put their artistic mark on a broad spectrum of styles and mediums—pottery, sculpture, ink paintings, woodblock prints, textiles, origami, anime & more. See a profusion of art—from ancient to modern, folk to futuristic, Asian to European—on visits to some of Japan’s top museums, studios, and artists’ enclaves. Other highlights include: the castle town of Hagi, where you can browse incredible collections of its eponymous Hagiyaki pottery; the former workshop of Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi which houses over 150 sculptures; plus, explore an island of modern art! Naoshima is a vibrant hub in the Seto Inland Sea teeming with cutting-edge creations like Yayoi Kusama’s famous polka-dotted pumpkins and an underground museum. The Japanese have also made an artform out of everyday rituals and there will be opportunities to take part in a tea ceremony, plus learn about sake, ikibani floral arranging, kimonos & more.

Stroll through gardens designed for royalty

During the Edo period, severe travel restrictions inspired daimyos to create their own private excursions in the form of elaborate landscape gardens. Also called strolling gardens, these oases were designed with winding pathways that promised a change in scenery with each step. Every element was meticulously manufactured to inspire contemplation—from koi ponds and bridges to teahouses and tree placement, even down to the bend of individual boughs. We’ll step back in time at several of these exceptionally well-preserved gardens, including Kenroku-en, Sengan-en, and Koraku-en, considered three of Japan’s most beautiful examples of this natural poetry.

Get a taste of Taiwan & South Korea

On Coastal Japan, spend a richly rewarding day in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty and the crown jewel of Korea’s cultural heritage. Known as the ‘museum without walls’, this UNESCO World Heritage site overflows with the ruins of temples, pagodas, rock carvings, Buddhist statuary and palaces dating back a thousand years. Our Sailing the East China Sea voyage caps off in Taiwan where you’ll get an up-close look at the exquisitely restored Bao’an Temple and learn the history of the great Taiwanese gold rush at Jinguashi.

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