Island Realms of Japan

Island Realms of Japan

From GBP £8,295


Join the MS Caledonian Sky for this unusual voyage which focuses on the small islands and ports of southern Japan. Sailing south from the cultural capital of Kyoto, we visit Japan’s intriguing and diverse islands including the subtropical Amami and Yaeyama Islands where a slower pace of life is enjoyed and which offer an altogether different experience from Japan’s mainland. Over the course of just twelve nights we will be able to see a variety of cultures, natural wonders and architectural styles. Amongst the many highlights will be the iconic gardens of Koraku-en and Ritsurin, the shrines and pagodas at Miyajima and Rurikoji and Obi Castle which harks back to an era dominated by feudal lords. For the natural world enthusiasts we will explore the natural and underwater worlds of the southern archipelago and for those who prefer a historical perspective, we will see the Peace memorial at Hiroshima and the remnants of the World War Two battle at Okinawa. Our expert Guest Speaker and local guides will provide an insight into Japanese culture and history along the way.

Our voyage will end in Taiwan. Sitting between China and Japan it is a surprisingly beautiful island about half the size of Scotland and we will visit one of its natural wonders, the Taroko Gorge National Park. Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese nationalist leader and Mao’s great adversary crossed the sea from China with a million and more of his followers in 1949, together with many great treasures from the Forbidden City. These treasures are now housed in the magnificent National palace Museum in the nation’s capital of Taipei which we will visit before returning to London, a wonderful epilogue to a fascinating trip.

Price Includes: Economy class scheduled air travel, two nights hotel accommodation in Kyoto on bed and breakfast basis, 12 nights aboard MS Caledonian Sky on a full board basis with house wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, on board team, shore excursions, group transfers, permits, port taxes.

Not Included: Travel insurance, visas.

Trip Name
Island Realms of Japan
Vessel Type: Luxury Expedition Length: 90 metres Passenger Capacity: 114 (in 57 suites) Built: 1991 / refurbished 2012 The MS Caledonian Sky accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in 57 spacious outside suites. Many have walk-in wardrobes and some feature tub baths. There will be seven categories of suites and sixteen suites will have private balconies. For those familiar with the MS Island Sky she will feel like a second home, although there are some differences. The dining room, lounge, Lido Deck and bar are all similar. However, the ‘Club’ on the MS Caledonian Sky has been transported to the very top deck. Here, there is a library and bar which leads out on to a lovely forward deck. The ‘Club’ has wonderful views with ceiling to floor windows. If you like the MS Island Sky, we are sure you will also approve of her sister. And, of course it is important that we offer the very best of facilities. However, equally as important are the staff on board whether they are the vessel’s crew or our own expedition staff. Noble Caledonia’s reputation has been built on providing the very best in all areas. Their crew of 74 not only offer an excellent service they are also noted for their kindness and attention to detail. A well run ship with a warm atmosphere is what we are known for, and it is because most of our crew have been with us for many years that we are able to engender such an atmosphere. Your Suite Onboard there are 57 exceptionally spacious and well designed suites. The passenger accommodation is arranged over four decks and all suites have outside views. All feature a sitting room area and some have private balconies. Each affords considerable comfort with en-suite bathroom featuring a country style wash basin, hot towel rack and vanity unit with sink and walk-in shower and/or bath tub. Facilities in the suites also include walk-in or spacious wardrobes, dressing table with large mirror and stool or desk, mini-fridge, flat screen television, telephone, programmable electronic safe, hairdryer, assorted toiletries, air-conditioning and heating. Bottled water, towelling dressing gowns and slippers are also provided for your comfort. Your space The spacious and finely decorated public rooms include a large lounge where daily briefings and talks will be provided throughout the voyage and an elegant bar where a pianist plays periodically throughout the day. The bar also features a 24-hour tea and coffee station. In addition there is the Club Lounge on the Panoramic Deck which features a bar. The onboard travel library is the perfect place to relax with a book and is stocked with reference books pertaining to the places the vessel is visiting along with a selection of games and two computers with internet access. Daily newspapers and magazines are also placed in the library depending on local availability. Outside there is a rear Lido deck where meals are served in warm weather under shade. On the top deck there is a further observation and sun deck with bar service and comfortable deck furniture for sun bathing or relaxing with a book. There is also a small gymnasium onboard and hairdressers with appointments made on request. Your dining With only one sitting and a maximum of just over 100 passengers, the quality of cuisine will be of a consistent superior quality. Where possible and when it meets his high standards, our accomplished chef will obtain local produce in markets or buy the catch of the day from a passing fishing boat. Such purchases enhance the well stocked larders and bring a local touch to the varied menus. In the main elegant dining room, breakfast is served buffet-style, with certain items cooked to order and lunch and dinner is à la carte. When weather permits, breakfast, a buffet-style lunch and dinner are also served on deck. To enhance your dining experience even further a selection of wines are included with lunch and dinner. Afternoon tea is served in the lounge and tea and coffee are available 24 hours. With sufficient notice, most diets can be catered for on board. For your comfort, safety and security The vessel is equipped with the latest safety, navigation and communications equipment along with roll stabilisers to minimise the ship’s motion. The Captain and officers operate an open-bridge policy that allows passengers onto the bridge at most times with the exception of arrival and departure from port and during times of complicated navigation. Here you can check the ship’s progress by charts and learn more from the officers about your journey. There is also a dedicated channel on your television in your suite showing the routing of the vessel along with technical information and estimated times of arrival and departure from port. On board you will also find a clinic and doctor and a lift that serves all decks. Smoking on board is restricted to outside decks only. Gratuities Unlike many other cruise vessels, onboard the MS Caledonian Sky you do not need to worry about tipping staff as we have included them in your holiday price. In addition we tip all their guides and drivers along the way, thereby taking away the hassle of always having to remember to have some small change with you.


Day 1 - Day 1 - London to Osaka, Japan.
Fly by scheduled indirect flight.
Day 2 - Day 2 - Kyoto, Japan.
Arrive this morning and transfer to our hotel in Kyoto for our two night stay. Spend the rest of the evening at leisure to explore or relax in the hotel.
Day 3 - Day 3 - Kyoto.
After breakfast at the hotel discover Kyoto, Japan’s former historic capital and Emperor’s home for nearly 1000 years. On a morning tour we will visit Kinkakuji Temple and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore independently.
Day 4 - Day 4 - Kyoto to Kobe.
Depart the hotel after breakfast and discover Nara en-route to embark the MS Caledonian Sky. During the 8th century Nara was Japan’s capital for 74 years and many of the temples and shrines from this era still remain. We arrive in Kobe to embark later in the afternoon and enjoy Welcome Drinks and Dinner before sailing later in the evening, along Japan’s Inland Sea.
Day 5 - Day 5 - Koraku-en & Kurashiki.
From the port of Uno-Ko we will visit one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Korakuen, which translates as “Garden of pleasure after”. This 17th century formal garden has 28 acres of walking trails, ponds, plum and cherry trees, and a classic teahouse where we will experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a Japanese lunch in a local restaurant we will continue to Kurashiki where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi.
Day 6 - Day 6 - Takamatsu.
The MS Caledonian Sky will berth in Takamatsu located on Shikoki Island on the northern shores of the Seto Inland Sea. This morning we visit Kinashi Town preserving a rich history of producing bonsai for 250 years. We will explore the town, visit a Bonsai nursery and make our way to Ritsurin Garden, recognised as one of the most beautiful in Japan and built by feudal lords in the early Edo Period. With a backdrop against the wooded Mount Shiun, we will wander along the paths of this historic landscape garden dotted with ponds, historic trees and pavilions. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure exploring Takamatsu town.
Day 7 - Day 7 - Miyajima & Hiroshima.
Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture postcard vista of the scarlet Torii gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will use the vessel’s Zodiacs to go ashore and explore the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. The shrine is a designated World Heritage Site. Over lunch we sail to Hiroshima for our visit to the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph which contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb and the permanently lit “Flame of Peace”. Just outside the park, the A-Bomb Dome is a haunting reminder of the destructive forces that were unleashed on the city being one of the few original buildings to survive. In the museum we will see photos, videos and victim’s personal effects relating to the bomb.
Day 8 - Day 8 - Ube, Yamaguchi.
We continue our exploration of Japan and visit some sites of historic, southern Yamaguchi prefecture. From our base at the port of Ube we will travel inland to visit the picturesque five-storied Pagoda of Rurikoji Temple and the surrounding park. Dating back to 1442, the pagoda was built in memory of Yoshihiro Mori Terumoto who ruled this area during this period. We also hope to visit the Fujigochi Tea Plantation and enjoy a tour of the tea factory and plantation where the local Ono Tea is produced from 70 hectares of gentle rolling countryside
Day 9 - Day 9 - Aberatsu.
Today we will visit Obi castle in southern Miyazaki, a region off the well beaten tourist trail. The castle was ruled by the Ito Clan for fourteen generations during the Edo Period (1603-1867). We will see the castle and stroll in the grounds known for their serene grove of 140 year old cedar trees. The nearby town has several traditional streets, former samurai houses and quarter, as well as quaint streams. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure.
Day 10 - Day 10 - Yakushima Island.
We sail to the very south of Kyushu and the island of Yakushima which became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and has a particularly diverse flora. We will spend the afternoon on a choice of nature walks in Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi, which are over 3000 years old.
Day 11 - Day 11 - Amami Oshima, Amami Islands.
We continue sailing south and arrive this morning in Amami Oshima, a natural sub-tropical, paradise situated in the Amami Islands and surrounded by transparent waters, brightly coloured coral reefs and tropical fish. The island is almost entirely covered in forest and mangrove and offers fantastic bird watching and wildlife sightings. We have the whole day to explore and will visit the Nature Observation Park where we can walk through the forest and hope to see the Amami Jay, Ruddy kingfisher, Ryukyu Akashobin, butterflies and possibly the rare black hare. We will also see local industry and watch the process of making tsumugi and kasuri silk-cotton fabrics, used for making kimonos, at the Oshima Tsumugi Village, a craft complex in a beautiful hillside setting amongst flowers. Many of the local plants are used in dyeing. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure exploring the local area.
Day 12 - Day 12 - Okinawa, Ryuku Islands.
Arrive today in the largest of the Ryuku Island archipelago, Okinawa. It is probably best known for the long and bloody battle of World War II which lasted 82 days. There will be a choice of excursion this morning, either choose to learn more about this significant encounter when we visit the former Japanese Navy Underground Head Quarters, the Peace Memorial Park and Himeyuri Tower, which commemorates the fate of female high school students, who worked in army field hospitals in caves under horrendous conditions. Alternatively, stretch your legs as we walk through the Gangala Valley, a working excavation site with human pre-historic remains dating back some 18,000 years. We will walk past the “walking Banyan tree” and see the caves, the history of which our guides will explain. Before returning to the vessel we will see the Shuri Castle, perched on a hill overlooking Naha which used to be a centre of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Enjoy an afternoon of exploring independently.
Day 13 - Day 13 - Miyako-Jima, Miyako Islands.
After a morning cruising we arrive around midday at Miyako-Jima, the largest of the eight islands of the Miyako Island Chain. The island bears many historical relics and beautiful white sandy beaches including Maehama, Painagama, Sunakawa and Shigira Beach. For our afternoon tour, we will embark on a glass bottom boat ride and scenic tour including a walk around the narrow Higashi Henna Cape the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the South China Sea. We also hope to offer a snorkelling opportunity.
Day 14 - Day 14 - Ishigaki & Taketomi, Yaeyama Islands.
Our final call in Japan will be at the Yaeyama Islands, a cluster of coral reefs and forested mountains. This morning, from our base in Ishigaki we take the short journey by local ferry to neighbouring Taketomi. This tiny island, just 1500 metres at its widest point and home to 300 people still offers a traditional Ryuku way of life. We will be transported by traditional buffalo drawn carts to view the traditional bungalow style houses with low slung terracotta roofs and rocky walls covered in hibiscus and bougainvillea. Alternatively enjoy a glass bottom boat experience on Kabira Bay before visiting Yaima village. We return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon is free to relax on board or ashore.
Day 15 - Day 15 - Hualien, Taiwan.
From our berth in Hualien we will enjoy a full day tour to the Taroko Gorge National Park. Taroko means “magnificent and beautiful” in the local Truku language and it is clear to see why the name was used. The gorge itself stretches for 20 kilometres with marble cliffs rising hundreds of metres above the Liwu River. We will see the Swallow Grotto and the Tunnel of Nine Turns, a 1.9 kilometre path cut into the cliffs following the route of the original tracks along the gorge and the Changuang Temple, a Buddhist monastery with commanding views of the river. We will have a local lunch before returning to the ship later in the afternoon.
Day 16 - Day 16 - Keelung to London.
Disembark this morning and join a tour of Taipei after which we transfer to the airport for our scheduled indirect flight to London. Our tour will include a visit to the outstanding National Palace Museum, a repository of over 600,000 priceless Chinese artefacts which is located in the green hills just outside the city as well as the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.
Day 17 - Day 17 - London.
Arrive this morning.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £8,295Castle Standard Suite
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £10,495Castle Standard Suite Sole
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £10,695Caledonian Superior Suite Sole
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £10,795Promenade Owner's Corner Suite
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £8,495Caledonian Superior Suite
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £8,895Promenade Premium Suite
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £9,495Bridge Deluxe Balcony Suite
08-06-201924-06-2019GBP £9,795Promenade Prem. Balcony Suite


    • Discover Kyoto, Japan’s former historic capital and Emperor’s home for nearly 1000 years
    • Visit one of Japan’s most famed gardens, Korakuen, which translates as “Garden of pleasure after”
    • Explore Miyajima
    • one of Japan’s top scenic wonders
    • Visit Obi castle in southern Miyazaki, a region off the well beaten tourist trail
    • Travel to the island of Yakushima which became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and has a particularly diverse flora