Japan in Depth – Expedition on the Kitamae Route

Japan in Depth – Expedition on the Kitamae Route

From AUD $14,140


Set sail and discover the Empire of the Rising Sun, its many traditions and emblematic sites. From Otaru, you will set off on an all-new 12-day cruise in the footsteps of the mid-18th-century Japanese merchants , who travelled the Kitamae maritime route to Osaka every year.

First of all, you will visit the north of the island of Honshu and, more specifically, the charming city of Sakata. Long known as a prosperous town in the western part of the Tohoku region, it will captivate you with its folkloric atmosphere, with authentic and traditional architecture, still retaining the scents, flavours and certain traditions of the time of Kitamae.

You will then sail to the small island of Sado, renowned for its magnificent coastline, wild landscapes and rich history, which blends maritime and artistic traditions with vestiges of the gold rush.

Then, in Toyama, a charming city backing onto the Tateyama mountain range, you will take the Kurobe Tateyama alpine route for a voyage above the clouds. This will be the opportunity to cross the ‘Yuki no Otani’, an impressive route cut under more than fifteen metres of snow. At the summit of this magical route, you will be struck by an exceptional panorama overlooking what are known as the Japanese Alps.

After exploring the traditional village of Ine and its bay, the port of call in Tottori will seem like the unexpected interlude of your cruise. With good reason, since this ancient, fortified town is home to Japan’s largest sand dunes. Bright sunshine, ochre dunes edged by the Sea of Japan, camels with a captivating gait… Here, in this majestic landscape where wind waves rise to caress the sand giants, time seems to stand still.

Le Soléal will set sail, on the island of Honshu, to Hagi, the cradle of the samurai and Hagi ware. This town will win you over with its narrow streets, traditional houses, and the former residences of Japanese warriors from this feudal town, whose mythical Shizuki Castle, erected in the 17th century, emerges as a symbol.

Then you will sail to South Korea, a small peninsula that juts out into the Sea of Japan, and discover Busan, South Korea’s second city. A place of great contrasts, Busan offers a spectacular view over its port, as well as over the ancient district of Chalgachi.

Back in Japan, you will set out to discover Moji, on the northern tip of the island of Kyushu. In the past a strategic site for maritime trade with China, this stunning city of picturesque little streets will enthral you with its preserved architectural heritage evoking the traditional Japan of the Meiji era and the end of the 19th century. From the top of the Mojiko Retro Observation Room, you will be able to enjoy an exceptional panorama, a poetic combination of shinto sanctuaries and captivating maritime landscapes.

After a trip aboard one of our zodiac inflatables, in the traditional fishing village of Mitarai, you will head to Tomonoura, known for its gentle way of life and its craggy landscapes that inspired the animator Hayao Miyazaki for the animated film Ponyo.

Your cruise will end in Osaka, the last stopover on the Kitamae route, now a modern, forward-looking city, nestling right in the heart of the Japanese archipelago.

Trip Name
Japan in Depth - Expedition on the Kitamae Route
Vessel Type: Luxury Small Ship Length: 142 metres Passenger Capacity: 264 Built: 2013 Sailing under the French flag, this magnificent yacht of only 132 staterooms and suites, with balconies, joined in 2013. You will be enchanted by the contemporary decor inspired by the luxury yachting world, with fluid lines and a modern colour scheme combining natural wood with shades of grey and white. A refined ambience is enhanced by the quality of the workmanship and materials: white Corian counters in the lobby contrast with the warmth of leather to recall a boat's hull, while the central scuplture of enamelled pieces takes its inspiration from the sea.  In the loungebar, the carpet picks up a tennis stripe theme symbolising a certain idea of cruising, one synonomous with French elegance and a chic seaside spirit.


Day 1 - Day 1. Otaru
Boasting an outstanding setting of natural beauty, bordered by the Sea of Japan on one side and Mt Tengu on the other, Otaru is a lively harbour town. This old industrial capital has kept from its past glory buildings in 19th century brick as well as its canals, formerly the main means of transportation. They give this Japanese town a striking appearance, especially when covered in snow. Magnificent vistas abound - itメs up to you to put them in order of preference. Shukutsu Observatory, overlooking out over the vast Bay of Ishikari, is just one of them.
Day 2 - Day 2. At sea
During your day at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness centre. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This day without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.
Day 3 - Day 3. Sakata
Nestling on the shores of the Sea of Japan, in the Tôhoku region in the north of the island of Honshu, Sakata will enchant you with its folkloric atmosphere and its authentic and traditional architecture. This emblematic city has retained the scents, flavours and certain traditions of the time of Kitamae, a shipping route along which Japanese merchants travelled in the 18th century, extending from Otaru to Osaka. The succession of Sankyo warehouses where rice was once stored stand as a testament to that time and are now the symbols of a strong industrial heritage.
Day 4 - Day 4. Sado
A small stretch of land nestling in the Sea of Japan, Sado Island is one of Japan’s unsuspected gems. Here, off the coast of the city of Niigata, time seems to stand still. The traditional wooden houses coexist with a unique natural environment offering a wonderful mix of quiet beaches with crystal-clear water, craggy coastline, wild moors, and splendid rice terraces. Before the Edo Period, political opponents were exiled on this island. Renowned for its gold mines, active until 1989, Sado distinguishes itself by preserving a cultural heritage with fabulous attractions. Noh theatre is a perfect example. The oldest traditional performing art in Japan, combining dance-drama and pantomime, Noh theatre holds a special place in the history of Sado. The island is world-renowned for this art form.
Day 5 - Day 5. Toyama
In the centre of the island of Honshû, backing onto the Tateyama mountain range, discover the irresistible and enchanting Toyama. Gateway into the Japanese Alps, between the mountains and the cystal-clear waters of the Sea of Japan, Toyama captivates with its unique landscapes: waterfalls considered the highest in Japan, gigantic walls of snow in winter, large screen nature with summits climbing over 3,000 metres high. The Kurobe Tateyama alpine route will take you on a voyage above the clouds. This will be the opportunity to cross the “Yuki no Otani”, an impressive route cut under more than fifteen metres of snow. At the summit of this mythical route, you will be struck by an exceptional panorama overlooking these snow giants.
Day 6 - Day 6. Ine
In the north of the Kyoto prefecture, along the Sea of Japan and anchored in the Bay of Ine, this small fishing village nestling between lush green mountains and emerald waters is considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful villages. Calm and picturesque, Ine has successfully preserved its authenticity of yesteryear, as evidenced by the Funaya, these traditional wooden dwellings built above the water to house fishermen and store their small boats. Ine will take you on a beguiling voyage into the 18th century, to the epoch of Edo and the Kitamae trade route.
Day 7 - Day 7. Tottori
On the San-in coast, Tottori, the Japanese island of Honshu’s northernmost city, offers tranquillity and a change of scenery. Lined with lush forests containing mountain sanctuaries long considered to have been the homes of the gods, Tottori has retained its authenticity of yesteryear. A symbol of Japan off the beaten track, this city in the eponymous region promises to be a surprising interlude on your cruise. With good reason, since this ancient fortified city with vestiges of its past is home to the largest sand dunes in Japan. Bright sunshine, golden dunes edged by the Sea of Japan, camels with a captivating gait... Here, in this majestic landscape where wind waves rise to caress the sand giants, time seems to stand still.
Day 8 - Day 8. Hagi
In the south of Honshu island, surrounded by mountains, Hagi is a city of water. For good reason; it was built on the delta of the Abu-gawa river. Its castle was built in the 17th century and its outer walls remain in the lovely Shizuki Park. The old town was one of the cradles of the Meiji revolution. You will discover its rich past in streets lined with old houses and samurai manors, or within the walls of the many museums and Hagi-yaki ceramics workshops.
Day 9 - Day 9. Busan
With around four million inhabitants, Busan is the second largest metropolis on South Korea, after Seoul. This dynamic harbour city, located in the south-east, surrounded by the warm waters of the Sea of Japan, benefits from a mild, pleasant climate. You’ll find delightful simply to stroll around the lively streets and explore the city’s outstanding cultural heritage of art galleries, museums, and Buddhist sites, such as the Haedong Yonggungsa temple, which elegantly sits on the waterfront. Rich too in magnificent beaches and superlative natural landscapes, Busan’s peaceful atmosphere will win you over, as will its inhabitants, whom you’ll have the pleasure of meeting.
Day 10 - Day 10. Moji, Kitakyushu
At the mouth of the Kanmon Straits lies Mojiko, the northernmost port of Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands. For many years, Mojiko was the gateway to the island. Today, the old boats are gone, but as you stroll around the picturesque streets you will discover a well-preserved architectural heritage that evokes traditional Japan from the first Meiji era of the late 19th century. From the heights of the Mojiko Retro Observation Room, you can enjoy the amazing views that take in the Shinto shrine and coastal landscape like a postcard of the Land of the Rising Sun.
Day 11 - DAY 11. Mitari & Tomonoura
A charming fishing village nestling in the east of Osaki Shimojima Island, on the edge of the Seto Inland Sea, Mitarai is appreciated for its traditional charm and authentic character. A trip back in time to the Edo Period, where the hustle and bustle of modern cities is replaced by the gentle sound of fishing boats. Thanks to its 19th century wooden dwellings lining the small, narrow streets, its great causeway, its centuries-old sanctuaries and its gangi stairs, a stone structure giving on to the sea, the old town was classed as a Preservation District by the Japanese state in 1994.Anchored to the south-eastern end of the Nunakama Peninsula, facing the calm and clear waters of the Seto Inland Sea, Tomonoura is a destination particularly appreciated for its authentic and old-fashioned atmosphere that gives it an incomparable charm. In the past used as a port where boats would moor while waiting for a favourable wind, the charming and picturesque village now serves to inspire many filmmakers and artists. With good reason, since its craggy landscapes, its cherry trees in blossom, its gentle way of life, its traditional wooden houses and its port, preserved since the Edo era, notably enabled the artist Hayao Miyazaki to make the animated film Ponyo.
Day 12 - Day 12. Osaka
Like its big sister Tokyo, Osaka is the product of ancestral traditions and amazing technological innovations. And despite its size, its location on the Pacific Ocean give it a sense of serenity. The main historic landmark is the 16th century Osaka Castle, which stands proud in the midst of majestic skyscrapers. The lively streets of Dotomburi and the bizarre Shinsekai district attract thousands of locals and visitors. A multitude of restaurants offer menus full of regional specialities: takoyaki, made with octopus, and other succulent dishes such as kushikatsu kebabs
Day 13 - Please Note:
Itineraries are subject to change.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $14,140Superior Stateroom
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $15,410DeLuxe Stateroom
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $17,230Prestige Stateroom - Deck 4
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $18,130Prestige Stateroom - Deck 5
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $19,220Prestige Stateroom - Deck 6
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $27,180Deluxe Suite
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $37,140Prestige Suite - Deck 5
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $39,140Prestige Suite - Deck 6
11-04-202322-04-2023AUD $45,100Owner’s Suite


    • First expedition cruise in the world in the footsteps of the merchants of the Kitamae route
    • Outings and shore visits in zodiac inflatables with a team of experienced naturalist guides
    • Varied landscapes of Sea of Japan from the rich shorelines to the Japan Alps
    • Enjoy local cuisine that passed through the Kitamae route from rich seafood to local sake
    • Experience the rich culture along the Sea of Japan to Setouchi inland sea. A coast line that best preserves the traditional side of Japan
    • Gain an insight into the history, culture and the diversity of flora and fauna from your expert expedition team