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Southern Japan Experience

One of Japan’s greatest attractions is its ability to offer modern and traditional versions of itself. On this 12-day trip, you’ll veer off the main island of Honshu and travel to the less-touristy southwest. Discover revived art on the island of Naoshima, wander the castle in Matsuyama and spend a night in a tranquil homestay in the village of Usuki. Steam away your worries in the onsens in Beppu and be treated to two nights in the volcanic Mt Aso, staying right in the middle of a caldera in a traditional Japanese inn surrounded by rice terraces. Remind yourself of the sobering history of Nagasaki and end it all back where it began – in thriving Osaka. This adventure is the ultimate combination of modern art, bullet trains, countryside villages, traditional inns, delicious feasts and onsens, surrounded by impressive views of rice terraces, volcano craters and deep gorges. If you’re looking for a new side of Japan – this is it!

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

1. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at our chosen accommodation.

2 It is essential that you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. There are size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage from 160cm to 250cm may require an additional JPY1000 oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is from 160cm to 250cm so they can make the necessary arrangements.

3. We are currently unable to book pre or post trip accommodation at our start and finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through your booking agent.

4. Please note that there are generally less double rooms in Japanese hotels, even those in Western style. While every effort will be made to accommodate double room requests, this may not always be possible.

Tour details Collapse
Tour Provider Intrepid Travel
Number of Days
12
Price From
$6,963
Start Location
Osaka, Japan
End Location
Osaka, Japan
Age Range
Avg. 30+
Group Size
1 to 12
Tour Style
Standard
Tour Themes
Adventure
Physical Rating
Moderate
Itinerary Expand all
Day 1: Osaka
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Osaka, Japan. Ever-vibrant Osaka is also the country’s unofficial culinary capital, whose motto is 'Kuidaore' (eat until you drop). Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your trip leader and fellow travellers. You can arrive at any time during the day, as no activities are planned until then. After the meeting, perhaps join your new travel companions for an optional dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Takamatsu
Depart Osaka this morning and begin the journey west. Take the train across the bridge spanning the stunning Inland Sea and onto Takamatsu. This may be the largest city on the island of Shikoku (the smallest of Japan’s four main islands), but it's a beautifully unpretentious town full of history, top-notch food and interesting local art. Here, you'll visit Ritsurin Garden – one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. Dating back to the Edo period, it comprises several ponds and arched bridges designed around strolling paths, tea pavilions and historic trees, with a western garden in addition to the Japanese one. The garden also houses the Sanuki Folkcraft Museum, which displays a variety of ceramics and basketwork dating from the time of the Tokugawa shoguns.
Day 3: Naoshima Island/Takamatsu
Take the ferry this morning for a daytrip to the island of Naoshima, in the Inland Sea between Takamatsu and the mainland – famous worldwide for its modern art galleries, museums, avant-garde architecture and lovely natural setting. Explore the island by public bus or bicycle to take you between the galleries and installations. Wander between artworks, hear the sound of waves lapping at quiet coves and stumble upon the wonderful outdoor sculptures. Return to Takayama after a full day on the island, where you’ll have a free night.
Day 4: Matsuyama
This morning, take the train and head west to Matsuyama – one of Japan’s least discovered prefectures coined ‘the citrus state’ by the locals. When you arrive and have maybe picked up a mikan (mandarin) or two, visit the hill-top Matsuyama Castle with your group. This is one of Japan's most impressive surviving castles, sitting right in the middle of the city. Unlike most castles in Japan, this one has an exciting collection of artefacts inside, so take the chance to check them out and learn a little more about Matsuyama's feudal history while you’re there. This afternoon, you’ll have some free time to relax and unwind at the Dogo Onsen – one of the oldest bath houses in Japan – or if you’d prefer more exploration, maybe visit Ishiteji Temple – the 51st of the 88 temples that make up Shikoku’s 88 Sacred Temples circuit (Japan’s most famous pilgrimage route).
Day 5: Usuki Homestay
Get ready for a bit of a travel day today. Jump on a train and then ferry for Usuki, on Kyushu Island – the third largest of Japan’s four main islands. When you arrive around midday and get on a public bus to the village. You’ll visit the local sake brewery, where you’ll get to see how sake (the national drink of Japan, beloved by the locals) is made, followed by a tasting of the brewery’s finest. Your hospitable hosts will be waiting for you as well and will welcome you into their house once you arrive. Your evening here will be filled with fun, collaborative dinner preparation, followed by a feast of delicious home-cooked dishes. Share stories with your hosts, get to know about their life here and learn a few things about Japanese cooking that you can bring home with you.
Day 6: Beppu
Say goodbye to your hosts after a traditional home-cooked breakfast together. Then, head to Beppu, famous for its variety of hot springs and onsens in Kyushu. Enjoy a lunch that is special to Beppu. This specialty restaurant offers a unique dining experience where you can select the food you’d like, put the dishes in a steamer and watch as they’re cooked by the steam of the hot springs! This means your food will be infused with all the healthy minerals of the baths. Some may find this a little bland as very limited seasoning is used however this is the perfect chance to enjoy the true original flavors of the food. Then you’ll visit Jigoku (translated to 'hell' & you'll see why locals call it that) – a collection of differently coloured steaming hot spring pools that showcase different benefits. Afterwards, head to a local Michelin star onsen for an authentic onsen experience including a relaxing soak. The evening is yours to spend in this relaxing city.
Day 7: Mount Aso
Today is all about chasing stunning views! Hop in your private transfer this morning and head to Mt Aso, stopping at Ogi Rice Terrace along the way. Soak up the scenic landscape of Ogi, which locate between Mt. Aso and Kuju Mountains Range. When you’ve snapped some photos, head on to the Daikanbo Observatory for some pretty excellent views of the five central peaks of Mt Aso. This viewpoint is also known as the Nehan-zo, or Nirvana Buddha, referencing the image of Buddha in repose. Fuel up your energy with a lunch stop and then get ready for a hike on the moon-like Sunesenri trail to Nakadake Crater – the largest among the five craters of the mountain. After your hike, continue your journey to your accommodation for the next two nights – you’ll be staying in a traditional Japanese inn, right in the caldera formed from ancient volcano eruptions. Surrounded by rice fields, you’re in for a peaceful couple of days and nights here.
Day 8: Mount Aso
This morning after breakfast, you’ll head out and visit the stunning Takachiho Gorge – a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River. This gorgeous spot has sheer cliffs of volcanic basalt columns, which the locals say represent the scales of a dragon. Here, you’ll hop in rowing boats and head out on a serene paddle through the gorge, passing Minainotaki Waterfall against the backdrop of the green foliage (this area is especially colourful in autumn!). After, take a walk above the gorge for a different perspective, followed by a visit to Takachiho Shrine. Return to your guesthouse in the mid-afternoon.
Day 9: Arita/Nagasaki
This morning, say goodbye to your scenic guesthouse and hop back on the train to the porcelain town of Arita – porcelain in Japan was first produced here and this small town is known nationwide for its pottery, known as Arita-yaki. Embark on a walking tour to see the old part of town and the Tonbai Wall Alleys. Then, continue to Tozen Shrine, dedicated to the god of pottery – you’ll see the locals’ dedication to the art form here, as they even have a porcelain Torii gate and a porcelain guardian dog! Continue to Nagasaki via train, arriving in the late afternoon. You have a free evening, so maybe ask your leader where to grab the best local fare.
Day 10: Nagasaki
Wake up in Nagasaki this morning – the coastal city set on a natural harbour, with the surrounding hills providing gorgeous viewpoints over the scenic hub. Visit the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum for a sobering reminder of what happened on that dreadful day – the 9th of August 1945. If you wish to reflect and explore further, there are some other interesting museums nearby worth visiting. Take the time to explore Nagasaki in your free afternoon. Consider heading over to Dejima – this fascinating artificial island was once a Dutch trading post in the 17th to the 19th centuries (and the sole foreign presence in the whole country at one point). The 26 Martyrs Memorial, Oura Catholic Church, Glover Garden and Dutch Slopes also give you a glimpse into the life of the early Christians and European traders in Japan. This evening, maybe slurp up some champon noodles (ramen, Nagasaki-style)!
Day 11: Osaka
Say goodbye to Kyushu and jump on the shinkansen back to Osaka. When you arrive this afternoon, soak up some free time to relax or explore. Tonight, why not head out for dinner and drinks with your leader and fellow travellers, to celebrate an amazing trip in southern Japan?
Day 12: Osaka
With no further activities planned, your trip comes to an end this morning. That dsn’t mean your time in Japan has to end! There is plenty to do and explore in Osaka, so if you’d like to extend your stay, just speak to your booking agent ahead of time.
Inclusions Expand
Meals: 3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners.
Transport: Train, Ferry, Public Bus, Private bus, Metro, Bullet Train.
Accommodation: Hotel (8 nights), Homestay (1 night), Japanese Inn (2 nights).
Takamatsu - Ritsurin Garden & Sanuki Folkcraft Museum.
Takamatsu - Naoshima day trip (ferry, public bus & bicycle).
Matsuyama - Matsuyama Castle.
Usuki - Local Sake brewery visit and tasting.
Usuki - Japanese home-cooking experience.
Beppu - 'Hells' of Beppu (Jigoku).
Beppu - local onsen.
Beppu - Steamed dinner (Beppu style).
Mount Aso - Ogi Rice terraces.
Mount Aso - Daikanbo Observatory.
Mount Aso - Nakadake Crater.
Mount Aso - Sunasenri trail hike.
Takachiho - Takachiho gorge rowing boat ride.
Takachiho - Takachiho Shrine.
Arita - Tonbai Wall Alleys walking tour.
Arita - Tozan Shrine.
Nagasaki - Peace Park & Atomic Bomb Museum.
Departure dates Expand
Start End Availability Price AUD
10 May 2024 21 May 2024 4 $8,484
$7,636
17 May 2024 28 May 2024 1 $8,760
14 Jun 2024 25 Jun 2024 6 $8,205
28 Jun 2024 09 Jul 2024 6 $7,695
12 Jul 2024 23 Jul 2024 3 $8,570
26 Jul 2024 06 Aug 2024 9 $7,330
20 Aug 2024 31 Aug 2024 10 $7,330
$6,964
27 Aug 2024 07 Sep 2024 9 $7,770
06 Sep 2024 17 Sep 2024 10 $8,085
$7,681
13 Sep 2024 24 Sep 2024 6 $8,890
20 Sep 2024 01 Oct 2024 9 $8,395
27 Sep 2024 08 Oct 2024 12 $8,395
11 Oct 2024 22 Oct 2024 4 $9,230
18 Oct 2024 29 Oct 2024 6 $8,900
22 Oct 2024 02 Nov 2024 10 $8,085
29 Oct 2024 09 Nov 2024 12 $8,085
01 Nov 2024 12 Nov 2024 6 $8,410
15 Nov 2024 26 Nov 2024 11 $7,935
26 Nov 2024 07 Dec 2024 10 $7,935
14 Mar 2025 25 Mar 2025 11 $8,485
21 Mar 2025 01 Apr 2025 12 $8,740
25 Mar 2025 05 Apr 2025 12 $8,740
28 Mar 2025 08 Apr 2025 12 $8,995
01 Apr 2025 12 Apr 2025 12 $8,995
04 Apr 2025 15 Apr 2025 12 $8,995
06 Apr 2025 17 Apr 2025 12 $8,995
08 Apr 2025 19 Apr 2025 12 $8,740
11 Apr 2025 22 Apr 2025 9 $8,740
19 May 2025 30 May 2025 12 $7,840
23 May 2025 03 Jun 2025 12 $7,840
30 May 2025 10 Jun 2025 12 $7,840
13 Jun 2025 24 Jun 2025 12 $7,840
27 Jun 2025 08 Jul 2025 12 $7,840
13 Jul 2025 24 Jul 2025 12 $7,840
29 Jul 2025 09 Aug 2025 12 $7,840
08 Aug 2025 19 Aug 2025 12 $7,840
22 Aug 2025 02 Sep 2025 12 $7,840
05 Sep 2025 16 Sep 2025 12 $8,740
12 Sep 2025 23 Sep 2025 12 $8,740
19 Sep 2025 30 Sep 2025 12 $8,995
26 Sep 2025 07 Oct 2025 12 $8,995
03 Oct 2025 14 Oct 2025 12 $8,995
10 Oct 2025 21 Oct 2025 12 $8,995
14 Oct 2025 25 Oct 2025 12 $8,995
21 Oct 2025 01 Nov 2025 12 $8,995
31 Oct 2025 11 Nov 2025 12 $8,740
07 Nov 2025 18 Nov 2025 12 $8,740
14 Nov 2025 25 Nov 2025 12 $8,740
28 Nov 2025 09 Dec 2025 12 $8,740
13 Mar 2026 24 Mar 2026 12 $8,330
20 Mar 2026 31 Mar 2026 12 $8,330
24 Mar 2026 04 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
27 Mar 2026 07 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
31 Mar 2026 11 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
03 Apr 2026 14 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
05 Apr 2026 16 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
07 Apr 2026 18 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
10 Apr 2026 21 Apr 2026 12 $8,330
19 May 2026 30 May 2026 12 $7,695
22 May 2026 02 Jun 2026 12 $7,695
29 May 2026 09 Jun 2026 12 $7,695
12 Jun 2026 23 Jun 2026 12 $7,695
26 Jun 2026 07 Jul 2026 12 $7,695
12 Jul 2026 23 Jul 2026 12 $7,695
28 Jul 2026 08 Aug 2026 12 $7,695
07 Aug 2026 18 Aug 2026 12 $7,695
21 Aug 2026 01 Sep 2026 12 $7,695
04 Sep 2026 15 Sep 2026 12 $8,330
11 Sep 2026 22 Sep 2026 12 $8,330
18 Sep 2026 29 Sep 2026 12 $8,330
25 Sep 2026 06 Oct 2026 12 $8,330
02 Oct 2026 13 Oct 2026 12 $8,330
09 Oct 2026 20 Oct 2026 12 $8,330
13 Oct 2026 24 Oct 2026 12 $8,330
20 Oct 2026 31 Oct 2026 12 $8,330
30 Oct 2026 10 Nov 2026 12 $8,330
06 Nov 2026 17 Nov 2026 12 $8,330
13 Nov 2026 24 Nov 2026 12 $8,330
27 Nov 2026 08 Dec 2026 12 $8,330