Japan may appear ultra-modern on the surface, but a Pelorus trip will take you to its core as a truly timeless destination; a place where ancient traditions are fused with contemporary life. Connect with the country’s traditional culture as you travel along ancient pilgrimage routes, stopping to take a dip in the healing waters of hot springs. Participate in an authentic Samurai experience and visit an ancient teahouse on your mission to get right to the heart of the destination.
- When to go
- Mar-May, Sep-Nov
- From Price
- £15,800 PP*
- Ideal Length
- 6 Nights
- Discover old Kyoto and its cultural traditions in off-the-beaten-path settings, participating in a Samurai experience before stopping in an ancient teahouse
- Make your pilgrimage to the sacred Kumano Kodo – a UNESCO World Heritage site – in the company of a yamabushi priest, before being hosted by monks at a traditional Shukubo
- Uncover modern Japan through its thriving art scene on Naoshima Island, home to some of the world’s most famous pieces such as Kusama’s Pumpkin and Monet’s Water Lilies
- Be whisked away for a night on a private island in the Kii Peninsula, the birthplace of centuries of religious Buddhist devotion
Your journey begins in the historic city of Kyoto, considered by many to be the spiritual heart of Japan. Delve into the country’s rich history at the Ryozen Museum of History – the first museum in Japan dedicated to the Bakumatsu period and the Meiji Restoration. Through calligraphy, artifacts and letters from emperors, samurai and other important figures, you’ll discover how Kyoto was once an important political centre, as well as the scene of a prolonged power struggle between the imperial loyalists and the supporters of the shogun.
Step back in time and participate in a Samurai Experience, where a Samurai master will teach you how to correctly use a sword. You’ll also learn more about the famously fierce warrior Ninjas.
Next, your cultural immersion will see you stoppingku at an ancient teahouse to sample traditional Japanese sweets before you continue on to the Raku Museum. Here see the works of 15 generations of master potters known for their plain and simple style tea bowls, reflective of the principles of wabi-sabi.
After a culture-fuelled day, travel in a private vehicle to Kii Katsuura where you will board a boat to your accommodation for the night: Kumano-Bettei Nakanoshima, a private island in the Kii Peninsula. Since the 9th century when the monk Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi) founded the first temple and the Shingon sect of Buddhism, the Kii Peninsula has been a place of religious devotion and ceremony as well as a place where nature is at its most wild and beautiful.
Wake up early to head back to the mainland for a day exploring the hidden temples and pilgrimage trails of this corner of Japan. Walk the Daimonzaka approach, one followed by pilgrims of old, as you follow the paved steps ascending to a stunning and sacred waterfall and shrine.
After exploring your final stop of the day – the Hayatama Taisha Shrine – board a traditional wooden flat-bottomed boat for a gentle ride down the Kumano River. Hear the tales of the many pilgrims that have gone before you and witness the stunning rock formations around the river.
To complete a historic day, stay in an equally historic onsen (hot spring) ryokan. The village of Yunomine Onsen is said to have the oldest hot spring in Japan, known for its healing waters as far back as 1800 years ago when an ancient samurai vaunted their curative powers. You’ll feel detoxed and relaxed, as well as part of this historic spiritual tapestry.
Kii Mountain Range
A morning dip in the healing waters of the hot springs will leave you feeling refreshed and revived before another day of pilgrimage. Following breakfast, depart for the Kumano Kodo – one of Japan’s most remote and rewarding journeys that will see you hiking through the mountainous Kii Peninsula, south of Osaka.
Once a sacred trail reserved for emperors and samurai, today it’s open to all wanderers and you’ll sight some incredibly beautiful shrines on your way. You’ll be joined for part of the trail by a yamabushi, a mountain ascetic priest of the Shugendo faith, as he teaches you about his religion and rigorous training.
Close the day on a spiritual note at Shukubo lodgings – monastery guest houses that are run by monks – as you dine on traditional Shojin Ryori Buddhist cuisine (think: rice, miso soup, and a variety of vegetable and tofu side dishes).
Rise early and join the monks for morning prayer and breakfast, the perfect way to truly understand their spiritual and minimalist way of life.
Make your way to Kongobuji, the head temple for the Shingon faith, and explore their stunning gardens before practising the devotional art of sutra copying. Tracing the characters of the Heart Sutra, you will focus your mind and find a renewed sense of peace.
Leaving the world of ancient faith behind for Japan’s lively contemporary art scene, you will make your way to Shikoku where a stay at Benesse House will be an experience unlike any other. The property is a world-renowned art museum with items from its collection showcased in each of the individually curated guest rooms.
Spend your final day exploring Naoshima, an undisputed mecca for art and culture enthusiasts and experts alike.
The art in your room gives a flavour of what Benesse House Museum has to offer, before you spend the morning discovering the works dotted around both the inside and outside of the building – many installations were created specifically for the space, such as Yayoi Kusama’s Pumpkin.
Continue on to Chichi Museum, one of the few places in the world where you can marvel at five of Monet’s Water Lilies series in natural light, before you begin your journey home via Takamatsu, the capital of Kagawa, where more mountains, hot springs and koi ponds await.
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