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In alliance with Smithsonian Journeys.
This cruise is part of a collection of PONANT voyages that are specially-tailored for English-speaking travelers who want to engage with the world. In addition to the usual elements of the PONANT experience, the listed price for these voyages includes transfers to and from the ship, talks and discussions aboard ship by world class experts, and a shore excursion or activity in each port of call that encourages guests to embrace the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the local environment and culture.
This 8-day voyage along Japan's northern coast from Maizuru offers a superb introduction to its traditions and customs through a wide variety of carefully curated shore excursions in each port of call-an opportunity for you to sample widely among feudal castles, Buddhist temples, modern art, tea ceremonies, artisanal crafts, landscape gardens, and the wonders of nature.
The richness from which to choose is immediately apparent in your first port of call, Sakaiminato, where options include Matsue Castle, built entirely of pine in 1611; the Adachi Museum of Art, displaying the great masters of modern Japanese painting and sculpture; a demonstration of the ancient craft of making paper (washi) from tree bark; and Yushien Garden, a landscape garden in traditional style, famous for its peonies.
The South Korean port of Busan offers a similar range of experiences: Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, built in 1376 overlooking the sea; the Busan Museum of Art, featuring an outdoor sculpture garden as well as exhibits of contemporary Korean artists; Gyeongju Historic Areas, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site representing the flowering of Silla culture between the 7th and 10th centuries; and a Korean Tea Ceremony at the Hongbeopsa Temple, famous for having the largest Buddha statue in Asia.
A day at sea brings you to Kanazawa and a chance to explore world famous Kenroku-en Garden, recognized as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan because it possesses 'the six qualities of a perfect garden'. Kanazawa is also known for its impeccably-preserved samurai and geisha districts, and for its handicrafts, especially its lacquer, pottery, gold, and silk-all of which you will be invited to experience and enjoy.
The final two ports of call - Ogi, on Sado Island, and the small town of Sakata - are where Japan's natural beauty takes center stage. An excursion to Senkaku-wan Bay Ageshima Yuen Park on Sado Island is a landscape photographer's dream, as are Mt. Haguro, part of the trinity of sacred mountains known as the Dewa Sanzan, and Mt. Chokai and Tamasudare Falls outside of Sakata. But as always on this cruise, alternatives abound, this time in the form of a Folk Museum and Sake Brewery in Ogi and a photography museum and aquarium featuring jellyfish in Sakata.
As a special treat, you are invited to attend an exclusive presentation of taiko drumming by the world-famous drumming group, Kodo, while on Sado Island.
Your cruise ends in Hakodate on the island of Hokkaido.