Legends of Shimane & Okayama

Journey off the beaten track to the less-trodden Shimane & Okayama Prefectures to discover a land steeped in ancient traditions, legacies of the samurais, invigorating hot springs and inspiring arts and crafts. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience fine ryokans  with exquisite cuisine

Admire amazing landscaped gardens and charming buildings

Experience less trodden towns and villages of Shimane & Okayama

Visits to local artisans and craftman studios

ITINERARY

DAY 1: IZUMO / MATSUE

This morning, set off on a short domestic flight to arrive into Izumo Airport where a short drive later takes us to the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines in Japan dating back to the 17th Century and revered as the "Home of Shintoism", attracting worshippers all over Japan on the annual pilgrimage route. Built in Taisha-zukuri style with its steep thatched roofs, it is the oldest shrine architecture in Japan. Visit the halls and shrines and learn about the "Kami Pilgrimage" where worshippers seek divination and pray for good luck in autumn for the upcoming year ahead. Next, we visit the old Izumo Taisha Railway Station, beautifully-preserved and perhaps the most beautiful former or existing train stations in Japan, built in 1924 and is now designated an important cultural asset. We then continue a short drive to the small town of Hirata, nestled along the banks of the Ibi River which leads into Lake Shinji and part of the ancient "Momen Kaido" Cotton Route. Discover the beautiful streets lined with historic Edo and Meiji Period buildings before a scenic drive past the beautiful Lake Shinji to arrive at the therapeutic Tamatsukuri Onsen on the outskirts of

Matsue.  

Overnight: Kai Izumo, Matsue

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: MATSUE

Today, we explore Matsue, capital city of Shimane Prefecture renowned as the "City of Water" and sandwiched in between Lake Shinji and Lake Nakaumi on each flank and to the north, the Sea of Japan. A former feudal stronghold, we visit one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, the Matsue Castle, built in the early 17th Century by Lord Horio Yoshiharu. Later, we take a step back in time as we stroll the historic Shiomi Nawate street lined with charming traditional Japanese houses and former samurai residences. We then take a break to sample some matcha green tea at the historic Meimei-an teahouse, built in 1779 at the request of Matsue's 7th feudal lord, Matsudaira Harusato where we learn about the Fumai-ryu style of tea ceremony while enjoying exceptional views of Matsue Castle. Worth a visit is the Yoneda Sake Brewery where we go behind the scenes to witness the production area and learn about one of the region's greatest sake, the Toyonoaki Daiginjo. 

Overnight: Kai Izumo, Matsue

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 3: MATSUE / KATSUYAMA / YUNOGO ONSEN

An experiential day beckons as we start the morning with a short drive to visit the Amano Kouya indigo dyeing workshop where we learn about the art of "Hirose-style" of dyeing and traditional methods of weaving dyed threads and fabrics from 5th generation owner, Hisashi Amano where we have the chance to participate in this diminishing art. Later, we continue to the award-winning Adachi Museum of Art, founded by Adachi Zenko in 1980 as a way of fusing his passions for Japanese arts and horticulture, housing over 1,300 paintings and artworks. Thereafter, we officially leave behind Shimane Prefecture as we drive into the picturesque and diverse Okayama Prefecture. We stop in the beautiful and historic town of Katsuyama, extremely well-preserved with its traditional white-walled "kura" storehouses and merchant houses with stone walls and lattice grating. Enjoy a wonderful atmosphere of a bygone era and spend time for lunch before we visit Gozenshu Tsuji Honten Sake Brewery, one of the most revered sake breweries in all of Japan for its ancient "bodaimoto" brewing techniques. We go behind the scenes to learn about the production process from Maiko Tsuji, one of few female toji (sake brewer) in Japan! Our day ends with our arrival into the astonishing Kifu no Sato, an authentic Japanese inn in Yunogo Onsen in the historic city of Mimasaka, home to the famous swordsman samurai, Miyamoto Musashi. 

Overnight: Kifu no Sato, Yunogo Onsen

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: YUNOGO ONSEN (EXCURSION TO TSUYAMA & OKUTSU ONSEN)

A rejuvated day begins with an excursion of the heart of Okayama Prefecture. From the Kifu no Sato, we make our first visit to the city of Tsuyama, with over 1,300 years of history and foundation and designated as one of the most amazing destination to view cherry blossoms in spring and koyo leaves in autumn. Enjoy a visit to the Tsuyama Castle, reconstructed in 2005 as well as the Joto District, lined with historical townhouses which evokes a deep sense of nostalgia. We also stop to see the defunct Old Tsuyama Locomotive Depot Museum, built in its iconic fan shape and showcasing a collection of some of the earliest trains. We then travel on to the charming and nostalgic Okutsu Onsen, renowned for its old tradition of laundry by "foot washing" in the river under the Okutsu Bridge (Sundays). Enjoy a visit to the Okutsukei Valley - decorated in beautiful autumn foliage and a natural riverbed filled with weathered rocks offering a stunning visual treat.  

Overnight: Kifu no Sato, Yunogo Onsen

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: YUNOGO ONSEN / IMBE / OSAFUNE / OKAYAMA / KURASHIKI

We leave Yunogo Onsen as we travel south to the small town of Bizen, renowned for its century-old traditions of pottery - one of Japan's oldest. The old townscape of Imbe is decorated with unique buildings made of red brick chimneys and Bizen-styled pottery roof tiles. Visit the Bizen Pottery Art Museum where many masterpieces and works of art from Japanese artists are on display and later, we visit the Ichiyo-gama pottery studio to understand the preparation of the kilns. We continue our journey next to the town of Osafune, an important centre of production for Japanese swords. Visit the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum to learn about the variety of swords on display and its history as well as witnessing the process of sword making up close. Our next stop will be the Kibitsu Shrine in Okayama city, which inspired the famous folk tale of "Momotaro". Designated as a National Treasure, the shrine thrills with its amazing 360m long corridor and an amazing destination for cherry blossom viewing in spring and azaleas in summer. We continue west where we eventually arrive into the beautiful canal town of Kurashiki where our retreat will be the gorgeous Ryokan Kurashiki

Overnight: Ryokan Kurashiki. Kurashiki

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6: KURASHIKI

Begin the day with a self-visit to the impressive Ohara Museum of Art, one of the world's most comprehensive private museums featuring a collection of Western arts. Worth a visit too is the Momotaro Karakuri Hakubutsukan Museum which displays Japanese woodblock prints, picture-card shows and other materials related to Momotaro. In the late morning, enjoy an escorted walk with okami of Ryokan Kurashiki, Ritsuko Nakamura (a Beyond X Boundaries exclusive experience) for an local perspective of the historic Kurashiki-Bikan historical quarter lined with old houses, inns, restaurants and artisanal studios. Visit the Morita Shuzo Sake Brewery where the finest Asahi rice grains grown in Okayama Prefecture are selected and brewed using traditional techniques with modern technology. Next, visit the Sakazuyaki Pottery Studio which was founded during the Meiji Era where you will enjoy an insightful explanation about its production process over tea with the pottery master. We will also visit a "Bitchu washi" Japanese paper studio where crafting of this traditional paper dates back to the Nara Period in the 8th Century. 

Overnight: Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 7: KURASHIKI / OKAYAMA

Our journey of Shimane & Okayama Prefecture comes to an end today as you are transferred to Okayama Station or Okayama Airport for your onward journey. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Kai Izumo is located in Tamatsukuri Onsen in Matsue providing a modern retreat with Japanese elements and offering a sensational hot spring experience to soothe the skin. All guestrooms have outdoor bath made of either cypress wood or Shigaraki pottery. Cuisines are exceptional with local specialties using fresh foods from Lake Shinji and nearby areas of Izumo. 

Kai Izumo, Matsue

The Kifu no Sato is a traditional Japanese inn dating back four generations. Situated in Yunogo Onsen and part of Mimasaka City - home of legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi, enjoy a warm hospitality and a rejuvenating atmosphere, a luxuriating hot spring and exceptional cuisine. 

Kifu no Sato, Yunogo Onsen

Ryokan Kurashiki is located right in the heart of the historic merchant's quarter surrounded by beautifully-preserved 17th Century architecture with traditional black and white kura (wooden storehouses) lining the narrow streets. With 8 rooms spreading across 3 buildings, each is furnished with traditional Japanese tatami, low-slung furniture and western styled beds.

Ryokan Kurashiki, Kurashiki

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