Nara & Mie - The Spiritual Kii Peninsula

We journey to the largest peninsula in Japan - the magical Kii Peninsula where some of Japan's most ancient secrets remained unrevealed. Experience part of the sacred pilgrimage route and savour the finest cuisines on this spectacular journey of epic proportions. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience fine ryokans and country lodges with exquisite cuisine

Admire amazing landscaped gardens and charming buildings

Experience a private traditional arts performance over dinner

Visits to local artisans and craftman studios

ITINERARY

DAY 1: OSAKA / NARA / SAKURAI

Today, be met in downtown Osaka and embark on short journey into Nara, the ancient capital of Japan during the Nara Period in the 8th Century. and boasts some of the most ancient and timeless atmosphere. Begin our visit to the UNESCO-listed Todaiji Temple, constructed in 752 as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples of Japan. Take a glimpse at the Daibutsuden Big Buddha Hall, the world's largest wooden building housing one of Japan's largest bronze Buddha statue. Thereafter, we spend some time in the Naramachi former merchant district, adorned with traditional shophouses and "machiya" townhouses which provide a glimpse into the past of Nara's rich culture and now home to a collection of quaint shops selling local crafts, sake and small restaurants. Later, we visit the UNESCO-listed Horyuji Temple, founded in 607 and is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in Japan, containing the world's oldest surviving wooden structures. Finally, we arrive on the edge of Sakurai town where we will stay in the beautiful L'Auberge de Plaisance

Overnight: L'Auberge de Plaisance, Sakurai

Meals: Dinner

DAY 2: SAKURAI (MITARAI VALLEY & YOSHINOYAMA)

An exceptional day begins as we journey south (1.5hrs drive) to the stunning Mitarai Valley, with some of the most amazing and dramatic waterfalls in Japan. Arrive at the hot spring town of Dorogawa Onsen, a destination of four seasons with inspiring red foliage in autumn (mid-late November) and splendid flowering blossoms in spring (late March-mid April), contrasting with the emerald green river. Tucked deep in the mountains, enjoy a remarkable walking trail with fascinating waterfalls, forest views and interesting rock formations decorated often with elements of Buddhist and Shinto shrines. Thereafter, we continue our way back to Sakurai where en route, we make a stop at Yoshinoyama with some of the most incredible cherry blossoms in spring (late March-early April), amazing hydrangea blooms in summer (late May-mid June) and fiery red and yellow foliage in autumn (mid-late November), thrilling with spectacular colours in all seasons and even winter with blankets of snowy white covering the forests of the mountain. 

Overnight: L'Auberge de Plaisance, Sakurai

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 3: SAKURAI / FUKANO VILLAGE

We set off on an inspiring day, first visiting the impressive Hasedera Temple, built in the early 8th Century, listed as a National Treasure of Japan and one of the most stunning temples in Japan. Walk the 399 steps staircase with spectacular photographic perspective of its wooden pillars and inscriptions. Visit the Main Hall - one of the largest in Nara Prefecture and houses the Eleven Faced Kannon Goddess of Mercy, the largest of its kind in Japan standing at 9.3m tall. The Hasedera Temple surroundings is spectacular in all 4 seasons with mesmerizing cherry blossoms in spring, stunning greens in summer, inspiring red koyo leaves in autumn and a blanket of white in winter. Later, we continue our journey to the less-visited Muroji Temple, nestled in a surreal forest landscape in an atmosphere of tranquility guaranteed to thrill. Finally, we will arrive into the Sasayuri Ann, a private and exclusive rice terraced villa in the sleepy village of Fukano, nestled in a fertile valley with plentiful rice fields against the backdrop of the Muro-Akame-Aoyama National Park in the less-documented "Ninja Backroads of the Hasekaido". Be warmly welcome and later this evening, enjoy a splendid private dinner prepared by 1 Michelin Star Chef, Nagata Koji of refined Japanese washoku cuisine that brings out the most exquisite flavours of seasonal ingredients. 

Overnight: Sasayuri Ann, Fukano Village

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: FUKANO VILLAGE (AKAME 48 WATERFALLS & NABARI)

Awake to a refresh morning as we make a short drive to the start of the hiking trail into the domain of the Akame 48 Waterfalls - for centuries, a sacred forested training ground to ninjas who trained in remote environments away from the glaring eyes of the public. Visit the Salamander Centre where the cool waters and pristine environment provides an optimum breeding ground for the Giant Japanese Salamander. Thereafter, enjoy a pleasant hike in the spectacular primeval forest and admire a series of stunning waterfalls, some well-hidden, some with amazing cascades and some just jaw-dropping! In the afternoon, a short drive arrives us in the town of Nabari which flourished as an inn town on the "Hasekaido route" and is renowned for its sweets, being part of the "Mochi Highway"  as well. Learn how traditional sweets are made and participate in the process with a master sweetmaker. We then return to Sasayuri Ann where this evening, enjoy an exceptional private Noh performance from the birthplace of Noh and listed as an "Intangible Cultural Asset" in the Iga and Yamato provinces. Dinner will be specially set up around your central "Irori". 

Overnight: Sasayuri Ann, Fukano Village

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: FUKANO VILLAGE / ISE JINGU / KASHIKOJIMA

Say farewell to your hosts at Sasayuri Ann as we then officially enter into Mie Prefecture. A 2hrs drive arrives us into the "Soul of Japan" at the Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine), built in dedication to Amaterasu-Omikami and was originally worshipped in the Imperial Palace by the successive Emperors of Japan until the reign of the 11th Emperor Suinin who ordered his princess, Yamatohime no Mikoto to seek the most sacred place to enshrine and worship Amaterasu-Omikami and Ise was the chosen place. Since then, this gave birth to one of the world's most fascinating pilgrimage routes where one would come to cleanse oneself of the accumulated grime of life. Take a walk starting from the beautiful and stunning wooden Ujibashi Bridge and visit the "Naiku" Inner Shrine, housing the Guardian of Japan and pray for good luck while later, we spend some time visiting the atmospheric Oharaimachi and Okage Yokocho area, decorated with historic buildings lined with shops, eateries, crafts and more as well as the hourly performance of Taiko and Shakuthachi. Worth a visit is the traditional shop that produces the iconic Akafuku Mochi, rice cake made with sweet red bean paste. Finally, we journey to the south of the Shima Peninsula to arrive at the Hiramatsu Kashikojima, perched high above Ago Bay where you will witness stunning sunsets encompassing the entire expanse of the bay dotted with oyster farms. 

Overnight: Hiramatsu, Kashikojima

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 6: KASHIKOJIMA

An early morning rise as we visit the local Shima seafood market and observe the lifestyle of local fishermen who have just brought in fresh catch of the famous Ise lobsters. We then return to the Hiramatsu for breakfast before setting out on a private boat ride to observe the actual daily activities of Ama women divers in the open sea. This is a rare and exclusive opportunity to see Ama women divers doing their actual job and the activity is not set up for tourists! (In case of bad weather, you will take a walk and interaction with the Ama divers in their local village and gain an understanding into their lives, their legacy and challenges in this fast-diminishing trade). Later, enjoy a wonderful lunch experience sampling the freshest seafood delicacies which include oysters, scallops, abalone and the Ise lobster - freshly prepared lovingly by the Ama divers in a charming hut by the sea as you listen to their stories of their sea endeavours. Returning to the Hiramatsu, we make a stop at the Yokoyama Observation Deck for unbroken views of Ago Bay where you may see the 64 islands and numerous pearl boats and farm rafts. 

Overnight: Hiramatsu, Kashikojima

Meals: Breakfast & Lunch

DAY 7: KASHIKOJIMA / NAGOYA

Today, be transferred to Kashikojima Station to board the Premium Express Shimakaze for your onward journey to Nagoya for a memorable sojourn in Nara & Mie Prefectures. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

With just 2 suites and 7 rooms, the L'Auberge de Plaisance is a small inn situated on the edge of the city of Sakurai in an area steeped in history and culture on a beautiful rural landscape. Enjoy an intimate experience of French-Japanese fusion cuisine with fine local seasonal ingredients that are sourced from local producers in the area. 

L'Auberge de Plaisance, Sakurai

Sasayuri Ann is a thatched roof rice terrace mountain villa with traditional pine wood flooring and sunken Irori fireplace that provide a luxurious lodging with a retaining Japanese tradition and charm. Offering a completely private and exclusive experience with no other guests, enjoy performances of traditional arts and refined cuisine in a highly-inspiring rural landscape at the border of Nara and Mie Prefectures. 

Sasayuri Ann, Fukano Village

Perched high above picturesque Ago Bay, the Hiramatsu Hotels & Resorts Kashikojima commands an enviable view encompassing the entire expanse of the bay. Offering a modern ryokan experience complete with western style concept and Japanese elements, this is the perfect retreat to experience the magical landscape, culture and cuisine of the Ise Shima. 

Hiramatsu, Kashikojima

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