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Hidden Gems of Japan

(16 Reviews)
100% Recommended

Claudia Pascua

Las Vegas, NV
Luxury Escapes, Cruising, & LGBT Travel Expert

I'm Claudia, German by birth and global nomad by heart. I was born and raised in East Germany before jet-setting off into the world, visiting 100+ countries as of today. It's hard to pick favorites but I'll say if you haven't traveled to Greece, S...

Geisha Ceremony in Kyoto

It was a dream I had nurtured for years – to explore the enchanting land of Japan. The thought of experiencing its rich history, vibrant culture, and bustling cities had always intrigued me. Finally, the day had come when I embarked on a journey through Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and aboard the Star Breeze.


My adventure began in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist. Stepping out of the train station, I was greeted by the soothing scent of cherry blossoms and the sight of women dressed in elegant kimonos. Kyoto's serene temples and breathtaking gardens were a stark contrast to the bustling cities I was used to. I spent my days wandering through the historic streets of Gion, where I hoped to catch a glimpse of a geisha, and exploring the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine with its seemingly endless vermillion torii gates.


The Four Seasons Kyoto is a harmonious blend of traditional Japanese elegance and luxury. Nestled in Kyoto's heart, the hotel seamlessly integrates historical charm with modern comfort. The rooms offer spacious sanctuaries with stunning views and the culinary experiences.


From Kyoto, I took the shinkansen, the iconic high-speed train, to Tokyo. The transition from the tranquil Kyoto to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo was nothing short of exhilarating. The city's neon lights, futuristic architecture, and vibrant energy were awe-inspiring. I spent my days exploring the diverse neighborhoods, from the trendy streets of Shibuya, where the famous Shibuya Crossing was a mesmerizing sight, to the historic district of Asakusa, home to the magnificent Senso-ji Temple.


My journey through Tokyo also introduced me to the culinary delights of Japan. I savored sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market, slurped authentic ramen in tiny local shops, and experienced the art of teppanyaki in upscale restaurants. The food in Tokyo was a sensory delight, and I was introduced to flavors I had never experienced before.


The moment I stepped onto the elegant Star Breeze, the Windstar cruise ship waiting in Yokohama's port, I knew I was in for an extraordinary journey. This voyage from Yokohama to Osaka would take me through some of Japan's most intriguing ports, each with its own unique charm, history, and culture.


Our first stop was Shimizu, a quaint coastal town with stunning views of Mount Fuji. The ship gracefully anchored in the harbor, and as I sipped my morning coffee on the deck, I watched the sun's rays kiss the snow-capped peak of the iconic volcano. We disembarked to explore Shimizu's charming streets and the bustling fish market, where I indulged in the freshest sashimi I had ever tasted.


Kagoshima, our next destination, welcomed us with warm southern hospitality. This city, surrounded by lush vegetation, is known for its active volcano, Sakurajima. We hiked up to an observatory to witness the mighty volcano's eruptions and took a leisurely stroll through the tranquil Sengan-en Garden. As the sun set over Kagoshima Bay, we savored local specialties like black pork and shochu at a traditional izakaya.


Nagasaki, a city with a profound history, was our next stop. We visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum, paying our respects to the tragic events of World War II. Nagasaki's resilience and message of peace left a deep impression on us. We also explored Dejima, an artificial island that once served as the sole point of contact with the Western world during Japan's period of isolation.


From Nagasaki, the Star Breeze set sail to Busan, South Korea. The city's vibrant markets, historical temples, and delicious street food were a captivating contrast to the serene Japanese ports we had visited. We indulged in savory bibimbap, explored the colorful Gamcheon Culture Village, and strolled along Haeundae Beach, enjoying the lively atmosphere.


Karatsu, a charming town on the island of Kyushu, offered a more intimate look into Japanese culture. We visited Karatsu Castle and participated in a traditional pottery workshop, where I tried my hand at creating my very own Karatsu-yaki ceramic piece. The town's serene beauty and local artistry made this stop truly memorable.


Hiroshima was an emotional and humbling destination. The Peace Memorial Park and Museum served as a somber reminder of the atomic bombing during World War II. Despite the tragic past, Hiroshima has blossomed into a vibrant and resilient city. We explored the Shukkeien Garden and tried Hiroshima's famous okonomiyaki, a savory pancake dish cooked right at our table.


Our final port before Osaka was Takamatsu, a city known for its rich udon noodle culture. We wandered through Ritsurin Garden, a masterpiece of Edo-era landscape design, and savored a hearty bowl of udon at a local shop. Takamatsu's serene gardens and delicious food made it a perfect end to our journey.


As we disembarked in Osaka, I felt a sense of gratitude for the unforgettable Windstar cruise that had allowed me to explore Japan's history and culture in such an intimate way.

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