This itinerary is unique as the cultures are disassociated by faiths and history. From the fascination of Japan and its Ryukyu Islands, you travel south to the Spanish-American influenced Philippines, then on to the cultural melting pot of Kota Kinabalu. Experience a mixture of many different races and ethnicities. There are thirty-six islands in the Ryukyu group stretching from Japan to Formosa. The islands enjoy a magnificent climate and are highly cultivated and productive. The coral reefs of the Ryukyus are one of the World Wildlife FundÂ’s Global 200 ecoregions. The reefs are endangered by sedimentation and eutrophication, mostly a result of agriculture, as well as damage from fishing.
Day 1: Kobe, Japan
Kobe was briefly the capital of Japan in 1180. Kobe, today, is a sophisticated international city, surrounded with natural beauty. Mt. Rokko and the Seto Inland Sea make for a grand backdrop. Lunchtime in the city: think Kobe beef. Nada district: think sake, with seven sake breweries as well as central gardens, shrines and china town. This city is located almost in the center of Japan. The history of the city is closely tied to that of the Shinto Ikuta Shrine, and the name Â“KobeÂ” derives from Â“kanbe,Â” a name for those who supported the shrine. ItÂ’s from Kobe you cruise the inland sea to Miyajima.
Day 2: Hiroshima, Honshu Island
Hiroshima is an intensely resilient city. Having suffered in recent history from atomic bomb destruction and severe typhoons, Hiroshima is now the center for international peace representations and a major automotive industry. Your visit to Hiroshima revolves around the Peace Park, Peace Museum and the A-Bomb Dome. The Peace Park, and the A-Bomb dome (being one of the only buildings to survive the horrific blast), stand in peaceful contrast to the images displayed inside the museum. No visit to Japan is truly complete without visiting the Peace Museum, which is quite an emotional experience for most.
Day 3: Shimonoseki
It is off the coast of Shimonoseki that one of the most important naval battles in medieval Japan took place in 1185. A final battle for supremacy over Japan took place between the Heike clan and the Genji clan. At Akama Shrine the emperor who lost the battle is worshiped. The Kozanji Temple built in 1327 is the oldest Zen building in Japan. Shimonoseki is also known for fugu (blowfish), its view on the Kanmon straits from the top of the 238 meter Mount Hino-yama, and the 360-degree views from the 143 meter high Kaikyo Yume Tower.
Day 4: Nagasaki, Kyushu Island
Nagasaki City makes up almost half of the total land area of the prefecture with the same name. The prefecture also consists of 971 islands. It has the dubious honor of being the site of the second atomic bomb explosion, after Hiroshima. The Nagasaki Peace Park has been established beside "ground zero" to remind the world of the horrors of atomic weapons and to encourage future peace. You will use the local street cars to travel to the Nagasaki Peace Park, Ground Zero and also to Dejima, a designated Japanese history site. You will visit Glover Garden, the one-time home of Thomas Glover, a Scottish business man who helped to establish ship building and other industries in Nagasaki, and to the Ouru Catholic Church of the 26 Martyrs. A complimentary shuttle into the city area will also be available today.
Days 6-7: Naha, Okinawa / Ryukyu Islands
Okinawa consists of hundreds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 kilometers long. OkinawaÂ’s capital, Naha is a modern city, and was one of the most important ancient sites with human bone fragments from the Palaeolithic era having been found. The restored and rebuilt Shuri Castle is one of the finest and the most important historical sites in Naha. The palace and a series of tunnels underneath it were used as a major command post by the Imperial Japanese military during World War II. Today Shuri Castle has been reconstructed after extensive damage.
Day 8: Iriomote Island / Ishigaki Island
Ninety percent of Iriomote Island is covered in lush virgin jungle. Most of the island is a Japanese national park due to its diverse eco-systems, containing unique vegetation and animals, such as the famous Iriomote Wild Cat. The culture of Iriomote Island is an authentic representation of the traditional way of life there. Ishigake Island is surrounded by coral reefs and small uninhabited islands. You will explore beautiful beaches, both sandy and rocky, that offer great snorkeling in clear waters.
Day 9: At Sea
Enjoy the time at sea to take advantage of onboard amenities, including a gym, Jacuzzi, library, sun deck and scenic views.
Day 10: At Sea
Continue enjoying some time relaxing onboard the ship and listening to lectures from your guides on this day at sea.
Day 11: Port Sual (for Baguio), Luzon
Port Sual is your port in Luzon for the mountain top town of Baguio. En route, there are rice fields and scenic vistas as you climb higher. For Filipinos, itÂ’s the escape of choice from the stifling heat of the lowlands. The city was constructed as a mountain retreat by US military forces in the early 1900s. The areaÂ’s original inhabitants, the Ibaloi and Kankanay, assimilated long ago into Baguio society. This is very different to your Japan experience as it reflects the Latino influences and religious background that is so very different to the earlier part of your voyage.
Day 12: Puerto Galera, Mindoro
Puerto Galera, Mondoro, has a deep natural harbor, sheltered on all sides, and was a favored anchorage well before the Spanish arrived in 1572. Yachties from all over the world are still drawn to Puerto Galera and its beaches. About three kilometers out of town, on the road to Tamaraw Falls, an un-signposted track winds two kilometers up to Python Cave. This large cavern is said to be home to a two-meter-long python. At Tamaraw Falls, cool mountain waters plummet 30 meters into a natural pool beside the road, which then flows into a spectacular jungle gorge.
Day 13: At Sea
Explore at sea as you journey toward Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Day 14: Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Puerto Princesa, Palawan is a classic beach experience, regarded as the most beautiful place in the Philippines with large caves that your Zodiacs can access and enter from the water. This area is becoming quite exclusive. You will probably anchor off one of the small offshore islands, instead of the mainland, to experience an Orion secluded moment in paradise.
Day 15: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah State in Malaysia. You will finish the odyssey as you arrive in the early morning. From here, you can anticipate a balmy day in town, a departure for home or a back-to-back voyage. Regular flights to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are available.