Discover a Side to Japan You've Never Seen Before

Ancient trees, Japan

Ancient trees, mythical monkeys and the seafaring side of Japan.

Japan’s oldest tree, Jōmon Sugi, looms above the temperate forest swaddling Yakushima Island, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site off the southern tip of Kyushu. Far below, sika deer glide through the understorey and macaques catapult wildly from tree to tree. “People said maybe the deer came to the island from the mainland and the monkey hitched a ride on its back,” says local guide Nao Takada.

Such seafaring pursuits are common in this archipelagic country and the symbiosis between land and sea unfolds on Ponant’s new eight-day Kyushu’s Secret Islands and Ancestral Heritage expedition, which sails from Kashogima to the south-western islands then to South Korea’s Jeju before arriving in Fukuoka.

Ancient trees, Japan

Guests will discover that deer and monkeys weren’t the only creatures to find refuge offshore. Persecuted Christians settled on Amakusa Island during the Edo era and their church’s spire still rises above the roofline of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sakitsu village, while Iki, where turquoise bays lap a vertiginous isle garlanded with shrines, became a crucible for Shintoism.

But pious devotion, arduous swims and hasty escapes aren’t required of the modern voyager. The 184-berth Le Jacques-Cartier weaves an elegant path through this unfamiliar territory, serving French cuisine in two restaurants, pampering travellers in the spa and ferrying them about in Zodiacs. The vessel’s rooms and suites feature a balcony or terrace but most enchanting of all is the lounge, where submerged windows offer a glimpse into the offshore underworld.

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Under-the-radar Places to Visit in Japan

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Image credit: Rachael Rowe

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