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Southern Japan Experience

12 Days | Go off the path in southern Japan through steaming onsens, inspiring artworks and volcano panoramas

5 out of 5 based on 20 reviews submitted.
USD $5,292
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One of Japan’s greatest attractions is its ability to offer modern and traditional versions of itself. On this 12-day trip, you’ll veer off the main island of Honshu and travel to the less-touristy southwest. Discover revived art on the island of Naoshima, wander the castle in Matsuyama and spend a night in a tranquil homestay in the village of Usuki. Steam away your worries in the onsens in Beppu and be treated to two nights in the volcanic Mt Aso, staying right in the middle of a caldera in a traditional Japanese inn surrounded by rice terraces. Remind yourself of the sobering history of Nagasaki and end it all back where it began – in thriving Osaka. This adventure is the ultimate combination of modern art, bullet trains, countryside villages, traditional inns, delicious feasts and onsens, surrounded by impressive views of rice terraces, volcano craters and deep gorges. If you’re looking for a new side of Japan – this is it!

Trip overview

Map of Southern Japan Experience including Japan
Osaka, Japan
Osaka, Japan
Physical rating
Indicates how physically exerting a trip is, and how fit you will need to be to enjoy it. More info on physical ratings
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 - Max 12
Trip code
This trip generates 32.59 kg of CO2-e per person per day.
We offset these emissions on your behalf. But we know that is not enough, so we also have a carbon reduction target.

Why you'll love this trip
  • Explore the unique island of Naoshima – transformed from a sleepy fishing community into a world-class art destination, with sleek and stylish museums and artworks that harmonise with the landscape.
  • Stay in a countryside homestay, taking you off the beaten track to experience excellent Japanese hospitality. Feast on home-cooked meals over fascinating conversations with your welcoming hosts and learn about rural life in Japan.
  • Watch the steam coming out of the ‘hells’ (hot spring pools in Jigoku) of Beppu and enjoy a soak in a Michelin star onsen, followed by a unique experience for dinner – you’ll steam your food in the hot spring water, creating authentic flavours rich with healthy minerals!
  • Take in the stunning view of the five peaks of Mount Aso from the Daikanbo Observatory, then a light hike on the moon-like terrain to the largest crater of Nakadake before hopping in a rowboat to paddle through the deep gorge of Takachiho.
  • Expect the unexpected in Nagasaki, tragically famous for being one of the only two cities that were bombed during the war. Discover the unique charm of this port-side Dutch influenced city and all the history it has collected over the years.
  • By travelling on this trip, you’ll directly support our Intrepid Foundation partner, Eden Reforestation Projects. Donations help them provide local employment opportunities and tackle climate change one tree at a time as they restore forests across 10 different countries.

Is this trip right for you?
  • Japan is best to explore on foot – in fact, most travellers are surprised at how much distance they end up covering just exploring places! Make sure your shoes are comfy and sturdy, and you’re fit enough to spend most of each day on your feet.
  • You’ll stay in a homestay and a traditional Japanese inn on this trip. It’s a great taste of tradition and local life and you’ll sleep on the traditional tatami mat (futons and blankets on the floor mat), just like the locals do! The facilities here will be shared.
  • This trip uses mainly public transport, which means you’ll ravel the same way as the locals do. These are great opportunities to experience authentic local travel but be prepared to pack light and smart for this trip as you'll be required to carry your luggage between train stations and to hotels, which can include going up and down multiple flights of stairs in crowded areas.


Map of Southern Japan Experience including Japan



3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners


Train, Ferry, Public Bus, Private bus, Metro, Bullet Train


Hotel (8 nights), Homestay (1 night), Japanese Inn (2 nights)

  • Takamatsu - Ritsurin Garden & Sanuki Folkcraft Museum
  • Takamatsu - Naoshima day trip (ferry, public bus & bicycle)
  • Matsuyama - Matsuyama Castle
  • Usuki - Local Sake brewery visit and tasting
  • Usuki - Japanese home-cooking experience
  • Beppu - 'Hells' of Beppu (Jigoku)
  • Beppu - local onsen
  • Beppu - Steamed dinner (Beppu style)
  • Mount Aso - Ogi Rice terraces
  • Mount Aso - Daikanbo Observatory
  • Mount Aso - Nakadake Crater
  • Mount Aso - Sunasenri trail hike
  • Takachiho - Takachiho gorge rowing boat ride
  • Takachiho - Takachiho Shrine
  • Arita - Tonbai Wall Alleys walking tour
  • Arita - Tozan Shrine
  • Nagasaki - Peace Park & Atomic Bomb Museum
Add on activities
  • Naoshima - Art House Project (combined ticket) - JPY1050
  • Naoshima - Chichu Art Museum - JPY2100
  • Naoshima - Benesse House Museum - JPY1300
  • Matsuyama - Dogo Onsen (basic entry) - JPY460
  • Matsuyama - Ishiteji Temple - Free
  • Nagasaki - Glover Garden - JPY620
  • Nagasaki - Nagasaki Museum of History & Culture - JPY630
  • Nagasaki - Dejima Historical District - JPY520
  • Nagasaki - 26 Martyrs Memorial - JPY500
  • Nagasaki - Oura Catholic Church - JPY1000

Dates and availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is currently not available for this trip due to limited rooms at our chosen accommodation.

2 It is essential that you pack light and compact for rail travel in Japan. There are size restrictions for luggage on Shinkansen trains. Luggage from 160cm to 250cm may require an additional JPY1000 oversize luggage fee per train journey. Luggage over 251cm will NOT be permitted on the Shinkansen trains at all. Please notify your tour leader at your Welcome Meeting if your luggage is from 160cm to 250cm so they can make the necessary arrangements.

3. We are currently unable to book pre or post trip accommodation at our start and finish point hotels due to limited room availability. We recommend booking a hotel of your choice through your booking agent.

4. Please note that there are generally less double rooms in Japanese hotels, even those in Western style. While every effort will be made to accommodate double room requests, this may not always be possible.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Read Essential Trip Information


5 out of 5 based on 20 reviews submitted.
Reviews are from travellers who have completed their trip and want to share their experience. We show all reviews, but may remove any that include profanity or inappropriate content, are unrelated to the trip or reveal personal details.

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Hilary · Traveled March 2024
So glad I went on the Japan Southern Experience. It was packed full of wonderful experiences everyday. Full on with lots of trains and buses, but worth it. Eiko was the best of guides and made the trip so insightful and enjoyable. Thank you Intrepid, again.
Review submitted 03 Apr 2024

Brodie · Traveled March 2024
This trip is a great way to explore the southern area of Japan. It involves lots of transport including trains, buses, trams and ferries and the guide is incredibly helpful in navigating these. You visit lots of gorgeous places outside the city. The farm stay is a particularly incredible experience, with amazing delicious meals in a beautiful setting. For my first visit to Japan where I was very keen to get into the countryside rather than just the cities, this was a perfect trip
Review submitted 02 Apr 2024

Meredith · Traveled March 2024
Wonderful trip to areas we would not have seen on our own. Enjoyed travelling by local transport and experiencing the local foods. Spectacular scenery along the way. Hampered somewhat with bad weather but our leader Eiko, made up for that.
Review submitted 02 Apr 2024

Diana · Traveled November 2023
The Southern Japan tour will keep you on your toes (or feet). It is an excellent (and intense) way to sample the country's southern prefectures without feeling overwhelmed nor leaving you feeling restless. Each day brings a degree of surprise and adventure for everyone. Each locations offers a variety of interests to everyone. I truly enjoyed the more off-beat locations. Be sure to read up on the trip essentials. When it says you should pack light: be sure to pack light and be able to carry your own weight. A lot of physical movements up and down stairwells, lifting of luggages for overhead bins, and being in tight spaces (trains).
Review submitted 27 Nov 2023

Kenway · Traveled October 2023
It was an absolute marvelous trip. You can experience history, culture, and nature all at once. Iya Valley was my absolute favorite. And Hisa was an amazing tour leader ensuring that we made the best possible memories.
Review submitted 11 Nov 2023
Southern Japan Experience
USD $5,292