Present-day Hiroshima is noted for both its beautiful scenery and outstanding cuisine. Hiroshima also has a dark past as the site of the first atomic bombing in 1945. We will contemplate the importance of this truly world-changing event as we view the stark remains of the Atomic Bomb Dome. We will visit the Peace Park and Memorial Museum, with its sobering exhibits detailing the horrific human cost of the attack. And we’ll take time to explore the moral complexities still surrounding the bomb, reflecting on the monumental difficulties confronting President Truman and his senior advisors as they grappled with a dynamic military and diplomatic situation to bring the war to a successful close.
The nearby port of Kure is both a major shipyard and the very cradle of the Imperial Japanese Navy. While in Kure, we will visit one of my favorite spots: the Maritime Museum, complete with its awesome 86-foot-long model of the Yamato, the largest battleship ever built.
Finally, we’ll journey to Okinawa, scene of the largest land battle of the Pacific war. This bitter, two-and-a-half month struggle between the American forces and the Imperial Japanese Army resulted in the total destruction of the southern half of the island, leading to the deaths of nearly half of Okinawa’s 300,000 civilians. We will visit some of the landmarks that have stamped their names forever on military history: Kakazu Ridge, Hacksaw Ridge, and the heights of Shuri Castle. At the end of our touring, we will all better understand how this savage battle earned its grim nickname: “The Typhoon of Steel.”
- Travel with Jonathan Parshall, one of the foremost experts on the War in the Pacific
- Full-time logistical Tour Manager
- Expert local battlefield guides
- Roundtrip airport transfers (when arriving and departing on scheduled group tour dates)
- 3 nights in Tokyo at The Westin Tokyo
- 2 nights in Hiroshima at the Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel
- 2 nights at the Shiroyama Hotel Kagoshima
- 3 nights in Okinawa at the Hyatt Regency Naha
- Transportation between Tokyo and Hiroshima on the high-speed “Bullet Train” (shinkansen)
- Flight between Hiroshima and Okinawa
- Private, first-class, air-conditioned motor coach transportation
- VIP access to sites not offered on other tours
- Video oral history presentations from the Museum collection
- Gratuities to guides, drivers, porters, and servers
- Personal listening devices on all included touring
- 10 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 6 dinners
- Beer, wine, and soft drinks with included lunches and dinner
- Informative map book including useful battlefield maps and archival images to be used throughout your journey
- Personalized luggage tags and customized name badge
Full Tour Itinerary
Arrive in Tokyo
Upon arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT), transfer to the Westin Tokyo in the Ebisu district. Get to know your fellow tour participants this evening at the Welcome Dinner and Reception with featured historian Jonathan Parshall.
The Westin Tokyo (D)
Yushukan War Memorial Museum
Begin exploration of Tokyo at this Japanese military and war museum that shares the stories of those who sacrificed their lives for their country. The museum’s impressive collection is within the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese who died in conflicts from 1868 to 1954. The Asakusa Senso-ji Temple was destroyed during the firebombing of 1945, but a tree in the courtyard regrew from its burned husk and has become a symbol for the rebirth of the city.
Today’s touring inspires discussion for an evening lecture with featured historian Jonathan Parshall prior to dinner on your own.
The Westin Tokyo (B, L)
The Japanese Civilian Experience
The capture of airbases in the Mariana Islands placed B-29 bombers within range of the Japanese home islands. As the Imperial Japanese leadership refused to surrender, the civilians paid a heavy price, enduring constant bombing raids. The National Showa Museum documents the civilian experience under the rise of militarism through the suffering of the final months of the war and the end of the conflict. The new Memorial Museum for Soldiers, Detainees in Siberia, and Postwar Repatriates chronicles the postwar experiences of the defeated soldiers and Japanese settlers forced to return to Japan. Enjoy a driving tour of the Imperial Palace District prior to a group dinner.
The Westin Tokyo (B, D)
A ride on the shinkansen, Japan’s incomparable bullet train, brings the tour to Hiroshima. Spend the afternoon in the port city of Kure, where the Japanese built the largest battleship ever constructed. Under strict secrecy, shipbuilders constructed the Yamato, which measured 862 feet long. The US Navy sunk the Yamato during its one-way mission to Okinawa in 1945. The Kure Maritime Museum, known as the Yamato Museum, features a 1/10 replica of the ship measuring 86 feet long. Across the street, at the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Museum, continue the exploration of Japan’s postwar naval missions to demine waters around the world, including the Persian Gulf following the 1991 war.
Sheraton Hiroshima (B)
At 8:16 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy” exploded above Hiroshima. A bright flash preceded a shock wave that shook the city, turning most of the buildings in its path to rubble. The heat from the blast sparked fires throughout the city. Near ground zero, one building still stood, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It is now the Atomic Bomb Dome, a lasting reminder of the horrors of war. After standing at ground zero, continue to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where the newly refurbished museum provides insight into the city and the aftermath of the attack, with a mission of “No More Hiroshimas.”
Sheraton Hiroshima (B, D)
Depart for the island of Kyushu and the Kagoshima Prefecture. After lunch in Kagoshima, step back in time during a visit to Sengan-en, a Japanese garden at the site of the residence of the Shimazu Clan. Kagoshima under the authority of the Shimazu clan was exceptional, as they looked outward during Japan’s period of seclusion from the outside world. The Shimazu were responsible for jump starting the Industrial Revolution in Japan, contributing to the rapid modernization of the country in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Shiroyama Hotel Kagoshima (B, D)
Head south from Kagoshima today to view some of the objectives of Operation Olympic, the planned invasion of southern Japan. Visit the town of Chiran, home to a kamikaze attack base near the end of the war. During the Battle of Okinawa, just under 50% of the kamikaze pilots who died during their suicide missions came from Chiran. Since 1975, a museum on the grounds of the former airfield has told the stories of the young pilots to ensure that the situation will never happen again. The museum’s displays include several intact planes including a Mitsubishi Zero. Depart for Kagoshima this evening for a group dinner and discussion.
Shiroyama Hotel Kagoshima (B, L, D)
Board a flight to Naha, Okinawa, this morning and arrive by mid-day. Afternoon touring will introduce Okinawa and the city of Naha. Naha was the historic center of the Ryuku Kingdom, and it served as the capital of Okinawa Prefecture when the island was absorbed by Japan in 1879. Shuri Castle, damaged in a severe fire in October 2019, was the center of the Ryuku Kingdom, and efforts at restoration will mark another in a series of rebirths for the castle. During the Battle of Okinawa, intense shelling of the castle by the USS Mississippi left the castle in ruins. It was reopened in 1992 on the spot of the former castle.
Hyatt Regency Naha (B, L)
Battle of Okinawa
On April 1, 1945, American forces landed on Okinawa. The initial landings were uneventful with only sparse Japanese resistance as two of their airfields fell in the first days of the invasion. As the Americans turned south, the defense stiffened. Approaching the Shuri Line, every hill, ridge, and cave presented danger. Civilians caught up in the battle presented an extra set of challenges as Japanese officials warned that the Americans would commit unspeakable atrocities on anyone captured. After exploring the landing beaches, the tour continues to Shimuku Gama Cave where several Okinawans who worked in Hawaii prevented a tragedy by speaking of their experience with Americans. Approximately 1,000 Okinawans left the cave peacefully, entering into the American lines. The tour continues south toward Kakazu Ridge, the scene of the first heavy fighting on Okinawa, and Hacksaw Ridge, where Desmond Doss saved the lives of numerous men while repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire.
Hyatt Regency Naha (B, L)
The Final Battles
Outside of Naha, the Japanese constructed a complex of underground tunnels that would serve as the headquarters of Admiral Minoru Ota. As the Japanese retreated south from positions near Naha, Ota committed suicide in the complex. On the southern tip of the island, two memorials commemorate the human cost of the battle. The Himeyuri Museum, founded by the Himeyuri nurses themselves, chronicles the experience of the Okinawan female students forced to serve as nurses for the Japanese soldiers. Enduring the same conditions as the soldiers themselves, the Himeyuri were eventually cast out into the open battlefield when the Japanese saw the battle as lost and medical care no longer necessary. On the southeastern corner of the island, the Okinawa Peace Memorial features the names of over 240,000 individuals killed in the battle.
Hyatt Regency Naha (B, L, D)
Bid farewell to Japan and Okinawa this morning and transfer to Naha Okinawa Airport (OKA) for individual flights back to the United States.
Jonathan Parshall saw his interest in the Imperial Japanese Navy develop early in his childhood. As an adult, that passion led him to create the foremost website devoted to the Imperial Navy, combinedfleet.com, which he founded in 1995. Parshall’s book, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, coauthored with Anthony Tully, is the definitive account of that pivotal battle in the Pacific. He has written for the Naval War College Review, the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings and Naval History magazines, World War II Magazine, Wartime (the journal of the Australian War Memorial), Flypast magazine, the Sankei Shimbun, and several overseas aviation publications. He has also illustrated numerous books on the Pacific war (including his friend Richard Frank’s MacArthur). Parshall is an adjunct lecturer for the US Naval War College, and has appeared on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and the BBC. A graduate of Carleton College and the Carlson School of Management, his next book will look at the Imperial Japanese Navy’s tactics while fighting a night, a strategy they used to great early success during the naval battles near Guadalcanal.
The Westin Tokyo is a large upscale hotel situated in the Ebisu area of Tokyo. Situated in a hip but quiet area, the hotel offers convenient access to the Shibuya and Roppongi areas and lies within easy walking distance of the loop line providing access to the entire city. This hotel offers modern sophistication, European style, and traditional Japanese values. Guests can enjoy meals at any of the hotel’s eight restaurants featuring French, Chinese, Japanese, and international cuisine with a wide selection of cocktails.
Each beautifully decorated room offers panoramic views of the city; a Heavenly® Bed; 24-hour room service; complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi; and an entertainment system with DVD player, premium movie channels, and international cable, and satellite TV. Additionally, the hotel offers a Europeanstyle hotel spa and 24-hour fitness center.
Situated near the JR Hiroshima station with convenient access to the sites and architecture of the historic city, the beautiful Sheraton Grand Hiroshima is the ideal location from which to explore Hiroshima. Offering comfort and luxury, the hotel features spa and fitness facilities as well as two restaurants with extensive options. All 238 spacious bedrooms and suites feature a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, a Sheraton Sleep Experience Bed, and views of the cityscape.
Hyatt Regency Naha
Located in the bustling heart of Naha, Sakurazaka, the Hyatt Regency combines Hyatt’s standard of service with Okinawan hospitality, giving guests a uniquely wonderful experience. With work, play, and relaxation in mind, the Hyatt Regency features a fitness center, on-site restaurant, meeting facilities, and an outdoor swimming pool. The 294 contemporary guestrooms include a designated working area, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi, a 40/55” flat-screen TV, and Sealy BoxTop mattress.