Head to Kyushu island, a subtropical, mountainous region in the southwest of Japan for this unique week-long holiday combining horse riding with a cultural tour of southern Japan. Ride across forested mountains and picture-postcard beaches, indulge in a multi-course kaiseki dinner and visit floating castles and sacred shrines. This destination offers exceptional scenery; the island is dotted with hot spring baths and steaming volcanoes, and guests will also be able to experience beach riding along coasts bordered with palm trees.
This once-in-a-lifetime trip includes riding in Aso-Kuju National Park, one of the largest parks in Japan, with views and sightseeing on Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in the country.
We have 2 dates both in the Cherry Blossom period which is revered all over Japan for the fleeting perfection of the blooms. The first date incorporates a Cherry Blossom Festival and coincides with the expected peak of the cherry blossoms. This date has 12 hours riding on 4 days. The second date incorporates an afternoon gaining first-hand experience of Samurai culture, including riding on horseback dressed in full Samurai gear. This date has 14hrs riding on 5 days.
This holiday offers an exciting destination for adventurous travellers keen to explore Japan's diverse history alongside relaxed riding.
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April 5-12 2019; April 3-9 2020: Cherry Blossom Festival Itinerary
April 12-18 2019 Samurai Festival Itinerary
Arrival at Fukuoka airport and transfer by taxi to the Hakata Forza Hotel where you can have dinner with your fellow riders and recuperate from your flight. You will be met in Hakata by your guide for the week, Saori Miyamoto. She will escort the group throughout the trip and speaks fluent English and Japanese.
After an early breakfast at the hotel the group will transfer by a spectacular bus trip winding through the mountains to Kurokawa, one of the most famous spots on the island for hot springs. Hot springs are a key part of life in Japan. After relaxing in the town and enjoying lunch in a local restaurant guests will meet Hiroshi Miyamoto, a local horseman who has been involved in many samurai films including Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s famous movie.
Hiroshi will take you on your first ride at Kujyukougen for two hours. After the ride you will check in to the Resonate Resort Hotel and have dinner, a full course Japanese kaiseki style dinner. Guests can relax at the hot springs baths which are open until midnight.
Cherry Blossom Festival Itinerary (April 5-12): After an early breakfast (7:00am) you will head to the town of Taketa, famous for it's ruined castle which dates back to the 15th century and famous for its' exceptionally profuse and beautiful cherry blossom display. You will change into samurai armor in time to participate in the annual Cherry Blossom ceremony before marching through downtown Taketa as part of the festival. After working up an appetite, you will have lunch around 1:30, and the festival will be over at around 3:30 pm. Once you've changed out of your samarai clothes, you will return back to the Resonate Resort Hotel in time to enjoy a full course European style dinner - why not try the famous Wagyu beef which is raised in this area?
Saumrai Ride Itinerary (April 12-18): After a traditional Japanese breakfast, transfer at 9:30am to the stable to ride for about two hours. After a bento box picnic lunch, you will have another few hours’ worth of riding in the impressive National Park, before arriving to your next hotel. Here you can enjoy the hot springs and a massage, or if you have the energy you can hike Mount Kujyu or visit the old town of Takeda. Dinner will be full course European style at the hotel.
Cherry Blossom Festival Itinerary (April 5-12): Today you'll be able to explore on horseback some of the lush countryside that Kyushu island is known for. You will start riding at 9:00am heading to Natural Farm, stopping for a picnic lunch under the cherry blossom with traditional Japanese bento boxes. After the lunch you will ride for two more hours before transferring by mini bus to the town of Yufuinn where you will change into yukata (a summer kimono the Japanese wear after a hot bath to relax). Tonights meal will be a traditional kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Uraku, a Japanese guesthouse where you will sleep on a tatami floor on a futon. Make sure you make use of the famous hot springs.
Samurai Ride Itinerary (April 12-18): Today guests wil spend time with Hiroshi Miyamoto a local expert on Samurai traditions. You will have the opportunity today to wear Samurai armor while riding. In the afternoon you will be transferred by car to Yufuin, where you will change into yukata (a summer kimono the Japanese wear after a hot bath to relax). Tonights meal will be a traditional kaiseki dinner at Ryokan Uraku, a Japanese guesthouse where you will sleep on a tatami floor on a futon. Make sure you relax at the famous hot springs.
Today is a moving day: we travel either by train or bus to Kakata and on to the Togo train station near the coast where you will meet the owner of another western riding centre. He will take you to lunch at a local restaurant before checking in to the Royal Hotel Genkainada. In the afternoon we set off on a a beach ride along this stunning coastline (2 hour ride). Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.
Saddle up after breakfast for a special ride to the famous Munakata Grand Shrine (a World Heritage Site) on your horse where you can learn more about the legend of this ancient shrine. This last ride takes 4 hours and gives you an unforgettable spiritual experience as well as an insight into Japanese farming culture. After the ride, you will return to the Royal Hotel and enjoy a warm bath and a farewell dinner at a local restaurant for Yakiniku, a Japanese style BBQ.
After breakfast you will transfer via the local train to Shinkansen (the bullet train) at Hakata Station for further travel around Japan or head back to Fukuoka airport.
Please be aware that cherry blossom cannot be guaranteed as the time it appears changes from year to year depending on the weather during the preceeding months. Early April travel offers the most likely chance of seeing the height of the blossoms. The tour on April 5-12 2019 and 3-9 April 2020 includes the Cherry Blossom Festival in Takeda. The tour from April 12-18 2019 includes a Samurai experience on horseback with 2 extra hours riding.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The horses are American Quarter horses, all of the horses on this ride have calm and relaxed temperaments and are ridden in a loose rein western style.
The riding is in 2 locations. In the centre of Kyushu Island the terrain is grassy hills with some gullies and level ground. The beach location offers large open beaches good for riding as well as more forested areas.
The pace can be adapted to the group's needs and Western tack is used exclusively on this ride.
This trail is suitable for riders confident at walk, trot and canter. The riding on this holiday is generally relaxed so riders do not need a high level of fitness.
The weight limit for this ride is 16 st/230 lb/105 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in modern upscale hotels and small traditional ryokans (inns). Accommodation is generally of a high standard and the hotels all offer western style rooms. The hotel on days 2 and 3 include spacious, air-conditioned maisonette-type rooms which are fitted with a sofa, an en suite bathroom and a flat-screen TV. Each come with an electric kettle, a fridge and a coffee/tea set. Accommodation on day 4 is in a traditional ryokan (a Japanese guesthouse) and beds are futons on a tatami woven floor.
Examples of the standard of hotels used on this ride are:
Resonate Club Kujyu
Royal Hotel Munakata
Meals are taken either in the hotel or in hand-picked restaurants. There will be plenty of opportunities to sample Japanese cusine and all meals are of excellent quality. On some of the riding days, lunch will be a picnic style bento box eaten under the cherry blossom. This is known as the tradition of hanami and has been around since the eighth century.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If visas are required the conditions for these can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
If you have a ‘British Citizen’ or ‘British National (Overseas)’ passport, you can enter Japan as a visitor for up to 90 days without a visa. You may need to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines are banned under Japan’s strictly enforced anti-stimulant drugs law. This includes Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, cold and flu medication containing Pseudoephedrine and even some over-the-counter painkillers like those containing codeine. Foreign nationals have been detained and deported for offences - ignorance may not be considered a defence. You should check the status of your medication with the nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate before you travel.
If you’re travelling with prescription medication that is permitted under Japanese law, you’re normally allowed to bring in up to one month’s supply. You’re advised to bring a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating the medical condition that the medication has been prescribed to treat.
British Embassy Tokyo
No 1 Ichiban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
(+81) (3) 5211-1100
The climate is temperate humid, with quite mild winters, and hot, moist, and rainy summers. Like the rest of Japan, the city is affected by the monsoon circulation: in winter the northwest cold currents prevail, while in summer they are replaced by hot and humid currents of tropical origin. In winter the sky is often cloudy, as is common on the Japanese western side; there are fairly mild periods, with highs above 10 °C (50 °F), but also cold periods, with wind and rain, highs around 5/7 °C (41/45 °F) or less, and possible falls of sleet or snow. Snowfalls, however, are generally light, as are nocturnal frosts. Summers are hot and humid; there can be periods of good weather, with maximum temperatures around 35 °C (95 °F), tropical nights and high humidity, but also periods of bad weather, due to the summer monsoon. August is generally the hottest month.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Medical facilities are good, but the cost of treatment is high. Hospitals and clinics are well equipped and staff highly trained. There are very few British doctors practising in Japan, but some Japanese doctors may speak English. You will be expected to pay the whole cost of any treatment you receive and there have been cases where treatment has been delayed whilst medical facilities check the legitimacy of the insurance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance that covers pre-existing conditions and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 119 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The voltage in Japan is 100 Volt, which is different from North America (120V), Central Europe (230V) and most other regions of the world. Japanese electrical plugs have two, non-polarized pins.
Guests will be able to charge cameras and battery at their accommodation each evening.
Pocket money (you can change EUR/£/USD in the airport)
A warm sweater
4 or 5 T-shirts and 2 shirts with long sleeves.
Jodhpurs or jeans to ride in
Riding shoes or boots / riding shoes with mini-chaps or long chaps
A second pair of shoes for the evening
This is an 7 day/6 night programme with riding on 5 days available on set dates.
2019: 5-11 April; 12-18 April
2020: 3-9 April
An additional £609
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||3,889|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||409|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||3,965|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||455|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||4,309|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||455|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||4,389|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||505|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||5,045|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||535|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||5,125|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||589|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||45,345|
|2019 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||4,789|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||double pp||46,199|
|2020 - Cherry Blossom Festival||7d/6n||5||single supplement||5,289|
- Botchan by Natsume Soseki - Written in 1906, this humourous morality tale is set in the nearby Matsuyama district and paints a detailed portrait of Japanese life.
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell - Set in 18th century Japan, this epic novel tells the story of a Japanese midwife and the Dutch East India Company. Minutely detailed, the novel was inspired by the authors trip to Nagasaki. Easily reachable from Fukuoka for those who want to explore more of Japan before or after the ride.
This area of Japan offers plenty of activities for non-riders or for those who want to extend their holiday. Guests can climb some of the most active volcanos in the world, there are several hiking trails to the summit allowing walkers to peer directly into the smoking crater of Mount Aso. Thanks to these volcanoes the whole island has huge amounts of geothermal activity which means some of the best onsens in Japan are available throughout the island and there are even whole towns dedicated to the onsen bathing ritual. Kyushu also acts as the gateway to several smaller tropical islands off it's coast which are an easy boat ride away; for example Yakushima is a nature-lovers paradise, filled with lush rainforest and crystal clear waters.
The mild climate and fertile volcanic soils have resulted in abundant wildlife throughout the region. Kyushu has distinct highlands and where you can find unique species of azalea, apple and other shrubs and flowers that are found nowhere else in the world.
Keen birdwatchers should visit mountain streams where the enormous Crested Kingfisher can be found, while during summer in the humid mountain forests of the south one can still find Japan's most colourful bird, the Fairy Pitta or Yairocho (literally eight coloured bird). The wetlands of Kyushu are also crucial resting and foraging sites for large numbers of shorebirds travelling between Siberia and southeast Asia.
Kyushu is the home of the famed Wagyu beef cattle which are the signature product of the area.