Our goal is to allow our tour members to travel as “temporary Japanese” to break down as many barriers to the lifestyle, customs and traditions as possible to allow the maximum cultural exposure and experience.
On our escorted tours, we prefer to use traditional, Japanese-style ryokans for lodging. These unique Japanese accommodations provide a unique Japanese experience. Whenever possible, we prefer to stay in smaller, more intimate family-run ryokans that are off-limits to larger groups. Many of the ryokans we stay in have as few as 10 to 15 rooms and are located on quiet, narrow side streets. Their owners take tremendous pride in their facilities, service and cuisine. Whenever we do use hotels, we prefer to use smaller, local hotels primarily used by the Japanese that blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, rather than the larger chain hotels catering to western tourists. We carefully select ryokans and hotels in the middle of the sights and culture that are within walking distance of what you came to see. This saves you time and money, and gives you lots of independence. All of the ryokans and hotels, with the exception of the Buddhist temple on Koya-san, have en-suite bathrooms. The bathrooms will include a bath/shower combination, sink and toilet, while the Buddhist temple has shared bath and toilet facilities “down the hall.”
We use only public transportation (with the exception of our new Rail and Drive tours where we use a convenient combination of public transportation and 8-seat vans chartered for the tour gruop). We use the same trains, subways, buses, taxis and ferries that millions of Japanese use every day. By traveling this way, you will get much closer to the people and culture you traveled thousands of miles to discover rather than seeing Japan through the window of a tour bus. And no trip to Japan is complete without at least one ride on the Shinkansens (bullet trains).
We prefer to eat in smaller, more intimate restaurants. There are probably more restaurants per capita in Japan than anywhere else in the world. Because of space limitations in Japan, many of these restaurants only have a small counter and/or a couple of tables that are (again) off-limits to larger groups.
We feel food is an important part of traveling. One of the biggest misconceptions of Japan is that the Japanese only eat sushi. Nothing could be further from the truth. Japanese food is very diverse, and varies region-by-region. We introduce our tour members to the many different types of foods, and we always try to include at least one Kaiseki-style dinner on each tour. Known as the gourmet-style cooking in Japan, Kaiseki dinners are another essential Japanese experience that cannot be missed.
No one likes to pack and unpack every day. Our tour itineraries minimize the number of “one-night stands.” By staying multiple nights at one location, you become more familiar and comfortable with a destination, and are better-rested, and more energized. An appropriate amount of free time is built into the itineraries for you to follow your own curiosity and interests. We do also offer optional tours during your free time on many of our tours should you prefer to join. We also design our tours with the assumption that you will return to Japan someday. This means we don’t try to see everything, necessitating hurrying from sight-to-sight, wearing everyone out. Our intent is to make our tours “quality” over “quantity.”
We include many well-balanced cultural extras in our escorted tours such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy lessons, geisha walking tours and meeting a Maiko, an apprentice geisha.
Our enthusiastic and knowledgeable Samurai Tours and local Japanese tour guides are well versed in Japanese culture, history, art and architecture and will bring Japan alive with their insights.
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