Is the Essence of Japan tour worth the money?

Looking to take the essence of Japan tour in 2024. Is the spring tour or fall tour the best time to go? I know someone who took this trip pre pandemic and really enjoyed it but I am skeptical now because I know that Tauck has been cutting back on what they used to offer with their tours especially when it comes to food. Anyone have any experience with this tour post pandemic?



  • I don't think anyone has been on a post-pandemic tour yet, as Japan just recently reopened. And it's not truly post-pandemic yet, either. :)

    I'm going early April, this year. Chose this time of year for the cherry blossom season and statistically better weather. If you go in the Fall, be cognizant of the rainy season (June/July) and typhoon season (Aug/Sept).

  • It could be a preference for trees full of blossoms or trees full of Fall colors.

    I believe that April is the most popular time to visit Japan, meaning that crowds will likely be larger.

  • We went 6 years ago in the spring to see the cherry blossoms. It was a spectacular trip, and unlike any we had been on with Tauck. Go without any hesitation.

  • I've been on three tours "post-pandemic" and haven't noticed any cutting back or changes in the food. What makes you think this is true? The only problems I've seen are related to staffing issues at the venue and not anything Tauck has done. Those have been few.

  • I think ddicadlo May mean the number of meals included. These are definitely less in number than when we first started touring with Tauck, but that is what many customer wanted, more chances to eat on their own.

  • I am on the April 9 Essence of Japan. The itinerary and hotels look wonderful. There are some free nights for dinner but I enjoy finding places on my own!

  • I agree with British after 4 trips after pandemic the included dinners have been less, but the price is still up there.

  • I like the meal adjustment and appreciate the chance to skip an occasional meal and/or munch on my inevitable Tauck leftovers. But no, prices are unlikely to decrease. C'est la vie.

  • Anyone on the April 12/13, 2023 Essence of Japan small group?

  • edited January 2023

    If you want to do a pre or post tour excursion, look into Nikko (north of Tokyo). You can get there by train. I had previously mentioned a couple of shrines I recommend in Tokyo.

    Westeners stand out in Japan, but if you really want to experience Japan, get a guide who will take you places that are Japanese and eat just Japanese food for a few days. Eat with chopsticks. Stay in a Japanese hotel. Live like a Japanese for a couple of days. Try to see more than just the "Western" side of Japan - try to see the Japanese side of Japan.

    A traditional Japanese breakfast is interesting:-)


    [Japan is a very safe country and the Japanese people are polite. Many speak English to some level. You can go out on your own and be safe and secure.]

  • If you want the real Janpan experience, stay with a Japanese family like we did.

  • edited January 2023

    If you want the real Japan experience, stay with a Japanese family like we did

    I agree with British but not everyone has the ability to stay with a Japanese family. I had friends in Japan (Japanese friends) and could stay with them but when you're a tourist, that may not be available. If you get an opportunity to stay with a Japanese family, jump at it.

    Maybe there are Japanese families that will welcome a tourist into their home these days.

    Forty years ago, it was extremely unusual for a Japanese family to have anyone stay in their home. If Japanese friends came to visit, they would put them up in a hotel. There were two reasons for this.
    1. The standard of hospitality in Japan (toward other Japanese) is very high. You should anticipate the guests' needs and meet those needs. The hosts essentially became slaves.
    2. Japanese homes are small (some are very small) and they don't have room for guests.

    Their home was perhaps a bit larger than normal. My wife and I had a bedroom to ourselves but it had a tatami floor and we slept under futons and had those (what I call) bean pillows.

    I asked my Japanese friends why the allowed us to stay with them and they said, "Americans don't expect things the way Japanese do."

    However, you can push it too far. One morning, at breakfast, I needed something and got up and opened the refrigerator to get it. Wow, you'd have thought I committed some serious crime. They were really shocked. There was a limit to how "familiar" an American could get with the family. :) They told me to ask for it next time.


    Here's a picture of my wife and I with the Japanese family - at a restaurant. That was so many years ago. We're all wearing a yukata.
    The older Japanese man was a member of the Diet. His wife is to his left and his mother is to his right. His son is at the other end of the table. They visited us in the US a few years later.

  • edited January 2023

    Hint to anyone who does stay in a Japanese home. Most homes will have at least one room with a tatami mat floor. You DO NOT walk on tatami with your shoes on. Actually, you take your shoes off at the entrance to the home.

  • Mike, I lived in Japan for 2 years in the 80's courtesy of the USN and I'll take a Japanese breakfast over their version of an American any day. Just haven't lived until you've started the day with a cold omelet made the night before... And you're right, Americans totally stand out. Being a bit of a busty girl I really did. Was so glad to return to the US and anonymity.

  • edited January 2023

    Mike, I lived in Japan for 2 years in the 80's courtesy of the USN and I'll take a Japanese breakfast over their version of an American any day.

    You're absolutely right about that. It's not just Japan. I was in Thailand and went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken place. The chicken was terrible - greasy and tasteless. I was with a Thai person who told the person behind the counter that I thought the food was terrible. The guy replied, "Yeah, I think it's terrible, also. I don't know how people eat it." They just had no idea how it was supposed to taste.

    But as counterpoint, "Good food is universal." Every culture has some excellent food dishes.


    [As Claudia pointed out (below), even in Europe you can run into differences. I had been in Europe for a while and was yearning for some American food. At Heathrow, waiting for a flight back to the US, I saw a place that advertised "Chocolate Shake", so I ordered one. What I received was a glass of heavy cream with some chocolate sauce. It was terrible. I don't know if they did that because they didn't have any ice cream, or if that really was what they called a "Chocolate Shake" but it was not an American ice cream shake.]

  • Yep, lots of other good food choices in Japan. I've learned even in Europe not to order "American" staples and expect them to taste like at home - hamburgers, ice cream, pancakes, etc. I try to look for the best of the local cuisine.

  • Hello! We will be on the March 25, 2023 Essence of Japan tour. Anyone else?

  • Hi ddicarlo: You don't mention if you've been on a Tauck trip before or if this will be your first one. We're already booked this tour in May 2024 and we're looking forward to having a few free nights. We've noticed on other Tauck tours that when dinner is not included, there is usually a big lunch or something in the afternoon (like a tasting) and at dinner time we really don't want a big meal anyway. It's also nice to have some free time to explore on our own, or get together informally with other guests. We're hoping we'll be able to get baseball tickets for one of our free nights in Tokyo and Kabuki tickets in Kyoto.

  • As far as meals go, the pattern used to be that dinner was always included on the first night you moved to a new hotel. That still seems to be the case but more and more meals are not being included.
    I have never not had a huge lunch included on any Tauck tour, which is why when dinner is not included we often are too full to consider looking to book dinner but are glad to have a night off in the hope that some of our clothes will still fit us before the tour is finished. In fact, here’s the most useful tip I can give for Tauck tours….,be sure you save any loose clothing for the last few days of the tour!

  • I've also noted that dinners are included for all nights at a particular hotel if it's in a secluded area like some of the golf resorts we stayed at in Ireland where you were too far from town to walk to local restaurants.

  • We did this 3 years ago in early April and it was spectacular, one of our all time very favorite tours. There are 28 different kinds of cherry trees in Kyoto; our hotel had maps and up to date info about which were in bloom when. It is breathtaking. There was never, even remotely, a hungry moment. Doing the land tour is, in my opinion, so much better than a cruise (we've compared notes with friends who cruised and they would agree.) We have been on four post covid tours and I have the impression that there is some swapping of lunches for dinners on a few days. This is a very expensive tour for Tauck I imagine. Japan is pricey, the places you go and where you stay are, and all of the extras, performances, talks, etc. I'd go again in a heartbeat.

  • Thanks for your comments Mazalea. I am on the April 9 Essence of Japan, and getting very excited! Hopefully some of the cherry blossoms will still be around.

  • Please tell me your hints for the Japan tour! We are going in 2 months!! We'd love to go to a baseball game. Does anyone know if we can do that easily?

  • For those of you who have taken this trip, did you find a need for cash? I've heard conflicting reports on the acceptance of credit cards.

  • I haven't been to Japan recently but back when I did travel there, credit cards were taken almost everywhere.

    Also, just FYI for travelers: You should not try to bargain (negotiate) in Japan. The price is the price. It's different in China.

  • TRez - In my research I found that The Yomiuri Giants play at the Tokyo Dome. They have an official website for ordering tickets in English.

  • i'm splitting hairs on deciding the tauck cruise or land only also ship goes to cherry blossom island....also .as you see s korea & osaka including tamano & ginza on the cruise.....heard cruise is pack and food wasn't that great HELP????

  • To really get Japan, you must do a land tour!

  • I loved the Essence of Japan land tour, it's worth every penny

  • To really get Japan, you must do a land tour!

    I think that's true for many (most) places. However, if you're going to a lot of places in a short time, a cruse is more convenient.

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