Essence of Japan- April 2023

We will be on the April 22 essence of Japan trip and will arrive 2 days earlier in Tokyo. Can anyone suggest what we should do with our extra time before the tour starts ( other than acclimate to the time change)? Looking forward to this awaited adventure!


  • I'm going in October. How did you spend your extra time? Did you stay at a different hotel?

  • We are arriving a few days early for the April 22 trip. We are arriving on April 17. What we have planned is at least 1 possibly 2 food tours, visiting a few shrines (that are not on our itinerary with Tauck), resting up and making a couple of reservations for good sushi or ramen restaurants. We are arriving from NC and had planned this trip pre-Covid. Looking forward to it very much.
    Glenn & Patty Camp

  • I'm looking forward to hearing your reviews and tips for this trip. Ours is booked for May 2024.

  • We just arrived in Japan. We ate in the hotel tonight, the French Japanese restaurant. It was $40 each including service charge for a three course dinner including an amuse bouche, petit fours and tea or coffee. We had deer for our entre, all beautifully presented and great service.

  • Hi British and others,

    I hate to criticize but as much as we really love French food, why go French when Japanese has so much to offer?

    For you others, we did this trip a few years ago and with luck in April both Tokyo and Kyoto will be full of gorgeous cherry blossoms. If you ladies want to dress up as a geisha it is possible to rent kimonos and have your makeup done accordingly. We did not know about this before our trip and unfortunately all the the studios were fully booked. My understanding is that you have the kimonos for a full day, and you will see dozens of women, both local and tourists all dressed up.

    As far as good sushi, it is probably available all over. Our best sushi was at the Tsukiji Nippon fish market which was located at that time in Tokyo. It has since moved to the suburbs, but the restaurant may still be there. There were dozens of restaurants there, but ours was the only one with a long line and an hour wait, but it was worth it. We were also told about sushi restaurants where you order from vending machines and then get your food inside. We did not get to try this. A fun sushi place in Kyoto was recommended by our TD and has a conveyor belt (not boats) circulating with the food. It was crowded and the sushi was quite good. It is located in the old marketplace and I think the name is Musashi. You will see a sign with a vertical circular display of sushi.

    Lastly for all you dog lovers be sure to visit the monument to Hachi, a dog who waited patiently for his owner at a railroad station even years after his owners death. The "shrine" is in Shibuya, a short subway ride from downtown and worth a visit. The movie "Hachi, a dog is a somewhat romanticized version (starring Rihard Gere) of the true story. Be prepared to have tissues handy!

  • edited September 19

    Sherry, we arrived in Tokyo around 6pm. The Japanese restaurant was full. We love Japanese food, I had it on the plane. The Japanese have an interesting interpretation on French food that we first tried years ago. We will be in Japan for three weeks and most meals will be in local restaurants. The French restaurant was quiet and intimate, just what we needed before retiring for a night of jetlag hell, which. I am currently experiencing.
    I’ve done the kimono thing when I was in the Mikado years ago, wig and makeup and all. That kind of thing is of course not the done thing in today’s climate.
    We have a Japanese wedding kimono hanging in our home that we’ve had for over thirty years, bought at a temple sale, a bit like a ‘car boot sale’. We love anything Japanese. Even had a Japanese garden and pond and koi when we lived in England. Taught the fish to come when we clapped like they do in Japan. We had a deer scarer, a Shishi odoshi…can’t remember the spelling…but we had to dispense with it as it woke us at night! Which is of course how it scared the deer😂😂

  • What are the best flight options? (business class) I'm flying out of Florida.

  • edited September 20

    We live in Philly. We flew to Boston and then got a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo. We were Impressed with business class. The seats were very spaced apart, I couldn’t even see the person who sat on the opposite side of the isle of me. The seat and foot area were pretty wide compared to other business class flights we have been on. Big Tv screen. My only complaint was that there wasn’t much storage. You had to unfasten your seatbelt to reach anything. The service was excellent. The airplane roilets we’re immaculate every time you made a visit,
    We breezed through Tokyo Narita airport faster than any airport we have been in. It takes an hour to get into Tokyo center. People who arrived today a little later In the day reported two hour drives.

  • I have reservations on the same flight to Tokyo for next May. I found them on line, then booked them through Tauck. The Tauck person had a hard time finding them, so if I hadn't done the research on my own, they would have put me through a flight with stops.

  • @ mimitravels ..l did this tour this past April and flew from Tampa to Minneapolis then straight to Tokyo. It was Delta Business class and was outstanding.

  • British, have a ball, and enjoy all the wonderful sites and food. Don’t be too disappointed in the Nobu lunch….IMO it was a bit dumbed down. But you will have lots of great opportunities to get real Japanese food.

  • Here's an out of the box option from Florida:

    Catch a flight from MacDill or Tyndall AFB. That's "Serious Business Class". 😁

  • edited September 20

    Smiling Sam
    Here's an out of the box option from Florida:
    Catch a flight from MacDill or Tyndall AFB. That's "Serious Business Class". 😁

    Been there, done that! :/

  • The seating in the KC135 I took to/from Carswell AFB once

  • I’m not on the Tauck tour Marla. Our TD is Jspanese. We won’t be having ahy type of Tauck meals, most will be in local Japanese restaurants. Our Welcome dinner last night was outstanding. I’m hoping to post more general info about our experience here on the forum.
    I have not been to Tokyo before. What surprised me and a few other well traveled people yesterday when we were walking around before the tour began was how few people there were around considering Tokyo is the largest city on the planet.
    We did not have any plans for our pre tour day. We looked at where our hotel was on the map in a free tourist book we picked up in the hotel lobby this morning and picked out a temple and garden that we could walk to, wanting to be in the daylight as much as possible to help with our jetlag. We used a cell phone map. The phone was on airplane mode. I think my husband downloaded it first , so it was not speaking to us. It was easy.

  • It would not surprise me at all if the finest French food on the planet was in Tokyo.

  • I was in Tokyo in the springtime - great weather but the crowds were overwhelming. It was Golden Week! The broad sidewalks were packed. And hundreds of people would line up at the street corners to cross the road at one time. It was very orderly and shockingly quiet despite the crowds.

  • Might be a little early. When we were in Japan years ago and saw the blossoms, I’m sure it was April

  • British, excellent! You will have lots of great food and experiences. Tauck also took us to a hibachi lunch and they served bread rolls instead of rice. OUCH!! No explanation on lack of people around. We saw thousands dressed in pale neutral shirts, dark skirts and men in dark suits, hurrying to business in the Shinjuku area. They looked like clones rushing around.

  • I prefer non-stop.My experience with crowds was similat to Marla's. I was there a few weeks before her, in early April. After the tour, we went back to Tokyo and walked neighborhoods not included in the tour, including neghborhood parks. They were all very crowded.

  • One of my best memories of this trip was fulfilling a long, long time wish of watching a Kabuki play. It was incredible. Got the ticket through the hotel in Tokyo, sat in the aisle, all and all it was a wonderful experience.

  • edited September 21

    We leave Tokyo today. The temple we visited yesterday was really busy. I’m not putting the name in here because it’s the middle of the night and I will be referring to my notes for spellings for my diary which I haven’t done yet. We did go to the National museum which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We commented that only the very best pieces were on display, making it a much less daunting visit than being punch drunk from seeing thousand of exhibits. We discovered yesterday that it is something like ‘Respect the Elderly’ week when we could enter some gardens for free. Same with the museum, free entry!
    It is much warmer than usual for this time of year and the humidity is really tiring. We all loved the experiences of getting on and off the monorails, trains and the subway. One thing my husband is noticing is that there are far more foreigners than when he used to come here for business. Even so, every time we came across groups of school children, they would all wave and giggle. Some people on the trains wanted to talk to us all.
    We went to a typical Japanese ‘pub’ last night. It was almost like an all you an eat affair, all sorts of freshly fried foods on could add different types of sauced to them. The lotus root and shrimp were my favorite and then raw cabbage to help digestion. We could have a go at making fresh octopus balls in a sort of batter surround. Mr. B had a go
    There were free drinks. I had plum wine as a sort of long mixer with soda. The men on my table enjoyed the beer. The waitress and locals enjoyed seeing us. A great authentic experience.

  • British, you certainly contribute to fabulously detailed reviews. I loved our Japan Tauck trip, such a civilized society. The cherry blossoms were beautiful when we went.

  • edited September 22

    HAKONE JAPAN SEPT. 22nd 2023
    We left Tokyo on a bus today and had approximately a two hour drive to the foothills of the volcanic area of Hakone. We got onto a funicular and two cable cars. We crossed over sulphuric fumeroles and the air smelt of bad eggs. We were able to glimpse the top of Mt. Fuji peeping out of the clouds, no snow to be seen. We then boarded a ‘pirate ship’ and went accross the lake in the caldera, Lake Ashi, where our Onsen hotel is, it’s beautiful. We also went to a Checkpoint museum on the Tokaido East Sea Road which was the ancient pathway between Osaka and Edo (Tokyo). Everyone had to pass by the checkpoint with a ‘‘Passport’ even back in those ancient times. We walked along the ancient pathway for about twenty minutes. It now has huge cedar trees alongside. Beautiful.
    There were a few lovely gift stores. One had gorgeous parquetry. We were given a demonstration of how it is made. A speciality is boxes which have very complicated puzzles that enable you to open them. We bought one with a Mount Fuji parquetry top.
    We are about to go for a traditional Onsen bathing experience.

  • I have returned from the bathing. If you go to Japan, you must try it! We were educated about the etiquette before we went in. We put on our yukatas, making sure to close them left over right, only dead people are dressed the other way round….oh dear, I’ve been wearing my Yukata the wrong way round at home all these years !
    I bathed in the outside pool with dense greenery around. The water was really hot. You never put your modesty towel in the water as it is considered unsanitary, so you place it on your head. I’m now an expert.

  • Yes, British that is correct the manner in which the yucata (cotton robe) is closed and I now do that with all my clothing for that reason. I bought lovely cotton yucatas from a department store in Tokyo and wear them as robes around the house. The floral prints are lovely. They come with a tie to close. I also purchased an obi (very wide sash). You will see women were their yucatas with the obi outside all the time in Japan.

  • I see dead people! :D:D

  • Thank you British, it sounds like a great trip.

  • So here is the lowdown on French food in Japan. When we visited Japan thirty years ago, we kept being taken to fancy French restaurants. We did not click back then that showing hospitality and prestige here is to offer French cuisine until last night when our dinner was in the French restaurant of this lovely Onsen hotel. Here are a few pics taken with my husband’s phone. My photos are not transferring to my iPad as I mainly keep it on airplane mode.

  • I have a few photos here of the sulphuric smelling caldera and the cable cars, and a limited view of Fuji

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