Off to Japan in two days!

Finally here…it’s been almost two years of waiting for things to normalize in Japan. Now I am leaving this Friday morning for Essence of Japan! Very excited, and already packed. I am traveling with some friends on the small group tour that starts on 4/9, but getting to Tokyo a day early to hopefully help with jet lag. The weather looks good for the first week, but then rain, but I’m ready with all conceivable clothing options stuffed in!! Unfortunately the cherry blossoms will be gone, but everything will be green and beautiful.

Any last minute tips from anyone is appreciated, and I will definitely write a review when I get home. Arigato domo!



  • We are doing this tour May 2024 and I would love to read your review! Have a save trip! Enjoy!

  • Mimitravels - BKMD is on the Essence of Japan tour right now. Hopefully he will post a review at some point.

  • We look forward to any comments and tips you have BKMD! We begin our small group tour April 22 nd. Hopefully others travelling before us can weigh in with their comments as well. We are really looking forward to this trip!

  • BKMD are you on a classic tour? Or is this just a pumped up small group? Hope you got to see some cherry blossoms this week. I will be there soon! Enjoy.

  • This is a classic tour.

    Yes, cherry blossoms galore. In Tokyo, it was a few days past prime. In Hakone now, which is higher elevation, and they are in their full glory.

    First 3 days (plus GoT) were in Tokyo. The Park Hyatt was a beautiful hotel. First day, before the welcome dinner, did a lot of walking (7 miles). Yesterday, after activities, there were options to be dropped off in Akihabara (electronics center) or Ginza (high end shopping). We chose Akihabara and wandered into a bunch of stores. For Steve of cathyandsteve, saw several stores with banners for Icom and Yaesu in their windows, so walked in there and saw the latest in radios. They also had old stuff, such as small parts and vacuum tubes. I had to explain to my 31 year old daughter what a vacuum tube was :) Reminded me a little of the old surplus stores on Canal St in NYC in the 70s. Took a taxi back to the hotel from there (they take credit cards).

    Today, in Hakone, it was rainy on and off, so the ferry ride on Lake Ashi wasn't as scenic as it could have been. Fro there, after lunch, we went to the Open Air Museum which was very nice They have a Picasso building!

    Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, too, but fortunately, it's a museum/indoor day.

    I can't post any pics as my travel laptop is bare bones, I don't don't have any app installed to transfer pics from my phone.

  • What the heck is the appeal is an electronics center to most people of a Tauck age group, why would a Tauck offer that one even high end shopping when most is available at home? I’ve been to many places in Japan, but not Tokyo, surely there are more unique places to see like an area where they have shops specializing in things like plastic food and the fabulous Japanese ceramics. I hope my tour of Japan is more authentic.
    Glad you ere able to see the blossoms in all their glory.

  • Thanks BKMD! Enjoy Hakone. And thanks for the taxi info.

  • Earth Day tip: consider carrying/reusing your chopsticks. Delta had beautiful twisted ones. Last I heard Japan incinerates 4 billion pairs a year. It was a challenge, easiest at breakfast. And octopus balls really are delicious lol. Enjoy!

  • Have a great time Marla. Try to attend a Kabuki play.

  • Thanks MarketArt! I have plastic chopsticks with my name on them from my trip to Southeast Asia a few years back!!
    And Gladys, we will look for Kabuki on a free night. Thanks everyone.

  • British
    What the heck is the appeal is an electronics center to most people of a Tauck age group, why would a Tauck offer that one even high end shopping when most is available at home? I’ve been to many places in Japan, but not Tokyo, surely there are more unique places to see like an area where they have shops specializing in things like plastic food and the fabulous Japanese ceramics. I hope my tour of Japan is more authentic.

    British - These were options on the way back to the hotel from an activity. There were about 8 people who exited at Akihabara. It is a unique area - a several block area of bright and colorful displays in shop windows and on building edifices, along with young people dressed in unusual and colorful outfits. And for me, being an electronics and radio hobbyist, it was very interesting. Re shopping, some people like to shop or window shop. Not everyone lives near a Ginza, or 5th Ave., or Rodeo Drive, and some may find walking that neighborhood interesting. And for those not interested, they could simply return to the hotel on the bus, where they could watch CNN or have a massage, which also can be done almost anywhere. Some people eat at McDonalds while in esoteric locations. To each, their own.

    As long as I'm posting now (6AM), comment about my flight over. I flew DEN-HND via Vancouver on United/ANA. United has a non-stop flight, but the price is absurd - about 3x the with-connection flight (biz). There is another couple from Denver who flew the same route as me. If you have a choice between HND vs. NRT, choose HND. It's about 30 minutes from the hotel, while NRT is over an hour. The food on the ANA flight was the best airline meal I ever had (the Japanese food option). On the downside, their web site is clunky and poorly functional, and their call center hold time is around 90 minutes. I am flying home non-stop on United biz, as I got a supersaver fare with FF miles (70K miles).

  • BKMD: keep your comments coming! We are on the October trip so your experiences and observations are so informative! And if you can add in a restaurant review in any of the cities, that would be great! Looking forward to more of your reviews! Keep enjoying…

  • Dbfm - I'm not a good one for restaurant reviews, as I mostly skip the non-included dinners as a means of weight control. :) After the trip ends, we are heading back to Tokyo for a few more days and have reservations at TOKYO SHIBA TOFUYA UKAI. My daughter is a bit of a foodie and she set it up. I'll try to report back on that.

    Today was day 5. We visited the Kubota Kimono museum which was very impressive, especially the grounds. Following that, we visited the Hakone Glass museum, with mostly glass/artwork from Venice, plus some Chihulys. Also very nice grounds, Would have been nicer if it wasn't pouring rain all day (bring a raincoat - hotels and many other places supply umbrellas, if needed). Off to Kanazawa in the morning for the one night stay in the Ryokan.

  • We are flying to HND when we go to Japan in September.
    I’n glad to hear that those trips were options. We don’t get much free time on our tour and will be mostly eating in local restaurants and all our meals are paid for. I’m sure we won’t be staying in such luxury hotels and our tour is 20 days.
    April showers bring forth the flowers! We will likely encounter monsoons in September!

  • A museum recommendation slightly off the tourist list: In Tokyo I enjoyed the Ad(vertising) Museum, full of amazing Japanese graphic art. In Ginza area,

  • We are on the June 2023 tour
    Appreciate all the info!

  • BKMD,

    I know it's early in your trip, but as your journey continues I would be interested in knowing how you have enjoyed the train travel between cities. I have enjoyed reading about your experiences thus far.

  • Our trip begins in 2 weeks and we are so happy that you are posting your impressions as you travel BKMD. Thank you for that.

  • Now 6:30 AM. day 7, at the one night stay in the Ryokan. Just waiting for breakfast. Interesting for an American eating meals in a robe and slippers here. Today is a late start (leaving 9 AM), and mostly a travel day (on bus).

    kfnknfzk - So far, only one train ride, and it was fine. Train was clean, quiet, comfortable and plenty of leg room. The aisle is wider than trains in the US and Europe, too.

    The ride up the mountain to the Ryokan is not for the faint of heart, but very scenic with the cherry blossoms at their peak. We had great views of Mt Fuji on the way, which doesn't happen all the time, with a photo stop for pics. The final stretch a very curvy and narrow road. In the US, they would never let a large vehicle, like a bus, travel this road, but the driver did a great job.

  • And here's a tip:

    Install Google translate on your phone. You can take pics of signs and it will translate for you. For example, in one of the hotels, the toilet seat was too hot for my comfort, so I needed to know which button on the secondary controls (inside the flip open panel) adjusted it :)

  • edited April 9

    Hello All! We arrived in Tokyo yesterday (Saturday April 8) at around 3:00 pm in Haneda. Long walk from the gate….Immigration only took 10 minutes because we printed our QR codes from visit Japan Web! Definitely do that ahead of time!! Then the bags were waiting for us. We flew Delta and they track the bags for you on their app, so we knew they were on the plane with us. Very nice feature!!
    You need to then scan your passport and QR code for customs and go right through. All in all under 40 minutes from landing to getting to the Tauck ride. Excellent.

    Tokyo is GIGANTIC!!! also many huge tall concrete buildings. I grew up outside of NYC, but this place dwarfs it. About a 30 minute drive to the Park Hyatt, which is a lovely hotel. We had an early, light dinner the fell asleep by 8:30 pm Tokyo time.

    This morning it is sunny and about 57 degrees. I can see Mt. Fuji from my hotel room on the 51st floor. Fabulous. This morning, we will meet Larry, our tour guide for a short walk around the area, then later this afternoon I have a massage in the spa. AHHHHH.
    More to report after tonight’s welcome dinner.

  • Just came back from the March 25 trip and had a great time. The Park Hyatt was absolutely fabulous, genuinely luxurious beyond belief. We got rained out the first Tokyo day and went to the National Museum instead before the Taiko drum and the Nobu lunch.The Hotel Nikko has the smallest and most basic room of the trip but the included Japanese dinner was unbelievable in term of quality and presentation. I don't recall any complimentary remarks from those who went with the Teppanyaki and the Chinese. I heard problems with going to dinner at Forus the second night. in Kanazawa. I opted for shopping at the train station (great ceramic shop on the farthest right) and tried the little sushi place by the hotel(No one speaks English).Paul Bocuse after Kenroku-en Garden was very average at best. Nest day, the bento book on the train to Hiroshima was barely edible. I saved all the shopping to Daimaru at Kyoto and had scored many amazing bargain of luxury goods.

    Larry and Nicole have done amazing jobs in addition to the Japanese guides.

  • Day 8 of the tour. Arrived Hotel Nikko last night. The rooms are Holiday Inn-like (with thin walls, making it somewhat noisy), several steps down from the other hotels.

  • @BKMD that’s disappointing to hear! The Nikko I stayed in Paris was very nice. Too bad. I guess all we can say is we don’t spend much time in the rooms?

  • Marla - That's true. Yesterday, we arrived at the Nikko at 6 PM. Today was a very full day, being out until 5: 30 PM. The hotel is otherwise very nice. Very large, nice looking lobby and breakfast buffet was very nice. Haven't had dinner yet tonight. We leave tomorrow for Hiroshima.

    For anyone who is into walking or running, turn left out of the hotel, walk about a mile and you'll get to a river with trails on both sides.

  • We saw the Meiji Shrine today with a beautiful walk through the woods. Weather is perfect, clear and mid 50’s to 70 degrees! Our guide Larry, has been with Tauck 35 years. He is awesome, and hilarious! Lunch at Nobu was “meh” IMO, except for the hamachi slices and the tuna in vinegar. The walk through the fish market was crowded but lots of fun. I personally did not care for the Taikko drumming, I thought it was a waste of time, but many in the group loved it. The highlight was the last part when the teacher did a wonderful piece, and also understanding the significance of the Taikko was interesting. Tomorrow is the museum, which should be interesting. And my two friends and I have tickets to the 4:00 pm Kabuki, so that will be a different experience as well.

  • We have had Larry for two tours, he’s awesome.

  • @ British…. Larry Abbott, correct? He is amazing….only day 2 and we love him. I feel extremely fortunate.

  • We had Larry Abbott as our TD in Vietnam in 2013 and he was terrific!

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