Great pictures! I go next year and can't wait!
We go next March. Do you suggest going into Tokyo 3 days early to see more? Is that too much? What airlines are people having good luck with? We fly out of Boston and 1 person out of Chicago. Going home, is it best to fly from Osaka or go back to Tokyo?
To answer to your Tokyo question, we arrived one day early, then at the end of the tour, took the train back to Tokyo for 2 more days and walked neighborhoods we didn't see on tour. IMO, it was worth it. If you like urban gardens, don't miss the rooftop garden at Ginza Six.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I flew to Tokyo on ANA biz (via Vancouver) and it was the best meals I've ever had on a plane. However, their web site is clunky and their call center had wait times of 90 minutes, minimum. Flew home on United, as it's the only non-stop to DEN. Food and service meh. Nice to jump 200 people in line to an empty counter at check-in with my United status..
If you can, fly into HND as it's only 30 minutes from the Park Hyatt, while NRT is over an hour.
For me, options were better (i.e., non-stop) flying home from Tokyo than Osaka. The Shinkansen (Nozomi) train from Kyoto to Tokyo is about 2h15m, costs a little over $100 and is very comfortable. It leaves Kyoto every 10-15 minutes. Then you transfer to another train to the airport (both HND and NRT have train service) in Tokyo, if Tauck won't provide the transportation.
One more thing to consider - it's a 10 minute ride from the Kyoto Four Seasons to the train station, then buy your ticket and get on the train, maximum wait 15 minutes, if a train just left. I forget which is which, but for the two Osaka airports, KIX and ITM, you leave the hotel either 3 or 4 hours before your flight's departure time.
Beautiful photos, BKMD. Did not look crowded. We are on May 4 Tour. Our last trip was11/21, Egypt/Jordan with Viking. Great trip but will be nice to be in first-world country.
Great pictures! Thanks for taking the time to share your tips and experiences! Looking forward to our trip in October.
We just received a notice from Tauck regarding completing entry requirements… how far in advance did you complete the Visit Japan web to obtain the QR code(s)? Is it “user-friendly”?
Dbfm - I did it a few weeks in advance. However, for some reason, as I was going thru immigration, the "pre-checker" didn't like the QR code on my phone and had me come to a terminal and re-enter some info. Then, once I got thru stage 1 and scanned the QR code, now on a sheet of paper, it produced a date mismatch error, so I had to go thru the manual line, anyway. Talking to other people in line, I wasn't the only one with these minor issues.
Question for the group. Did anyone purchase personal pocket wifi or were the hotel Wi-Fi’s sufficient? Thanks.
The hotel WiFi was absolutely efficient.
Thank you for sharing your photos. We are on the April 27th tour and very much looking forward to this trip.
Thank you for the tips!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, BKMD.
was it worth the cherry blossoms by going in April.....with all the rain? or better to go when It's less wet?
We went in April and there was just a tiny sprinkle of rain in the weather only on one day, and I would say that the cherry blossoms are absolutely and definitely worth it. No question in my mind. When are you going to see miles and miles of Barbie pink cherry blossoms again?
I went this past April 6. Cherry blossoms were early in Tokyo so we did not catch them. However, we saw beautiful blooms in Hakone and around Fuji. We had great weather, in the 60’s and 70’s with only one day that rained in the entire two weeks. Japan is lovely. Very clean, organized, and many interesting sites. Was it my favorite trip anywhere? No…..but I know I am extremely spoiled. Glad I went.
I am in Japan right now and although I’m not with Tauck, I wanted to share a couple of my days with you.
MAGOME SEPT. 26th 2023
We started the day with a 7.2 kilometer hike through the mountain forest. Our TD has shown us photos of the terrain so we knew what to expect. The trail mostly had the original large stones of the ancient pathways that the Samurai used and some uneven gravel paths, so we really had to take care with our footing. The forest was dense and beautiful and we passed several waterfalls along the river. There were occasional old homes and rest stops with toilets with heated seats.
We got back onto the bus and traveled to another Post town for lunch, we then walked along the street which was a 600 meter very steep hill. It was worth the effort to see the view of the valley below.
Back in the bus for a three hour drive to Takayama, quite a large town. Our hotel is really modern and what could be better than having your own combined washing machine and dryer at the entrance to the room. We quickly sorted our laundry and stripped off the clothing we were wearing and threw it into the washing machine along with the free laundry detergent. The TD strolled along the corridor to help us figure out the machines. We await results! I can’t believe how excited I was as we are getting through a lot of clothing because of the humidity and all the exercise we are getting. Lovely room.
TAKAYAMA SEPT 27th 2023
Our dinner last night included Hida beef, which cooks in a little hibachi type dish in front of you. Delicious!
The good thing about staying in a Japanese hotel is that you can go to dinner in your Yukata if it is in the hotel. In some of the little villages it is perfectly acceptable to walk outside in them too. We love the tradition and less or no need to bring any dressy clothes on the tour.
We walked around the historic wooden houses area this morning and visited the local market and three museums, breaking for lunch which consisted of salad, amazing pumpkin soup and a very tender chicken dish. I’ve never taken so many photos of food before.
There was time for shopping. Unlike the experience that someone mentioned about Japanese shopping, we found it just the same as we did when we first came 35 years ago, beautiful hand crafted wood, lacquerware and pottery. I’ve already bought a lacquered dish and met the artist who made it and a Japanese puzzle box also at a reputable store where there was an artist demonstrating how the parquetry is made. It’s the best country to buy lovely gifts in in my opinion.
The hotel here has a Foot Bath area on the top floor. It consisted of a spa like area with a long narrow, granite bath with wide wooden surround. People sit with their feet in the lovely hot water and it is so refreshing after a day of walking. A great view over the city. We then went ot the Onsen. These areas are also spa like and consist of an outside bathing area and inside bathing area. There are strict rules of how this is done. Nice bath and body products. Hairbrush and hairdryer.
We visited a gold leaf factory In Kanazawa today and decorated little dishes with gold leaf. Then we had ice cream decorated with a square of gold leaf. Delicious!
We traveled to the Shirakawa-go area north-west of Takayama. The village is home to a large number of gassho-zukuri houses, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. These large wooden houses have steep thatched roofs designed to withstand heavy snow, and the term gassho-zukuri refers to the shape of praying hands formed by the roof. It was an absolutely gorgeous setting amongst the mountains with an early morning mist.
Those spiders were huge!
One thing that might be useful to know about Japan is that the hotels and inns provide toothbrush and paste, razor and shave cream and even a hairbrush in the rooms. Also provided are either a Yukata or pajamas and slippers. You can easily ask for the correct size. In one hotel you chose you color and size/length in the reception.
I love the beautiful colorful yucatas. I have purchased many to bring home to use as lounging robes and for gifting.
British...lovely. Thanks for sharing
Our travels, what are Tonya’s? Yukata are spelt with a k in Japan.
Lovely pictures British. Thank you, it looks like a great trip.
Definitely appreciate the information from the posts of others who were on the Essence of Japan tour in the spring-especially about the bento boxes on the train! (British, your non-Tauck tour sounds great!) Any other additional last minute tips/ insights from those who have recently completed the Essence of Japan tour?
We are traveling from Kyoto to Himeji on the bullet train and then on to Hiroshima by bullet train the following day. We haven’t been told how long the journeys are yet and whether it includes a lunch on the train. If we get one, I’ll be sure to give my verdict.
British - I mentioned it in my Japan tour review, but I'll mention it here for you. If you are on a schedule in the Peace Museum (less than 2 hours), don't dawdle too long reading all the individual stories on the entrance floor. It's a lot of repetitiveness. I found the history of the bomb, on the lower level, much interesting, and there was limited time to read it all.
Thanks for the reminder BKMD. I wonder if having seen the movie Oppenheimer this summer will have helped me know a bit more and I’ve been to Los Alamos. Our TD has given us plenty of time at the sites so far, so it will be interesting to see how much time he allots.
Here is an excerpt from our Japan tour.
This morning we departed by bullet train for Himeji. A 45 minute trip. Himeji Castle is nicknamed "White Heron" Castle because of its white walls covered with white plaster. Himeji Castle is famous for both its huge main tower and its maze-like design. As one of the finest surviving examples of early 17th-century Japanese castle architecture, it is a masterpiece of construction. The castle has recently completed extensive restoration works.
This was a highlight of our previous visit years ago. But oh boy, I didn’t recall all those stairs up and up
inside the castle. The views were amazing. We had lunch and then visited the wonderful gardens and the large pond with the colorful Koi fish that I could sit watching for ever.