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Thread: Travel to Japan - need advice please

  1. #1
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    Travel to Japan - need advice please

    We used to have a member on SLN who lived in Japan and gave me a suggested itinerary for sightseeing there. When I switched to my MacBook, I lost that itinerary.

    Anyone knowledgeable about Japan and sightseeing this beautiful country? I have dreamed for years of doing this. It is time to make it come true.

    I have a Goway Travel program for independent travel but have never travelled with this company before. Anyone have an experience with them?
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    We went with Samurai Tours and can recommend them highly. Their website gives some detailed itineraries for you to review.

    I loved!!!Kyoto but my absolute favorite was Takayama. Smaller, walkable, restored buildings and a beautiful place.

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    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    Oh oh oh....... I am so wanting to go. Hope to next year and have already been comparing tours. Would love to know the best places to go.

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    Best is subjective. I love almost every single place we were in Japan. Just walking down a street was exceptional. It is very safe. People leave things out all the time and they are not stolen. Almost everyone obeys all the traffic laws and pedestrians go to cross walks and follow the walk signs even if no traffic. Love it.

    Biggest issue is communication. It is a fast country and I felt like a toddler the whole time as far as communication. Bigger train stations and such have tourist offices but the whole system can be overwhelming. People don't travel around the country with luggage. We shipped our big bags from point to point (picked up and delivered to hotel). Trains can arrive and leave in one minute to keep on time. However, loads of people want to help the tourist.

    We had some funny restaurant stories but got a lot of help. It is true that pictures on menus and plastic food are all over.

    Hint: Japan was not as expensive as all the media would have us believe. We easily got meals for $10 and there is zero tipping or tax calculations to add to confusion. All train stations have great food to go all over and the quality is much higher than the US. We used the airport bus in Tokyo instead of a taxi and could have taken the train. Found out our hotel rooms were comparable to the US in price.

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    I looked at the Samurai tours and the 2 week tour is very busy. Did you do the optional tours as well, Sweetana? I know that I need a break from so many people and activities to recharge periodically. I also want to see as many Japanese gardens as possible. Were many included on your tour?
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    I've been to Japan three times (primarily Tokyo two trips; primarily Kyoto the other) and want to go again before I can no longer make the trip. Loved it. Even when I spoke no Japanese and had little idea of where I was.

    We (ex- and I, so it's been a while) went by ourselves (no tours) and did okay. There was one "incident" in a restaurant when we did not understand the protocol for the cafeteria-style service -- lots of gesticulating and louder voices -- but our status as gaijin (foreigners) bought us some forgiveness. And there was the drunk guy in the restaurant our first night who kept buying us beers even though our badly jet-lagged upset stomachs did not let us drink them (I'm sure we appeared rude but could not explain in Japanese why we were refusing).

    But there is more English around the larger cities than you might think (including transit maps). Mass transit is not hard to figure out. We were lucky enough to be on a plane once when we passed Mount Fuji and thought the plane would tip to one side for all the people dashing to the windows for a look! People everywhere were polite and helpful (one university student walked us six blocks to the place we asked about on our map). My happy place for the rest of my life has been the zen garden at the Ryōan-ji Temple.

    A tour would make it easier, but it also may not give you enough time to just get lost and explore a fascinating culture. It was hard sometimes figuring out which storefront was a restaurant and whether it was open, you do end up being conspicuous just by standing upright and breathing. Japan is a country of some interesting contradictions and social conventions (compared to the U.S.). But my first trip was the experience of a lifetime and I look forward to going again someday not too far from now.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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    Where was the itinerary? In a PM (checked those), in an email, or in the post? Have you tried searching for Japan and razz as the user (not that many posts). Do you have it saved in subscribed posts?

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    Senior Member Simplemind's Avatar
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    We have done several tours with different tour companies and have been very happy with excursions and pacing. I hate stressing over transportation and since my husband had his stroke this has been a godsend for us and he enjoys having the pressure taken off him. I'm very interested in temples and gardens and I see several that highlight those.

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToomuchStuff View Post
    Where was the itinerary? In a PM (checked those), in an email, or in the post? Have you tried searching for Japan and razz as the user (not that many posts). Do you have it saved in subscribed posts?
    It was on a previous incarnation of the Simple Living - Simple Living Network, maybe? It was a thread on its own, I believe.

    My former name was Danny but too many variations started showing up that were similar so I changed my name.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    We took the Best of Japan tour and yes, it was packed and we were on the go. Thankfully, it was a small group of adults and we were all experienced and pretty relaxed. The "gardens" in Japan are often large parks because such expanses of parkland are considered rare and beautiful tourist areas for the Japanese.

    I needed more free time to explore and finally realized that I would have to come back. Too often I wanted to say wait, what is this? and the group was a block down the street. My favorite memories are when we got to go alone and explore and talk to people (or try to). It is just the trade off to get the tour guide and the wonderful help with the whole transportation issue.


    Steve: we had the funny experience of going into a restaurant and sitting down because there were menus and a waitress. Nothing happened. Watched when the next people came in and they went over to the "automatic machine" on the wall to place their order and pay and then sat down. We walked over to it and everything was in Japanese. So we waved the waitress over and she helped us while laughing at the foreigners. The whole place was run by the waitress and the cook and it was pretty large.

    Another experience our group had several times was at the 7-11s where we changed our money at the ATMs. We would all buy things to change the large denomination notes and the cashiers kept giving us extra things. Finally found out they were having a contest of some kind and these were our winnings. One member got a bottle of wine.

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