THE REAL JAPAN / Discover the unspoilt Japan
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by Dr J on 20/11/2017
October 24 - November 9
Osaka, Kyoto, Ise, Nagano, Tokyo
14 day (Ordinaary) Pass
Train travel is a total delight in Japan - the trains are immaculately clean, plentiful and always on time. Being able to send heavy luggage ahead meant very easy journeys. The Japan Travel Centre booked our hotels (always conveniently located near a train station) and provided maps of the immediate location for easy access. I would like to especially mention the wonderful help of Jessica Asai-Lawrence, particularly when I misplaced the hotel vouchers and she had to email them to me! Culturally, everyone is extremely polite and helpful, everywhere is very clean (no litter anywhere), making Japan a total delight to experience.
by Anna and Pete on 06/11/2017
9-21 October 2017
The cities and places we visited were: Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Myijaima, Shirakawa-go, Kyoto.
We loved Japan and the places we visited were all very different; all amazing. It was our first time in Japan, which is one of the easiest places to travel around. Everything works, and people are extremely helpful. We used trains, buses, boats - and walked. We would definitely recommend Japan Travel Centre for any trip to Japan - Kaoru was so helpful and listened to what we wanted. Everything was perfect!
by Marko on 06/11/2017
July - August 2017
Tokyo, Hakata, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto & Mt. Fuji area.
21 day pass.
Historical sites(e.g. Temples, Shrines)
by Elia on 27/10/2017
6th-25th October 2017
14-day Full Pass
As it was our first time in Japan we wanted a varied itinerary. We booked our accommodation in Japan and Kyoto but then came up against a few obstacles. Fortunately, the Japan Travel Centre was at hand to sort out our difficulties. Kaoru took infinite pains to plan our route and accommodation. At every stage she was most helpful and we would certainly recommend the services of the Japan Travel Centre. Our holiday was indeed varied and we discovered a lot about Japanese life and culture. The highlight of our trip was a stay with a family in Matsumoto; through them we visited places that we would not otherwise have known about. We also enjoyed the Alpen Route which had been meticulously planned by Kaoru. As 70-year-olds, we thought it could be a challenge but thanks to Kaoru and the Japanese people we met it was an outstanding success. We were even filmed for Japanese TV! (See photo.)
by Lelo & Urs on 24/10/2017
5 to 20 October
No but the first time in Kyushu
Fukuoka (Hakata), Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima
Japan Rail Pass (Ordinary 14 days)
We have had a terrific time in Kyushu. Hakata was too hot and we are both allergic to the AC so we had a bit of a cold.
the Hotels that you choose for us where Absolut fantastic with very friendly and helpful staff.
our room in the New hotel in Kumamoto was like being in a one bedroom flat so big was it.
In Kagoshima we have had a sight to Sakurajima but the lovely Vulcan didn't want to take down the hut for us so we didn't see much, but enjoyed anyways.
the big surprise was the Nikko hotel in Osaka : we where expecting a small room and we had a big room with lot of space.
all the breakfast buffet where out of this world especially Fukuoka , but all they had a very fantastic mix of Japanese and western food.
Dazaifu ( we went there on a Sunday) was hot and overcrowded , In Kumamoto where the street art festival and we saw very interesting things.
We took a local train to Isahaya and an earlier bus to Shimabara and arrived in Kumamoto at around 3 pm.
Thanks a lot again for your excellent organisation.
by Fer & Vicky on 24/10/2017
Tokyo, Kanazawa, Mijayima, Kyoto, Hakone. And also one day visits to Osaka and Hiroshima.
JR pass for 2 weeks
We had the biggest expectations about Japan but I have to say that those expectations where more than met. From day 1 we felt welcome in spite of the language barrier. People is so nice and polite.
Food is also another experience, they are so keen in every detail that presentations are awesome and the quality is excellent.
We were also surprised of how green and the beautiful landscapes are. Sometimes we felt we were in a tropical country.
Ryokans, Shrines and Temples will make you live Japanese amazing history and traditions.
by Ollie and Laura G on 23/10/2017
We spent three weeks travelling in Japan through major cities finishing in Kyushu where we hired a car and visited ryokan onsen. The culture, cities, landscape, food and warmth of people we met were all incredible and it is a country like no other we have visited before. Risa at Japan Travel Centre supported us with planning our itinerary, logistical considerations, car hire and accommodation. We could not have planned such an amazing trip without this expertise and she went above and beyond in recommending experiences we had not considered.
by Andrea on 16/10/2017
Tokyo, Shirakawa-go (not really a city, I know), Kanazawa, Hiroshima, Kyoto
7 day Rail Pass
Excellent service by JTC staff - thank you Naomi, Jenny and Kaoru: advise, booking and delivery of travel documents very quick and very helpful. As this was my first solo travel to Japan I appreciated this support a lot. I had an amazing time in Japan. No hickups during the entire time of travel preparation and actual travelling. Good hotels, easy to find and to get to. I can highly recommend traveling to Japan and was really surprised how easy it is to travel there. Interesting cultural experience, friendly and helpful people, amazing food and sceneries - what more could one ask for vacation. Thanks again to JTC staff
by Japan island tour 2017 on 05/09/2017
August 12th to 27th 2017
Tokyo, Chichijima, Kyoto
Ogasawara_Islands There are other travel agents, but Sandy from Japan Travel Centre goes that extra mile. After rescuing our trip from the complexity and high costs introduced by a rival Agency, she took steps to pre-book all our day trips so language barriers were reduced to a minimum.
Tokyo Day 1 (Shimbashi, Ginza, Tsukiji and Hama Rikyu):
From Tokyo’s Haneda airport we took the monorail to Hamamatsucho and hiked for 20 minutes to Shimbashi’s Royal Park hotel. We hadn’t allowed for the heat and the humidity, nor for the adjacent hotel having a similar name (Shimbashi’s Park hotel), but eventually we dropped our bags at the right reception, fuelled up on coffee and followed the sky-walks to Ginza. After pounding the spectacular high-end, high-priced and highly architected shop fronts, we returned via Tsukiji’s Fish Market to the Hama Rikyu gardens. A hike of 13 miles all told. Dinner was salmon and boiled rice street food in the Shiodome City Centre.
Tokyo Day 2 (Asakusa, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise, Ekimise, Akihabara):
Started with a macrobiotic breakfast in the hotel lobby, before buying a Metro day-pass and navigating our way to Asakusa. The Sensoji temple is worth seeing, but it was the colourful market stalls around Nakamise that captured my imagination. We followed that with a wander around one of Tokyo’s million multi-floor Department stores. The Ekimise served excellent sushi on the top floor and after lunch we walked the Tobu Line and the river area near the Asahi brewery, before decamping to Electric Town in Akihabara. It was busy and we were tired, so we didn’t absorb as much of it as I’d have liked. We’d hiked 14 miles before I dined on tofu and thousand-year-old eggs, some dishes just have to be tried…
Tokyo Day 3 (Mount Fuji, Lake Asahi and Komagatake):
A pre-booked day trip to mount Fuji. The tour departed the hotel at 08:30 and we didn’t return until 22:30. After ascending to the highest drivable point on mount Fuji, then viewing Fuji from a boat on Lake Asahi, before viewing it once more from the vantage point atop Komagatake – we saw nothing but mist and fog. The cloud cover was so low at one point that we nearly lost the bus from across the parking lot. It was a fun day out though with a very entertaining guide who arranged great sashimi for lunch at a lakeside café. However, we cheated later that night and ate pizza at an underground Italian restaurant near Ginza. Which was especially naughty as we’d only walked 6.5 miles.
Ferry from Tokyo to Ogasawara Day 4:
On day 4 we took the Yurikamome new transit line to Takeshiba and boarded the Ogasawara Maru ship bound for Chichijima island, some 1,000 kilometres south of mainland Japan. It takes a little over 24 hours to get there, but Sandy had reserved a Deluxe cabin which was very comfortable. All the announcements were in Japanese so we twice missed the restaurant opening times and made do with microwaved chicken nuggets, chips and peas for dinner followed by apple pie and coffee for breakfast.
Chichijima Day 5 (Ogamiyama Shinto Shrine, Observatory and Futami Port):
Arriving at Chichijima, we were met at the pier by friends from the Hotel (Bougain) and from one of the day trips (Sea-Tac) that Sandy had pre-booked. It’s immediately obvious that Chichijima is different, unspoilt and non-commercial. You don’t meet reps or agents – you meet new friends who proudly welcome you to paradise. After checking in, we hiked uphill past the Ogamiyama Shinto Shrine and onto the Observatory which offers spectacular views over Futami, then we ate swordfish at Charlie Browns that night, washed down with beer and local rum. Another fitness aberration having only hiked 8.2 humid miles.
Chichijima Day 6 (Ogiru Beach):
Hotel Bougain serves compulsory breakfasts at 07:30 – no deviation. If you’re not at table, someone bangs on your door. Full breakfast is a generous combination of Rice, Miso, Omelette, Sausage, Ham, Salad, Pickles, Grapefruit and Corn. Sometimes doorsteps of honeyed toast are added for good measure. This really sets you up for the day, if not the decade. With 75% humidity, 31o Celsius feels like 37o, so salty breakfast fortification is a survival necessity. We took the island bus to Ogiru beach on day six, where we met some friendly students from Tokyo University before eating a Sushi dinner at back at Bougain. Miko ordered for us – she’s a super friendly islander who’s home from Sydney for a visit. Great meal after hiking 8.5 miles in the heat.
Japanese toilets merit special mention. Heated seat, incorporated bidet and the option of baffle music come as standard. We encountered buttons to raise the lid and optionally the seat at the big city and a cistern that doubles as a hand basin on the island. They flush via full evacuation like a sea toilet – what’s not to like?
Chichijima Day 7 (Dolphin and Whale Tour):
The Sea-Tac dolphin and whale tour. Sea-Tac treats you like a long-lost nephew for the day. They’re chatty, attentive, keen on water safety and insistent that you have a great time, swim with dolphins, see whales and report back to the world. We met loads of dolphins – up close and personal – in their own natural environment. We snorkelled about the crystal-clear coral, lunched and trekked out to the deep ocean for a couple of hours in search of whales, but no whales were to be found. We had dinner at Bar Creyon, where I opted for wild chicken with egg and rice, which was filling after 5 miles of walking.
Main meals on Chichijima are expensive, averaging 7,000 yen or £50 a night. Late in the week we worked out that beer makes up half this cost, I guess it’s an expensive import item. No one offers itemized bills or receipts, just a large number preceded by a yen sign. Alternatively, there’re elaborate vending machines for those days when money’s tight.
Chichijima Day 8 (Visitors Centre, Fishing Port, Aquarium, Miyanohama Beach):
Hiked the main street and visited the Visitors Centre, the Fishing port and the Aquarium. Found a posh boutique but had to limit spending to earrings and a glitter-globe because they don’t accept plastic. Hiked over the hills to Miyanohama Beach where we bumped into some of the Sea-Tac crew, who again greeted us like family. Took an off-road route back through a forest boardwalk to the Observatory and the Ogamiyama Shrine. Bougain served the best garlic steak rice dinner in the world, which was welcome after 8 miles of walking in the heat.
Chichijima Day 9 (Forest walk and Night hike):
Sandy had pre-booked two trips with the Sebori brothers from Pat Inn, a forest walk and a night hike. Both were informative, offered breath taking views and touched on WWII, the tsunami and the emerging volcanic island. The night hike brought us close to the stars, close to wild fruit bats and closer still to the strangely luminous ‘Green Pepe’ fungi; but it was the opportunity to release baby turtles back into the ocean as part of the island’s conservation effort that was really special. We walked 9.5 miles and met a new friend from Osaka.
Chichijima Day 10 (Dolphin tour, Minamijima Island and Ogi-ike Lagoon):
We were back on the water, this time with the Pink Dolphin crew. They took us to Minamijima island to see first-hand the world famous Ogi-ike lagoon. This is a rare privilege which UNESCO might one day withdraw for conservation reasons. Already the number of tourists and their duration on the island is already restricted. From Minamijima we did more coral snorkelling, fed the sea snakes (visible beneath the glass bottomed boat) and set off in pursuit of friendly dolphins. We had dinner back at Bougain after a 5 mile hike; chilli prawn followed by breaded pork served with rice and egg. Miku, our Sydney based islander, says she’s thinking of staying ‘Home’ on Chichijima for a while. Who wants to leave paradise?
Ferry from Ogasawara to Tokyo Day 11:
Nothing prepared us for the awesome Chichijima farewell. It felt like the whole island turned out to wave us off. We had warm hugs from the Sea-Tac crew, help with our baggage from Bougain and farewells from Pat Inn. Micronesian drums were played and garlands of flowers were thrown as our ship disembarked, then a flotilla of small boats escorted us out of harbour with people feverishly jumping overboard with enthusiasm as we headed seawards. Sandy had booked us a suite for the return journey and, like the veterans we were, we dined on Yakisoba from the on-board vending machines. The suite was a godsend as the return seas were rough.
Tokyo Day 12:
Arriving back into Tokyo, we navigated the Yurikamome and Metro to the Hyatt hotel in Shinjuku. After checking in, we explored the Bic Centre, ate great steak and rice at the top of a sky-scraping Department store and toured Mosaic Street, walking 6 miles in all.
Tokyo Day 13 (Shinkansen train to Kyoto):
We embarked on the last of Sandy’s pre-booked day trips, this time touring Kyoto via Bullet Train (Shinkansen). It was another long day out, departing at 08:00 and returning at 21:45, but we met some great people, fell in love with Kyoto and almost missed the train back. We toured amazing Shinto and Buddhist shrines, but it was the 1,001 gold laminated statues of Sanjusangendo that fired my imagination. Although the green-tea flavoured custard in a chocolate and cinnamon bun was a close second. The high-speed train lines adopt extreme camber in places, which makes nearby building look like they’re leaning-in. Having missed the rendezvous with our guide and arriving breathless at the return platform with only minutes to spare, we thought at first that we’d left a ticket in the barrier, so exiting the station at Tokyo would be tricky – but fortunately the ticket turned up enroute.
Tokyo Day 14 (Cat café, Takeshita-Dori, Jingu-Bashi, Chiyoda-Ku):
Our last full day in Tokyo, so we (eventually) tracked down the original ‘Cat Café’ for a feline fix. They were a bit OCD about shoes and bags and separate lockers, with separate shoes again if you want the loo, but otherwise amazing. What a concept. It was like a homely petting zoo in the heart of the city where twenty cats looked disdainfully at both locals and tourists alike. From there we took the JR Line to Takeshita-Dori which was like London’s Carnaby street on steroids. Gothic, Punk and general Youth culture pervaded the shops, hung out of cafés and promenaded the pavements. We were trying to hike from there to Jingu-Bashi when we got shanghaied by a million costumed folk dancers who were taking part in some competition, concert, audition or all of the above. This was a gift for tourists, so we snapped pics, clapped hands and cheered like we knew what was going on… Eventually retreating to a roof-top garden for beer, more street food and frozen coffee. Took a stroll around Chiyoda-Ku gardens on the way back and decided to hike from there to the hotel which turned out to be 12 tropical miles. Ate in the hotel and checked-out in anticipation of our 05:00 transit back to Haneda.
Back home to England:
Many thanks once again to Sandy at Japan Travel Centre for organizing an amazing adventure.
by Family Jones on 04/09/2017
7th August 2017
Tokyo, Sapporo, Sounkyo, Utoro, Teshikaga, and Kushiro.
Others(Please state below)
Spectacular scenery, wildlife and friendly people.
In Toyko we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city (Akihabara, Shibuya, Tsukiji fish market); the quite tranquil spaces (Imperial Palace East Garden & Koishikawa Korakuen Garden); the many museums and of course the various food styles uniquely Japanese. Sapporo was less hectic but allowed us to try out Sushi bars and Karaoke. The highlight of the holiday however was the spectacular scenery and wildlife of Hokkaido's national parks having the good fortune to have seen, brown bear, red-crown cranes, deer, foxes and eagles.