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Japan trip questions
Old 02-02-2018, 10:02 AM   #1
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Japan trip questions

We are planning our first trip to Japan. Does anyone have tour group recommendations? We prefer small groups. Also, several cruise lines now cruise around Japan. Are land tours better or can the highlights of the country be seen on a cruise?
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Old 02-02-2018, 10:18 AM   #2
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Got back 11/1/17. Don't believe the cruise ships, there's plenty to do and see in / around ports. Got cooking lessons in Amouri, hiking in a few areas near ports, loved Busan (overnight there).
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Old 02-02-2018, 10:19 AM   #3
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If you are interested in Japan, I would recommend a land tour. I have been very happy with Tauck, and they are offering a great tour. I just looked it up and it is very good.
They are more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Better hotels, choice of menu meals, etc.
I would recommend getting a small phrase book to learn the honorifics. hello, goodbye, please and thank you.
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Japan trip questions
Old 02-02-2018, 12:59 PM   #4
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Japan trip questions

I like doing walking trips so I知 looking into doing the Kumano Kodo trail in japan, which looks pretty interesting. You can do it on your own , but I値l probably end up using a package guided tour since I値l most likely end up going on my own. This is the one I知 looking at at the moment.

https://www.okujapan.com/trips/kuman...BoCCpIQAvD_BwE
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Old 02-02-2018, 01:43 PM   #5
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went back in the mid/late 2000's. We just don't do the tour group stuff often and didn't do it in Japan. I could suggest some places, but not tour companies.

If you go non-tour, get your rail passes while you are in the states.
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Old 02-02-2018, 11:26 PM   #6
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We are planning our first trip to Japan. Does anyone have tour group recommendations? We prefer small groups. Also, several cruise lines now cruise around Japan. Are land tours better or can the highlights of the country be seen on a cruise?
My wife and I did a "Best of Japan" trip this summer with Samurai Tours. 15 days with local guides in a small group. What is particularly interesting about this tour is that there is no dedicated tour bus -- you go everywhere by public transportation: Public Bus, taxi, train, bullet train, gondola, ferry, yeah, everything. It was a good tour, but in the summer, man, its hot and humid in Japan. Recommend if possible you go some other time of year.
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Old 02-05-2018, 03:01 PM   #7
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Been to Japan a half dozen trips on our own. We've considered doing an Asia/Japan cruise stopping at some (more remote) ports around Japan that we haven't been (like Okinawa). IMO, if you really want to get the most out of Japan, I think you need to do a land trip. I think a cruise is fine for getting a sampling to see if you want to do a more focused trip later. Although some cruises have over-nighters, part of the Japan experience IMO are the lively areas in the evening which you may miss if you only have limited time in port.

The typical first time 2 week land trip would likely focus on Tokyo and vicinity and the Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, etc). Cruises would likely visit a broader range of ports across the islands.
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Old 02-05-2018, 03:11 PM   #8
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We've been looking at a 2 week trip. We're looking at a trip similar to what YVRRocketSurgery suggests... A week in Tokyo and a week in Kyoto. Since we're a family we're looking at rental apartments rather than hotel rooms...

Okinawa is not super close to the rest of Japan. I spent a summer there while in college. (My sister worked for a DOD contractor at Kadena AFB and I stayed with her.) Okinawa is neat, but still a 2 hour 45 min plane ride from Tokyo.
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:09 AM   #9
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Can I ask why you want to explore Japan with a tour group as opposed to individual travel?
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Old 02-07-2018, 09:53 AM   #10
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I traveled to Tokyo twice on business and wouldn't hesitate to do an individual trip there in the future, if I could convince DW. What a wonderful place!
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Old 02-07-2018, 10:04 AM   #11
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Kyoto is a great city to explore -- it's rich with cultural sites and very walkable. We spent 10 days there a couple years ago and had to forgo some sightseeing. We could have spent a month exploring the city and environs.

If you come into Japan via Narita, it's fun to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. Buy a bento box lunch at the station and munch on it as the train cruises past Fujiyama.

One thing in favor of guides: English is not as widely spoken in Japan as one might think. Some street signs and tourist signs are printed bilingually, but many are not. Train stations in particular can be difficult to navigate. You can't just suss out signs because, obviously, the alphabet is different. We stood scratching our heads more than once, and it was not common for a citizen to offer help because most don't speak English.

We paired our trip with a longer visit to China. It was an interesting contrast: push-and-shove in China vs. Japan's politeness. But when we looked like confused foreigners at a kiosk or ticket dispenser, in China someone offered help almost immediately.
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Old 02-07-2018, 10:27 AM   #12
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Can I ask why you want to explore Japan with a tour group as opposed to individual travel?
Let me echo Graybeard here. Unless you are extremely adventurous and have a lot of time, or have studied the Japanese language, I recommend using a guided tour. I think we learned a lot more about the culture in talking to a trained, English speaking guide than we would have traveling on our own. And negotiating the Japanese transportation system - including, the huge, crowded subway and train stations, would have been challenging for us alone. For example, you have to be in the right place at the right time to board a bullet train. They only stop for just over a minute, and you must get on during this short time window or the doors are closed and the train is gone! Further, while English is taught in the Japanese schools, based on our small sample size I don稚 think many Japanese speak it well unless they have spent time abroad. Other than our guides and one hotel clerk, we did not encounter any Japanese who spoke understandable English, even though we had 田onversations with Japanese who were clearly trying to speak English. Oh, yeah, they have an entirely different written language too, good luck figuring that out. Of course, YMMV.
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Old 02-07-2018, 12:43 PM   #13
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Thanks everyone for the tips and recommendations! Although we are well traveled, I would not describe us as extremely adventurous, and since I am the only one retired we don't have lots of time (14 days). I think we will see more and learn more with a guide who can navigate past crowds. I heard that Kyoto is one of the highlights we should not miss. Tauck looks great, but is expensive.
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Old 02-07-2018, 04:21 PM   #14
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Again, if you're flying into Narita, you're probably going to be drained by a 13+-hour flight. We found the Radisson Narita to be an excellent US-style hotel at which to rest and regroup upon your arrival. A nice feature of the hotel is that a shuttle bus stops at the hotel that will take you into the heart of Tokyo and, to our delight, just steps from the bullet train station.
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Old 02-07-2018, 11:50 PM   #15
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Nothing wrong with using a guide or doing a tour to try to be more efficient on trip IMO.

One option I wanted to suggest potentially looking into is googling "CityXYZ Free Guide" like Tokyo Free Guide. There are volunteer services in various cities in Japan staffed by English speaking locals/retirees that want to show visitors around their city and give them an opportunity to practice their English regularly. We've never used the service but have considered it as we've read good things overall. While their "guide service" is free, I think you need to cover their local transportation, admission, and meal costs.

Kyoto is great and is probably our favourite city in Japan. Very walkable core, great food, lots of temples to visit nearby, iconic bamboo forest (Arashiyama), maiko (apprentice geisha) "stalking" in the Gion district, lovely riverbank district, fabulous food market (Nishiki) and covered shopping arcades (eg Teramachi), etc. Personally, I'd lean towards more time in Kyoto and Kansai region than in and around Tokyo (9d:5d over a 2 week trip). However it does throw a crimp in the plan if you're hoping to get by on a 7 day rail pass.
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