Working with Laura at this travel company made planning a trip to Japan---a country halfway around the world from us, and a country whose language we do not speak---much easier than we thought could be. Laura always responded to us immediately when we had a question and often provided us with personal account information that helped us make easier (and perhaps wiser?) travel decisions.
It was assuring to be able to speak with someone who knows Japan well. Laura suggested various itineraries, and we were able to choose one that included most of what we wanted to experience within the timeframe and budget we had.
We remain very grateful to have been hooked up with such a well-organized group of travel planners and some very friendly in-country guides.
Our memories of Japan, 2014--- a place where people offered us great hospitality, quiet streets, on-time trains, and amazingly functional toilets (!)--- will be with us for, well, probably for ever!
We were glad to be introduced to the Pasmo Card for easy riding on the Subway system in Tokyo, and for train times and routes sent to us in a packet before leaving the US so that we could do some planning ahead of time.
We enjoyed the list of reading material we received by mail from the travel company which we could look over before and during the trip. It got us ready for and kept us in "Japan-mode."
We really enjoyed the personal attention and friendliness of our guides, who, instead of making us feel like tourists, gave us the impression that we were simply visiting them as our friends in Japan.
Staying at traditional ryokans is probably the best way to be exposed to "old" Japan. We felt lucky to have stayed both in a larger, more western-style ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen, and in a smaller, more traditional ryokan in Takayama. Each gave us a different taste of what it was like to travel in the days of tatami mats, communal baths and traditional Japanese dinners served in a guest's own room.
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Although we stayed for more than one night in each of the ryokans, we would request a traditional dinner for only one night in each one in order to experiment with the restaurants in town.
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