Our trip to Japan was superb. Although we have previously traveled to several foreign destinations, we had no experience with Japan. This travel agency created an excellent itinerary for us that provided a terrific introduction to the country. We not only visited many of the major cities, but we were able to enjoy various day trips to nearby communities as well. In some instances, we had the pleasure of private drivers to move us to and from our various destinations. Everything worked efficiently. We were provided with all the necessary transportation tickets and passes to accomplish our journey. At each new city, we were met by professional (and personable) guides. Our accommodations were always high-end, and included wonderful breakfasts. The hotels were usually located at or adjacent to the train stations which made all of our connections a breeze. While planning the trip, our travel agency was quite sensitive to our interests. We wanted to get a good sense of the Japanese culture and history, and to use our limited time efficiently. They delivered quite well in that capacity. Our son, who traveled with us, had recently graduated from college and has always had a keen interest in Japan. Our travel agency took the time to learn more about his interests and included some specific attractions on his behalf. During our time in Japan, we were able to connect to the company's local travel partners. This provided us a good sense of assurance and comfort while in country. In summary, our Japan experience was exquisite, and we are grateful to our travel agency for their efforts.
Perhaps, our greatest impression was derived from the Japanese culture and their people. We were astounded with the efficiency of their vast infrastructure in spite of the highly dense population centers throughout the country. Despite a population that exceeds 127 million (over 12 million in Tokyo alone), the Japanese have learned to organize, build and expand very efficiently. Although many public areas are quite crowded, the people are very respectful of each other. We observed no litter or graffiti anywhere, and cleanliness was ever-present. The Japanese people were very kind. On numerous occasions, we required assistance for small matters and they were always quite willing to help.
We also enjoyed several destinations. The more notable of these included the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Park, the snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park near Nagano, our privately guided bicycle ride through Arashiyama and portions of Kyoto, and Miyajima which is home to Itsukushima Shrine and the giant torii gate. In Tokyo, we were awed by the Ginza, Akihabara, and Shinjuku districts which rivaled New York’s Times Square. In Shinjuku, we enjoyed a show that was colorful, one-of-a-kind, highly energetic (and very entertaining) show. We also enjoyed the many shrines we visited, all of which included gorgeous structures and landscapes.
Although our itinerary took us through several major cities and sites in Japan, there was still a lot of Japan that we did not see. If we were to return, we would be interested in visiting the far south regions near Nagasaki and Miyazaki as well as the northern portions of the country including Sapporo. We would also plan to spend more time in Tokyo. We were there for four (4) days, however, Tokyo is such a large and fascinating metropolis that more time should be allotted. Tokyo is so incredible but it is overwhelming for newcomers. In this sense, it would be useful to secure a private guide that could provide more exposure to the nuances of the city including the night life, entertainment venues and restaurants. During our trip, we spent one night at Kokuya near Nagano. This was a classic Japanese ryokan boasting abundant natural hot springs and private open air baths (onsen). Unfortunately, we arrived in the early evening and had very little time to enjoy all the amenities. We would definitely allow more time for this type of experience should we visit Japan again. Similarly, while in Hiroshima, we were scheduled to travel to Naoshima Island via Okayama. Again, due to our limited time, we passed on this day trip and opted to focus on the sites in Hiroshima. We were happy with our decision, but felt more days need to be allotted to visit the Hiroshima region. Finally, since Japan is an island nation, we would be interested in including some sort of sea cruise among the islands as another way to experience the country.
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