We just returned from a wonderful 16-day trip to Japan. Circled the main island - Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Takayama (for the autumn festival), Kanazawa, Kyoto, Totorri, Hiroshima/Miyajima. Fabulous experiences everywhere. The trip was very well-organized and the guides provided (two days in Tokyo, two days in Kanazawa, two days in Kyoto) were all terrific. The trip had an excellent combination of outdoor activity, cultural experiences, travel time, free time to explore. The Japanese people were marvelous - very respectful (didn't hear one person yelling or a car horn blowing the entire time we were there) and courteous, also very helpful even when we didn't have a common language.
When planning a trip like this, it's important to do your own research and not depend totally on the travel company. Totorri, as an example, is rarely included on itineraries but we had seen a TV news feature about the Sand Museum and dunes there and wanted to include it. It was outstanding and well worth the few hours it took to get there.
The travel company was very easy to work with and was responsive but it's important to check all travel arrangements and details. There were some glitches (e.g. our original hotel in Takayama was an hour away from the town which we caught due to planned taxi rides back and forth; that was unacceptable and we asked that it be changed. They were able to get us a room in town at a late date which was difficult since most hotels were sold out for the festival.) We were originally scheduled to take a train from Hiroshima to Osaka just to stay overnight and then fly to Narita the next day for our flight home (with no real time in Osaka). Didn't make sense to us so at our suggestion we just took a train from Hiroshima up to Narita airport and stayed overnight in an airport hotel which worked out well. Finally, while most travel was very easy, there were a few times when a bit more explanation on the itinerary would have been helpful, such as explaining the trains to Narita and the fact that we were to get off in Narita town and not go all the way to the airport. We figured it out but we are more experienced travelers than others and coincidentally after our return we heard from others who have gotten on the wrong train to Narita and almost missed their flights. It's important for the client to take an active role in the planning process and understand all details.
The travel company did stay in touch with us during our trip - there was a last minute change to one day's itinerary and we were fully informed before that day so we knew what to expect.
When we got to our first hotel we received a printed copy of our itinerary with all required train tickets. Travel between cities was very easy and efficient.
The Sand Museum and climbing the sand dunes in Tottori
Our day in Arashiyama including climbing the mountain up to the Monkey Park - great exercise and well worth it if you are an animal lover
Our cultural experiences in Kyoto (teahouse with geishas and Obanzai cooking lesson) along with walking in Kyoto - a lot to see and do
Traveling the White Road thru the mountains from Takayama to Kanazawa - the leaves had changed, there was a mist from a light rain and the scenery was spectacular
The Kenrokuen gardens in Kanazawa and the Contemporary Museum of Art (the museum was not on our original itinerary with our guide but she suggested it and it was super). Also the gold leaf shop we found - bought a gorgeous scroll now hanging on our wall
Our day on Miyajima - ropeway and climb up to the summit of Mt Misen
Mt Fuji and the Ichio Kubota Kimono Museum
Spend a night out near Mt Fuji in the Hakone region.
Add on two nights in Osaka to end the trip, then fly from there to Narita and connect for the flight back to the US.
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