Working with this travel agent was a wonderful experience. He helped me plan a 10 day trip of a lifetime to Japan with my mother, and it was nothing short of fantastic! The process was seamless and he took care of everything including hotel reservations, train passes and reserved tickets, restaurant reservations and a private guide for one day in each city we visited. We went to Toyko, Kyoto and Hakone. Each city was unique and so much fun to explore for us, and we enjoyed each day tackling both traditional Japanese sites and more contemporary experiences. We still got to pick and choose what sites we wanted to see on our own, but all of the heavy lifting was done for us so we had nothing else to do but enjoy the culture and explore the cities. I can't recommend this travel agency enough for planning a trip to Japan! Our trip exceeded our expectations, and our expectations were already pretty high!
Both our private guide in Tokyo and our private guide in Kyoto were fascinating women who showed us some places off of the beaten path, and this was especially helpful during cherry blossom season when the crowds were dense. We also really enjoyed our hotel in Tokyo because it was across the street from Tokyo Station, which helped us to get around the city quickly, catch our trains to our other cities, and Tokyo Station itself has so much to explore inside of it. This was definitely an unforseen advantage that added a lot to our stay in Tokyo, particularly. In Kyoto we really enjoyed seeing the cherry blossoms in a local park with our guide, away from the crowds. We also really enjoyed visiting the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, we went very early in the morning and it was a site we will never forget. And finally our travel agent really pushed us to do one night in Hakone, a mountain town outside of Tokyo. This experience was like none I could have imagined. We stayed in a ryokan with our own hot spring bath, and the hotel and room were like something out of a movie - breathtaking is an understatement. We also experienced a kaiseki dinner there, which was another out-of-this-world experience. My mother and I had a truly fantastic experience there, and even had time to go to the Hakone Open Air Museum which was another trip favorite. Then overall, we just enjoyed the food and culture of the Japanese people so much. We had ramen and gyoza three times, all very different and delicious, and we had an unforgettable sushi lunch at a place our agent helped us get a reservation. As foodies, these were definitely big highlights.
The only change would be our lodging in Kyoto. Our guide and our agent did a great job setting this up and I think ideally it would have been a very cool experience, but it seemed that the company that ran the inn didn't have the details sorted out on their end. First, we got to our residence house after dark and the door code wouldn't work after many tries. We called the inn phone number and after speaking with multiple people on the phone it turned out they hadn't set the code to the numbers they provided us, so they had to send someone to set the code. Then they came in and showed us around the house and the cell phone, etc., but we weren't told that we needed to call and check in or else I don't think they would have known to come and show us these things. Finally, they asked if we wanted a cab to take us to the train station the morning of our departure and we said yes, so we got up early and waited for our cab. The cab didn't come, so we called and they hadn't set this up, so they then called a cab and it was very late, so we almost missed our train. Overall it wasn't the best, I think it would be better to steer guests towards a hotel in the future, unless there is a company like this that has things organized a little better. The house was nice, but the extra stress of figuring those things out when we only had two days there was enough to make me avoid it in the future. The only big plus from staying where we did is it's proximity to Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine.
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