Japan and our 18 day was fantastic , but I have to give mixed reviews to this travel company as follows:
They were very responsive during the PRE TRIP planning, and upon arrival gave us detailed instructions re train schedules, taxi instructions in Japanese
Ours was a combination of guided and self guided trip, and their guides and drivers were punctual and professional as that is a part of Japanese culture
As in any trip, some activities were incredible, and others could have been missed
My biggest issue was with their owner who has no PR skills whatsoever!
Before the trip, his e mail was unwelcoming, inaccurate , and very unappreciative of our business and a referral I gave him before our trip even started of two couples that travelled with them
During the trip, we never heard from them to see how things were progressing, and I had specifically mentioned to them that we were celebrating a friends belated 60th birthday on this trip
All other companies we have dealt with in trips to over 68 countries would have at least acknowledged that occasion in some way, but not a word, card, congrats etc which takes me back to their lack of customer appreciation and the feeling I received from their owner that he thought he was doing us a favor rather than understanding that we have a lot of choices re travel companies
My only other major issue was that they could have been more proactive in dissuading us from 5 consecutive nights in ryokans with big Kaiseki dinners etc as that is overkill for anyone , let alone 2 couples in their 60's
They also give you a complete, but clumsy book upon arrival, and most of that material can be better gleaned from hotel or ryokan people. The real pertinent stuff should be sent before hand electronically, and should be less boilerplate, and more specific for your needs as this is not a budget trip
We wil be back to Japan for sure as it is a cultural, culinary, and nature lovers delight, but I do not know if this would be our company of choice
There were so many, but some which stand out are the following:
The Japanese people themselves and their graciousness, courtesy, helpfulness, appreciation of nature and customs
The Ryokan in Hakone and the hotel in Kyoto were wonderful, and do not miss places are the Kimono Museum near Mt. Fuji, the Halone open air museum, our cultural day of Ikebana, a cooking class , and a tea ceremony with a Maiko in Kyoto( a Maiko is a geisha in training)
Hiroshima' s memorial was moving, and Miyajima was one of both my favorite temples and days
The gardens and temples were magnificent and the Moss garden in Kyoto as well as the Silver and Gold Pavillions were exceptional........and many more
The Fall Colors!
Eliminate 5 nights in a row of ryokans, but still stay at them
Elimate the Matsumoto castle, and pretty much the all day of a special culinary and garden experience as we got that interspersed with other activities during the trip
Eliminate the monastery stay in Kyoto
Have a little more down time to just roam the streets, etc , but that is usually the case
Other than those , it was a phenomenal trip as Japan underpromises and over performs!
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