Firstly let me say that the trip to Japan was completely amazing, as simple as that .. “perfect”. I will break down my feedback into sub headings to ensure that I cover all points.
Flights and organization at airport.
Fortunately we were not affected by the customs strike and had not problems at all. On arrival at Tokyo airport all went very smoothly with the funniest thing being that we were met by our Japanese guide as “Stefan XXXX and Party” (He is the 20 year old). this “giggle” continued as everywhere we were booked in and met with “Stefan XXXX and party”.. he was most impressed. This did not cause any problems at all for us, so please do not worry.
Keio plaza- lovely thank you. would stay there again. excellent location, staff very helpful etc. Non smoking room was a true non smoking room. Graham found bed far to hard.
New Miyako- sorry never again. The location was excellent but the entire place wrecks of cigarette smoke and made us all feel really unwell. We are avid non smokers and there is no way it was a non smoking room, really horrible. Coughed all night.
Hiroshima-Granvia, no problem would stay again. (small thing is that restaurants and food areas closed a lot earlier in Hiroshima than anywhere else e.g. 8pm so can be tricky to find somewhere to eat after that..which lead to an hilarious evening of drinking sake and eating Hiroshima oysters with a charming (albeit very drunk) Japanese Doctor who loved “Australia”.
Osaka- Granvia only place with comfortable beds during the whole trip. This did not worry me at all but Graham has a bad back and all the rest of the hotels have rock hard beds. Had to laugh bed was great but they put the boys in a room miles from ours! Best of all the hotels though.
Travelling within Japan
very comfortable vans
trains all worked like clockwork only got mildly lost once
really no problems
train from Osaka to Kansai airport perhaps you should recommend not travelling with luggage in peak hour but .. it all adds to the atmosphere
Noriko – Tokyo
Yumi- Kyoto and Osaka
were in one word – exemplary. It was a delight to meet such wonderful people, their knowledge, friendliness, professionalism was faultless. I’d like to highlight two charming instances .. one was Noriko making us sing Japanese folk songs to take my mind of my major fear of heights on the cable car.. the second was Yumi travelling back to see us on our last day at Osaka because she wanted to bring gifts to us and to make sure we got the right train!
I cannot sing their praises enough. Having the guides enhanced our experience of Japan enormously. I intend to write thank you letters to their companies as well.
in terms of the tour guides and drivers I had wished in retrospect that I had brought more thoughtful gifts rather than the mundane soap and books we gave them so perhaps this is a good hint to others as their service was wonderful. In general too I had only very small things for the drivers and would have loved to have given them something better too.
Weather and food
perfect weather only one wet day in Hiroshima which added to the ambience
food – fabulous as we love Japanese food, we would have been happy not to have bothered with the western meal at Miaggio and to have had a Japanese meal but not a problem and the buffet was very good. we did pay for one meal that we thought was included but this wasn’t a bother either. the highlight in terms of arranged dinning was the meal in Osaka with Yumi so much fun!
Timing of trip
originally I was disappointed to miss the Sakura when the first trip had to be canceled but the timing was perfect as it was between seasons so to speak (after the Cherry Blossoms but before the Autumn leaves) which meant very few crowds. all tour guides remarked that we had been extraordinarily lucky with how easily we got around the often crowded areas e.g. Golden Pavilion.
Other highlights apart from the planned itinerary
we were invited to join a wedding party in Kyoto- seriously
we saw a traditional Shinto wedding
we were 2 metres from the Crown Prince who we saw twice in an excited throng at Kyoto station
we met and talked with two (young) sumo wrestlers
we saw many many many ladies in Kimonos
..where do I stop!
Overall, a wonderful holiday that exceeded our expectations and Graham and I will book another trip soon…
we also plan to go with “empty bags” next time as the clothing and shoes etc were wonderful as was the art work. (we purchased some incredible original contemporary wood block prints and three fabulous antiques)
I will be in touch!
thank you again
Tony and Barbara