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Save $600 per couple | $300 solo

From Japan’s Inland Sea to the Alps

Our Distinctive A+R Style

  • Come face-to-face with the real Japan as our expert native guide introduces you to residents eager to share insight into their lives. 
  • Experience Japan’s enduring ways when you dine with Geisha, sample fine sake, and visit the world-famous Tsukiji Outer Fish Market. 
  • A skilled Tokyo chef teaches you how to prepare restaurant-quality sushi. 
  • Hear colorful stories of Kyoto’s Geisha and Kabuki traditions on a guided stroll through the historic Gion district. 
  • Learn about the ancient tenets of Japanese landscape design at Kenrokuen Garden. 
  • Journey to the alpine hamlet of Shirakawago, known for its unusual century-old farmhouses. 
  • With 10 nights deluxe hotel; 17 meals with wine at dinner; comprehensive sightseeing; all transfers; and all gratuities except Trip Leader. 
c Visit 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Day
1

Upon arrival you’ll be met and guided to our private taxi (pre-paid) that will take you to the deluxe Granvia Hotel and take the rest of this day to relax and enjoy as you wish.

Day
2

From Kurosawa’s many translated and subtitled films to James Clavell’s epic Shogun, the mystique that surrounds Japan’s ancient warrior rulers captivates the imagination of many travelers. Setting out this morning, your guided full-day tour will reveal some of the colorful stories surrounding the fabled Shogun. At Nijo Castle, you can try to walk in stealth across the Nightingale Floor, designed centuries ago to chirp in warning if would-be assassins penetrated the Shogun’s inner sanctum.
 
You’ll also visit Kinkaku-ji Temple, the oft-photographed Golden Pavilion, and sit down to lunch with a Maiko. Here in Kyoto, the Maiko are young women in training to become Geisha, studying under a master to refine their skills in traditional Geisha arts like dance, music and song. Then take a guided stroll through the historic Gion district, where Kabuki traditions began long ago. Our last stop of the day will be at Sanjusangendo Temple. Founded in the 12th century, this impressive wooden landmark is famed for its 1,001 statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Back at our deluxe hotel, you’ll have time to refresh before gathering for dinner.  Meals B+L+D

Day
3

Excursion to the Inland Sea… Miyajima Island + Hiroshima

Hotel Granvia - Kyoto, Japan

Traveling by rail from Kyoto and then by ferry, you’ll journey this morning across the island-dotted Inland Sea. Revel in the natural beauty of one of Japan’s most picturesque regions as you make your way to Miyajima Island to visit the incomparable Itsukushima Temple, established in the 6th century. Much of its present-day architecture dates to the 12th century, and it remains a spectacular sight. Built on piers over the bay, the shrine and its magnificent red Torii Gate* appear to float over the tranquil waters during high tide.
 
Ride the ferry back to the main island of Honshu and continue to Hiroshima. Founded in 1589, this historic town grew into a major city and port during the Meiji Period. In the 20th century, of course, it entered the annals of history as the first city to be hit with an atomic bomb, a cataclysmic event that shaped our generation. Nearly 70% of the city was completely destroyed, but one of the few surviving structures was a domed building close to the detonation site. Today, this architectural shell stands in Peace Memorial Park close to the Peace Memorial Museum and the Memorial Cenotaph for Atomic Bomb Victims. Visiting these sights with our compassionate Japanese guide is a sobering yet inspiring experience – a reminder of the devastation of war and the enduring spirit of humankind. After sightseeing, you’ll return to Kyoto by high-speed rail.  Meals B

Day
4

Excursion to Nara, Japan’s First Capital

Hotel Granvia - Kyoto, Japan

This morning you’ll enjoy a guided excursion to the ancient capital of Nara where Buddhism was first introduced to Japan nearly 1,500 years ago. Begin with a stroll through the lovely expanse of Nara Park, home to hundreds of freely roaming deer; in the ancient faith of Shinto, these gentle creatures are believed to be messengers of the Gods and the animals here have been designated as a natural treasure.
 
On the grounds of Nara Park, Todai-ji Temple is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. Inside, you will see an immense bronze statue of Buddha, towering nearly 50 feet high and flanked by two Bodhisattvas. You’ll also enjoy a guided stroll along peaceful lantern-lined paths to visit Kasuga Taisha, one of Japan’s most celebrated shrines, first established at the same time that the city of Nara was founded. Back in Kyoto, the rest of your afternoon and evening are yours to enjoy as you wish. Our in-the-know guide will be happy to assist with personal recommendations for dining, shopping and exploring at your own pace.  Meals B
 
We Recommend… This evening, if you wish, we can arrange for you to enjoy the hospitality of a traditional Japanese inn. Set in a landmark 18th-century structure in the heart of Kyoto’s Gion district (where Geisha and Kabuki traditions began long ago), the deluxe family-owned Yoshi-ima Ryokan offers an authentic Japanese experience. You’ll spend the night in a spacious tatami-matted room with a private en suite bath and enjoy a traditional Kaiseki dinner and Japanese breakfast. The Yoshi-ima’s Buddhist Alter Room, Teahouse and Courtyard Garden enrich your memorable overnight

Day
5

Check out after breakfast and head to the rail station to board the express train to Kanazawa, where you’ll enjoy an extensive day of sightseeing. Tracing its roots to the 15th century, this historic city was the seat of the mighty Maeda Clan, the second most powerful family at the time. Not wishing to challenge the mightier Tokugawa Clan, the Maeda were careful not to show any signs of military ambition. Rather, they channeled their great wealth into the arts. You’ll discover the legacy of this cultural patronage when you see the skilled artisans at work in the Kutani Kosen Pottery Studio.
 
At the splendidly restored Nomura Samurai Residence, now filled with valuable artifacts, you’ll learn about daily life in the ancient days when the samurai ruled! The day’s sightseeing ends at Kenrokuen Garden, regarded as one of the three most beautiful gardens in all of Japan. Exploring with our engaging guide, you’ll learn firsthand about the six elements of traditional landscape design which have been incorporated so perfectly here: Spaciousness, majesty, extensive views, artistry, abundant water and seclusion. Then check in to the deluxe Nikko Hotel for a restful overnight.  Meals B

After breakfast, you’ll leave Kanazawa behind as you embark on a scenic journey into the Japan Alps. Your first stop will be the Shiroyama Viewpoint. Offering sweeping views of the mountain valley and the peaceful village of Ogimachi, this is the perfect place to begin your exploration of Shirakawago, one of Japan’s most scenic and historic alpine regions.
 
Then descend into the valley to explore the village. Here you’ll find traditional centuries-old farmhouses with thick, steeply-pitched roofs, a building style developed over generations and designed to withstand the heavy snows that blanket the region. Known as Gassho-zukuri, the name translates to “Joined Hands” – as the thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer. Though many of these old farmhouses are now restaurants and guesthouses, your tour of a Gassho-zukuri will offer insight into long-ago daily life here in Japan’s scenic alpine region. Continue your overland journey to Takayama and check in to the deluxe Takayama Green Hotel for a 2-night stay.  Meals B+L+D

Day
7

Full Day Sightseeing in Takayama

Takayama Green Orinkaku Hotel - Takayama, Japan

After breakfast, a guided stroll through one of Takayama’s two morning markets offers another chance to experience a slice of local life. Mingling with city residents, you’ll engage with friendly vendors selling a wide array of products including farm-fresh produce, homemade pickles, flowers, ready-to-eat snacks and even local crafts.
 
Strolling through the city’s handsome Old Town, you’ll discover one of Japan’s most architecturally important towns. During the Tokugawa Era, Takayama was renowned for the high quality of its mountain-grown timber and the great skill of its carpenters. It was a prosperous town and many fine homes and shops were built during the Edo Period; they’ve been wonderfully preserved with many homes, buildings and even entire streets creating a virtual living museum of a Japanese town in the 18th and 19th centuries. A guided tour through the Kusakabe Folk Museum offers a fascinating look inside one of Takayama’s oldest merchant homes – the former residence of the successful Kusakabe family who lived here in the early 1800’s.
 
Twice a year, Takayama is enlivened by Spring and Autumn Festivals with traditions that date back to the 17th century. The highlight of both events is the grand parade of enormous, colorful Yatai – or festival floats. Many of these floats are centuries old and some are decorated with sophisticated mechanical figures that move and dance. At the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall, you’ll have a chance to see some of these beautifully decorated floats and to learn about another example of Takayama’s legendary craftsmanship. The town is also heralded for its many fine sake breweries and you’ll end the day’s sightseeing with a sake tasting and a chance to learn about this ancient beverage.  Meals B+L

Check out after breakfast and transfer to the station for your scenic rail journey to Tokyo, via Nagoya. Upon arrival in the capital, you’ll check in to the deluxe Keio Plaza Hotel, ideally located in the vibrant Shinjuku district. After time to refresh in your spacious Premier Grand room on the new Club Floor, you’ll join your guide for a walking tour in this modern city-center neighborhood where you’re staying. The area is popular with Tokyo residents for shopping, dining and entertainment.  Meals B

Day
9

Tsukiji Outer Market and Tokyo Sightseeing

Keio Plaza Hotel - Tokyo, Japan

Fish is a dietary staple of this island nation and is enjoyed by locals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can be served raw as sashimi, grilled, broiled and even made into fish cakes for soups and other dishes. After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll enjoy a special visit to the world-famous fish market in Tsukiji where ordinary citizens and the city’s best chefs come daily to procure the freshest seafood. Then you’ll join one such chef to learn the fine art of preparing restaurant-quality sushi. Enjoy the fruits of your labor for lunch before embarking on an afternoon sightseeing tour.
 
Your exploration of the bustling capital begins atop the Tokyo City View Observation Deck. Soaring more than 664 feet above the very heart of the metropolis, you’ll have breathtaking 360° views over all of Tokyo. On a clear day, you can even see Mt. Fuji in the distance! Next you’ll visit Asakusa Kannon Temple. Founded in the 7th century to honor Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, this is the oldest temple in the city. The outer entrance to this Buddhist Temple is through the impressive 1,000-year-old Kaminari-mon, or Thunder Gate. Inside the gate, you’ll continue along the busy Nakamise Arcade toward the temple itself, a fascinating stroll that takes you past a bewildering number of shops and merchant stalls selling traditional sweets, savory snacks, colorful handicrafts, and souvenirs. The return drive to your hotel takes you through some of the city’s most vibrant districts and past the Tokyo Skytree; at just over 2,000 feet in height, this landmark is the one of the tallest structures in the world.  Meals B+L
 

Day
10

Full Day Excursion to Mt. Fuji and Hakone

Keio Plaza Hotel - Tokyo, Japan

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind, today’s excursion begins with a pleasant drive up to the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji. Situated at an altitude over 6,000 feet and nearly halfway to the summit, this is a popular starting place for those hardy adventurers looking to ascend Japan’s tallest mountain. It’s a also wonderful place to just take in the views of the surrounding countryside with its lakes and forested slopes.
 
Continue along scenic roads into the heart of Hakone National Park, a wonderful region beloved for its pine forests and lovely views of Mt. Fuji. A cruise across the placid waters of Lake Ashi promises a chance to relax and take in some of these enchanting views! Then ascend Mt. Komagatake for an entirely different, aerial view over the region’s forested mountains and pristine lakes. Return to Tokyo and enjoy your final evening in Japan.  Meals B+D

Day
11

Depart Tokyo

After breakfast, you’ll step aboard the comfortable Narita Airport Limousine Coach for your trip to the airport.  Meals B

Private Tour Add-Ons

Hong Kong Insider

Enhance your travels through China and Asia with our signature Hong Kong Insider. We include your choice of deluxe or luxury hotel, chauffeured transfers when you come and go, and our exclusive Hong Kong Insider sightseeing tour.

Be a Beijing Insider

This Private Tour in Beijing includes your choice of deluxe or luxury hotel, both handpicked for their terrific city-center locations. Then join your expert personal guide for extensive sightseeing that will reveal the rich history and modern spirit of China’s vibrant capital.

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Stay in a Japanese inn...  

Enjoy dinner and a night at the Yoshi-ima Ryokan here in Kyoto’s Gion district on Day 4. Just $195 per person double, $200 single.

Takayama's Seasonal Festivals  

With colorful centuries-old traditions, Takayama’s Spring + Fall Festivals are highlighted by a spectacular parade of giant floats, many of them dating to the 17th century with remarkable, ingeniously-animated moving parts. Go in Spring and delight in the island’s famed Cherry Blossoms or join us in the fall for the brilliant autumn foliage – what the Japanese call Momiji.

 

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Family + Friends

Travel is one of  life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Take advantage of our Family & Friends offer and Save $100 per person anytime you book 4 or more people on the same A+R program.

Pay-In-Full

Save $600 per couple + $300 solo on all of our Small Group, Small Ship and Private Journeys when you book and pay-in-full within 7 days of booking and prior to the final payment date listed in our published terms and conditions.

About Your Journey

You have chosen a magical destination. Stretching nearly 1,500 miles through the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Japan is an extraordinary archipelago nation, with beautiful landscapes, rich and enduring traditions, fascinating culture, colorful history and beautiful temples, gardens, castles and monuments. 

Its cities are sophisticated and cosmopolitan, while rural villages retain the charms and traditions of the past. Neon-lit city skylines contrast with the serenity of centuries-old temples and gardens. Japan is truly a land of fascinating contrasts – a destination that will provide you with a wealth of wonderful vacation memories. 

Travel Checklist

  • Complete your Guest Information Forms available at www.alexanderroberts.com/before-you-go.aspx
  • Check your Passport for required validity and blank pages.
  • Double-check all mandatory visas are secured and are accurate.
  • Check that first and last names on your airline tickets match your passport.
  • Report international flight information to Alexander+Roberts and all times verified.
  • Communicate special diets, allergies, mobility limitations and special needs to Alexander+Roberts prior to travel.
  • Check your cell phone plan has international coverage and be sure to provide your phone number to Alexander + Roberts.

Entry Form on Visit Japan Website

To save time upon arrival in Japan, please fill out the entry form on the Visit Japan website:  https://vjw-lp.digital.go.jp/en on your mobile phone before your departure.  The site will return a QR code, which allows you to join the pre-registration line at the Japan airport where you arrive.  While the digital line may be long, the line to fill out a paper version is much longer.  Airports in Japan are extremely busy and any time saved will help prevent missed transfers and connecting flights.

Your Health

Recommended inoculations for travel may change and you should consult your practitioner for current recommendations before your upcoming journey. It is your responsibility to ensure that you meet all health entry requirements, obtain the recommended inoculations, take all recommended medication, and follow all medical advice in relation to your trip. Inoculation requirements can be found on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/. Also check the World Health Organization (WHO) website http://www.who.int/ith/en/ before you travel internationally.

Medical supplies including CPAP machines for sleep apnea can be brought as an additional carry-on with most airlines.  If you are traveling with a CPAP machine, please let Alexander+Roberts know in advance and consider bringing a backup battery in case of inconsistent electricity supply. Distilled water is available in most destinations. Make sure you have all appropriate adaptors, although newer machines have universal power supplies that can adapt to various voltages. Bring extra supplies (especially cushions) and replacement parts as repairing the machine while travelling may not be possible.

Physical Activity

Ancient sites worldwide were constructed well before building codes or the existence of safety and accessibility standards. And in order to maintain the architectural and historical integrity that attracts visitors in the first place, many of the sites have been intentionally left in their natural state. As such, you will encounter uneven terrain, irregular steps, and a lack of handrails, barriers, ramps and cautionary warning signs where you might expect them back home. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to take great care and caution when exploring these sites. Pay attention to all instructions and do not wander away from your guide, especially off designated paths into unmarked terrain. When exploring on your own, heed all regulations, be extra mindful of your surroundings and note any conditions that could increase the risks (poor visibility, wet slippery surfaces, etc).

For travelers with mobility issues or physical challenges, be prepared for less accessibility than we enjoy in the United States. Hotels may be limited in the provisions made for such travelers and some do not have elevators. Airports are not always fully equipped with modern jetways, and ramps for wheelchairs are often absent.

We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance for guests who need mobility assistance.  Nor can we ensure that local vehicles will be wheelchair-equipped. For these reasons, a qualified companion must accompany guests who need such assistance.

If you have any mobility or medical issues of which we should be aware, please advise Alexander + Roberts well in advance of your departure.

Your International Flights

If you have not already made your international flight arrangements, you should consider taking advantage of our excellent relationships with outstanding international carriers including Lufthansa, British Airways, United Airlines and Emirates. We can book your air in Economy, Premium Economy or Business Class with advice on seat availability - and even advance seat assignments on many carriers and routes. Booking your international air with A+R would allow us to directly assist you with any flight disruptions, delays or cancellations while on-tour.

Transportation in Japan

As you journey across Japan, you will have an opportunity to experience various modes of transportation including the world-famous Bullet Trains, local railway networks, motor coaches and even ferry boats. Some of these are exclusively for sightseers while others will have you traveling around like a local resident and experiencing the rhythms of daily life.

Many of these local forms of transport do not offer seat reservations, and they can sometimes be quite crowded. So, there may be occasions when our guests will have to join Japanese commuters and travelers to stand in the aisles.

Be assured that we use the most efficient forms of local transportation available and these journeys are relatively short. Also, you will be traveling only with your personal carry-on items. Your luggage will either be in your hotel room or traveling securely to your next destination via our baggage delivery service. So even during the busiest times, you’ll be able to travel comfortably and to enjoy this experience of local life.

A Word about Hotels

Your hotel accommodations will be comfortable and secure. Most hotels utilize two separate twin beds for both single and double occupancy. Queen- and king-bedded rooms may be requested but cannot be guaranteed prior to check-in. The same is true for requesting adjoining rooms. If you have been confirmed in a triple room; this will usually be a standard twin room with a roll-away bed. Therefore, the room may be smaller than you expect. Your rooms will feature private bath, telephone and TV, plus all the amenities and service expected in an international-class hotel.  Hotels offer a choice of restaurants featuring a variety of international cuisine, bars, club lounges and a shopping arcade.

As in other parts of the world, check-in time for most hotels is around 3:00PM and check-out time is typically 11:00AM. If your flight arrives early, and your room is not ready, you can usually store your luggage with the hotel. Then step out to explore a bit at your own pace or relax with a cup of tea or coffee in the lobby. 

If early check-in or late check-out is absolutely required, advance arrangements can be confirmed, usually for the cost of an additional night. Similarly, if you have a late departure flight, hotels will store your luggage after you’ve checked-out, leaving you unencumbered to explore and relax until it’s time to go to the airport. Depending on how busy they are, some hotels may allow you to occupy your room for another hour or two without charge; check with the Front Desk to determine if this is possible for your day of departure.

Climate

The much-traveled Golden Route from Tokyo to Kyoto on the main island of Honshu has four seasons comparable to the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The winter season is generally from December through mid-February. In mid-February the temperatures begin to rise all over the country with spring beginning in March. This is cherry-blossom time. May tends to be pleasantly warm. Summer begins at the end of May and is known to mark the beginning of the rainy season. In the middle of July, the rainy season ends and the temperature remains warm. July and August can be very hot and humid. Summer comes to an end in mid-September. The period between September and October is when typhoons are most likely to pass over Japan. However, most typhoons that pass through the Pacific do not directly affect Japan. Autumn begins in October with generally clear weather and occasional night frosts.

In the Japan Alps and in northern Honshu as well as on the far north island of Hokkaido, the winters can be severe, with heavy snows and much colder temperatures than elsewhere in the country. To the south on Kyushu, the winters are less harsh while Okinawa enjoys a sub-tropical climate.

Money Matters

The local currency is the Japanese Yen (¥, JPY). Exchange rates can vary widely but one US dollar roughly equals about ¥114. To obtain a rough estimate of an item’s price shown in local currency, simply divide by 100. For example, a lacquer box priced at ¥5,000 would be about US$50 (actually $44, but dividing by 100 is easier than dividing by 114!).

Foreign currency and traveler’s checks can be changed at the airport, banks, hotels and authorized money changers. Major credit cards are accepted at hotels, department stores and the larger restaurants and shops. We recommend that before you travel you inform both your bank and your credit card company which countries you will be visiting. It is also a good idea to inquire about fees for transactions abroad.

ATM machines are available in most major cities in Japan. In rural areas you will find ATM machines at the local Post Offices. However, do not depend on them, as sometimes they cannot connect to your local bank to complete the transaction. Even when machines are available, your touring schedule might not permit stopping to withdraw funds. If you do plan to use your ATM card, check with your bank to make sure that you will not encounter problems abroad.

It’s always a good idea to carry some cash in the local currency, especially small bills for tips.

Tipping

For your on-tour convenience, we have included all gratuities except for your Trip Leaders or guides. This includes drivers, baggage porters and restaurant staff for all included meals; certainly, if any of these services are exceptional and go above-and-beyond, then feel free to tip additionally.

For your Trip Leaders or guides, many of our guests find it helpful to have some guidelines; in that spirit, we recommend tipping them $10 to $15 per person, per day.

Although not included in your Tour Fare, please remember that these gratuities are always at your discretion. They are appreciated as recognition for excellent service, but whether you tip, and how much, is entirely up to you.

When you’re out enjoying meals and activities in you free time that are not part of your A+R itinerary it’s important to note that tipping is not common practice in Japan. Hotels and major restaurants will add a 10% to 15% service charge to your bill, and no other tip is expected. Even if there is no service charge, a gratuity is not necessary, unless you have requested unusual services.

For any gratuities, we suggest you tip in the local currency. But if you only have US Dollars, they will be graciously accepted.

Shopping in Japan

A visit to a Japanese department store is quite an experience. In this consumer‑oriented society, retailing has been elevated to an art form. Extensive and beautiful displays feature consumer goods from Japan and all over the world. Prices are fixed, and imported goods are expensive. However, popular purchases include lacquer‑ware, fine ceramics, pottery, handmade paper, woodblock prints and fashion accessories.

By all means, enjoy your shopping! But we do recommend that you avoid objects that appear to be ancient artifacts. Many so-called artifacts are anything but old. In addition, the export of genuine ancient relics is strictly controlled so that cultural treasures do not leave the country. Animal skins, things made with tropical bird feathers, and similar items should also be avoided. Some could be made from endangered species and their export (and import into the US) are illegal. Buy only from reputable shops and if you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to ask your hotel concierge or our guide for advice. Should you purchase a larger item which the seller agrees to ship, we recommend that you take a picture of the item and make sure you have all the bills as well as the seller’s address and phone number – should the need arise for you to contact the shop upon your return home.

What is the Time Zone?

All of Japan is 14 hours ahead of New York. If it is 2:00PM in New York, it is 4:00AM the following day in Japan.

Electricity

Electric current is 220V at 50 Hz AC (eastern Japan, including Tokyo) or 60 Hz AC (western Japan, including Kyoto and Osaka). Most outlets support two flat-pin plugs. An adapter plug and a converter may be necessary to charge your electronic devices, and are usually available from the front desk. For more information on plugs and sockets, review the information at: 

https://www.iec.ch/world-plugs

Internet and Phone calls

We strongly encourage all travelers to bring your cell phone when you travel and ensure with your carrier that your plan covers international calls and/or mobile data from the countries you will visit. Carriers and plans vary widely on coverage so please make sure the details of your plan are understood before you travel. Alternatively, local prepaid SIM cards for your phone are usually available at the airport where you arrive and can be used to tap into local service providers. Wi-fi is available at all hotels either complimentary or for a fee; you can find Wi-Fi information on your itinerary and hotel list, or check with the front desk upon check in regarding access details.

If making an international call from your hotel room, please check the rates first.  Hotels often contract with outside companies to provide direct-dial telephone services for guests calling overseas from their rooms, and the rates can be unexpectedly high.  Popular wi-fi calling and messaging apps are also available to download to your mobile phone, we recommend WhatsApp or Skype for communicating while abroad.  Some apps and websites may not be available in all countries.

WhatsApp and Skype allow users to add contact phone numbers and send text and voice messages, make voice calls and share images, documents, over Wi-Fi or mobile data coverage. Both caller and recipient need to have downloaded these apps to communicate, however.   If our local office has a WhatsApp or Skype account, that information will be included in your final documents.

Each country has a dialing exit code (the US is 011), when calling abroad, you will need to prefix the international call with the dialing exit code. If using a modern smartphone, you can hold the zero which will add a “+” and it will automatically include the country exit code from wherever you are calling. The dialing code for Japan is +81(the US is +1); you’ll need to prefix the local number with this dialing code when calling from outside of the respective country.

Meal Time!

Japan has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other country in the world – with 230 in Tokyo alone! So, when it comes to fine dining, there is no shortage of places to have that once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience! But dining in Japan is also very much about variety and choice. Right inside our hotels, especially in major cities like Kyoto and Tokyo, you’ll find a surprising variety of restaurants offering both Continental and Asian cuisines – from traditional Japanese and regional Chinese to French and Italian.

Stepping out from your hotel onto the city streets, you’ll find tempting restaurants encompassing a broad range of culinary styles and prices – from familiar fast-food chains and small local eateries to elegant, white table cloth establishments. In addition, the top floors of department stores and office buildings will often be home to numerous restaurants, from inexpensive Japanese noodle shops to fine-dining establishments offering an internationally-inspired menu. These places are usually not visible from the street, so ask your guide or concierge to point you in the right direction. And don’t worry about not speaking the language. Most restaurants in Japan have display cases filled with amazingly realistic, plastic models of all their entrees, including the price. Even if the menu is not printed in English, just motion your waiter/waitress to accompany you outside and point to what you want. You will find everyone to be extremely good-natured when it comes to non-verbal communication.

For another very local experience, you might also check out the lower levels of department stores. Here, you’ll often find a large food section with prepared deli-style meals, sandwiches and sushi. It’s a chance to mingle with locals and have a casual, quality meal.

Is the Water Safe to Drink?

Tap water throughout Japan is considered safe to drink. However, if you prefer bottled water, you will find it readily available.

Know the Customs + Traditions

Japanese people will appreciate your consideration of local customs and culture. When visiting temples and other religious sites, shorts and bare shoulders are not proper. Also, you will be required to remove your shoes – so in cooler months be prepared with warm socks as many of these ancient temples are unheated with bare wooden or stone floors.

The Japanese are generally circumspect and avoid public confrontations and raised voices. Traveling and navigating through Japan is quite efficient and the residents are extremely polite. It is most unlikely that you would encounter situations that might be frustrating to you; but should this rare instance arise, you will be much more effective communicating your wishes in a calm manner.

A Word About Photographing Ancient Sites

Some sites and museums restrict photography, in particular the use of flash. Always check with your tour guide or site officials when in doubt. It is common courtesy to ask permission before you photograph local residents.

Japan’s Famous Onsen (Hot Spring Baths)

If your travel itinerary includes sufficient time in Hakone, you may enjoy the traditional hot springs that are the prominent feature of Japan. The etiquette for taking a communal bath is not complicated but must be observed. The Japanese hot springs, called onsen, are separated by sex. Clothing (including swimming suits) is not allowed in most places. However, it is the custom to bring a small towel into the bathing area which can provide privacy while outside of the water. Once you enter the bath, keep the towel out of the water.

Overnight Bag

The bullet trains in Tokyo are not equipped with large luggage storage compartments. For your overnight in Kanazawa, you will need an overnight bag for your stay. This can be the carry‑on piece on your flights. Just make sure that this bag will hold everything you need for an overnight stay and is one that you can comfortably carry yourself. You might find an inch or two difference between airlines but carry-on luggage size is 22"x 14"x 9" including the handle and wheels. We recommend a small bag with wheels so that you can comfortably handle it through the train station.  The rest of your luggage will be transported by secure truck to your next hotel.  Kanazawa and Takayama tend to be cooler than the rest of the country due to higher elevation. Please keep a warm layer with you in this overnight bag. You will also need to repack this overnight bag the night before your trip from Takayama to Tokyo.  Your bags will again be shipped by courier from Takayama to Tokyo and arrive at your hotel on your second day in Tokyo.

Packing Advice to Get You Started

Japan experiences four distinct seasons, so pack according to the season in which you are travelling: lightweight cotton in the summer; warm clothes in the winter.  A comfortable pair of walking shoes is essential, and you may want to include a pair of nicer shoes for dinner. But be prepared to remove your shoes when entering temples and some historic sites; be sure your socks are appropriate.  In the cooler months, wear warm socks as many of these buildings are not heated. The Japanese are stylish and if you dine in elegant restaurants, both in and outside your hotel, you may want to dress up as you would for a similar place at home. A lightweight jacket or sweater is always handy for cool evenings, and a windbreaker is helpful in the warm rainy months.

Consider an Easy-to-carry Traveling Bag

It’s good to have a small bag to carry your daytime needs with you while traveling; a backpack is used by many travelers for this purpose. A water bottle is always handy to have in your traveling pack.

The Essentials

Hotels will provide you with tissues and toilet paper; however small packets of facial tissues and a small bottle of hand-sanitizer can be handy. Your hotel will provide fine amenities, including soap and shampoo, but pack your own if you use particular brands. Please bring your own lotions, contact lens solutions, cosmetics and feminine hygiene products. Bring extra prescriptions (packed partially in your hand luggage) as well as cold medicine, aspirin and cures for intestinal troubles. You should also bring a good sunblock lotion with you since high temperatures can intensify the impact of the sun. We recommend 30+ SPF.

Seeing + Capturing Your Experiences

Make a complete check of your camera equipment before you leave and make sure you have replacement or rechargeable batteries and additional memory cards. A pocketknife (packed in your checked luggage) and a waterproof flashlight can also come in handy.

Camera drones are not allowed for use on our tours as they can detract from the experiences of your fellow travelers. If, however you plan to bring a drone for use in your free time, please pay close attention to the local aviation laws.  Most historic sites and national parks explicitly prohibit the use of personal drones, so it is your own responsibility to acquire any necessary permission and adhere to local laws should you plan on traveling with a drone. 

On-Tour Hunger Pangs

High-protein snacks are good for both the air trip as well as for your activities while traveling: nuts, raisins, granola bars and peanut butter are popular with many of our travelers. If you drink decaffeinated coffee, this is a good item to bring along as it may not always be available. Powdered milk or coffee creamer is also recommended for those who like them and sugar substitutes are not always available.

A Few Final Tips

Some handy items we recommend include: a collapsible umbrella, a hat, sunglasses, an extra pair of glasses and a bottle opener.

Reminders about Your Baggage

Baggage restrictions vary by airline, and we ask you to review the airlines on your itinerary and review baggage restrictions on their website to determine the maximum number of bags and weights that are allowed.  In Economy, passengers are limited to one bag.  Keep in mind that the flights that are included on your tour are in Economy and are limited to one checked bag with weight limits.  So when packing for your trip, consider the bag and weight restrictions on all of your flights, not just your international arrangements.

Most airlines charge travelers for additional bags and excess weight so we advise you to pack as lightly as possible. Most of our hotels offer laundry services.

TSA Packing Tips

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) publishes a comprehensive list of items that are Permitted and Prohibited in carry-on and checked baggage. You can find the complete list online at https://www.tsa.gov/travel.

For vacation travelers, the important thing to remember is that only one small bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes can be in your carry-on bag when you pass through security. Each item is limited to 3.4 ounces (100ml) - and all containers must fit inside a clear, 1-quart sized, zip-top bag. If you have containers that are larger than 3.4 ounces, they must go inside your checked baggage.

Medications, baby formula/food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding the 3.4-ounce limit, and they do not have to be in a zip-lock bag. You should declare these items at the checkpoint, and keep in mind that TSA Officers may need to inspect them.

Other Recommendations:

  • Jewelry, cash, tablet devices and laptops should be in your carry-on baggage. Tape your business card to the bottom of your laptop for easy identification if it gets separated for inspection.
  • Avoid accessories and jewelry that contain metal as they may set off the metal detector at the check point. This will save having to take them off and put them back on as you pass through security.
  • Wear slip-on shoes that can be easily removed and placed on the conveyor built to be x-rayed at the security check-point.
  • If you wish to place a lock on your checked luggage, it must be of a make and model approved by the TSA.
  • Do not pack wrapped gifts and do not bring wrap gifts to the security check point.

Traveling with Minors

Many countries currently require documentary evidence of a relationship between minors traveling with an adult. Although Japan is not one of them, we strongly recommend that parents traveling alone with a minor carry a notarized letter from the absent parent authorizing the trip, regardless of whether the parent is married or divorced. Never-married parents, parents whose spouse has died, and parents who have been granted sole legal custody of children are encouraged to carry notarized proof of their status, including death certificate where appropriate. Grandparents traveling with grandchildren and adults traveling with children who are not their own should carry letters of authorization from both parents of the children. It is wise to also carry the child’s birth certificate with the original seal. Please visit the state department’s website travel.state.gov if you plan to travel with a minor.

A Few Words about Safety + Security

Traveling abroad is no different than visiting a new city in the United States: use common sense precautions to safeguard your person and your possessions at all times. Remember to wash your hands frequently and use hand-sanitizer. Do not go out and about with your passport unless specifically instructed to do so by your local guides.

  • Keep your extra cash and passport in the in-room safe of your hotel. In the few instances where they are not available, then store these items in the safety deposit box at the front desk.
  • Always make a copy of your passport, credit cards and e-tickets and keep them separate from the originals so that they can be more readily replaced if lost or stolen. Leave extra copies with someone at home who you can reach while traveling. Or consider scanning these documents and emailing them to an address that you can access while abroad.
  • If you don’t already own one, consider investing in a money belt that can be concealed under your clothing. This is a good place to keep the cash and credit cards that you need for personal expenses while sightseeing, shopping and touring. Do not display large amounts of cash in public. Carry your purse with the strap across your chest, not dangling from your shoulder or arm.

These measures will save you countless time and trouble should your credit cards, airline tickets or passport be lost or stolen.  

Some Helpful Web Links

U.S. Department of State

travel.state.gov

Travel documents and tips; State Department Travel announcements; Consular Information for countries you will visit

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

General health information for travelers and health information on specific destinations

Transportation Security Administration

www.tsa.gov (select Traveler Information)

Tips for travelers going through security at the airport

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

www.cbp.gov (select Travel)

Helpful information for returning U.S. citizens travelling abroad

Calling the U.S. from Abroad

www.howtocallabroad.com

Helpful tool to understand how to call internationally

Currency Converter

www.oanda.com/currency/converter