AsiaJapan

A tour of Honshu, Japan

Japan Travel Blog

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At a temple in Kyoto

Impressions of Japan

The scent of incense rising before a shrine, and the rattle of fortune sticks as a backdrop

The fall colours in the hills around Kyoto and the mountains of Kamikochi

The serenity of a temple garden even among the crowds

The simplicity of each room in a merchant’s house in Takayama.

The time taken out of a busy day to extend the courtesy of a bow and to wait patiently in line

The care taken to ensure that everything, from a gift box to a manhole cover, is as beautiful as it can possibly be

A tasty morsel of sushi or bowl of steaming soba noodles

The bright neon-lit nights of Shinjuku and Osaka.

Bento box

That was my Japan.

As this was our first visit to Japan, and not speaking the language, we decided to take a tour. But we don't like to be too "shepherded" so the tours offered by Inside Japan, with lots of flexibility to do your own thing on many of the days, seemed the ideal choice. We were really happy with all aspects of the tour, and with our own independent explorations. Our tour leader Andrew was very knowledgeable, very well-organised and, most important, great company. We had a very congenial group of travelling companions and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and easy-going, despite the intensity of packing so much into such a short trip. No one was pressured to join in and do things with the group, but we often chose to do so even when meals and tours were optional. I would say that even for those who would normally prefer to travel independently, the flexibility of an Inside Japan tour makes it an option worth considering, especially if time is short.

Asakusa, Tokyo

We opted for the Essential Honshu tour which looked like a good introduction to the country and which included Kyoto, top of my must-see list, and of course Tokyo, top of Chris's. The other destinations included on the tour are Hakone, Osaka, Takayama and Kamikochi.

And to give ourselves a small taste of travelling independently in Japan, we chose to add on a couple of extra nights in Tokyo, either side of a two night trip to Nikko. Inside Japan made these arrangements for us but we travelled alone.

This blog is a retrospective look at a trip from some years ago (in 2013) and based on what I wrote at the time for Virtual Tourist. I will add entries for each of the places we visited and reviews of the main sights we saw, starting here with some general tips.

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

London to Tokyo

We flew to Tokyo with British Airways on a direct flight from London Heathrow to Narita. The flight took 11.5 hours. That's a long while to be shut up in a tin box!

I'm useless at sleeping on planes and inevitably the time dragged, but the in-flight service was fine and the food served (dinner soon after boarding, breakfast before landing) also fine, if unremarkable.

The biggest challenge with this journey is the crossing of time zones. Tokyo is nine hours ahead of GMT, although ‘just’ eight hours ahead of London's British Summer Time when we travelled in early October. The timing of our flight meant that we landed a couple of hours after we would normally have gone to bed, to find Tokyo wide awake and ready to start a new day.

Luckily we found Narita Airport easy to navigate. The queues at immigration weren't too bad, our luggage arrived promptly, and we were soon through customs and searching for the counter where we were to pick up our pre-ordered wifi hub, before heading into the city. The holiday had begun!

HORSCHECK says:
Sarah, another feature for you. Congrats.
Posted on: Jan 16, 2018
hightide says:
Congrats on your featured blog, Sarah :)
Posted on: Jan 16, 2018
starship1 says:
Sarah, congrats on having today's featured blog! Very well deserved!
Posted on: Jan 16, 2018
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At a temple in Kyoto
At a temple in Kyoto
Bento box
Bento box
Asakusa, Tokyo
Asakusa, Tokyo
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
Kimono on display in Takayama
Kimono on display in Takayama
Kamikochi National Park
Kamikochi National Park
Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle
Children in Nikko
Children in Nikko
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