When looking at our tours, you will notice that we often stay at ryokans, instead of a “western style hotel”. So what is a ryokan?
Well first, so you know how to pronounce it, say it with me: ree-o-kahn. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. They are smaller, more quaint, and often more hospitable than your mainstream hotel. Since our tour groups max out at 16 people, it allows us to have the opportunity to stay at such wonderful facilities. You could almost compare the mannerisms to bed and breakfast lodging that we are used to in Western culture, though the room layout is very different. The rooms will have traditional tatami (straw) mats on the floor, and you will have your own mattress (similar to a futon mattress) to sleep on. You can often layer a couple of these mattresses to give yourself a little extra height and/or cushion. Some ryokans offer a few western-style rooms, but you will need to check with us on the particular tour you are interested in to see if this option is available. The food is also very wonderful (they can cook for a smaller amount of people, giving their food more attention to detail). The “Kaiseki-style” dinners are a treat for both your tastebuds and your eyes. Everything is delicious and served with excellent presentation. Read more on “What is a Ryokan?” »
It’s not everyday that you get to travel across the globe and visit an amazing, historical country you have never been to before. Or maybe you have been to Japan, and know what amazing goodies there are to offer to bring back home to your friends and family. Either way, we do like to shop and bring back great souvenirs, as well as look stylish while we are there, and (if you are like me) be prepared for anything that may come your way (weather, fancy outings, last minute opportunities, etc.). But that may often cause a problem…there is only so much you can take (and bring back) with you! Which raises the question: how much luggage can/should I bring (and how large)? Read more on “Luggage 101- How Much Luggage to Really Bring” »
Japan is so beautiful, and you seem to see more, take more in, and get more of a ‘cultural immersion’ experience when you travel by foot and public transportation. Another common question that comes up when people are considering our tours is “How much walking is there, really?” We have clients of all ages participate on our tours, and all are welcome, but you will want to be very comfortable with walking and staying on your feet for long periods of time. We always suggest comfortable, broken in walking shoes to use on the tour. We take public transportation everywhere. So we walk to the subway and train stations, then we walk to our destination which is always nearby, but may be a good 10-20 minute walk, and we are often on our feet going through wherever we are visiting. We do encounter stairs, and while there are often elevators or escalators around, they are not everywhere and not always available. Read more on “How much walking do we REALLY do?” »
Today was our free day in Kyoto. I have to be honest, I just came down with a nasty cold, so I spent most of the day relaxing in our room. However, in our itineraries, we provide lots of information of fun things you can do with your free time. Tonight, we had our sayonara dinner at a very nice restaurant, which had a beautiful garden. The type of cuisine was Shabu-Shabu, which is were you put some very thinly sliced meat (pork for us) in a pot of boiling water, and it only takes seconds to cook. Then we put it in a delicious thin sauce. It was very tasty.
Garden at the restaurant
Read more on “Day 14 – Free Day in Kyoto” »
Today was also a busy, packed schedule of wonderful sites to see. First thing in the morning after breakfast, we all headed toward Fushimi to see the Inari Shrine. It was a very large place, with lots of color (mostly orange). There seemed to be noticeably more attendants at this particular shrine, as well as a drumming song and dance performed (no pictures were allowed here, but it was very different and beautiful). We walked up a little further and saw the huge row of torii gates, all donated by different people and organizations. It is like you are walking through a tunnel of torii gates almost. Also, a famous scene from Memoirs of a Geisha was filmed here with the torii gates. Also at the entrance of this shine, they have two foxes for protection there, which was different from what we have seen at other shrines (normally we see lions).
Read more on “Day 13 – Tour Fushimi, Nara, and Uji” »
Today was a very fun-filled and packed day! We started the day at the Ryoan-ji, which is known for their rock garden. In this particular garden, there are 15 rocks in raked sand. When sitting on the deck, only 14 rocks can be seen at one time. You can try to move and see the one that is hidden, but once it is in view, the other one disappears. There are many meanings and interpretations to this, and we are encouraged to use our creativity. Also in Buddhism, the number 15 means completeness. There was also very peaceful and beautiful scenery here.
Ryoan-ji rock garden
Read more on “Day 12 – Tour Kyoto” »