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?” »
With exchange rates, international charge fees, and money conversion, it can be very confusing to know what the best way to pay for things in another country are. Japan is very much still a cash society and you are expected to pay in cash most of the time, but you still have options. Here are a few things to help you be more prepared: Read more on “Money Matters in Japan” »
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” »
Dogo Onsen Honkan
Located in the city of Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku, Dogo Onsen is considered to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest onsen in Japan. There are references to Dogo Onsen in documents from the 8th century. It is reported Prince Shotoku (considered to be the father of Japanese Buddhism) enjoyed the baths, and the baths are mentioned in the “Tales of Genji” written about 1,000 years ago. According to the legends, long ago many egrets lived in Dogo. One day, an egret who injured his leg was seen soaking its leg every day in the hot water. Eventually the egret became well and flew away. The people who saw this began to use the hot springs and their health improved. The news spread that the hot spring was beneficial for ones health, and the hot spring became popular.
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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?” »
We will often get questions from people who are interested in taking our tours if it is possible to avoid fish in their meals. There is so much more to Japanese food other than sushi and sashimi, but escaping fish all-together is near to impossible in Japan. After all, it is a staple in Japanese cooking and the Japanese eat more fish per capita than any other country in the world! You can avoid eating the actual pieces of fish, both raw and cooked, but there are so many things that you may eat and not even realize that there is fish in it. I have enjoyed a lot of meals in Japan where they use fish broth and fish essence, and it often didn’t taste like fish was in it at all. By definition, here are a couple items that you may be unaware of. Read more on “There’s Something Fishy Going On With The Food Here…” »