Seeking recommendable travel agency
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Dec 8, 2012 4:08 PM Last Post By: Tokyo_girl
Dec 7, 2012 12:08 AM
Seeking recommendable travel agencyWe are a no-longer-young (late 60s,very early 70s) couple, experienced travellers, hoping to spend 10 days in Japan in the late spring. We don't want a tour, but someone who could arrange the basics: travel inside Japan, hotels.We could look after ourselves for meals and guides. Any suggestions welcome.
Dec 7, 2012 1:05 AM
1who could arrange the basics: travel inside Japan, hotels
Not sure about the exact style of travel you are looking for. As for transport, the best (for speed, convenience) is train travel. Short distance trains usually cannot be booked in advance and long distance train reservation is generally not necessary unless you are travelling at a particularly busy time of the year (e.g. Golden Week). There are some railpasses (and prepaid cards) available which could save you money depending on itinerary and could reduce the number of times you need to buy tickets.
With 10 days in Japan you could have an excellent time by spending about 5 days each based in Tokyo and Kyoto. Either city has plenty to see/do and there are interesting sites around should you get bored. Transportation would be simple as there is a direct and very quick (2.5 hours) connection between the two and the major airports (KIX, NRT, HND) are near Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka respectively. You'd only need to book two hotels, check/in out, pack/repack only twice which would be another advantage too.
Many hotels can be booked by email or via web interface, so there is really no need to have a travel agency arrange such for you IMO.
Dec 7, 2012 2:16 AM
2I think you can it yourself. I mean what do you need? You can reserve the hotels upfront via for example booking.com and http://www.hyperdia.com/ tells the time tables of the trains.
Most Japanese are friendly and they will try to help you and it is a very, very well organized country. I never felt really lost in translation in Japan. I haven't travel off the beaten path but you can have a great holiday without leaving the beaten path, lots to see in for example Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. Lots of English signage everywhere.
However the rail passes system is a bit complex but you can read about it here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html
Dec 7, 2012 9:48 AM
Dec 7, 2012 5:53 PM
4What do you want to see?
Are you interested in big cities, small villages or both?
Temples or skyscrapers?
Art museums? Quirky stuff?
Mountains, beaches or fields?
Dec 7, 2012 11:25 PM
Japanican is not a bad option - it's a branch of JTB.
You might be surprised how easy it is to book things yourself.
If you have a rough itinerary, you'll probably get a lot of help here with ticket suggests and the like. There are others more knowledgeable about itineraries than I am (esp for anywhere west of Tokyo) and you should get good answers if you post to the board, but feel free to PM me if you are having difficulties.
Dec 8, 2012 6:18 AM
6In order not having to carry your luggage, you might want to make use of Takuhaibin, particularly if you don't change accommodation each night.
Also of interest might be volunteer("free") guides which exist in several cities (e.g. for Tokyo: http://www.tokyofreeguide.com/). Basically you pay for the guide's expenses and a private guide (giving a small present is probably a good idea).
Dec 8, 2012 7:17 AM
7Many thanks to all of you.
LMajid: above all cultural (temples, shrines, museums, traditional). Too old for beaches, trekking.
Suggestions welcome for itinerary.
Tokyo Girl. Thanks also. My anxiety arises from being on business in Tokyo maybe 30 years ago and being lost and nobody could/would help as spoke no English. Maybe things have changed?
Bamse: sounds interesting. USD 100 a day enough?
Also thanks to Lucapal and What a Beautiful Day.
Dec 8, 2012 11:45 AM
8+above all cultural (temples, shrines, museums, traditional). Too old for beaches, trekking.
Suggestions welcome for itinerary.+
I'd try to see at least one traditional festival. There are festivals at any time of the year in many places of Japan. So chances are high that there will be a festival within reach.
Spending at least one night in a traditional ryokan could be another unique experience.
As mentioned above, for a relaxed trip I recommend to base yourself about 5 days each in Tokyo and Kyoto. Spend about 3 of these days in either city and do daytrips to places around, e.g. to Nara, Hikone, Osaka from Kyoto or to Kamakura, Hakone, Kawaguchiko from Tokyo. Hiroshima/Miyajima can be done as very busy daytrip from Kyoto and Nikko could be done as very busy daytrip from Tokyo, but allowing at least one night in either place would be a good idea.
Bamse: sounds interesting. USD 100 a day enough?
You mean for the free guide? This will depend a lot on what you do. For just regular walking around plus local transport plus a (non-fancy) lunch plus some entrance fees that should usually be enough. Good point about the free guides is that you can decide what you want to do/see. For instance in Kyoto, instead of taking me to the main sights and telling me about history (things that any regular group tour offers and that could be read in a guidebook), I'd have my free guide take me to local crafts shops, and special food places, perhaps talk to the owner, etc, but of course that is up to your interest.
A group tour (not free guide) for Kyoto that a friend recommended is: http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/h-s-love/
nobody could/would help as spoke no English. Maybe things have changed?
No idea what it was like 30 years ago, but finding somebody to speak at least basic English in big cities (Tokyo, Kyoto,...) is not all that difficult in my experience. Also I find Japanese people extremely helpful and even if they don't speak English they might figure out what you want from the situation (e.g. you looking lost in front of a ticket machine,....) and will offer their help.
Dec 8, 2012 4:08 PM
9Things have changed a lot in 30 years!
I came to Japan 12 years ago for the first time and things have changed since then even.
The world cup in 2002 was a big turning point for Japanese tourism.
The post office started to have access for foreign ATM cards.
Now 7-11 also does, and almost always there is an English option.
There are currency exchange places in major centres of of major cities.
Railways stations have English signs and sometimes the staff give information
in English (not very good English usually but they try).
Bigger shops will often have someone who speaks some English.
Younger people are used to foreign teachers in their
high schools (and now elementary and junior high schools) so there
is less anxiety induced by seeing a foreigner. Writing places down is
often helpful if you want directions as people may have ears unatuned to
Save yourself a LOT of grief and print out maps to your hotels before you go.
I can't count how many dazed foreigners I meet in Shinjuku station trying
to work out where their accommodation is. Also save yourself a lot of trouble
with directions and go out the correct exit if a station.
The koban / police boxes often do reasonably with basic English too - esp. in tourist areas.
This is JNTO's list of volunteer guide organizations.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$80.44 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$289.93 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$193.08 per night