Wanderers! This is my first trip to Asia and am very excited.. This country is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and is at its best when you are exploring the narrow alleyways of Tokyo and getting lost among the geisha and temples of Kyoto.
This trip is perfect for 1st timers who want a taste of Japanese food, culture & life. We are going to see the highlights of Tokyo, Kyoto and visit a small town for a traditional ryokan stay with onsen (hot spring).
Charlotte area based wanderers, RSVP for upcoming live events about Japan. Learn more about the company & more about the trip.
I love Japan but am far from an expert in its language, food or culture. I want to assure you that I would not bring you here if I felt like I could not do it. I want to make you aware of some limitations of this trip.
In Kyoto, we slow down a bit and enjoy nature in a traditional setting. Expect lots of active days filled with beautiful temples and castles.
Options for the Evening:
After lunch, we will get a better sense of the area and go up into the Tokyo Metropolitan building, home of its municipal workers, and scope out the massive views of Tokyo from its 45th floor.
Later in the day, we are going on a food tour of Shinjuku’s Izakayas (pubs). This will be a great way to learn more about the food culture of Tokyo and go into places you would normally never find. The tour traverses Shinjuku’s evening hours and is a lot of fun to see this area lit up at night.
Options for the Morning:
Asakusa is home to Sensoji, a very popular Buddhist temple and is a wonderful place to explore old Japan and do some light window shopping.
After all this walking & culture, you are going to get hungry. We are trying one of my favorite styles of ramen, tsukemen or dipping ramen. It is essentially a thick, rich soup on the side, served as a dip separate from the noodles.
At completion of lunch, all wanderers have the rest of the day to see Tokyo.
Options for the Day:
Shibuya is a popular shopping area from traditional department stores to quirky 100 yen shops, you will find many things to see & buy. We are grabbing lunch at one of the first conveyor belt sushi joins called Genki sushi.
In addition, Shibuya is not far from Harajuku. Harajuku is renowned for colorful street art and youth fashion, with quirky vintage clothing stores and cosplay shops along the crowded Takeshita Street. The street is also the place to devour a crepe. Want the best one? Go to the shop with the longest line. This is a strategy that one should employ all over Tokyo.
After your morning & afternoon in Shibuya, you have the rest of the day to explore on your own. Let’s meet for dinner at the Tokyo Station & dine on Ramen Street.
Options for the Day:
We are staying in a ryokan onsen near the Arashiyama bamboo forest. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn with natural baths (onsen). Our rooms will be traditional tatami mat floors with a special prepared Kyoto dinner.
You have the day to soak in the onsen waters or stroll around the small town of Arashiyama.
After the hike, we will pick up our bags at the ryokan and hop on a train bound for Kyoto. The rest of the afternoon is open to explore
Options for the Day:
Before we begin, we are going to the coolest Starbucks I have ever seen for matcha (green tea) latte or a seasonally weird sweet potato frappuccino (yes, they exist!).
We are doing a bicycle temple circuit tour of the city. Places we are likely to see include: Nijo castle, Gold Pavilion, Shiogamojinja, Path of Philosophy, Gion area, Kyoto area. There is no set route, it will be a fun day of biking, stopping, eating, exploring, rinse & repeat.
For dinner, let’s enjoy Shabu-Shabu. It’s a type of Japanese cuisine, involving thin slices of beef & vegetables that are boiled at your table. My mouth is salivating.
The hike is part of a larger Kyoto trail system. Expect to hike around 2 hours with many steps.
The afternoon is open to explore before meeting again for a Kyoto dinner tour of the Nishiki market.
Megan is your guide for this trip. She was an English teacher in Japan in the early 00’s and fell in love with Japan’s quirky sense of being. She relishes any opportunity to come back.
She is going to show you how to conquer this country so you come back again and again.
Price of this trip is $3500 for each wanderer. There is a supplement for single room dwellers.
This Fall Colors of Japan Group Trip is designed for active wanderers. If you have questions about physical specifics of this trip, please contact us.Trip prices are based on accommodation (3-4 star hotels) and a American tour guide for the duration of the trip. All trips will have an orientation (in person if geography suffices) for all guests approximately 4 weeks before departure.
Deposit Requirement: A deposit is required immediately with each booking request. A booking cannot be guaranteed without a deposit.
Deposits can be paid by check, Venmo or credit card. All credit cards are processed through Stripe.
Trip Costs: This trip must be paid in full prior to 4 months start of trip. If trip fees are not paid within this time-frame, trip deposits will be forfeited.
Refund Policy: There is a 10% non-refundable fee per person on all received cancellation requests, regardless of the period when the cancellation is submitted. This trip is only 50% refundable if the request is made prior to 4 months. If cancellation request is made after, no refund will be issued. This is due to the strict booking policies for desired hotels.
We apologize for any inconvenience of this policy. You can however, transfer your reservation to another willing participant in the event you need to cancel. Just notify us if this is the case.
Tour Cancellations: Big Fat World Tours reserves the right to cancel any trip for any reason and will notify each guest as soon as possible. All deposits and monies paid will be refunded 100% in such an event. Trip Insurance is highly recommended for all wanderers.
These policies are strictly enforced due to logistical partners in country and reservations made with local hotels and providers.
I have more information about things to know about Japan, read that here.
No. Absolutely not. You can get around with gestures and a couple words of basic Japanese, I will teach you.
Be aware that every Japanese person studies English in junior high and high school (many get some sort of basic English instruction in grade school).
Please book your flights into Haneda airport. This airport is closer and easier to get to the center city.
The majority of local travel will be on metros, local buses & JR railways.
I am providing all wanderers with a 3 day Tokyo metro pass and a pre-paid Suica card. This will allow you to get anywhere in Tokyo since not all trains take the metro card (very frustrating). Please note the Suica card will be loaded with enough money to get to all the places on the assigned tour. If you use it for personal travel within Tokyo, you will need to recharge it (which is easy to do). The card will have enough money for the RT travel between Tokyo Station & Haneda airport. (Note – If you arrive at Narita, you will have to purchase your own transportation to our hotel, which should cost around $30 or so.)
In Kyoto, each wanderer will receive a loaded Icoca card. Similar to the Suica card, Icoca will have a balance on it so we can use it to navigate the various trains, buses & subways of Kyoto.
Tip: I do not recommend using taxis. A simple 2 miles journey can cost more than $30.
An onsen is a natural hot spring bath, and thanks to its plentiful volcanic activity Japan has lots of them. Yes, we are spending the night in one.
There are several thousand onsens all over Japan. The biggest concern for most Westerners in going to an onsen is the etiquette.
There are quite a few rules of etiquette surrounding onsen bathing, and this can make the whole thing seem a little scary and uncomfortable when you’re not sure what you’re doing. The main detractor is bathing completely naked. That’s right! You can not enter an onsen without being in your birthday suit. You can not enter an onsen with visible tattoos. Tattoos are still very taboo in Japan due to their association with the Japanese mafia (yakuza).
Read more about the onsen etiquette here.
The hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season begins as early as late January in subtropical Okinawa, and as late as May in the northern island of Hokkaido. But for most of Japan, peak cherry blossom season takes place in March and April.
During this trip, you will not have an opportunity to see them.
Japan is probably not as expensive as you think, but this is a really common myth about Japan.
And one of the great things about Japan is that you can tailor your experience to your budget. Meals can range from $5 to upwards of $25. On average, I found very filling ramen meals for around $11 in the more touristy areas.
Not all meals are covered on this trip, so budget $20-30 day for snacks, meals and drinks.
Overall, tipping in Japan is not customary. Respect and politeness is expected at all times, sometimes your tip maybe refused, do not to be offended.
Shopping is a lot of fun. Expect to spend an additional $200-300 on gifts (maybe more). Budget another $25/day for food (outside what is covered) and another $10/day for transportation.
The seasons are changing in October and it will be cooler. I suggest cold weather gear of long sleeve shirts, long pants and a light jacket. I would expect to wear every top at least twice.
We are hiking a couple days, so good tennis shoes or hiking boots may be needed. Wear the buliest items on the plane so you bag is as light as possible. Read more about my recent trip and packing for Japan.
DO NOT OVER PACK. Hotel rooms are small and you will be shopping (alot). Also, carrying a big bag from the airport to our hotel to the train station to Kyoto to a small hotel via a train & bus, will not be very fun if your bag weighs too much.
REMEMBER, you are responsible for your own bags the entire trip.
Staying at a ryokan – a traditional Japanese-style inn – is a great way to fully immerse yourself in traditional Japanese culture. Yes, we are staying in a Ryokan in Kyoto.
But for non-Japanese, there can be many surprises when staying at a ryokan, because it’s very different from staying at a hotel.
These are some of the key differences between ryokans and hotels:
Japanese people are extremely polite and welcoming, but many travelers to Japan worry about accidentally offending them by saying or doing the wrong thing.
The main thing you want to keep in mind is that Japanese people don’t expect you, as a traveler, to know all of their customs.
As long as you act kindly and with respect, you’ll fit right in – even if you do make an etiquette mistake (or two) once in a while!
That being said, making a little effort can go a long way, and Japanese people are extremely appreciative when travelers make the effort to learn their customs.
For more details read Japanese Etiquette 101.