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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed May 2019
    Sasha Heriot

    Excellent taster of Japan

    This trip was an excellent way to experience many different aspects of Japan, although I feel like I have only touched the surface, and I want to go back! Japan, the people, and the food are all truly wonderful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I loved being out of the cities and experiencing more of the countryside and mountainous regions. One of the highlights was seeing Mount Fuji appear over the hillside whilst ascending in a cable car. We did this on one of our "free" days. This day trip was suggested by our tour leader who also accompanied us for the whole day. Another highlight for me was the thermal baths experience.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our first leader, although very pleasant, was very inexperienced. I was grateful to Exodus that they changed our leader on day 3. The new leader was excellent and ensured that we all had an enjoyable holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not expect a relaxing holiday. The days are very long and you will do lots of standing on very crowded public transport and a huge amount of walking almost every day. Although it is very popular in blossom season, I would have much preferred to go when the weather was warmer. We have blossom in the UK after all! Knowing now how easy it is to get around Japan on public transport, I would be very happy visiting there independently. I flew with KLM (connected in Amsterdam both ways), which seemed a much better choice than the group flight - no long mid-night connections, more "direct" route and shorter flight time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The country is very easy to get around using public transport, however it would have been much better to have had a minibus/coach to get around the sights in the cities, as the local public transport "experience" made the days very hectic, somewhat stressful, and much longer than they needed to be. I feel that if local public transport is used, the trip should be graded higher than a 2 as some people on the trip did struggle with the long days. and the huge amounts of standing and walking.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Beverley Evans

    Amazing country, trip felt rushed though

    This trip gives the opportunity to see a lot... which is great BUT I have to say it felt like we were running from place to place. Public transport is efficient but a little constricting. It would have been good to have a minibus in Kyoto as the traffic did not seem bad there. This then relieves the feeling of missing out on things as you are made to choose between things to do due to timings of buses/trains etc.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Mt. Fuji was AMAZING... such a shame this is not part of the itinerary! We went to Lake Kawaguchi, instead of the suggested Hakone and it was the best day of the entire trip. The friendliness of the people and the general feeling of safety. Japan is a wonderful place.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky was fantastic and had a very hard job keeping everyone happy. He encountered some difficulties but always found a solution. He was very kind and knowledgeable and was great to talk to.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack an umbrella. Make the most of the ample convenience stores (7Eleven and Family Mart) as they are great for picking up breakfast items and snacks for the day. Also they do excellent sushi etc. Wear really comfortable shoes as there is a LOT of walking... 7-12 miles a day. Some of the temples have a lot of steps. Don't be afraid of the Tokyo underground... it's busy and looks confusing but it's easy to use once you get the hang of it... and ask for help. The people are really friendly and will go out of their way to assist you. Make sure you have handy pockets for the train/bus passes. You'll need them all the time. Be prepared to sit on the floor when up in the mountains. Also, maybe pack wetwipes for the Ryokan unless you enjoy communal showering!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I felt the trip was a little over priced. The first Ryokan we stayed in was VERY basic. Zero privacy to wash and one toilet per floor.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Eric Watts

    A hectic agenda with some nice moments

    The first problem was sleep deprivation, 18 hours in the air with a gap at Dubai and the time difference of eight hours means you need time to recover. We did not have adequate time the departure was 8am the next morning which meant getting up at 6.30 to get organised and have breakfast. A better option would have been to fly the day before and spend the first night in a hotel in Osaka. The sleep deprivation has knock-on effects such as the difficulty in arranging the lights and blind switches in the Kyoto hotel. They were simple to use once you got used to them but caught me out as I was unfamiliar -there was an opaque blind behind the translucent blind and it was not possible to tell this until the daylight woke me up at 5 AM. It would have been useful to have the hotel staff demonstrate how to use all the controls as it meant I had a second night of poor sleeping. There were too many sites to see in Kyoto and Tokyo meaning very early starts and late finishes with inadequate time to recover before going for meal and then having little time to digest before going to bed which also impairs sleep.. Most days we stopped for lunch and apart from the sushi lunch meals were mediocre and usually in soulless shopping malls. A long break for lunch is unnecessary and simply prolongs the day. Taking a snack and a brief lunch break would mean an earlier finish and some time to relax in the evening. The traditional meals were good but too often we went out in the evening to very crowded and uncomfortable restaurants on occasion sitting on stools at the counter which is a very poor substitute for a comfortable meal to celebrate the end of a busy day. On one occasion in Kyoto and two in Tokyo it was hard to find a comfortable restaurant other than going for a pizza which is not what we intended in visiting Japan. Although the express trains were good local trains are often too crowded for comfort and judicious use of a minibus would have been very helpful: for example New Year’s Day there was hardly any traffic on the road but we were in dreadfully crowded trains and given the option I would far sooner stay in a coach than trudge along a dreary the street market in the rain. There are too many boring markets and too many visits to shopping dreary shopping centres. It was a major mistake to try and see all sides Tokyo in one day. If the morning consisted of the shrine, sky Tower and the Imperial Palace that would have been sufficient and then we could choose extras for ourselves such as the art museum. Visiting the shopping area to see the equivalent of Oxford Street and then to visit the street market which have nothing of interest, all in the pouring rain was a sad waste of the afternoon. Finally although your information included average rainfall figures it did not adequately explain that we could be out all day in prolonged rain so that on the last Wednesday everyone was soaked through. My waterproof clothes were too heavy to be worn in hot weather and I do not normally take an umbrella when going walking but it was the best way of dealing with warm rain and it would be helpful to make that point prominently in your info. Japanese art and culture is interesting and I really enjoyed what we saw but unfortunately there was far too little and too much time spent travelling.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was no single inspirational moment. Many of the shrines were impressive, Mount Fuji is spectacular and the cruise on the nearby Lake was delightful. The Zen gardens were impressive. The Hiroshima visit was very educational and presented some unpleasant truths in a very powerful way.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He worked very hard, was very energetic and very helpful. He had the unenviable task of trying to keep everybody happy all the time and he tried to his utmost to do this, this meant that most of us joined in with trying to see everything, which in retrospect, was not the best idea. It would have been more helpful to have a range of options so that there were alternatives e.g. for those with the limited interest in shops and markets. I enjoyed the visits to the snow monkeys and would have preferred to have spent more time walking in the surrounding countryside

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do your homework thoroughly so that you know what you want to see and what you don't want to. Prepare for the rain, an umbrella is more useful than an anorak because of the usually warm whether. Don't be swept along to see sites that don't interest you, street markets may be interesting for some but in Tokyo the goods on sale were incredibly tacky the market so severely congested that it's hard to move and the novelty value soon wears off

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Given that Japan is a mountainous area would have much preferred more opportunities to walk in the countryside. The visit to the beach resort of Tokyo, in the rain was a dreadful waste of time so travellers should prepare options as alternatives to pointless activities. The travel notes gave too rosy a picture of Japanese public transport, although the express trains are good local and suburban trains that we used were often packed and we had to stand for long periods. It would have been better to have seen fewer sites but have been able to spend more time there to enjoy them
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Fiona Hodge

    Japan. Ancient and Modern

    A superb trip, exploring a wide variety of destinations and experiences. Very stimulating. Wonderful to travel on public transport. I never expected to see and do so much. I loved the traditional wooden buildings / hotels we stayed in in the mountain areas. All the accommodation was excellent.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The beautiful blossom , temples and the gardens. Mount Fuji. Japanese hotels and hospitality. The pace and excitement of the trip. The variety of experience

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky is a beautiful and wonderful man. He was so kind, professional and good humoured. Knowledgable and entertaining. Outstanding group leader. Nearly broke down in tears to say goodbye. He was very supportive to members of the group with mobility problems. Gave everyone full and equal attention. Totally trustworthy and reliable. You had better keep him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Only go on this trip if you have sufficient energy to walk long distances , maybe up to 9 miles. Try and go in April when the blossom is out. It is breathtaking.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Great trip for energetic enthusiastic and curious travellers
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Neil & Carole Bowman-Mahoney

    Konichiwa and arigato!

    This trip exceeded expectations in many ways - incredibly well-organised with a good balance between group activities and private exploration. The breadth of Japanese culture, both ancient and modern, was well covered, the accommodations were excellent, the food was extraordinary and the transport system very impressive. And the Japanese we met were always polite, respectful, friendly and calm. We came home with the feeling that the UK has a lot to learn!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to choose - seeing Mt Fuji floating on a bed of cloud, Matsumoto Castle floodlit, a Kabuki performance, exquisitely presented and tasty food in the ryokans, onsen, standing on a station as a shinkansen raced through at 160+mph, the tragedy of Hiroshima, the architecture of the Shinto shrines, temples and gardens, and more. Phew!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mayuko Terao was superb, and couldn't do enough for us. Her ability to keep 17 disparate adults in order while negotiating the often crowded and complex transport system was remarkable. Her knowledge, communication skills and sense of fun were second to none. She gave up much of her own free time to ensure that we got the most out of our visit.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for a lot of walking, often in crowded tourist sites and on the transport system. There are many convenience stores near the hotels to buy food if you don't want to pay for the expensive hotel buffet breakfasts (ryokans excluded). Our camera broke down towards the end of the trip, and it was SO liberating! So, don't view everything you see through a camera lens all the time. Japan is so visually engaging.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thanks to everyone who made it such a memorable experience.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Liz Hartley

    Fascinating experience!

    You really couldn’t pack any more into 2 weeks! We walked round cities (lot of walking), visited temples, shrines, markets, gardens and castles and saw beautiful scenery from the trains. Our guide was very helpful and knowledgeable and always available for advice on what to do, where to go and where to eat in our free time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The cherry blossom, scenery and the beautiful gardens. The unique Japanese experiences - onsen hot baths, tea ceremony and kubuki theatre - were unforgettable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ayaka was so helpful and informative and didn’t lose anyone in the Tokyo subway!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You need to be pretty fit as on some days there was a lot of walking with only a break for lunch although we were given free time to look round places on our own. You don’t need to take shampoo, conditioner or shower gel as all the accommodation provided it. The hotels in Kyoto and Tokyo had washing machines and dryers. Be prepared for all types of weather - an umbrella can come in handy. Take binoculars if you are going to the kabuki theatre or are interested in birds.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Sarah Kerhoat

    Fabulous, well paced trip to see the best of ancient and modern Japan

    This was a bucket list trip for me and I was really pleased with the pace and the amount we covered in two weeks. The travel dates that I chose were specifically to see the blossoms and although they were late this year, we were lucky to see them and experience their serenity in Tokyo. The trip has lots of other amazing things in it too.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were loads of great moments on this trip! Seeing the blossoms in Tokyo illuminated at night as well as in the day, seeing the Snow Monkeys eat and play, experiencing a traditional ryokan and an onsen (having plucked up the courage), getting up at 4am to Fushimi Inari Shrine and its thousands of vermillion tori gates (I can't recommend enough getting up early to see it, you avoid the crowds and experience an amazing peaceful atmosphere (if you do go, watch out for the kind elderly couple who feed the cats)), having some delicious wagyu beef yakatori in Takayama.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Shin was really good at getting us where we needed to be when we needed to be there which is essential when using public transport in Japan as everything is so orderly! He was also extremely helpful when we were trying to find things or place to see and spending extra time with us when he could.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a deep breath and try the onsen. Once you get your head around it, it is a lovely experience, albeit very hot. In the hotels we stayed in, there were laundry facilities so it is relatively easy to wash and dry clothes. Try an okonomiyaki japanese egg pancake. You cook them yourself at hot plates at the table in a restaurant or sometimes you can get them at a food market. If you want to try some of the food at the markets, confirm with your guide what time of day you will be there and eat less the mealtime before so you have room to try the food.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I'm so pleased I have visited this amazing country and would love to go back and see more of it, especially the northern region and the south island. This trip is fantastic at giving you an really good experience of Japan. If you are hesitating, just do it!
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Vivien and Paul Newrick

    Fast paced and exhausting tour of Japan - certainly not a leisurely holiday!

    It was great touring using public transport including bullet trains but it meant deadlines to catch trains. Because of this we sometimes felt rushed with not enough time to fully enjoy the sights we were visiting. But we certainly saw a slice of Japanese life.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We loved the trees - the cherry blossom and perfectly sculptured conifers. We loved the bamboo forest and gardens nearby. We loved the traditional architecture of sliding panels and tatami mats. We loved the politeness and cleanliness of Japan with train guards bowing as they entered and left carriages. We loved the gardens sitting in nests of skyscrapers in Tokyo. We will miss the quirky Japanese toilets and the onsens.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We liked Shin - he organised tickets and reservations perfectly and with assiduous counting managed to keep the group together at very crowded stations during complex journeys.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Prepare for crowds everywhere and standing in trains and buses. Prepare to walk fast. Do your research before the trip to help use your free time. There are great food outlets at the stations where you can grab a picnic.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Edo Museum in Tokyo was first class.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Angus Walker

    Full On Japan

    A trip that enabled an effective, varied view of key parts of Japan

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    No single inspirational moment - the experience of aspects of Japanese culture [old and new] was best. The National Museum in Tokyo was good for providing a comprehensive historic picture of diverse elements - power, religion, creativity.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The replacement leader [on day 3] was very experienced in all aspects of Japan. All were very happy with his performance.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There is a lot to pack in and it can be very tiring

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    In budgeting the holiday you have to remember that you have to pay for most breakfasts, lunches and evening meals. The Hotel rooms in Kyoto were small; a very uncomfortable 5 nights. The Hotel in Tokyo was excellent
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Hely Collie

    Deers, monkeys, cherry blossoms and saunas in clean Japan with nicely behaved Japans.

    Wild deers, snow monkeys, cherry blossoms, temple cats, bullet trains, metros, lovely and friendly Japans in clean Japan.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Feeding wild deers at Nara Koen Park, seeing snow monkeys in the mountain, admiring cherry blossoms (due to cold weather these blossoms were late and lucky for us!), seeing wild temple cats, travelling in bullet trains (trains do not turn but seatings do!) - just few of many more...it was also interesting to see how Japans que for metros and how nicely their behave in them (phones on silent and no talking or eating) and how clean Tokyo is (no rubbish & no rubbish bins!).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ayaka Tsukamoto had excellent admin skills (arranged all entrance / travel tickets for us in advance with no problems), was patient (answered all questions several times - even after just explaining them to us), was enthusiastic on all planned trips (transferring her enthusiasm to us), was responsible (managed all 18 of us through rush hour using various local transports), was caring (directed one in our group, who used walking sticks, to escalators / lift when ever these were available) always explained our daily plans and associated timings in advance (organisation skills) and told us relevant informations regarding the destinations (excellent historical knowledge!).

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to walk briskly and be always on time to avoid delays - and have sauna every evening (as I did).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Kyoto was beautiful. I enjoyed japanese western toilets (you can wash and dry yourself while sitting on a warm toilet seat) - although, it does waste energy! I had plenty of excellent (& cheap) sushis and loved beautiful flower arrangements in various places.
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