One of our top sales agents, Irina Li from Goway Asia expert’s team just returned from a trip to Japan which included the remote areas of Niigata and Nagano. Irina shares her insight into what she learned from this once in a lifetime experience.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Japan?
The most common route that many travelers will do when they visit Japan is the golden route which covers, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hakone. But Japan has much more to offer. We covered interesting remote areas like Niigata and Nagano, two northern prefectures I’d never been to.
You did a lot of hotel inspections. Which was your favourite and why?
I really liked Akakura Kanko Hotel in Niigata prefecture, near Miyoko Mountain. First of all for its location. Based on top of a mountain, it offers an outstanding view of the surrounding mountains, lakes and forests. I especially loved this in the morning, when I could see clouds beneath, stretched out like a sea. I also liked hotel’s style and design. Everything was very detail oriented, and there are lots of amenities. It’s a modern, very neat property.
What was your favourite unique stay?
My favorite ryokan was Ryokan Aburata Tousen in Yamanouchi Nagano prefecture, a 10 minute drive to the snow monkey’s park. It was sparkling clean, with larger than normal traditional tatami rooms. The food was delicious, but what I liked most of all was their service. The owner said she greets every customer herself if she’s in town. She was super friendly, and so were the other staff, all of whom spoke a decent level of English (better than in other places). You can tell the property is new thanks to its design, but it remains true to the ryokan tradition. The hotel had excellent onsen amenities including the traditional wooden bath outdoors, and they offer wonderful local cosmetics for all guests to use including shampoo, facial cream, lotions and so on. Another favourite of mine was the massage chair.
As a Goway Asia Destination Specialist who has sold Japan for years, was there anything that surprised you?
I was surprised that so few places accept credit card payment, and that even in very touristic places people don’t speak English. I was also surprised by the modern conceptual art that has an international influence. For example, we made a brief stop at the Yayoi Kusama museum in the Nagano area. We also visited Echigo-Tsumari Art Field, an annual event where designers and artists from all over the world create their projects.
What area would you recommend if clients wanted to extend into another country?
Given the location of Japan, Taiwan is very easy stop over on the way in or out. Stopping here combines two distinct cultures on one trip.
Are there any tips about travelling to Japan that agents might share with their clients to make their trip even more enjoyable?
I would suggest visiting areas beyond Tokyo and Kyoto. Even for famous cherry blossom season, people try to go in March-April, but if they go later to other northern prefectures they can still see same beauty in a less crowded environment (cherry blossom season begins early in the south, and gradually moves north through the spring). Bring Japanese cash, otherwise there are ATMs at every convenient store. Wi-fi is not so well developed, so a pocket wi-fi modem is good idea. It’s not expensive and you can get one at the airport if you forget.
Do you have a favourite local dish?
Curry ramen and ninja soba noodles
What’s your favourite photo of your entire trip?
I couldn’t choose between the two photos below. I think they both portray Japan’s culture and philosophy of appreciating constantly changing beauty and the flow of nature.
Goway showcases numerous Japan options on our website and can tailor make any program your client requests. Irina mentions travel to the North. We can offer the same regions along with a Rail Pass covering those ‘off the beaten path’ areas. Our most popular options include the Highlights of Japan and Explore Japan, which are both a small group journeys. One recently added program is the Japan Delights, which is on sale until December 31, 2018. This highly flexible program includes just airfare, accommodation, and a 7-day Japan Rail Pass, giving clients the freedom to add any excursions they would like. We also suggest an extended stay in Tokyo at the start.