It takes a lifetime to become an expert on Japan and none of us would claim that distinction. On the other hand, between Paul and Charlie we have explored most of the islands and Paul, in his singular way, has ventured into some more unusual areas. They have sampled all kinds of transport, accommodation and food and can create simple or highly complex holidays to Japan to suit all your requirements.
Why we like Japan
It is frequently quoted that Japan is very similar to Britain. An island race, slightly odd idiosyncratic tendencies, very reserved and never been conquered (well at least for a thousand years). Perhaps that is why we find the country so interesting and appreciate its values? And there is of course the cherry blossom in spring, delicious food and a politeness that is at times difficult to comprehend.
What to expect on your Japan holiday
It is a strange and somewhat disconcerting feeling being in a country where you do not understand either the language, the alphabet or indeed the nuances of anything that is going on around you. Fortunately our guides are well versed in this dilemma and will steer you through the formalities and customs that form such an important part of Japanese everyday life.
The transport system is a joy. Spotlessly clean and unbelievably efficient and will move you effortlessly from the crowds and neon of the new world to the calm serenity of the old. Be warned that Japan can be expensive – although with the current exchange rate there has rarely been a better time to go.
Some ideas for a Japan holiday
- Watch the world’s largest tuna auction at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo
- Visit a Sumo wrestling bout at a Sumo stable
- Spend a leisurely few days in Kyoto, the old capital, and soak up the traditional way of life that is not so visible elsewhere
- Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
- Visit in spring to see the magnificent cherry blossom
- Enjoy Japan’s scenery, from the picturesque Japanese Alps where small villages offer perfect conditions for trekking, to the awe inspiring Mount Fuji
- The turquoise seas and magnificent coral reefs of the Pacific island of Okinawa
- Hokkaido, an island in the north, is home to some of the country’s indigenous people and is an important agricultural centre
Beyond the ordinary
The 30 tropical islands of Ogasawara are designated a World Natural Heritage area yet due to their remote and relatively inaccessible location, some 1000km's from Tokyo, they remain a hidden gem. Only two of the islands are inhabited and they can only be reached by boat, taking 25 hours so not for the faint hearted. That said, these far-flung islands are a haven for wildlife, from whales and turtles to endemic birds and insects as well as some wonderful diving opportunities - a truly off the beaten track part of the world.
Is it easy to travel by train and public transport?
Yes, it is an incredibly efficient and relaxing way to explore the country. Within cities such as Tokyo the public transport can initially feel bewildering but there are underground maps similar to those in London and everything runs like clockwork with delays a very rare occurrence! Outside of Tokyo is it possible to travel by bullet train and scenic trains as well as a range of excellent bus services. Steppes Travel can pre-book all of these services for you.
I have heard it is easy to transfer luggage from one part of the country to another if I don't wish to travel with all of my bags. Is this true?
It is incredibly easy and cheap to transfer your luggage from one city to another. If for example you are travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto by train via the Japanese Alps and don't wish to travel with all of your baggage you can pack a smaller bag for a few nights and the concierge at most hotels will then prepare and send your main luggage to your next destination. The cost will depend on the length of the journey and the weight/size of your bags but on average you can expect this service to cost around £25 per suitcase.