2 Aug 15' - TOKYO, HAKONE, KYOTO, HIROSHIMA
Everything that ViaJapan organised worked like clockwork, and the detailed itinerary was extremely helpful, and accurate, even down to which train platform we had to leave from!
Before our two week encounter with Japan, there were expectations of a completely different country, with likely culture shock. On arrival in Tokyo, however, there were many things that seemed familiar as well as many contrasts. Like London, Tokyo is a big, heaving city, with a mix of historic sites, high-end shops, sky scrapers, a busy transport system and beautiful parks. Striking differences that we met everywhere that we went in Japan included the exceptional cleanliness of streets and transport, great organisation and punctuality and, most of all, the polite, respectful, friendly and helpful manner of the Japanese people (we met much kindness in helping us navigate complex street layouts and railway stations – especially the world’s busiest – Shinjuku Station). Health consciousness was a theme that we met first at Tokyo airport when we were passed through a body temperature scanner to prevent the landing of fevered visitors, and then we encountered many locals wearing face masks to avoid infection. Hotels and restaurants made sure that we were kept clean with hand wipes before every meal. We enjoyed the comfort of heated ‘western style’ loo seats, but were less keen on the traditional hole-in-ground option, which was sometimes all that was available; and finding soap, loo roll and hand towels was a novelty in most public conveniences which seemed to contradict the general standards of cleanliness. As for the food, Japanese cuisine presented a few challenges, from mastering chopsticks to chewing raw fish and chicken gizzard, as well as swallowing sweets made mostly of bean curd. We appreciated some new tastes but were also happy to divert to the familiarity of Indian, Italian, Mexican and Chinese menus, all of which had a rather strange local spin.
Definitely a trip to remember. Many thanks once again – I will certainly recommend your company to others.