Explore's Operations Director John Telfer recently visited Japan to see if it's business as unusual…..
Following on from the dramatic events earlier this year, I was hosted by the Japan National Tourism Organization to visit and to see how the country was back on its feet. We run 10 departures a year and I wanted to be sure all was well.
I have been in tourism for over 20 years and have travelled to over 90 countries. I have to say that Japan is one of the most unusual and intriguing countries I have ever had the pleasure to visit. Before touching on why a traveller should consider Japan, is there any reason to hesitate because of the (not so) recent natural disaster? The answer is a categorical “no” – Japan is ready and waiting. Yes there are localised areas damaged by the Tsunami, but these are not on the standard tourist routes. Having travelled to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka; taken bullet trains, ferries and buses and undertaken hotel checks in each location, I can definitively say that all infrastructure is intact and fully functioning. Is it inappropriate to visit? Absolutely not – tourism is an important part of the economy. Are the locals welcoming to tourists? – incredibly so. I have never experienced such a courteous culture – simple things such as the train conductor bowing as he enters the carriage to check on tickets.
I am not a foodie, but each meal was exhilarating. If you are fond of seafood, it is paradise. A particular highlight was going to Tokyo’s fish market at 0500 in the morning and having a sushi breakfast served fresh on the counter of a tiny restaurant. Walking through department stores and food halls was incredible, as was a grand dinner on the top floor of the Park Hyatt (as per Lost in Translation), watching sunset and the silhouette of Mount Fuji against the horizon.
The Shinto shrines were just amazing, oases of calm and tranquillity. The Karaoke bars the reverse.
Travel hints: Whoever you travel with, make sure you stay in a Ryokan – traditional Japanese Inns where you sleep on futons. Try a natural hot bath (called an Onsen). Jump on a bullet train (make sure you get a budget JR pass before leaving the UK). Be adventurous with the food!
View Explore's Shogun Trail holiday to experience the intrigue of Japan for yourself