It was a very interesting and unique trip as they all tend to be. I really liked and appreciated the content and flow for each of the segments. Both Emiko and Miho are terrific guides. We have learned to love and now treasure Miho and look forward to seeing her again.
Here are my thoughts of appropriate titles to capture these experience so that others may follow this same route.
Part One- “THE ART ISLANDS- a visit that every art lover needs to do!” Tip: Must have enough time to wander the small installations and visit the smaller islands (Inujima, etc.) Must stay at Benesse Oval room with terrace (there are two) on last night and to not leave the room except for early dinner and late night museum tour (priceless). It’s that good! The Kurashiki Ryokan base worked better than I thought as it gave some very welcome unprogrammed “walk around” time with interesting shops and small restaurants, markets, flea markets, etc.
Part Two- “The First Gentle Steps of a Japanese Buddhist Pilgrimage tour” – an introduction to this Japanese rite of passage. Tip: Read about Koyasan history and relevance before arriving. Next time, I would allow a second day to do complete the women’s route around the eight peaks. That would be satisfying. Hiking guide was very good. Souji-in was quite comfortable but I think we had the largest room (at least 38 tatami mats). The vegetarian meals are something to write home about! Served by a young monk these abundant and elaborate menus included the most luxurious tofu on earth. I would return just for the Koyasan sesame tofu!
Had really no idea what to expect about Sasayuri-Ann. Being “on your own” in your own villa owned by a Buddhist priest in Japan might be thought of as intimidating. Particularly with a Michelin star chef doing the personal cooking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Relaxed, congenial, humorous, like being with good friends. And eating well! I managed to rally in the early morning for the waterfalls walk and it was absolutely worth it. The whole experience was over, again, too quickly. Next time I would stay two days and add some of the neat things on offer while here. Or maybe just relax, take a walk around the neighborhood, and read a book. Loved Muro-ji Temple which we thought might be the one that my late friend, Hiroshi, took us to 30 years ago. Alas, it was not this one so our personal search goes on!
All in all we did cover a lot of ground and topics and all of the while dodging typhoons. We were too early for the Fall leaf color so we will need to return for that experience.
Thanks for thinking through all of the details and making the experience seamless!
Amy Gould and Matthew Polk – Maryland
We want to thank you for taking on our arrangements for our 8 hour port calls which was very much appreciated. For us, it was our priority to use JapanQuest Journeys for those things where we knew you would add extraordinary value. And that’s exactly what happened. You really delivered for us in the most important places (Kyoto, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kobe) and our critical transfers and special experiences (like the baseball game!).
All of your guides–as well as those who assisted us with transfers–were classy, professional, warm and helpful, each of them going above and beyond their “job descriptions”. For example, Miho assisted some of us in arranging a Kobe beef dinner in Kobe (recommending a place, booking the reservation for us, contacting the restaurant with our special needs). Miho also gave us Saki brewery recommendations for our second Kobe day. Sako made special dinner arrangements twice in Tokyo at small, intimate places that she frequents. She even went with us, on a rainy evening after her work day ended, to be sure we got to the restaurant and were well received. She bent over backwards to accommodate our special requests like going back to Tsukiji Fish Market on our second day with her and changing the order of our tours when we asked. All of your guides brought with them aids like pictures or diagrams to better explain things they were telling us. These things set them apart from most guides.
Your recommendations about what to see and what to skip were spot on, Scott. We feel we spent our time wisely and that was in large part due to you and your guides. And here’s an example: After our full day on Miyajima Island and at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, we were spent. As you know, it’s hard to even speak when you come out of that museum. Mitsue suggested we then go to the nearby Shukkeien Garden. Our first instinct was to decline and head back to our ship. But she politely pushed us to go for just a short time. It turned out to be the exact right thing for us. All of the horror that we were processing was tempered by the tranquility and beauty of the garden. It was the perfect ending to an emotional day.
The bottom line is that we were thrilled with our trip, with your work and with your staff on the ground in Japan. We have recommended JapanQuest Journeys several times since we’ve returned and will continue to do so. We have also touted your excellence to several travel agents whom we know. And we’re hoping to work with you again someday!
Barbara and Dan Freeman – California
Superb. That’s the word that comes to mind in thinking how to best describe our JapanQuest Journeys experience. To a person, each one of you with whom we interacted went out of your/their way to make sure that we had an outstanding experience. Miho, Sako, and Mitsue were wonderful guides who couldn’t do enough for us. In addition to their expert guiding, they each generously shared some of their own personal stories which added so much to our understanding of Japanese culture as well as giving us a glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary Japanese women and their families. Our drivers couldn’t have been lovelier or more gracious!
Every step of the way, Miho, Sako, and Mitsue went out of their way to make our experiences extraordinary and they succeeded. We got to know Miho and Sako better as we spent two days with them and in the intervening days, they were so helpful in making restaurant recommendations as well as suggesting other things we could do in our spare time. Saying goodbye to each of them was sad.
Philip, we’d also like to thank you for spending time with us last week and sharing the history of the Jewish community in Japan, as well as YOUR history in Japan, and for giving us a tour of your lovely synagogue and Jewish community center. You created a space that felt very much like home for us.
I’ve already spoken to one friend who is planning a trip to Japan and will be calling you. I would expect that between all of us, you will hear from many more.
Once again, thank you for all of the time you spent with us on the phone, in email, in person, and for coordinating such wonderful experiences for us on our most memorable trip to Japan.
Hedy and Mike Milgrom – Cleveland, OH
Excellent trip, flawlessly executed. Included a huge range of experiences, superb guide. JapanQuest Journeys and Scott Gilman were a pleasure to work with… we highly recommend!
Caren and Lou – Washington, DC
We had an absolutely wonderful time in Japan.
Tomo, our guide, was great – really enjoyed our time with her; transportation was perfect; private experiences fun, interesting and eye-opening. Kyoko was a dream. Loved the tea ceremony. Ikebana was fun (and hilarious.) Geisha experience has given me lots to think about. Thoroughly enjoyed the Aman, Yoshikawa Inn and The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. Loved the museums on Naoshima and Teshima.
We really enjoyed being based in Kyoto and visiting Arashiyama, Nara, and Hiroshima from there. None of them disappointed for sure. The tower in Hiroshima is new since I’d been there and really adds to the experience. Had some outstanding meals and Nakajin was AMAZING – you must add it to your list. Lunches were fantastic – very casual and local – udon, ramen, soba, steak, yakitori, and okonomiyaki.
Thanks again, Scott.
Bonnie Lang – New York, New York
The trip was fantastic!
Junko, our fearless leader, was a wealth of information and ensured I had a vegan option for lunch no matter how remote our location. She was able to pack in tons of sightseeing, shopping and all of our experiences seamlessly. She always had maps on-hand to explain where we were, where we were going and how to get to dinner. She paid special attention to all of our interests and tirelessly answered our endless stream of questions.
We had been talking with her about her practice of calligraphy and, so, on one of our last days she brought each of us our names written in calligraphy and brushes for us to take home. We thoroughly enjoyed every day we spent with her. We also loved Atsushi and George, our drivers in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Jason–Thank you again for planning such a great trip on short notice. We had an amazing time!
Heather – New York, New York
Jason Gilman planned an unforgettable trip to Japan that we will always cherish. We had an amazing time and loved every second of the trip. Our guide, Reiko- san, was exceptional and the true highlight throughout our journey. Her attitude was fabulous and she was flawless from start to finish. Even our drivers offered wonderful service and contributed positively to our trip. We loved Japan, the people and especially our carefully curated culinary experiences.
JapanQuest Journeys’ services were seamless and far surpassed our expectations. We never had to be idle as there was always something to do.
Our retreat into the mountains of rural Nara and our stay at Sasayuri-Ann was particularly memorable.
It was an extremely well planned, perfect trip. We cannot wait to plan another trip with Jason and JapanQuest Journeys!
Teddy and Alexander – London, UK
Our trip was wonderful, no glitches and Mimi, our guide, was terrific. What’s more, even the weather cooperated. Japanese people are so polite and friendly and our interactions were very fine.
The whole family enjoyed the baseball game that our son Peter had asked to include as well as the tea ceremony, Zen meditation, and the taiko drumming practice. The latter was a hoot and so much fun! The variety of activity really kept the trip interesting for all ages throughout our trip.
You made the trip a wonderful experience for all. Thank you, Scott.
Marv Looby – Minneapolis, MN
Scott knows and loves Japan! He arranged every detail of a two-week tour of Japan that gave not only cultural insights into the country but also included experiences of the day to day life. In Tokyo, we visited the food market, rode the subways, explored department stores and also went to sporting events. With limited time; Scott arranged an evening baseball game of the home town favorites Giants vs. Tigers and an early morning visit to a Sumo Stable to see up close the wrestlers in their practice. In Kyoto, we had two special private experiences one with a monk showing us meditation techniques in a Buddhist Temple and second touring ceramic studios outside the city, with a well-known expert in this field.
But, what really made this trip most special was the guide that Scott arranged for us. She was the most experienced and professional guide we have ever had and we saw Japan through her lovely and smiling eyes! Scott planned every detail perfectly from the guide, the hotels, the sights, the experiences and all with precision!
I would highly recommend anyone planning a unique and personal trip to Japan to contact Scott Gilman.
Kathy Drew – Wynnewood, PA
The Tokyo Station Hotel was an excellent choice; central location, sophisticated styling and conveniences, lovely people, and easy daily transfer to Mika and the auto. Thanks for the welcoming fruit basket!
Mika, our guide, as you know, is great: very knowledgeable and engaging…as well as punctual and able to cope with intrusions into our plans; she was familiar enough with factors on the ground, for example, that she and the drivers could adjust to the many roadblocks caused by the President’s visit. Our time with Kyoko was a blast and we learned a lot. She’s incredibly experienced, well-versed and quick-witted: lots of fun. You seem to have a special place in her heart. Mika was also able to effectively shift our itinerary, at our request, to include a knife shop that Kyoko recommended in the cooking-supply-store area on Kappabashi Street.
The food at Gora Kadan was beautiful and the gestalt, unlike anything we’d experienced. It was a nice way to end our month in Asia.
John Masko – Cumberland, RI
Mary Ann and I want you to know how pleased we were with our trip to Japan. You have been exceptionally thoughtful and it is much appreciated. The trip was truly an unforgettable experience not only because the Japanese and their country are extraordinary, but also because of the exceptional personality and skills of our guide, Mihoko. We have traveled extensively and can say without hesitation that she is the best, most well-informed, buoyant, organized, flexible and entertaining professional we have ever had the pleasure to be with. She is very special and a great complement to you and your team. Many, many thanks, Scott.
Steve and Mary Ann Philips – Bryn Mar, PA
We had a fabulous time and can’t stop talking about it. Thank you for all the expert recommendations and planning. It was an epic journey! Everything ran very smoothly and the best part of our trip was our guide, Sako-san. We cried when we had to leave her and she is such a special person. She adapted beautifully, could not have had a better guide. Understood exactly how to balance activities, detail and was warm, fun and flexible. We can’t wait to return, so much more to see and experience and we loved the choreography. Tokyo, Kyoto, Naoshima, Nara – the balance with special experiences – artist’s homes, ceramicists were terrific.
Betty Hitt – Los Angeles, CA
Our stay for the first three nights in Tokyo was wonderful. Wandering thru the Minamiazabu neighborhood that first evening we found a terrific little ramen place and scoped out a coffee shop for the next morning. The coffee shop proved rather providential as when we arrived that morning, it was also where Sako had gone prior to getting started. Everything went tremendously from there!
We would, in fact, have to say that Sako was such a pleaser to be with we couldn’t imagine having had a better time. From the start of our sightseeing at Tsukiji, all the way through Senso-ji and the Meiji Shrine and the Omotesando Hills the next day, she was knowledgeable of all the sights and remarkably adept at meeting our interests in the places and experiences we wanted to have. We especially appreciated the department store dining spots she led us to for lunches and the extra effort she made to find a bike shop with a Japan-only bike jersey Bill wanted. She was a real pleasure to be with and we count ourselves more than fortunate she was our guide.
For an experience of the countryside and the highlands, we can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed Art Biotop. The garden, for anyone interested in landscape design, really is a wonder to behold. And the resort itself we thoroughly enjoyed. With the understanding that it’s wasn’t surprising that dining there (or practically anywhere in Japan) was amazing, we have to say that the seasonal menu at Art Biotop was truly one of the highlights of the trip. The staff and the accommodations were likewise wonderful. And so was Tetsuya with Ride Experience. For Bill, the biking was really one of the most enjoyable experiences of the whole trip. The ride through the countryside was stunning and the service and equipment Tetsuya provided were exceptional even compared to some similar services Bill’s used in the US. We also enjoyed a visit to the Nasu Kohgen brewery where the variety of craft beers there were among the best we’ve had anywhere, including here in Asheville.
Kanazawa was yet another highlight. Junko was indefatigable in ensuring we got as a wide range of experience there as was possible. The Omicho Market was, of course, another highlight but so was the castle park and Kenroku-en garden. Everywhere Junko took us, she was extremely knowledgeable about the history, culture and other aspects of those locations. The D. T. Suzuki Museum was as billed an extraordinarily serene and contemplative space we also enjoyed. With the crowds being as large as they were given our holiday week timing, we were extremely grateful for Junko knowing that the multi-museum passes she got us at the smaller venues like the Noh museum allowed us to skip the huge lines at the larger ones such as the Contemporary Art Museum. Appreciating art as we do, that museum was phenomenal. The range of works and the design of the museum itself were nothing short of tremendous.
The next day in Shirakawa-go was yet another amazing experience. Thanks to our early start on the day, we fortunately were able to beat much of the rush even though by the time we got there, we still ended up walking the last half mile or so into the village from where the line of cars in had all but ground to a halt (on the way out of town a few hours later the line was backed up all the much further). Junko was again as knowledgeable and full of insights into the culture and history of the place as we could imagine.
We would also note what a wonderful time we had that evening at for dinner at Cottage. The proprietors were just delightful and for a singular break from Japanese food, the pizza and lasagna were excellent. Likewise, we enjoyed the hotel. As an interlude from our private accommodations, it was as luxurious as any hotel we’ve experienced and the local and western breakfast options they offered were superb. Of course, for us, the Japanese breakfast took the cake!
One other great experience in Kyoto we enjoyed, was a tour of their brewery. We’ve been to other large-scale industrial breweries but this one was quite exceptional. Our visits to Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama and other sites were sensational. Kyoto Bike Tours, though not as entirely well equipped as Ride Experience, did provide Bill with another memorable outing and would also thoroughly recommend their service as well. Another highlight though, among many, was our visit to Takahashi Toku. Our 45-minute tour turned into an almost 2-hour long immersion into this traditional art form and aesthetic.
We can’t say enough about Naoshima and Kurashiki. Visiting the museums and other installations on the island was phenomenal. And experiencing Ryokan Kurashiki was perhaps the most pleasant stay of the entire trip. The kaiseki menu we were provided with each night was practically breathtaking in its presentation and enjoyment.
A final thrill for us was on our Shinkansen back to Tokyo, we were rewarded with a stunning view of Fuji-san. Pat had been fortunate to see it years ago but not nearly as close up as we did from the train.
Finally, we greatly appreciated that your itinerary was blocked out so that we alternated big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto with smaller ones like Nasu and Kurashiki and that we stayed at least 2 nights at each location.
All in all, this trip was the experience of a lifetime. The resources and insight you provided enabled us to enjoy it more so that we could imagine and we will be recommending you to everyone we know considering a visit to Japan.
Bill and Pat Katz – Asheville, NC
We had a wonderful trip to Japan. First off, let me thank you for MASAKO. She was a lovely person and so much fun to be with. She was a great guide, flexible and thoughtful. Although, it did take her a while to get our jokes and figure out when we were kidding! Thank you for “changing up” the itinerary so Robin and I didn’t repeat much.
We really enjoyed our time spent on the art islands. I had no idea they existed, but the museums, etc. there were certainly interesting. We loved Ryokan Kurashiki. It was lovely, and the staff was too. The dinner we had in Ryokan Kurashiki was spectacular.
We absolutely loved the visit with Yasuhisa Kohyama. Both he and his daughter were gracious and delightful and we had a wonderful time. The visit with Tango Tanimura was super. He was so generous with his time and explanations. Being able to be in small villages and individual’s homes is very nice. Mt. Koya was also interesting. Okunoin was eerie and beautiful. Masako was very good at explaining what we were seeing. Robin and I did attend prayers with the monks.
One of my personal favorites was Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple. Sumo practice was amazing. A bit hard to sit still on the floor for that long for us. We also enjoyed the performance in Kyoto. We went to the Tokyo Edo Museum and Masako took us to TeamLab, which was really interesting. Each of these was informative and worth visiting.
Masako recommended two restaurants for our last nights. We really enjoyed each of them. Both Moritaya and Daigomi were lots of fun and the food was really good. In fact, all the food we had was great. Masako’s recommendations for lunch were perfect for us, and she also steered us to some great dinner spots.
Cherry blossoms were late this year – Kyoto was spectacular as was Mt. Koya. Unexpected, but nice.
Linda Louis – Vancouver, BC
Jason–Thanks so much for organizing an extraordinary trip to Japan. We have traveled around the world over many decades, including Japan, but never had such a well organized and thoughtfully arranged trip. Special recognition goes to our guide Sako who was extremely knowledgeable and was always thinking of ways to add experiences and rearrange plans depending on circumstances and our desires. She became a real friend.
Extremely important—the logistics were superb. A car was always waiting; a comfortable speedboat was always on hand in the Inland Sea, a knowledgeable special guide was at every train station ready to lead us without effort from one train to another. Drivers were always efficient and careful; cars were always clean, etc., etc.
Restaurant recommendations were wonderful, even for quick ramen lunches. We literally had a succession of different culinary adventures. The special experiences—cooking class, visit to ceramic artists, meditation session with a Zen monk, tea ceremony, etc. were serious and meaningful. The hotels wonderful—from Palace, Tokyo, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, and our ryokan also. And of course, the itinerary was thoughtfully conceived based on our particular interests and desires. You even arranged good weather and lots of flowering cherry trees!
Ann and Matt N – New York, New York
Scott–I wanted to say thank you for the whole trip. Your company is fantastic! We have worked with a lot of people who purport to offer the service you provide – seamless touring with bespoke and exquisite experiences – but there are incredibly few that we have found that deliver.
In all respects, you and your tour guides have exceeded our expectations. Alexis and I both have extensive experience with customized travel, and we would gladly be references for you and your company.
Thank you very much for everything.
Alex Rogers – Boston, Massachusetts
Thank you for all of the arrangements you did -we had a great time!
Souji-in on Mt Koya was especially spectacular!! We loved it and were glad to have had a private driver on the way up-
we loved the room, vegan food, and temple- the people in the temple were wonderful!
The trip to Nara was also fantastic….our guide was very informative and easy going -he brought us to the most fantastic soba restaurant, up to a hill, near the deer park, something we would have never found on our own.
Kurama was also so beautiful—fun to go up there and then take the train back to town.
Hiiragiya was also fantastic……the first night in Kyoto we stayed at the Ritz which is great with the big open views….all the modern stuff but so tasteful. It took a day to adjust to Hiiragiya-the sound of the old appliances, and the rhythm of the house. After a day, I never wanted to leave….staying downstairs in the old part was wonderful.
Thank you again!
Liz Pearson – New York, New York
We had a wonderful trip, indeed!
First of all, Sumiyo was probably one of the best guides our family ever has had. She was incredibly knowledgable, informative, personable, honest and to boot, she is an absolutely wonderful story-teller and comic! I cannot say enough about how impressed and comfortable we were with Su. Thank you so much for arranging for her to guide us on our trip.
Second, the lunches were really dinners. Most of the lunches you arranged were quite special, with gorgeous surroundings, ambiance, and incredible food (including the sheer quantity of food at each lunch). Each lunch was definitely an experience. It allowed us to have simpler dinners because we were still full by the evening!
Third, the Capitol Hotel Tokyu was wonderful and had the best service of all the hotels (except the Four Seasons).
Fourth, the cultural experiences you arranged (flower arranging, tea ceremony, samurai, cooking, sumo practice, and geisha evening) were all wonderful. The Sumo wrestling experience was genuine, mesmerizing and almost surreal. Everyone loved the cooking lesson, and it was quite special to be welcomed into Kyoko’s home. The tea ceremony, geisha experience, and flower arranging came at a good time on the trip because we had had enough days in Japan under our belts to have some cultural context for these experiences.
Fifth, Naoshima and the other islands were beyond description. These art experiences are astounding and unlike anything else, we have ever experienced. The Art Houses were exciting and the smaller islands were absolutely 100% worth visiting. We felt like we were finally in the real Japan. We even felt like we could have spent another two days on the islands, as the site-specific art and the conceptual art and the architecture is so astonishing that it takes a while for it to sink in and for you to start to appreciate the incredible attention to detail that is in everything on these islands.
We loved Kyoto. It felt very genuine and comfortable. We enjoyed a few long (unguided) walks through the city in various areas, and that was definitely wonderful. Building in time to stroll and wander and shop and take in the culture, sounds, and smells and temples and shrines were really good.
Of course, the gardens, shrines, temples, the bamboo forest, and other major sites were incredible.
We loved being in Japan. It was a truly welcoming, educational, cultural and gourmet experience.
Thank you for all of your efforts and such unfailing and timely responsiveness.
Ruth, Liz, and Sande Baum and Family – New York, New York
We spent two days in Tokyo and a half day in Kamakura. We loved it all. Our guide, Sako was fabulous. Her enthusiasm, knowledge, and efficiency were remarkable. She was on top of everything yet also very flexible. Last week was the week that the grounds of the Imperial Palace were open to the public to view the changing of the leaves. When we mentioned it to her, she immediately took us there before the crowds arrived. We almost had it to ourselves. It was beautiful. We made many other interesting and fun stops along the way. We both enjoyed everything. Leaving Tokyo to go to Kamakura was a great idea. It was an easy ride and the town was beautiful. The great Buddha and the Kannon Museum were wonderful. We also walked along the charming streets of Kamakura and had a yummy lunch. On the way to the airport, we stopped at a large cemetery on the outskirts of town in which Sugihara Chiune is buried. He was the Japanese Consul to Lithuania during WWII and despite being told to do otherwise by his government in Tokyo he personally wrote 6000 visas for escaping Jews. We were honored to have seen his gravesite.
All in all, a great trip.
Thank you so much.
Alan Samuels – New York, New York
Ken and I have found it very difficult to re-enter the realm of the mundane after being in the sublime! Our trip was all we could have hoped for and more. Thank you. First and foremost, Mihoko started the adventure as our guide and ended as our friend. She is a wonderful woman – full of humor, patience and incredible knowledge. You were right when you said she was one of the best! We totally agree. She really “made” the trip for us and we are very lucky to have had her with us. We were very sorry to wave goodbye\\\\\\\ on Thursday and we hope to see her when she comes to the States. All of our drivers were professional and we have never seen such clean cars! We are now spoiled and will be hard pressed to find a taxi or an Uber to measure up in Boston.
The hotels you chose for us were all wonderful. The Palace was a gem and our room with the most amazing view of Tokyo was a real haven at the end of a busy day. Of all the others, the last Ryokan, Minamkan, in Matsue City was our favorite. Again – the view! And the sunset! We loved being in a part of Japan that was not a tourist destination – we really did not see another American during our time in Shimane. And, I apologize for doubting you. There were, indeed, peonies in bloom in Yushien Garden. We hit such incredible foliage everywhere we went – the colors were as we had hoped but did not dare to expect. We were constantly amazed by all the gardeners sweeping the moss and digging weeds. Every garden was so well tended – not a piece of litter or a weed to be seen anywhere.
We saw brides at the Meiji Shrine and children for the 3-5-7 Festival in several cities – two experiences that really enhanced our stay. Lots of giggles as Ken made friends with his very novice Japanese – the kids loved it! We have loads of pictures we cannot wait to share with our granddaughters (age 3 and 5). We were constantly struck by how well behaved all the children were!
The restaurants you suggested were another highlight. The variety and quality of the food really stood out. We never craved a cheeseburger and happily ate anything and everything that was presented – even adding to several of the menus things that sounded interesting. The chef at Zeniya was delightful and we loved talking with him as well as eating his amazing sushi.
The indigo dying was a hoot! What a delightful young man – and what fun souvenirs we have from that day. Honesty, Scott, you chose our experiences carefully and we loved each one! Our favorite was the cooking lesson. Not only did we get to see a Japanese home, but Kyoko made us feel so incredibly welcome and taught us a great deal. She even showed us the dress she wore to your daughter’s wedding – spectacular! She was a delight and we learned a great deal (as well as had a fabulous meal!).
I could go on and on with superlatives. Thank you for a truly special trip. We travel a great deal world wide, and Ken and I agree this was one of the best times we have had. There was nothing we would have changed. We mean every word and will have no reservations about recommending JapanQuest Journeys to friends and family. We count ourselves very lucky to have found you.
Marta Johnston – Boston, Massachusetts
Our trip was amazing! Thank you for all your assistance with planning. Sako was incredible in every way, we couldn’t have asked for a better guide.
The private experiences were all fun and interesting. I especially loved the ikebana class and the meditation session was quite memorable.
You’re restaurant suggestions were spot-on and all our meals were great. It was very helpful to have a curated list of restaurants to choose from and not have to sift through all the possibilities in each city. Sako took us to great local places for lunch and we had a lovely dinner with her in Kyoto at a place we could have never experienced without a Japanese speaker. The chance to try more of Japan’s amazing restaurants is reason enough to plan a return trip.
This was my first trip to Japan and didn’t know what to expect. I have to say, I really loved it. The people are welcoming and there’s a wide variety of things to see and experience. I would love to go back.
Thanks again for your assistance and expertise. It was a great trip!
Ann Rial – Pelham, New York
Great trip! We just loved it. Assigning Sako-san to us was your greatest gift. Everyone should be able to tour Japan with her.
We would highly recommend a tour through you to anyone.
It was a real pleasure to work with you on this fascinating, thrilling trip. It was a truly wonderful trip of a lifetime.
Your restaurant suggestions were absolutely excellent! Dining was one of our favorite parts of the trip.
It was an incredible trip, and we are so grateful for all your guidance and arrangements.
Richard Lapin, Jill Jewett, and Jan Geniesse – Houston, Texas and New York, New York
Trip was great. We enjoyed it all .. especially the special experiences you put together for us. We thought all of our guides were professional and pleasant .. especially the ones in Tokyo and Takayama/Shirakawago, etc.. Our guide in Kyoto was also great.
Thanks for helping us out. Your hints and tips were very good. Also, your selection of restaurants was superb. Not only was the food great but the owners and servers were very kind and helped us through everything.. including personally making sure we got taxis back to the hotels.
Danny Sabbah – Briarcliff, New York
Overall, the trip was spectacular!
We especially enjoyed, in no particular order:
The Palace – our room was so spacious and elegant. We wished we had more time there. We spent as much time as we could on the terrace, and we also loved being able to eat breakfast outside every morning.
Kyoko! What a wonderful experience — we were at her house for almost six hours. The conversation never stopped, and I learned a few new tricks. She REALLY needs to write a cookbook. All of the private experiences were memorable and special. I really bonded with Rev. Kawakami.
All of your restaurant recommendations were stellar. If we had to rank them, we would put Hafuu Honten and Miyazawa at the top of the list. Kanesaka at the Palace was also exceptional. We also loved breakfast at Sushi Sei.
Kayotei is magnificent. We loved our room, and the service was stellar. We did not expect to meet an American (Chanessa) working there. It was a nice surprise. Our room at Souji-in may be bigger than our Brooklyn apartment. It was so lovely — and while prepared for a bland vegetarian meal, the food was outstanding.
On our free day, we went to Nara but made a stop at Fushimi Inari first because EVERYONE told us we needed to go there once they saw that were in Japan. The power of Facebook/Instagram! It was worth the trip and should be part of the suggested itinerary. Plus, it is easy to get to Nara from there.
Our palatial corner suite in Osaka made for a great ending to an amazing trip. And that breakfast spread ranked No. 1 among all hotel breakfasts!
Finally…Hiromi. She always was ready to go the extra mile and hustled like the Energizer Bunny. Any time we had a question, she researched the answer thoroughly. It was like traveling with our own private Siri. She is fun, engaging and incredibly knowledgeable about everything from art to artisanal desserts. She and I actually broke down in tears when we said goodbye.
Your careful planning saved us from any stress — so we could fully enjoy the vacation and not worry about navigating our way around a foreign country in a language that we cannot read or understand! We did not realize there would be so many people handling all of our transfers in the end. It made for a very smooth, stress-free trip home!
So, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this trip a 20.
Lauren Young and Jonathan Lonner – Brooklyn, New York
We had an amazing time in Japan and can now say we’ve lived through a typhoon!
We really enjoyed the country and soaking up the culture each day – our guides were wonderful and we appreciated their thoughtfulness and patience. Each city presented a new adventure and we think Tokyo was our favorite although Osaka and Kyoto were also incredible and enjoyable.
I was very impressed with the Japanese precision and attention to detail and Alex was amazed by the cleanliness of the city transport system – were both impressed by the infrastructure. WOW. Amtrak is almost laughable in comparison. The Olympics in 2020 is sure to be a success from what we saw of the country’s capabilities.
Thank you for tailoring our trip on both budget and timing – you did a wonderful job and the restaurants were well chosen and delicious.
It was a trip of a lifetime and we appreciate your teams work in making it happen!
Sarah Baker – Washington, DC
We had a wonderful trip. It was a pleasure working and planning with you. Your guidance was excellent and all the people we dealt with in Japan were professional, nice, and efficient. We enjoyed traveling with Narumi. She’s easy to be with, very knowledgeable and extremely responsive.
Everything else was great. We still can’t believe that the trains run on time all the time and that all the people we encountered were friendly.
We especially loved the meditation session with the monk and our stay at Sasayuri-Ann – the fire ceremony, the bamboo flute player and the waterfall walk. We’re also glad we did the tea ceremony. Cooking with Kyoko was fun – we most enjoyed meeting her and being in her home.
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto was extraordinary. The level of service and the physical beauty of the hotel were incredible. We even met with the consultants who advised the hotel about its fabulous art collection, after we toured the collection with a staff member.
We’re really glad we went to Hiroshima.
Finally, I want to emphasize how easy it was to work with you as well as several on your team in Japan. You were more responsive than any other person I’ve ever worked with on a trip. Philip and Miho were equally responsive in Japan.
It was a wonderful trip!
Nancy Bronstein – New York, New York
We spent two weeks in Japan celebrating Sandy’s 80th birthday. It was a wonderful experience for the both us. I can only thank Scott Gilman for his expertise, cooperation, and friendship in making this a very special trip. Every aspect of the trip worked to perfection. His advice on hotels, sites, and restaurants was right on. As we said goodbye to our terrific guide, Sue-san, we all had tears in our eyes. Thank you JapanQuest Journeys for a special trip!
Ron and Sandy Roth – Naples, Florida
We were very pleased with our trip and want to thank you for a very special time.
Sako was the best thing that ever happened to us!! She was so thoughtful, kind and a beautiful person! She taught us a lot and is a great ambassador for Japan! It was fun!! Our main regret is your company only goes to Japan. We will certainly refer you and thanks for a job well done.
Kim and Scott – Colorado
In a place which is the number one service country in the world, JapanQuest Journeys matches that concept in spades. From our tour guide to hotel selection to the itinerary, JapanQuest Journeys is so complete and detailed. They also have access to wonderful private experiences such as a Geisha dinner.
Jason Gilman was always ready to answer questions and explain details!
John Britton – Bethesda, Maryland
Our family recently returned from an amazing three-week adventure in Japan, which would not have been possible without the expertise and planning of JapanQuest Journeys, specifically Jason Gilman. They have found the secret sauce that combines their intimate knowledge of Japan, awesome experiences, and the perfect itinerary.
Every detail & excursion, including the many unique experiences (sumo wrestling, cooking lesson, tea ceremony, drumming, and Buddhist temple stay…to name a few), were perfectly planned & executed…not a single hiccup.
We loved our guide…Naru…..she was a very special lady who not only treated us like family but made sure we experienced all the uniqueness and wonder that Japan has to offer.
We would highly recommend JapanQuest Journeys to anyone considering visiting Japan……as long as you are looking for a great experience & the creation of memories that will last forever.
Bender Family – Ottawa, Canada
Our experience in Japan was one of the most memorable adventures with our children that we have ever taken and I feel very lucky that we found you and your company. The people we met were so kind and generous. Although we were ready to come home after two weeks away, we were sad to leave. The guides and drivers you chose for us were wonderful. Sako especially – she is truly a special person and we were sorry to say goodbye to her. Hopefully, our paths will cross in the future.
We visited Tokyo, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Mt. Koya, and Osaka. Scott helped me create an itinerary that specifically catered to my family’s interests. He helped me choose cities to visit, the length of time in each destination as well as advise restaurants, accommodations, sites, and activities in each place. Scott arranged for the most amazing guides and drivers as well as unique experiences that were only available to us due to his amazing connections within Japan. Along with his partner Philip Rosenfeld, Scott thought of everything and our whole two-week vacation ran incredibly smoothly. We had one of the most exciting and stress-free family adventures ever. We look forward to planning another trip with him in the future.
Sarah Balassa – Winnetka, Illinois
We had an amazing time in Japan thanks to your careful planning and expert suggestions! We left Kiko-san yesterday and we miss her already! She is such a sweetie! We loved having her as part of the Sindell-Tejera family. Her patience, kindness, attention to our needs, sense of humor, and vast knowledge of Japan made our trip very memorable!! Thank you sooooo much!
We especially loved the sumo training, the drumming class, hiking in Koyasan, the cooking class, and the food!!
The logistics were absolutely perfect as were the hotels. We are happy to refer our friends to you when they see our awesome photos and decide to go to Japan!
Dale Sindell – Madrid, Spain
Jason–words cannot simply describe the bespoke vacation that we had in Japan. From the first time you and I connected for the planning process, I knew this would be a special journey. The suggested itinerary that you crafted took into account that I have gone to Japan many times (at least 2X/year) since 1985, but this was my wife’s first trip there as well as my two sons who are in their twenties. The trip was very successful and the customized experiences were a hit with everyone. The logistics were perfect, first-class lodging and the places where we dined were superb. The trip was so smooth that the last worry that I had was making sure that we all got to the plane on time, as we headed to Japan.
Our guide for the trip Takamatsu-san is so sweet, she made sure to find out what each member of the family liked and was able to customize the experience in real time. She made the itinerary that you and I developed come to life. Takamatsu-san even made lunch special, every day we had a different type of Japanese cuisine that was not ‘touristy’, very authentic with a lot of local flavors. The family enjoyed spending time with her so much that we even had a few dinners together and discovered a new one star Michelin restaurant in Kanazawa.
My wife and I will be making another trip to Japan and we will definitely use JapanQuest Journeys again to create another bespoke itinerary and a lifetime of memories.
Steve Chisolm – Huntington, New York
I really don’t know where to start to describe our wonderful time in Japan. The highlights were different for each of us but among them were dinner with Kyoko-san, the mediation session with Daiko Matsuyama at the Taizoin monastery, the day with Robert Yellin in Shigaraki, the view from the Aman Tokyo (kind of like looking down from above in a screen painting of court life) – just to name a few. I loved these parts because they were such a wonderful deeper dive into Japan from our first trips.
It was a good first foray into Japan for our children. They were pushing the envelope in intriguing and surprising ways. This is how our daughter put it in a text as they were arriving back home: “Great first trip to Asia. Our minds are blown open. Will never see Japanese traveling or living in the US the same. And also, so excellent to have context for manga, samurai, geisha, taiko, tatami mats, screen walls, kimono designs, and eating everything the ocean gives up. Out of this (my) world.”
Satoko, our guide, was wonderful – knowledgeable, patient and perceptive with the needs of our group, with a good sense of how much information to share without putting us into overload. Clearly, we would not have made it to all those places and events or managed all the details without your careful planning and her competent execution.
Thank you, Scott and JapanQuest Journeys- for a great trip. We will be processing all the things we saw and learned about Japan and about ourselves for many months to come.
Karina Thomas – Washington, DC
Scott and his team did a superb job of understanding who we are and what we wanted to see and do. We had a lot of unique experiences. To mention just a few: an intimate sumo experience, time with Buddhist leaders, overnight in a monastery, etc. were all terrific. The whole trip was well paced and we always had the option to do something else if the going became too strenuous.
Our guide Narumi was amazing. Every time we expressed a new interest, she found a way to meet it in the near future.
We would highly recommend Scott and his team for any trip.
Larry Seidman – Irvine, California
Thank you for planning such an amazing trip for us. We were lucky to be upgraded to a suite at the Conrad Tokyo that was absolutely gorgeous. The hotel was nicely situated close to transportation to get us around the city while on our own too. The Four Seasons in Kyoto was such a nice oasis and the Yoshikawa Inn was lovely with our room having direct garden access. It was so relaxing to go to sleep to the sounds of the stream outside.
Your restaurant suggestions were all very good, particularly in Kyoto. We would never have found these places on our own and I don’t think we had a bad meal while we were there.
Keiko, our guide, was the best! She fit in more stops that weren’t even on our itinerary according to our interests, such as the 21st Century Art Museum in Kanazawa that were so much fun. We’re convinced we saw at least 50% more than what we would have ever seen, if on our own. And she was very helpful in giving us detailed information for our days on our own in Nara and Tokyo.
We loved Japan. Both the people and places filled us with amazement and joy. Hopefully, we can get back there soon.
Thanks again for all of your help.
Nicole and Brian Walworth – Tinley Park, Illinois
We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves immensely. (Connor even said he didn’t want to come home.) While it was a little sad to see that all the cherry blossoms were gone, it was still very beautiful. Coming from Maine where things are only just now starting to sprout, I enjoyed seeing all the wisteria and azaleas in bloom. Returning to Japan brought back a lot of memories for me. I welcomed the opportunity to dust off some long forgotten Japanese.
Sako did a fantastic job of showing us around and teaching us about her native culture. She went out of her way to make sure everyone had an opportunity to stop and buy things in which they showed an interest, from kitchen knives for James to manga and Bandai model kits for Connor. Her restaurant suggestions were great; we particularly enjoyed the sushi restaurant in Omotesando that she recommended. Even though we spent Friday on our own, Sako left us with plenty of notes in Japanese to ensure we would get to where we wanted to go.
The accommodations were great. Connor especially enjoyed the ryokan night, lounging in his yukata and trying out the Japanese bath. Your company made everything very easy, leaving us free to just have a good time.
Thanks for everything!
Lauren and James Bechen – Cumberland, Maine
I wanted to thank you again for arranging this spectacular trip for us. We had a really wonderful time and love the diversity of the experiences of the three destinations we went to in Japan. All the meals and dinners were fabulous. Even though we ate a lot it seemed, I never felt full. The cooking in Japan is much lighter than even at high-end Japanese places in the US, I think, so I felt great afterward. And of course, I can’t say enough wonderful things about the white glove treatment we received all along our journey, from the bespoke customization of the itinerary in working with you, to the warm hospitality we received from all your associates in the field.
One of the most wonderful aspects of our trip was our guide Junko, who traveled with us for 3 days in Tokyo, 4 days in Kyoto, and then brought us to our ryokan, The Earth, in Toba. She was absolutely the most wonderful guide – warm, caring, full of knowledge, pleasant to travel with, and went above and beyond our expectations to ensure we enjoyed our time. The same can be said about our driver in Kyoto, Mr. Tatagi, who found the special chopsticks boutique for us, where we purchased a number of gorgeous rare and exotic wood chopsticks.
Lastly, I wanted to point out how special I thought the stay at The Earth was. After 8 days of touring, it was great to spend 4 quiet days at The Earth. The room Scott selected for us was wonderful, especially so because it was one of the few that had a dining room. So for 4 nights, the nice lady there who looked after us served us an elaborate Kaiseki dinner in our own private dining room.
We will never forget the great experiences from this trip.
Hien N. – Boston, Massachusetts
We had an excellent trip planning experience with Scott to create a very special holiday for my husband (Bob), 12-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son and I. Scott wanted to understand our priorities and interests. He had excellent suggestions and was incredibly responsive. Other than Bob unexpectedly getting the flu before our trip and delayed arrival, everything went as planned. Our guide for the week (Sako) was an invaluable resource to us and made the trip incredibly special. We appreciated her flexibility, knowledge, and sensitivity to what appealed to each member of our family. She had many wonderful suggestions and even called a restaurant we were eating at one night to make sure everything was going ok because she knew the menu was only in Japanese and my verbal skills are very basic. It would have been a very different trip without her.
Our trip highlights included:
•watching the Swallows beat the Giants!
•the animal cafes (hedgehogs, otters, and chinchillas)
•visiting the Snow monkeys
•a family Taiko drumming lesson
•participating in a traditional tea ceremony
•the beautiful Kenrokuen Gardens
•visiting the Fushimi Inari shrine and Golden Pavilion
•attend a private Sumo practice!
•trying roasted tea flavor Kit Kat
•staying at a traditional Japanese Ryokan and enjoying the hot springs
It was definitely one of our best family adventures ever. Thanks for everything! It definitely will not be our last family trip to Japan!
Nicole Grogan – Mercer Island, Washington
Thank you very much for arranging a special trip to Japan for me and my daughter to celebrate her graduation from high school. Everything was absolutely perfect. I think that our itinerary was very well chosen. We did not have so much time and we wanted to make sure my 18-year-old daughter was having fun which is not always so easy. We both loved Studio Ghibli and the monkey park and every day the guides were careful to accommodate our requests. I enjoyed all of our locations, hotels, and itineraries. Every room was well appointed, clean, safe and quiet. We slept so well every night, particularly at our ryokan. The Mandarin Oriental serves a fantastic breakfast buffet. The Ritz-Carlton was very luxurious (and yes – we did see Leonardo Di Caprio there).
Our guides were both fantastic. They clearly were enthusiastic to show us their beautiful country and they were very flexible to accommodate our interests and our energy levels. We very much enjoyed the cooking lesson. We were concerned that it might be too long or we might be too tired but I am glad that you convinced us to go. It was lovely to be in her home. She’s an amazing person and it was a treat. We enjoyed the Geisha show and especially our dinner with the Geishas. They are amazing and really did know how to put us at ease and have fun. It was fascinating. We loved our calligraphy class – the teacher was excellent. Every driver was fantastic and every transfer was smooth.
We were very lucky to have warm weather and sunny skies. We were particularly fortunate that the cherry blossoms came out when we got there and we got to experience the beauty of the season. Throughout the trip, I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy everything because of your careful planning and knowledge of Japan. I am very happy that I used your company. The level of professionalism is exceptional. I would use JapanQuest Journeys again and definitely recommend to my traveling friends.
Pam Keld – New York, New York
We enjoyed the trip immensely and felt the service we received from JapanQuest Journeys was outstanding! The guides provided were not only extremely knowledgeable, they were lovely people and very enjoyable to spend time with. Sako-san and Sue-san, they were both truly outstanding! The accommodations we had at each location, were superb and we couldn’t ask for anything better.
The private experiences we did were the highlight of the trip for each family member. From the cooking class to the drumming lesson to meditation with a monk — all were outstanding and quite memorable. We were able to cover a great deal of ground because of a well-coordinated process and appreciated having prompt and reliable drivers throughout the journey. We were also extremely impressed with the Japanese people and their culture – vowing to go back again.
John and Heidi O’Connor – Massachusetts
Thank you for creating an amazing trip for us.
We asked JapanQuest Journeys to help us plan a two-week trip to Japan, including Tokyo, Kyoto, and the Japanese Alps during the height of the autumn foliage season with less than two months notice. Other travel specialists that we contacted told us that there wasn’t enough time to plan or that they couldn’t customize itineraries.
Scott helped us create an itinerary that we would have created for ourselves if we had unlimited time to research and spoke/read fluent Japanese. Even though we already had rough ideas about an itinerary, Scott offered suggestions and modifications: thoughtful touches that completely took away some of the stress associated with train travel and included a ryokan in a smaller town that became a highlight of the trip! All hotels and ryokans were excellent.
We never felt like we were getting a boilerplate itinerary or were being forced to choose from a set of limited options. We chose which days we wanted guides and which days we didn’t. If we had unlimited time to spend in Japan and could make travel mistakes and laugh them off, we would still have loved Japan. Scott helped us maximize our time during a very short visit to an enchanting country.
We are already planning our next trip and hope JapanQuest Journeys can help us again!
Stacy and Adam L. – Nashville, Tennessee
We really enjoyed our trip to Japan. I can’t believe we didn’t do that sooner.
All the arrangements went very smoothly. Tomo was a great guide – fun to be with and very accommodating. I am glad that you were able to engage her on such short notice.
I really enjoyed our visits with Kimono makers, paper makers, and the zen meditation visit. The indigo dyeing visit was great. He is such an entertaining instructor. Tomo was able to take us to lovely “craft” shops everywhere we visited. And of course, the leaves cooperated.
Taking taxis was the right choice. They were efficient, plentiful and all had very friendly drivers. In fact, we found everyone in Japan very friendly, as well as efficient and polite.
Louis Robbins – Vancouver, Canada
The trip was wonderful. Scott planned a perfect trip for us for our first visit to Japan. The hotels were great, his restaurant recommendations were terrific, and most importantly we had a terrific guide, Junko, who traveled with us. Not only was Junko extremely knowledgeable, she was a pleasure to spend time with each day. We visited all the major sites in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Naoshima as well as cities and towns in the Japanese Alps so we were exposed to small villages as well as large cities.
We would definitely use Scott to plan another trip to Japan.
Jane Douglass – Newton Centre, Massachusetts
The trip was wonderful. We couldn’t have dreamed of a more exquisite trip. The guide was a true gem. Narumi was gleeful in showing us her country, well informed of the history, extremely attentive to our needs and interests, and open to our spur of the moment modifications to the itinerary. Her ever pleasant smile was a joy. We have used guides on previous travels, and she was the best.
Your planned itinerary was a perfect roadmap for our visit. The planned transfers, accommodations, and transportation went without a hitch. Combined with Narumi’s guidance and experience, we felt that we had a deep feeling for the culture and the people. Although we were delinquent in picking up the language, it had no impact on our enjoyment.
Your recommendation, to interpose our “course” meals with more simple fare was correct. The meal at Narisawa was one of the best we’ve ever had, and the French break at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon was a refreshing contrast. Having said this we would recommend all the other restaurants.
Although I hesitate to call out any one event, the personal experiences were all high points. The traditional tea ceremony, where Terry and I were woeful students, helped us understand the meaning and importance of the tradition. Mr. Keizuka’s tour of his lacquerware facility was astounding. Had our wallets allowed, we would have purchased the entire inventory. Our visit to the gold leaf store and the factory was also an appreciated lesson in the rich art. The Zen training we received at the Zen Temple brilliantly illustrated the complexity and simplicity of the tradition. Finally, we were truly amazed at our visit to the kimono maker. Although we have appreciated the beauty of the kimono, we never truly understood the skill and art involved.
Thank you for your expert work in planning and executing our adventure. We will remember this trip forever.
Tom and Terry Florence – Washington, DC
It was a superb trip. First and foremost, Mihoko was amazing and the best guide we have ever had. Second, the hotels were great. And we have had great guides and hotels. Of these hotels, the Aman Tokyo was the best all around.
The Ritz-Carlton in Kyoto had a fantastic restaurant, Mizuki. It was by far the best tempura that we experienced. The rooms were lovely. The staff was gracious and available to help at any time. The ryokan was fun.
The best restaurant in the trip was Narisawa, the second was the Mizuki at the Ritz-Carlton.
We enjoyed all of the sites that you brought us to. The temples were moving, especially the ones in the special forests and seeing a lot of weddings at the Shinto temples. We saw 5 weddings at one temple!
We enjoyed Japan tremendously and thank Adrienne for bringing us to you and to you for making it come alive. We look forward to our next adventure.
Richard Boyatzis – Eastham, Massachusetts
We had a lovely time in Japan, and we enjoyed the itinerary you set up for us. All of your travel logistics and reservations worked perfectly.
It was wonderful to see a different part of Japan and enjoy the beautiful mountains and the small towns on the Nakasendo. We were fortunate to have great weather. The two ryokans, Myojinkan and Kazari in the Kiso Valley, were quite different. I loved having the private outdoor bath at Myojinkan.
Our guide Masako was truly superb. As a matter of fact, she may be the best we’ve ever had. She did so many little things to help us make the trip enjoyable that she has definitely spoiled us for any future guides.
Thank you so much. We will definitely contact you when we are planning our next trip to Japan.
Ron and Valerie Sugar – West Lake Village, California
First off, we had a fabulous time! Our guide, Sako, truly made it an amazing experience – I can’t say enough about her. When we told her we were foodies, Sako showed us all of her secret / favorite restaurants and bars, which were our favorites actually! And, she went above and beyond when we wanted to change the schedule. Also, just overall, she was a kind, fun person who we loved having to accompany us throughout our trip.
Some highlights (all very special) were the Geisha dinner, sake experience and our stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. The Ritz was to die for, we loved it.
So thank you for helping us to plan such a lovely trip. Even with all of our differing/competing interests, we all loved our itinerary, our guide, and the country!
Alexa Manos and Family – Chicago, Illinois
We both thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The Ritz hotels were outstanding, especially in Kyoto where the interior design is the best I’ve seen and the view of our own little garden was special. The restaurants you made reservations with were all really good – unique and different.
All your pre-planning helped ensure a smooth, comfortable, and interesting travel experience but at the heart of making it a great trip was Narumi. She’s the best guide we’ve ever had! She’s so knowledgeable, warm and engaging, efficient, fashionable, never tired of walking, and has a great sense of humor. These are just a few adjectives I can use to describe her but there are much more. She’s the perfect ambassador for Japan. She was keyed into what we enjoyed the most and showed us some of the most interesting contemporary architecture at a leisurely pace, especially in Tokyo. The restaurant experiences you booked for us were excellent, especially the Chinese restaurant in Kyoto.
We liked the calligraphy a lot and meditation (including the walk through the garden) as well as the kimono making.
Overall we had a wonderful time and were very grateful for your planning and most fortunate to have Narumi be our companion for the entire time. We feel we gained a new friend in another part of the world.
It was great to work with you. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you to others. We’ll have a lot of great memories!
Sandi and Jim Lewenauer – Mequon, Wisconsin
We had a fabulous trip and loved Japan. We didn’t know what to expect but were so impressed with the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the people and efficiency of everything. We hope to take another trip one of these days because although our visit was packed we know there is lots more to see.
To start with our guide, Satoko was outstanding. She made the trip extra special. We wanted to bring her home with us. Her delightful personality, her knowledge and willingness to find out if she didn’t know, and her flexibility were all awesome. She never got flustered and every request was fulfilled.
All of our accommodations were excellent. The high point was our trip to Naoshima but the ryokan in Kanazawa was a close second. We also enjoyed all our sightseeing and special experiences. Even my husband enjoyed the kimono visit!
Thank you for creating a perfect trip for us. There is much interest in visiting Japan in Seattle and we will always recommend JapanQuest Journeys to our friends.
Mary and Peter Kerr – Seattle, Washington
We had a great trip. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto was, as you said, fabulous. A very special place. Our guide was excellent. She paid attention to what we wanted to do and was willing to be flexible and paid attention to every little detail. For example, she drove us past the restaurant that we were having dinner at the first night so we could see where it was since we were walking. That was her idea. My husband wanted lunch at a particular type of restaurant and she went out of her way to find it for us. She was extremely knowledgeable. She was perfect for us and I would highly recommend her to everyone.
I could tell that the things we requested through you were taken care of – our room was feather free, they even had maps printed to each of our restaurant dinner reservations. The cars were extremely comfortable for his size and all of the drivers were very accommodating.
All in all, it lived up to everything my husband was looking for in that segment of our trip. You did a great job, and he doesn’t say that very often.
Eileen Fischmann – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Let us thank you and your company for the beautiful trip we have had in Japan.
We are very grateful to have had Hiro with us. Her kindness, efficiency and wonderful Spanish was priceless.
Amelia – Madrid, Spain
I want to thank both of you as well as our guide Mimi for a great trip that the entire family enjoyed. We have recommended you to some friends and hope they follow up with you.
Marc S. – Washington, DC
Fantastic, terrific, wonderful, delicious!
Just a few of the words people have used to describe yesterday’s Zen experience and dinner. Everyone had a terrific experience with Rev. Matsuyama and the dinner was most memorable.
Your local guides were great. Both Junko and Izumi we both very knowledgeable and very helpful in explaining the cuisine and the culture.
Thank you so much for making this day possible for us.
A Global Consulting Firm – Boston and Singapore
We just returned from a 15-day trip to Japan with our two adult daughters and their boyfriends. Each of them came and went from the trip on different schedules, but JapanQuest Journeys made certain those complex logistics all worked perfectly. As we traveled all around the country, we would routinely step off an inter-city train, and find JapanQuest Journeys’ guide waiting at exactly the right place on the platform. They were ready to assist with our luggage and to spirit us off to some fabulous off-the-beaten-path restaurant.
We stayed in the very finest accommodations, often with a unique local twist, and enjoyed a series of unique personalized experiences. That included our visit with a Zen Buddhist monk — one the highlights of our trip. Everything was planned with great care and sophistication, and the execution was flawless.
Thanks so much for a terrific trip. Your guides, particularly “Emi”, were excellent, and your recommendations led to many of our very best experiences.
Ken Taber – New York, New York
Thom brought me home a magazine from his office about Japan last Fall. I kept it for several months before I read it right before we left on vacation. It is the Departures October 2016 issue, with your name quoted throughout the magazine. Really fortuitous that I found you 3 years ago!!!!
That was one of the most amazing vacations in Thom’s & my 30 years together. It truly was my dream come true. I told Thom that I have never had a dream vacation before in my life, except for THIS TRIP TO KYOTO. You helped me fulfill my dream, which as you well know, is a very rare thing to do. I already have a couple family & friends that said they also have an interest, so I will definitely share your name when they are ready to call you.
The places you chose for us to sightsee were beautiful and our tour guide Keiko was excellent! She really set the tone for our trip! She was sad she couldn’t share Sakura with us but we were lucky she taught us what it was or else we would not have understood it when we accidentally came upon it in Tokyo!!!
Unfortunately, during our stay in Kyoto it was very cold weather, so only a few cherry blossom trees had bloomed, but there were enough to make Kyoto stunning. Luckily our last day in Tokyo, there was a lot of warm weather the preceding 24 hours and we happened to go to that famous blue Jeans Street and ALL the Cherry Blossom trees had bloomed. So we got to enjoy Sakura with the local Japanese as they had a festival and all their private picnics. It was such an unexpected treat to enjoy Sakura, celebrating the cherry blossoms. It was an unforgettable experience!
The Hyatt was the perfect location and we were able to get around quite easily from there. We enjoyed Yoshikawa so much I told Thom our next trip to Kyoto will have to be one or two nights at Yoshikawa and that I would like to do at least one or two nights at the Inn on the river on the outskirts of Kyoto.
Dalida Dwyer – Laguna Niguel, California
I just want to tell you how wonderful Mimi was as our guide in Japan. She is so knowledgeable, and always went above and beyond to accommodate any of our requests and changes. Just can’t say enough good things about her. My must sees on this trip were cherry blossoms and Mt Fuji. As you can see, we were quite fortunate. Cherry blossoms were amazing in all of the cities we visited. I’m so grateful Wendy chose your company for our adventure. Thanks so much.
Nancy Mobley – Naples, Florida
We had a wonderful time!
Everything went very smoothly. I can honestly say that Makiko was the best guide I have ever had. She was friendly, funny, very smart and knowledgeable, and made sure that we saw and did everything on our list. She found the best places for a quick lunch. Our drivers were also wonderful, especially the driver in Kyoto. He was so considerate and went out of his way to show us where to try the best mochi in Kyoto and to see a gorgeous cherry tree that was in early bloom.
Our hotels were also superb. I am glad that I returned to the Park Hyatt. The service and accommodations were top notch. I am also glad that I returned to the Ritz in Kyoto. It is a wonderful hotel and the staff is very attentive. The Ryokan was another excellent experience. Our onsen and the room were lovely, and we especially enjoyed the town of Shuzenji – very charming.
Even the train transfers at Tokyo station went well, in spite of the mob scene there. Our transfer guide expertly navigated us through multiple halls and elevators. I don’t think we could have managed without her.
We also enjoyed the visit to the Ghibli Museum. My daughter was thrilled to see the notebooks and sketches from the movies and to see how the master worked behind the scenes. He is truly a living legend in Japan. The guide had some interesting anecdotes about him- he can be found in the morning sweeping the streets in his neighborhood!
Eating fresh sushi at Tsukiji was a special treat. The Zen meditation session at Taizoin was unique and I am glad we experienced it and saw the temple. The session put my daughter in a Zen mood for visits to other gardens.
Besides the tea ceremony, which was very nice, we had a special and unexpected tea making session with the funny and friendly tea master at Ipppodo, who has his own techniques for making the best tea.
Thank you and your team for arranging a wonderful trip. Now if you could only figure out how to eliminate jet lag and get more of those cherry trees to bloom early!
Pam M. – Lake Forest, Illinois
We had a great time in Japan. Mimi, our guide, was fantastic; we really enjoyed her and became friends. Our two favorite restaurants were the tempura restaurant at Yoshikawa Inn and the sushi restaurant the last night in Tokyo. Our favorite temple was the Kinkakuji. We were most taken by the food aspects of our trip; the markets, the kitchen market and the great floors of food in the department stores. We really enjoyed the Zen meditation session both for what we learned and the interesting monk who lead it. We very much liked our ryokan; great setting and nice hot baths. The cooking class was fantastic; really enjoyed the personality of Kyoko and her husband. Hotels were all good, particularly liked Kyoto. Thanks for your help.
Bill Vanderweil – Boston, Massachusetts
Our trip to Japan was the best trip we’ve ever had (and we’ve had many terrific trips to many parts of the world). This trip, however, was remarkable in every way!
We discussed with Scott (Gilman) the main things that we wanted to do and see in Japan, and he created the most extraordinary itinerary imaginable. He included all that we wanted and added special experiences that we would never have known of, or thought of, all of which added immensely to the richness, beauty and the overall quality of our trip.
In addition to our having an extraordinary trip to Japan, thanks to Scott, Philip, and Yukari, our guide was superb.
Yukari is an outstanding guide. Her English is excellent. She was very knowledgeable and exceptionally well prepared to maximize every experience for us on our trip. She provided resources and explanations that were excellent and enhanced our experiences every day. She made all of our many complex travel arrangements efficiently, including some of the most challenging. In addition, she was continually sensitive to our preferences and continually planned and responded to those things that she knew were our special interests. Yukari is also an exceptionally talented individual with wide-ranging interests, talents, and experiences which made having her as our guide a very special part of our trip.
We can’t thank Scott, Philip, and Yukari enough for our exceptional trip, and we can’t praise Yukari enough for her knowledge, sensitivity, and enthusiasm.
Thank you for giving us the most outstanding and memorable trip of our lives, and many thanks for the many unexpected (and unnecessary) treats and gifts. ALL are appreciated immensely.
Maryl Levine – Chevy Chase, Maryland
Words cannot even begin to express my gratitude for the wonderful once in a lifetime trip you helped organize for my family. We absolutely loved our trip to Japan and appreciated all of the private experiences, restaurant recommendations, best in class accommodations and knowledgeable and personal tour guides that you curated on our behalf. We walked away with a deep appreciation for Japan and its beautiful culture. Our expectations were high for this family trip and please know that you exceeded them.
Thank you again for your professionalism. It is so greatly appreciated.
Stephanie Tyler – Modesto, California
I am writing to share our appreciation for the trip that you planned for us.
The varied options for a Japan trip at first seemed overwhelming, however, your input and curation allowed us to thoroughly enjoy our family trip. We were especially happy with your itinerary, choice of hotels and the quality of guides and drivers. Having local guides and easy transportation allowed us to see many sites and locations with an insider’s view. We particularly loved that our guides took us to many very local lunch spots. Both Tomo and Mickey were thoroughly thoughtful, attentive and delightful guides and people.
Real highlights included the addition of the experiential workshops such as the cooking class with Kyoko, truly an exceptional experience as were the calligraphy class and wagashi workshops. These were wonderful and made for many invaluable memories. I would definitely recommend these experiences.
Thank you for organizing such a special experience for our entire family.
Sheryl Flug – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
We had a wonderful trip to Japan. All five of us really enjoyed ourselves and despite the various ages of our children, it was truly a great experience for all every day. We were enchanted with Japan. All remarked on how there was not an overlay of American/Western culture like in so many other parts of the world and how unique it felt.
Shioji was truly delightful. I was hesitant to have a guide with us every day but she was really an addition to the trip. And of course, helped us see so much more than if we had been on our own.
Overall, the organization was excellent and we had no travel snafus. The plan was a nice balance of daily activities with some flexibility. Shioji made sure we were accommodated in what we wanted to do each day. Each day felt full and well paced.
To me, the highlights were:
The Taiko Lab drumming – I think we would all vote that one of our favorite experiences. It was fun, and a good thing to do to wake us up from the jet lag that was setting in.
Kanazawa – the streets and setting were lovely. Kids really liked the Ninja house.
For meals – our favorite was the Tempura in Kyoto at the Inn. Amazing food and very fun experience. Good, it came later in the trip where the kids were getting expert with chopsticks and ready to eat anything on their plates. Our lunches were also a highlight – Shioji would find small places with ramen, udon, pork cutlet that were all very good.
Of course, Kyoto was great. We enjoyed all of the temples and shrines and also added in some shops for swords and Japanese handicraft.
My favorite hotel was the Shangri-la in Tokyo. For the kids, they liked the Conrad and the Ryokan.
We went to Yodobashi in Akihabara and also in Kyoto along with BIC. It was astounding to see the variety of electronics and for the kids was really interesting.
Again, a great family trip. Now we want to go back and see more of Japan!
Thanks for pulling this together for us – especially during high season and in a short time frame. I have already given your name out to a couple that is planning a trip.
Amy Goldman – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Overall, excellent job on your services. We were so impressed with the professionalism and personalities of everyone in Japan. Our guides Izumi and Keiko were fantastic. I think what really makes them superior (and your company) is the ability to tailor the trip to our needs. Yes, we wanted to see a lot in a short period of time, but we wanted to enjoy it and for us, that entailed stopping to take rest breaks every so often. The guides did a nice job picking up on that and altering the itinerary slightly to adjust and at the end of the day, we felt much better. We also appreciated some other adjustments during the day on what to see, depending on how things were progressing that day. In other words, the flexibility was a big bonus. Obviously, they were skilled to answer all of our questions, or if not they would investigate our queries and get back to us. Much appreciated. Izumi was looking into some special tea my aunt asked about. Keiko into Nikon products.
For us, we enjoyed sampling local restaurants that were not necessarily Michelin starred. We hit a variety of Udon noodles, Ramen, Yakitori, grilled noodles and sushi places. We liked all of it.
The hotels were pretty much exactly what we asked for. As for Japan impressions, you can read about the culture but it’s hard to get a feel for it until you spend a little time there. The attention to detail, pride in the work, and manners are something that stands out. Also, how quiet it is in Tokyo on the streets and subway for a city of that size is remarkable. We enjoyed the taxi and subway rides to get a feel for how people get around. And especially the super fast bullet train.
I don’t really have any criticisms or improvements to your service. It was 5 star. Thanks for everything.
Scott C. – Dallas, Texas
Our trip to Japan was simply unforgettable! It was exactly as I had hoped and imagined. Our stay at the various ryokans was such a unique experience. We really felt we had the “authentic” Japanese experience, historically stepping back in time. The people were humble, polite and so very kind. The special experiences were indeed “special” and we loved each one.
The weather was, for the most part quite nice, as the fall colors were really spectacular.
Mahalo Scott, for a trip that we will remember for a very long time!
Kiana Gentry and daughter Angel Vardas – Honolulu, Hawaii
The trip was fabulous, such a nice country, organized and clean. Lots of refinement and politeness and a great culture.
The organization for the trip went without a hitch, activities were well planned and punctual. Very knowledgeable guides and perfect English.
The selection of the sites was nicely diversified and interesting.
Restaurant sélections were exquisite and very refined.
If I have to rate the trip out of 10, I would give it an overall 9.5. Scott, I would have given it 10 out 10 but I only give 10 to God!
A big thank you from Aline and me for such a wonderfully organized and cultural trip.
Said Arrata – Vancouver, Canada and Paris, France
We had a very good time at Koya-san. Ueno-san is a great guide. The walk-in Okunoin is truly a special experience. The two shukubo we stayed at were different and both quite special. We did not make it up for the morning prayers, though! Doing the walking the second day turned out to make sense and we had the whole trail pretty much to ourselves. Apparently, very few people hike the trails.
I would definitely recommend the trail hiking. We did half a day and went around half of the mountain, and it was not too tiring. And very very quiet!
Between the vegetarian food at the shukubo, which I would note is not at all like what “vegetarian” brings to mind to a westerner (i.e. not sprouts and lentils, but a real kaiseki meal), and the hiking, I think I lost a couple of pounds. So Koya is Japan’s answer to the Golden Door!
Thank you for arranging the trip.
Jun Makihara – New York, New York
What greater joy is there than to create lasting, lifetime memories with your children? My newly graduated daughter and I have now done just that by completing a ten-day itinerary through the heart of Japan. JapanQuest Journeys put together a wonderful and diverse trip for us. From a home-based cooking class in a Tokyo suburb culminating with a fabulous five-course meal (thank you Kyoko!), to a tour through a generations-owned sake brewery, to a calligraphy class (it’s easier than you think), to a private meditation session with a Zen Buddhist monk, each experience was more amazing than the previous. And did I mention partaking in several of the most delicious meals ever, each pretty much only available through the intimate connections cultivated by JapanQuest Journeys.
A Kyoto highlight was a quiet morning walk through a bamboo forest and thick moss grove to the small, precious Gio-ji Temple. Even though it was the first morning of Golden Week, there was not another tourist in sight. We keenly felt the history and intimacy of the land, of the culture, and of the Japanese people. We’ll be back!
Steve Greenberg – Phoenix, Arizona
All went well starting with being met at Narita Airport and your welcoming note in our hotel room.
We did indeed enjoy Hokkaido Scott. Thank you.
Our driver was an excellent driver and was very helpful and thoughtful, as was Naoko, our guide. It was rainy and misty for days 1 and 3 but we could enjoy most things that were planned and there was enough gap in the clouds to appreciate the mountains on day 3.
Naoko chose 3 excellent lunch places – an undercover fish market on day 1 where we choose our sashimi, a fishing village restaurant on day 3 where we chose our hairy crab etc and a soba noodle restaurant on day 4 where we watched the noodles being made. Both she and Naoko thought of other interesting places to include – a sandbar with wading birds and a bridge over a picturesque stream. The driver was good at spotting deer, a fox and cub, cranes in the fields, and a chipmunk. Day 2 was beautifully sunny and we thoroughly enjoyed the lakes especially Lake Mashu and seeing the mountains and hills that we had missed the day before.
The accommodation was very good – at Hazel Grouse Manor, the meals were delicious and they probably served the best coffee we had in Japan. The chef even makes his own baguettes! And we enjoyed the meadows, stream, and the trees at Hazel Grouse by walking around.
The flight across to Shin-Chitose airport went well, the weather was still wet but cleared in time for our visit to the Shiraoi Ainu Museum which we found very interesting – probably more so that the Ainu village we had visited before.
Takinoya Ryokan was delightful – as you say, beautiful aesthetics – screens, ceramics etc. – and having our room and the room where we ate our dinner and breakfast look over the garden, pond and stream made it a very peaceful and luxurious stay.
Thank you for the attention to detail in organizing our Hokkaido visit.
Cecilie Hall and Michael Watt – Bentleigh, Australia
It was fabulous! The selection of temples, castles and gardens to see was excellent, each was special in its own way. The few places we were able to go that was more off the beaten path were really special (the moss garden and the strolling garden at the detached palace.) Monkey mountain was very fun, and the trip out to Miyajima island was also something particularly memorable. I also loved the two art museums and all the gardens so much!
Lucy was an outstanding guide- it was SO relaxing not to worry about logistics and she did a nice job of giving us our space while always being there. The restaurant selections were also great. We had a nice variety of styles. Thanks again for putting such a wonderful trip together for us.
Miriam Esteve and Gary Schermerhorn – Key Biscayne, Florida
Upon returning from a wonderful Japan trip, I offer a heartfelt, enthusiastic recommendation of Scott Gilman and JapanQuest Journeys. My goals in planning a family trip were to have memorable experiences with our teenagers highlighting Japanese hyper-modern culture and architecture, classic gardens, daily markets, and traditional crafts. We often do all our own trip planning and limit the use of guides. However, as non-Japanese speakers who wanted more than a superficial exposure to Japanese culture, we decided to work with a professional to make the most of our limited time.
Scott provided wise counsel every step of the way. From the initial consultation where he listened so carefully through the subsequent detailed planning of the activities and itinerary, Scott not only addressed our requests, but he offered excellent ideas and gently guided us when we didn’t even know what to ask for or had pre-conceptions. Not having been to Japan, I started out surprised by the high travel costs. After talking with Scott, understanding what was included in the costs, and getting over the sticker shock, I came to think it was well worth it. This is why I thought the charges were fair and a good value:
1. Japan is not an intuitive place to traverse if you don’t speak Japanese. The street numbering is not orderly. Many signs are not legible to English-only readers. And while the subways and trains are extensive and on-time and immaculately clean, they are not always the fastest way to get around. We could have done the navigating ourselves, but using Scott’s guides and drivers, I estimate we saw 30-50% more each day than we could have managed on our own using public transportation/walking/car rental/taxis (i.e. the less expensive option). This was what created the value for me. We had only a limited time for vacation and had traveled such a long distance and didn’t know if we’d ever be back, so to be able to see and do so much more each day was priceless.
2. Once he knew what we were interested in, Scott suggested activities we would not have thought of or read about or been able to access on our own. We had extraordinary access to special experiences through Scott and his business partner Phil’s relationships – a lacquerware workshop visit, a kimono fabric dyeing workshop, and a wonderful day with a Japanese pottery expert who took us to a famous pottery village to see kilns, a workshop, and a museum. These would not have been possible through a hotel concierge or trying to go on our own. They were educational in focus and there was zero pressure to buy anything.
3. The restaurant recommendations were excellent and not what you could find easily on Yelp or TripAdvisor. They were places your in-the-know local foodie friend would take you to. Sure beats wandering around and guessing.
4. All of the guides were carefully selected and excellent – well-informed, good English skills, knowing how to read us for pacing and type of information to convey, and not rigid in the least. Every van was late-model, clean, and operated by a very professional driver with basic English skills.
5. Every transfer was handled by an English-speaking guide even on days when we were in transit. When we were early to the train station, the guides were able to exchange tickets and get us on earlier trains to the next destination so we didn’t waste time waiting at the station. The greeter at the other end was flexible enough to be able to come meet us early. There was a fair amount of on-the-ground support that we either saw in person or we knew was there to help. Doing the transfers and logistics on our own would have been possible, but stressful.
6. I received a comparable cost estimate from a reputable independent Japan expert for the desired level of service (separate room with real beds for the kids, 5-star hotels where possible, private guides and drivers, first-class trains).
If we had wanted to economize, Scott was willing to work with us on options. Scott’s business partner, Philip Rosenfeld, lives in Tokyo and runs operations in Japan. There was always someone to get back to us immediately whether we were in NYC in Eastern Standard Time or in Japan on Japanese time.
A crucial thing I really appreciated was that my contact was Scott, and he stayed my contact. He never handed me off to a junior person (which is what usually happens). So every question answered, every recommendation came from Scott and that made all the difference in our experiences. Scott and his team were a pleasure to work with and flawless in their execution. We were able to relax, enjoy, and make many happy memories.
Betty Chang – New York, New York
Japan was most interesting and I am glad we had three weeks to explore, learn & enjoy. Mihoko, our guide, was superb – a true gem. Loved the cleanliness, politeness, traditions, history and aesthetics and all of the lovely private experiences. I truly appreciate all the wonderful work you did to make our trip so special, smooth and enjoyable. Your arrangement of the trip was beyond excellent and I would have no qualms recommending your services highly. Thanks again for everything.
Carole Sasiela – Los Angeles, California
Our trip was amazing. The guides were exceptional and made a big difference in easing our way. Can’t say enough about how much we loved Japan.
Andrea Bayus – San Pedro, California
Pat and I are now, sadly, in the lounge at Narita airport awaiting our return flight home. But we felt we needed to write as soon as possible to express our thanks to you for arranging the most wonderful trip to Japan that we could have ever wished for.
Every single aspect of the itinerary was not only perfectly planned but was implemented with such style and grace that all we had to do was to enjoy and savor each special moment of each and every day.
Most importantly, we also wanted to tell you how simply wonderful Mihoko-san was. As a guide, she is far and away the best we have ever experienced. She is totally knowledgeable and efficient and accommodating in every way. But more than that, she is such a warm and gracious person, we both just fell in love with her from our first meeting and we are privileged now to feel that we have become lasting personal friends. Please reiterate to her our thanks and our appreciation for all her work and her many thoughtful kindnesses.
We would never have had such a memorable and enjoyable trip to Japan were it not for having your arrangements. The special experiences you scheduled were extraordinary. In all, we will remember it always as the trip of a lifetime!
Many thanks and with our very best regards.
Bill and Pat Johnson – Aiken, South Carolina
Overall, it was a great experience and everyone in the family will have fond memories of the trip. Izumi was an excellent guide – knowledgeable, personable, and proactive about finding things of particular interest to each of us, like gardens for Allison, anime for Clay and shopping for Austin. Izumi was thoughtful, organized and flexible. She scheduled our days to pack in as much as possible. We enjoyed the ryokan experience a lot. You were right about sleeping in one room together. Everyone loved it. We really liked the tempura restaurant in Kyoto. Thanks for your help.
Brian Jacobs – Hillsborough, California
It was amazing!
I particularly appreciated the guide who was provided to me, for her rigorous research about the places visited as well as her ability to respond immediately to all my requests, whether it was changing the itinerary or finding specific services in town such as a tailor who could alter a dress by the end of the day! Keiko was very observant and even able to anticipate my needs.
The highlight of my trip was certainly a visit to a traditional kimono place and an introduction to the yuzen art of dying provided by its manager, Mr. Toku. He was extremely welcoming and very humble, which is surprising given his impressive portfolio, but also typical of the Japanese work ethics and attitude towards life. I learned a lot and this was an experience I will cherish forever. All in all, 10 days is a very short time for Japan, even if you are only planning to see a few places. I recommend spending 20 days to forever!
Laura Stana – Romania
The trip was absolutely fabulous, Scott! I was enchanted by this beautiful and fascinating place. Thank you for making the trip so seamless. Overall, it was just fabulous! Thank you! Had the time of our lives in Japan! Yakuri, our guide, was adorable. She was on task and always in a cheery mood. We loved her! Below are some of the highlights.
Geisha dinner – my favorite experience. We loved these darling girls and the fun games we played.
Mount Fuji helicopter tour
Zen monk meditation – great guy.
Shangri-La hotel breakfast and bar.
Cherry Blossoms as well as camellias, Japanese maples, and more
Kamakura Great Buddha
Garden tours: Nezu, Kyoto, etc.
Ryokan – one night was perfect
1001 Kannon statues
Experiencing a Japanese emergency earthquake notification on our phones
Nara red deer and stone lanterns
Vermillion red Torii gates
Liz Armstrong, Lindsey Armstrong Strawn and Family – Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
Our trip was great! We had a wonderful time taking the trip you designed for us. The sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences that you organized were exactly what we hoped to have for this our first trip to Japan. Everything we had discussed during the planning phase turned out to be as we had understood from our conversations with you, but only better in the reality. There were absolutely no problems or disappointments with anything; except now we know we will need to return several more times to see and experience many other parts of the country.
The singular best part of the trip was our guide, Masako Takenaka. She was always smiling as she took care to ensure that every detail was exactly right. Not only did we accomplish all the items you had outlined in our itinerary, Masako was able to improvise and add more experiences that further enhanced our trip. The adjustments that she made as the week progressed really made things flow smoothly and took full advantage of the time and place. Our conversations with her really gave us a good feel for the people and customs of Japan.
As you know, following our trip with JapanQuest Journeys we were attending our son’s wedding in Hamamatsu and we wanted to give the traditional wedding gift of money. Masako helped us not only find the proper wedding gift envelope, but she set up a visit to a papermaking experience where we made our own notepaper. She then helped translate our wedding message onto our paper in Japanese to be included in the envelope. The final gift with these details was truly appreciated by the wedding couple.
Thank you for all your help in planning this trip.
Kent and Nancy Stow – Saverna Park, Maryland
We had the best time at Yoshikawa Inn and Hakone Ginyu!!
Alex Shlomm – Atlantic Beach, New York
We had a wonderful trip. Both guides were marvelous and we loved the country. Thanks for putting this together for us.
Alan Zaretsky – Southhampton, New York
Hey Scott… we left Japan about 5 days ago and we finally finished posting the best photos we got on our blog. So, I’m finally getting around to sending you a note to say thanks and let you know everything went just great. The sites you suggested (Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Matsumoto as well as lots of time in Kyoto) were all just terrific and interesting… the added activities like tea ceremony, taiko, meditation were also all great and gave a very nice balance to just looking at shrines and temples… and the guides were fantastic (especially Miho in Kyoto). All the logistics also turned out just great. Thanks again for your advice and help!
Joe Belfiore – Yarrow Point, Washington
We had a wonderful time in Japan. All the arrangements worked out well, and we were very pleased with the itinerary. We especially enjoyed Yukari, our guide for Kamakura and Kanazawa. We also appreciated having a local contact person we could call. Thank you for a great trip. Lots of details went into making this all work out, and we appreciate how smoothly everything went. AND, we did get to see some beautiful maples!
Ron and Valerie Sugar – Los Angeles, California
We had never before been to Japan. We engaged JapanQuest Journeys to help plan our itinerary a few days before and after an organizational trip that focused mostly on politics. Though we had only a few days on either end, with JapanQuest Journeys’ help, we were able to pinpoint exactly what we wanted to see….and transitioned flawlessly between the trips. We were especially grateful for Scott’s recommendations regarding home décor and textiles.
Amy F. – San Francisco, California
I am a partner in a large international law firm and have been traveling to Japan for over 20 years on business. I have visited many cities in Japan as a tourist during those trips and have been to Kyoto more than ten times. JapanQuest Journeys truly provides platinum level service and was able to provide access to guides and resources that are unique. They were able to obtain a reservation at one of the best ryokans in Kyoto during the high season on very little notice. I am particularly interested in Japanese pottery and they were able to arrange a tour of the potters’ studios at Iga and Shigaraki with a very knowledgeable (and charming guide) who had written a column on pottery for the Japan Times for over 10 years. I did a similar tour of potters’ studios at Iga and Shigaraki arranged by a Japanese tour agency and the JapanQuest Journeys’ tour was much, much better. I strongly recommend them.
Mark Radcliffe – Portola Valley, California
Thanks Scott, Gora Kadan was incredible – the staff, the accommodation, and our dinner were wonderful.
Susan and John Wardle – Kew, Australia
We enjoyed our two-day art trip to Echigo-Tsumari very much indeed. Just what we wanted, good friendly guides and drivers, plenty of art and travel throughout the countryside and our stay at the House of Light was excellent. Thank you for organizing it all so well.
Cecilie Hall and Michael Watt – Bentleigh, Australia
I absolutely loved Niki Club. It was exactly what I was looking for in a venue. Their service was superb and the setting is the very definition of tranquility. Your own services are platinum quality. Please accept my greatest thanks for arranging a marvelous corporate event for over 30 persons that exceeded my expectations in every measure.
A U.S. Based Corporate Executive – San Jose, California
I just wanted to thank you for an exceptional trip. We had a fantastic time, saw so many things, and we truly got exactly what we wanted! It was incredibly reassuring to hear that you were watching out for us even while we were there – asking our guides if we were enjoying ourselves! Thanks!! So, all in all, there were MANY reasons that this was a spectacular trip. Thank you again for all the expert planning and advice!
Christine Murakami – Dublin, Ohio
We had a fabulous trip…you guys delivered on all fronts…we loved the food, the places, and the people…thanks and we will certainly recommend your team to friends and family!
Sharon Kennedy and Joe Budge – Annapolis, Maryland
Having recently been transferred by my company to Tokyo, I was looking for a tour operator that can help me explore the country beyond the typical tourist destinations and provide me insights into Japanese culture and customs that the fleeting tourist will not experience or seek.
I have been working with JapanQuest Journeys on several long weekend trips to take me off the beaten path. Every trip was carefully planned to truly show the diversity that Japan has to offer. Hotel and ryokan selections were superb – some so good that they themselves would have been worth the trip alone – and even little details like getting the right seats on the right side of a train were attended to. Scott and Philip truly know the country and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
V. Schmidt – Management Consultant, Salt Lake City, Utah
We had a trip of a lifetime! I don’t think either one of us will ever forget it and we were treated so very well by everyone. We indeed felt like VIPs. All of the guides were terrific.
Kim Godwin – San Diego, California
JapanQuest Journeys arranges the ultimate in luxury for those wishing to visit the real Japan in style. From working previously with JapanQuest Journeys, they have proven to provide an excellent bespoke tailor-made service for those who wish to visit Japan in the most luxurious way. JapanQuest Journeys provided constant communication pre; post and during my clients visit Japan, ensuring that their needs were tended to.
Ben Lake – Director at iOTA Ltd., Formerly Concierge Manager at The World Residences at Sea
Was amazing!! We really enjoyed this wonderful trip! Thank you for your support and all!!.
Julio Berazategui – Sydney, Australia
Several of our American senior executives toured Japan with JapanQuest Journeys and had an awesome time with the itinerary and experiences that you carefully planned for them; introducing our team to the culture and beauty of the country. We became acquainted with JapanQuest Journeys through your West Coast Regional Representative, Hiromi Koshi, who said we would see Japan through the lens of insiders. This was truly the case. Our trip was a unique and special experience for all of us including myself, a Japanese. I feel that I was reintroduced to the best parts of Japan through the journey you created. Thank you.
Mr. Ishihara, EVP, Auto Finance Company – Chicago, Illinois
I write to express my thanks and the thanks of the Cleveland Museum of Art for the exceptional travel package that you and your company provided for us. From the moment that I made the first contact with Scott Gilman, I was consistently pleased and impressed with the level of service and attention to detail that was provided. Planning an international trip for twelve museum donors and four museum staff members is no small feat and you managed to execute it seamlessly and expertly.
What I was most appreciative of was your understanding and compliance with our need to provide our donors with exclusive experiences that are not available to the average traveler. Your insight and suggestions into such activities, and your myriad connections throughout Japan, gained us access to sites and experts that we could not possibly have achieved on our own. Secondly, and no less important, was the great willingness you displayed in incorporating our travel philosophy into the overall itinerary. Museum trips are more than just vacations, but serve as didactic experiences for our donors to help strengthen their commitment to our institution and their connection to the art world. You and your staff kept this at the forefront of your planning and from that a compelling, unique, and unforgettable experience was born.
My fellow travelers and I were beyond impressed with the quality of the guides that were provided to us. They offered information with both humor and a clear reverence for the subject matter. They offered personal insights into their own experiences and made us feel welcome in their home. You and Scott Gilman were also swift in responding to questions and demands that were made by our travelers and complex scheduling issues and personal needs were met with promptness, courtesy, and efficiency. As you will recall we experienced a minor medical situation with one of our guests that required special attention and service, and you provided this swiftly and greatly eased the situation for our guest.
From the choice of destination sites to the truly excellent accommodations that you selected for us, you created more than just an itinerary for us. You created an experience that touched us all and will not soon be forgotten.
Again, I thank you most earnestly and wish you continued success with all of your endeavors.
Roberto Prcela – Manager of Protocol & Trusteeship, The Cleveland Museum of Art
Thank you for arranging our stay at Yagyu no-Sho. What an incredible time. The hosts were amazing, food was legendary and the onsen was amazing. My brother and I were in heaven….. Also, thank you for organizing a great trip. Yoshikawa was the highlight of Kyoto, the hostess and staff were incredible as was the meal, everything was top notch. Look forward to working with you guys again.
David Foulquier – New York, New York
We had a wonderful time in Japan and especially enjoyed the ryokan. The Hasegawa’s were as delightful as you said, and we enjoyed the town of Shuzenji as well. Thank you again for all of your guidance. As you know, planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming. Your knowledge and experience made it so much easier.
Ellen Alderman – Yarmouth, Maine
Thank you for your help making this experience happen. Benesse House and Naoshima exceeded my expectations. Benesse House was lovely and the food at the French Restaurant was excellent.
Vikki Hammam – Port Melbourne, Australia
The JapanQuest Journeys team did a great job of helping us put together a memorable event for over 50 of my Pan Asian colleagues. The cultural experiences were quite unique and interesting while the logistics were extremely well organized.
J-P Toppino, Director of Secured Capital, Managing Partner and Global CIO, PAG Real Estate – Tokyo, Japan
We’re back in the U.S. It was a terrific trip and we very much enjoyed our tours of Tokyo and Kyoto. Both Keiko and Kazu were great guides. We covered a lot of ground in two 8 hour days and learned a lot. Keiko and Kazu had very different personalities and perspectives — it made the 2 days even more interesting.
Len S. –Newton, Massachusetts
We had the most amazing excursion to Kyoto. Everything went as planned from being escorted to the train station in Tokyo from the hotel to being picked up on the other end by your guide. The guide you arranged for us was fantastic. She was very friendly and knowledgeable and we really enjoyed her company. We loved Hiiragiya Ryokan too. I am so impressed with Kyoto and Tokyo. I can’t believe how much we have seen in such a short time. Thank you for all of your help and resources in making our arrangements. I was fortunate to have found you.
Peter Rosenberg – San Francisco, California
I would like to thank you for organizing a wonderful trip. Everything was perfect, working better than a Swiss clock, all the guides were absolutely wonderful, knowledgeable and so attentive, all the drivers were perfect and the very nice lady that took care of our departure from Kyoto was equally very very nice. My entire schedule and all the things I wanted to see, all my interest points were all perfectly covered. It was a real discovery of a wonderful country, people and customs. I feel enriched. I really enjoyed my trip very very much and will certainly recommend your services to my friends.
Daniel Grunberg – Istanbul, Turkey
It was an extraordinary experience for me in so many ways, so different from any other journey I have taken. Thank you for all you put into the trip to make it so memorable!
Pamela Jacobson – Cleveland, Ohio (Cleveland Museum of Art Journey)
Thank you JapanQuest Journeys, especially Scott Gilman, for organizing a fantastic trip to Asaba Ryokan in Shuzenji, Japan with well-organized luxury transport. For being based in Malaysia, it was an easy booking with a prompt reply. JapanQuest Journeys was very helpful in giving suggestions and recommendations. Money well spent. Keep up the good work!
Qabil Ambak – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Thanks to JapanQuest Journeys, I was able to offer my two teenagers a trip to Japan that they will never forget. From the moment we met our guide, Mimi, we knew we were in good hands. She was wonderful and helped us with every detail and question we had. The fact that JapanQuest Journeys customizes each trip according to one’s wishes is just amazing. Not only did we see what any tourist would see but we experienced a private cooking lesson, a very special tea ceremony and I was surprised to see how much my 15 and 12-year-olds enjoyed their particular meditation session with a Buddhist monk.
Going from Tokyo to Takayama then to Kanazawa and Kyoto was a very interesting way to travel into Japan’s reality. We experienced the country in a very special, close and warm way. Ryokan Kayotei in Yamanaka was just unbelievable!! More than anything, my son was so pleased to be able to play basketball during the journey. JapanQuest Journeys did its best to open courts in remote places for him and that was just great!! Everyone we met was very nice and helpful. Every minute was taken care of and we feel that without JapanQuest Journeys, we would have never gotten that close to this marvelous country’s heart.
We loved our trip and we will go back to Japan with JapanQuest Journeys, very soon!!
A family from Paris, France.
We thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated our meeting prior to the trip and all the information then forthcoming. The trip itself was fantastic – well planned, well organized and our guide was absolutely delightful. Thank you again.
Sally F. Davidson – Washington, DC
We’re back in London after an absolutely fantastic journey in Japan. You and your team constantly surpassed our expectations in every department from the travel arrangements to the experiences you set up for us. Not only did the trip flow seamlessly, but the depth of our experience was a complete function of the thought that you put into the sights and experiences you arranged for us. From our cooking class to a morning with the Research Curator at the Miho Museum, the additional dimension your arrangements gave to our activities made our trip seem like a constant flow of special experiences designed to bring Japan directly and intimately to us as a family.
Though we were sometimes aware of the invisible hand of JapanQuest Journeys in the background ensuring that things rolled smoothly, the visible presence delivering your program to us lay with Sumiyo who during our whole trip was professional, knowledgeable, flexible, accessible and a fun person with which to travel. Without her help, much of the program would have continued to lay behind the language and cultural barriers so evident in Japan. However, she took us over those barriers and brought her country to life through her efforts and your planning.
Thank you and your whole team for a fantastic experience in Japan. Please don’t hesitate to use us as a reference for those would be interested in using JapanQuest Journeys. Based on our amazing experience, anyone would be well advised to tap into your expertise for their quest to better understand Japan.
John Graham and Family – London, England
Great trip. We had a fabulous time. It was truly a life-changing trip. Nagi was a fantastic guide and made the country come alive for us. Your planning and attention to detail was impeccable. The special touches — private meditation, calligraphy, the ryokan, visit to Nara etc. etc. — were so so memorable. Thank you, thank you. Suffice it to say that it was a fantastic trip. Thanks so much.
Mike Stanley and Sue Scott – New York, New York
With the private airport and train transfers, accommodations professionally pre-arranged and reserved and with the support of your local staff, we managed to have a fantastic family reunion in Japan. This was an international collaboration as we were all coming from different directions –LA-London-Istanbul- at different dates. We all had different demands, some rescheduled itineraries but everything was modified and adjusted smoothly…always with a smile.Thanks to you Scott and your team!
Terry and Robert S. – Istanbul, Turkey
We just departed Japan after an incredible, fantastic, great, superb trip thanks to you guys. Every little detail was to perfection and all arrangements truly worked. Our guides were a delight and so professional while all hotels, travel, tours, and representatives were super. Everyone’s friendliness and flexibility were extremely appreciated and we thank you so much for everything.
Geoffrey and Sharon Ognall – London, England
Thank you, for all your help in planning our trip to some new destinations! The ryokans were both wonderful. Everything was very smooth and beautiful. It was marvelous to wake and be able to relax in our own cedar onsen tub while looking out at the snow that had fallen overnight! Schedules, tickets, reservations — all worked perfectly. Thank you again!
Jon and Katie Baughman – Ellicott City, Maryland
We had a short four-day layover in Japan. JapanQuest Journeys made it into a life experience exploring Tokyo and Kyoto. Everything was exquisitely planned and went off without a hitch. The planning stage was great due to their thoughtfulness and responsiveness. The people at our Kyoto ryokan were so nice and helpful and the total Japanese experience was wonderful. The food was delicious and authentically Japanese served so graciously. We never would have wanted to have missed that. The futons and down comforters made us sleep like babies and then after a long day of sightseeing, the hot spring bath was a treat. Thanks so much for your help. We recommend you highly.
Russ and Althea Corsini – Boston, Massachusetts
Happy to say that this was a fantastic trip for us. We had the experience of traveling to Japan a couple of years ago on our own, making up our itinerary and arranging transportation as best we could. This time, working with you, our trip was definitely much easier, more efficient, and more valuable. We saw and learned more, thanks to a very intelligent itinerary and the great luxury of having an excellent guide standing by to answer questions, translate conversations and provide valuable background information on the sites we visited. Many thanks!
Charlie Wright – CEO, RD Merrill Co., Seattle, Washington
Thanks to your excellent collaboration, we had a wonderful trip to Japan – really everything we could have hoped for and more. All the arrangements you made worked out beautifully – including the superb guide and we’re grateful for all your efforts on our behalf. Suffice it to say that we are more than satisfied and grateful for the many extraordinary doorways you helped to open and for the memories you helped us create.
Danny Meyer – CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group, New York, New York
From the earliest questionnaire to last minute changes, it was clear that JapanQuest Journeys really wanted me to have the very personal trip I was dreaming about! You matched me perfectly with my guides and drivers. Often, it felt like I was traveling with two good friends who just happened to speak the language and knew the territory better than I did. Their flexibility and professionalism meant that I could explore my own special interests as well as tour the important national sites; returning home with a real sense of Japan and its culture.
Starr Moore – Atlanta, Georgia