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Reserve through the month of November 2020 for $1!

My favorite travel partner has just announced this incredible sale on small group travel for 2021! Through November 2020, you can reserve your spot on a dream trip for only US$1; one dollar gives you something to look forward to in 2021. I’m highlighting sample itineraries in this blog, but won’t be able to cover the HUNDREDS of options. If you have a travel wish, contact me for details!


Why I love this travel operator …


Join a small group of like-minded travelers that, like you, are eager to safely and confidently experience all the things that make our world worth exploring.


They have always created their tours by building meaningful relationships with local communities, directly benefiting the people and places they visit.


They have measures in place to help keep you safe from the moment you book to the moment you (reluctantly) head home, earning a badge from the World Travel and Tourism Council. WTTC’s Safe Travels Protocols


No matter the Travel Style, their tours balance well-planned itineraries with the flexibility to do your own thing and make the experience your own.


They don’t have tour guides — they have Chief Experience Officers. And they are all locally based, meaning they know the area you’re exploring like the back of their well-traveled hand.


When you travel with them, you experience first-hand their commitment to making travel a force for good is in everything they do.



Arrive at any time. I highly recommend booking pre- or post-accommodation in Tokyo to take full advantage of this spectacular city.

Meet your trip leader and fellow travelers, and learn more about your tour. Opt to join the group for a local meal afterwards.

Accommodation: The B Ikebukuro Tokyo (or similar)


Take a short bullet-train ride to Kanazawa. In the 17th century, this beautifully preserved castle town was Japan’s wealthiest, and it became a thriving center for culture and arts.

Step back in time with a visit to the Higashi Chaya geisha district of Kanazawa. Learn about the geisha culture, prevalent in Kanazawa since the 17th century. Visit the traditional two-story wooden houses decorated with lattice and discover the traditions behind this iconic Japanese way of life.

Optional Activities:

Ninja Temple, 800JPY/person: Visit the famous Ninja Temple. While there’s no evidence linking the temple to ninjas, the hidden doorways, passages and escape routes seem designed for stealthy attackers. Please leave all nunchucks with security.

Accommodation: Garden Hotel Kanazawa (or similar)


Stroll through Keroku-en, ranked one of the nation’s top three gardens, with unique bridges, ponds and fountains, pagodas and tea houses there’s lots to see here in any season. After strolling through the expansive gardens of Kenrokuen, opt to stop at the massive Kanazawa castle next door.

Next, explore the historic Nagamachi samurai district. Step back in time and take a walk through the historic samurai district located just below the Kanazawa Castle, where traditionally, samurai and their families lived in mud huts.

Kanazawa is also home to many interesting museums, opt to visit one or learn more about local crafts. Loving the food in the city? Take a trip to the local seafood market to see where some of the fresh, tasty ingredients come from.

Optional Activities:

Kanazawa Castle, 310JPY/person: Visit the massive castle located beside the Kenrokuen Garden. At over 400 years old, the castle has a great history and is the perfect place to wrap up exploration of the gardens.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, 360-1200JPY/person: If you are interested in eccentric art visit this beautiful museum with unique exhibits and architecture. Capture a trippy underwater photo in the simulated swimming pool.

Accommodation: Garden Hotel Kanazawa (or similar)


Arrive in picturesque Takayama on a bullet-train and begin taking in the beautiful scenery of this traditional city. Relax in the traditional Japanese inn.

Optional Activities:

Sake Street, 300-400JPY/person: Stroll down this quaint road, lined with sake breweries and vendors, and learn more about this typical Japanese beverage made from fermented rice. Have a sample or two to test it out.

Accommodation: Minshuku Iwatakan (or similar)


Explore the Hida No Sato traditional folk village, and walk the quaint streets of the old town – lined with sake breweries and craft shops. Hida Folk Village is an outdoor museum where various buildings from the 1600s are open to tour. The steep, thatched roofs of the farmhouses are said to resemble praying hands. Take a peek inside to see tools and furniture from the original village.

Enjoy the rest of the day to explore this beautiful landscape. Discover traces of a feudal past in the thatched houses and rice fields. Opt to visit one of the markets or rent a bike and cycle out of the town centre and into the countryside.

Optional Activities:

Sake Street, 300-400JPY/person: Stroll down this quaint road, lined with sake breweries and vendors, and learn more about this typical Japanese beverage made from fermented rice. Have a sample or two to test it out.

Bike Rental: Rent a bike from a local shop and head out to explore.

Accommodation: Minshuku Iwatakan (or similar)


Arrive in Hiroshima via bullet-train and walk through the Peace Park in the center of town, a living memorial dedicated to the tens of thousands who died from the atomic bomb blast in 1945. Visit the statue of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of leukemia as a result of the bomb blast, despite folding 1,000 origami paper cranes to appeal to the gods to make her well. See the frame of the Gembaku Dome, the sole building to withstand the explosion. The burning flame in the park will only be extinguished when all nuclear weapons in the world have been destroyed. Reflect, remember, and be reminded of the power we all hold to create peace.

Accommodation: Hotel New Hiroden (or similar)


Take a ferry to the sacred island of Miyajima, famed as one of Japan’s most scenic spots, with a free afternoon to explore. See the famous floating Torii Gate, set out in the bay, which glows extraordinarily at sunset. The island is dotted with shrines and temples, populated by deer and monkeys, and traversed with hiking trails for those who want to get some exercise. There are also lanes full of souvenirs and tasty treats. Visit Miyajima at your own pace, and have the option to hike up to the peak of the island, Mt Misen, to see spectacular views of the surrounding islands.

Optional Activities:

Mt. Misen, free-1800JPY/person: Set out for the summit of Mt. Misen, Miyajima’s highest peak at 500m (1,640 ft) above sea level. Opt to hike one of three trails through the forest and keep an eye out for wild deer or catch a ride on the ropeway and walk the remaining distance to the top. Take in great views of the Seto Inland Sea and on a clear day see as far as the city of Hiroshima.

Accommodation: Hotel New Hiroden (or similar)


Travel by bullet-train to historic Kyoto, the former imperial capital and home of the country’s most treasured remnants of Japanese imperial life. Explore the marvelous Fushimi Inari shrine, walk under thousands of torii gates and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. The shrine itself is at the base of the Inari mountain but includes many trails up to smaller shrines in the area..

Accommodation: Ibis Styles Kyoto Station (or similar)


Wander the impressive Nijo Castle and gardens before visiting Kyoto’s iconic Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion. Nijo Castle is the residence of the first shogun of the Edo Period built in 1603. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the property is divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circular fortification), Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense), and the gorgeous gardens that surround both.

Next, Explore Kinkaku-ji or the Golden Pavilion, named for the temple’s top two floors that are covered in gold leaf. The temple is surrounded by trees and sits on a reflective pond, making this must-see in Kyoto a perfect place for photos. While the temple can be busy, there are gardens around the area to explore once you’ve had enough of the view.

Accommodation: Ibis Styles Kyoto Station (or similar)


Spend a full free day discovering the Zen gardens, huge wooden temples, pagodas and shrines of Kyoto. Opt to enjoy the Zen gardens of Ryoan-ji and the Silver Pavilion, and take a leisurely stroll down the lovely Philosopher’s path to Nanzen-ji.

Optional Activities:

Zen Gardens of Ryoan-ji, 500JPY/person: The Ryōan-ji garden is one of the best examples of kare-sansui, or dry landscape, a type of Zen garden. Fifteen large rocks are placed within a sea of white pebbles raked into linear patterns to facilitate meditation. Stand on the platform to get the best view from above. Stroll the grounds around the Ryoan-ji Temple and along the Kyoyo-chi pond.

Gion Walk, free: Walk through Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district. Visit shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain.

Daisen-in Zen Rock Garden Visit, 400JPY/person: Take a walk through the gardens around Daisen-in Temple. This zen garden uses gravel, sand and stones to recreate a river and ocean, symbolizing the Buddhist journey through life.

Samurai Spirit Full Kembu Lesson: An authentic course which allows you to experience the Samurai Spirit through performing “Kembu,” a traditional Japanese art. Learn basic techniques of Kembu such as handling a Japanese sword, performing slashing techniques, and various samurai actions. Compete for your session by performing with your sword on stage, accompanied by a song written by a samurai.

Accommodation: Ibis Styles Kyoto Station (or similar)


Travel to the Mt Fuji region and enjoy optional walks around Lake Kawaguchi. Savor an amazing multi-course Japanese kaiseki dinner. At the end of the day, visit the natural hot springs in traditional style and soak in the waters and feel all your troubles float away.

Accommodation: Ooike Hotel (or similar)


Enjoy a morning in Kawaguchiko exploring the Five Lakes region on foot for unforgettable views of the local landscape. Depending on the weather, capture a glimpse of the snow-capped summit of Mt Fuji. Later, travel to Tokyo by bullet-train.

Accommodation: The B Ikebukuro Tokyo (or similar)


Explore buzzing Tokyo with a free day. Opt take in some more sights, visit the museums and gardens, or do some shopping. Meet with the group later tonight for our final dinner together.

Optional Activities:

Miji Shrine, free-1000JPY/person: Visit this shrine dedicated to the 123rd emperor of Japan, Emperor Meiji and his wife. The shrine is a great place to escape the bustle of the city and wander the grounds along the wide walking paths.

Senso-ji Temple, free: Explore Sensō-ji Temple, a colorful Buddhist temple and the oldest temple in the entire city. Leading up to the temple the street is lined with shops selling yummy food and great souvenirs.

Ginza Shopping: The Ginza district is Tokyo’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York. Window shop at Chanel, Dior, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, then check out the latest electronics at the Sony showroom or Apple store. Visit the Wako department store with its historic clock tower, housed in a building that dates back to 1894. If you are there on a weekend, head to Ginza’s main street where pedestrians rule without Tokyo’s traffic.

Imperial Palace East Gardens Walk, free: The Imperial Palace in Tokyo’s city centre is home to Japan’s Emperor and Empress. It is surrounded by a moat and three gardens, all open to the public. Stroll throughout the grounds, admire the azaleas and hydrangeas (when in season), discover the original stone wall that surrounded the palace back in 17th to 19th centuries during the days when samurai warriors defended the ruler. Visit nearby Sannomaru-Shozo-kan museum and see exquisite kimonos and Japanese paintings.

Ueno Park, free: As Japan’s most popular city park, Ueno is known for its museums and cherry blossoms. Stroll the pathways, admire the thousands of trees, including approximately 800 Somei-yoshino cherry trees, look for lotus on the pond, or opt to visit the temples and museums (entrance fees).

Accommodation: The B Ikebukuro Tokyo (or similar)


Depart at any time.

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