Tours

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Tours

Tokyo features on almost every tour of Japan. Read brochures carefully and try to see through the inevitable pictures of cherry trees and geisha to check whether what is planned fits your idea of a holiday. Is it temple after temple? Does the tour include experiences such as sushi and sumo or are these only pricey options? Is the domestic travel by bullet train, plane, or bus? Japan can be quite a culture shock, so resist the temptation to pack in too much, and go for tours that include half days of freedom, because just stepping outside the hotel into the local streets is likely to provide some unexpected sights and experiences.

Japan can be daunting for first-time visitors and anyone without Japanese-language skills, so a package tour is a great way to get into the country and find your feet. However, beware of expensive optional tours such as tea ceremonies, Kabuki tours, and night views. Local tourist offices can probably tell you how to have the same experience more economically.

Recommended Companies

Explorient Travel Services. 800/785–1233; www.explorient.com.

General Tours. 800/221–2216; www.generaltours.com.

Kintetsu. 630/250–8840; www.kintetsu.com.

Special-Interest Tours

Art

Japan, Tokyo included, is overflowing with art—from pottery and painting to the precise skills of flower arranging and calligraphy. Many tours include museums and art galleries, but only some get you right into the artists' studios with English-language help to understand their skills and the chance to try your hand.

Contacts

Absolute Travel. 212/627–1950; www.absolutetravel.com.

Smithsonian Journeys. 855/330–1542; www.smithsonianjourneys.org.

Language Programs

There is no better way to learn the language than to immerse yourself by studying Japanese in Japan, with classes, a homestay, and cultural tours on which to put the newfound skills into action. The Japanese Information and Culture Center (JICC) website has good links to schools and procedures for study-abroad programs.

Contacts

Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC). 202/238–6900; www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/jicc.

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