Thanks for offering 5% alumni discount. Re local guide and driver tipping: Was that included in the land cost? Michelle responded to my pre-trip question but i wasn't sure if tipping and/or omiyage to tour guide was optional. Keep tours at small number (liked 8 of us on tour).
Glad you offered itinerary which spent most time out of big citie Free day in Sendai was good offering. Might mention in itinerary there is Sendai 620 yen cost "Loople" (correct spelling) on-off shuttle available for free day touring which passes several tourist spots/museums. Might advise members bring walking sticks (i did) and good sturdy walking shoes, i.e., hiking shoes/boots esp for hikes and handling steep hike/temple steps. Skip Suehiro brewery tour: Disappointed no sake jelly and sake-infused cakes, as mentioned in itinerary, were not available. At times, too much sightseeing was crammed into one day: e.g., 10/25: Arrived in Aizu Wakamatsu in early evening (darkness already occurred) to tour samurai residence/museum prior to checking in at Highashiyama Onsen.Or maybe one sightseeing locale on itinerary could be eliminated ? Occasional 1/4 free day might be ok depending on locale's tourist offerings.
Drives to onsen, esp. to Towadako Sanso and Nyuto Onsen involved several hours , located beyond other onsen (?) in the area. Could we have stayed at an onsen not so far into the forested area? Nice lodging at Miyako Jodogama and (unexpected) Hotel Metropolitan Sendai East (Hurricane Lan sidestepped our 10/22 itinerary) . Would have preferred last hotel in Tokyo (Hotel Sunroute in Ikebukuro) be located in Narita instead.Spent most of last day in Tokyo traveling on airport limo bus to NRT airport. Had we lodged in Narita for the last nite, less time spent shuttling to NRT airport. I could've spent more time in town of Narita before leaving for airport.
I enjoyed beef tongue dinner in Sendai (?) but other tour members opted out. Suggest members be informed ahead of time to avoid sudden "dinner walk-out". Impressed with kaiseki dinners, esp. in private dining rooms. Enjoyed check-in hotel sake tasting and kaiseki dinners at Higashiyama onsen (10/25-27) and other onsen.
On long drives (2-3 hrs) , Mike, as guide, could provide locale's tidbit info for greater appreciation. Hisako, local guide, needs a few more years English - speaking experience. Her accent was a bit thick for me to understand, but she was congenial and easy-to-get along with. "Tummy" (Takako) was very informative too; suggest she give most historical info before we get to site as we are distracted with getting to see tourist site.
Correction to your informing members to secure Japan Customs stamp prior to departing Customs area (for Japan Rail pass purposes): . Said requested stamp is issued in passport by Japan Immigration, not Japan Customs.Japan customs officers informed me their dept does not issue stamp. Glad you suggested members bring luggage less than 25", maybe even smaller, ie., 22"?
Would you go on another tour operating by Samurai Tours: Yes!
Would you recommend Samurai Tours to friends or family: Yes!
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