We really enjoyed the \"Your way\" format for our first time in Japan. Having a guide to help getting from city to city was great peace of mind, while still retaining our independence to adventure on our own.
We definitely felt like we got to experience sites we would not have otherwise considered seeing, like Koyasan and Takayama.
Western-style toilets at the hotels were good to have.
The guides were all wonderful, patient, and knowledgeable. We felt well taken care of. We especially enjoyed our time with Toshi-san, Ken-san, and Kaori-san. When plans had to be adjusted (delayed train with Ken-san and uncertainty around the Hiroshima activities) we were kept in the loop.
Generally, we felt well-prepared for our tour. However, there was some confusion on our end during the selection of the optional tour add-ons. When we originally planned the trip for 2020, we had selected a set of add-on tours which were not listen in the E-sign forms for our rescheduled tour in 2023. By emailing Mike Roberts (who was very helpful) we discovered that those tours were actually still available. Acknowledging the uncertainty around activities near Hiroshima, we would have expected the tour selection form to reflect the full list of possible add-on tours.
There was some confusion during our arrival in Japan. We planned to arrive before our tour start date, which we had coordinated with the Samurai Tours staff. However, the pre-tour instructions still seemed to indicate we were to meet with someone at HND to receive our JR Rail Pass (we did not know these had been replaced by individual train tickets) and yen notes (which we were receiving as repayment of a discount on our rescheduled tour). Our flight was changed to NRT at the last minute, which we emailed to Martin Graham. When we arrived at NRT we did not find a guide waiting for us. Perhaps we misunderstood a prior communication?As we made our way into Tokyo, we tried to call the emergency number, but received a message saying to office was closed. We are not sure what we did wrong there. However, Martin promptly replied to us from the emergency email address, so that was appreciated. We were disappointed to learn we would not be able to receive our cash until the first day of the tour. Then, we were doubly disappointed to discover that we would not be able to get the cash until leaving Tokyo (it seems there was a miscommunication between the guides?). Although this is a unique circumstance, it would have helped us plan our pre-tour activities if we knew neither the rail pass nor cash would be accessible before the tour began.Later in the tour, we ran into an issue where we realized we did not have a tour guide\'s contact information. Fortunately, the issue was not urgent, and we were able to get his email address from Martin. Given our earlier confusion with the emergency phone number, having an email or Whatsapp number for each of the guides would have been helpful, especially given the semi-self-guided nature of the \"Best of Japan Your Way\" tour.Other than those issues, we felt the tour was well planned.
Coordinating the baggage transfers was especially helpful. The guides were very good about making sure we would not miss our trains without making us feel rushed.
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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