1.866.316.7268 [email protected]
WPCS 2.1.3
1.866.316.7268 [email protected]
WPCS 2.1.3


Judy Fantham and David Hillock

Best of Japan Self Guided
October 19, 2023 - January 1, 1970
This was a real adventure for us and it put to the test our cognitive abilities to navigate the transit system. But a self-guided tour allowed us to set our own agenda (to a degree) and visit restaurants and sites that may have been otherwise inaccessible by a large group.
A wonderful array of adventures and sites. At times it was busy. We wanted more time in Hakone and we wondered if it would have been better to have had two nights minimum in each location.
We enjoyed the variety of Japanese style to modern Japanese style to Western (particularly the Dormy Inn chain). We appreciated the proximity to train stations.
We were never disappointed with the breakfasts in the hotels - especially at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. We wished that the Buddhist monks had explained the origins of the foods during our vegetarian dinner and breakfast. (As an aside our stay at the Shojoshinin Temple was enjoyably unique but felt somewhat flat because of the lack of interaction and explanations (e.g. a tour) with/from the monks.
Both the guide who met us at the airport and the guide who toured us on our first day in Tokyo (Charlie) were helpful. The first guide was adamant about accompanying us right to our reserved seat on the Narita Express. Having a guide on the first day really acclimatized us to the culture and how to use the transit system. This was pivotal.
Pre-Tour Handbook
We appreciated learning about the history. And the itinerary guide not surprisingly became our bible. It had lots of pertinent instructions. The first challenge with the itinerary guide was that some of the maps to hotels did not correlate with the instructions. The directions said it would be a 1 minute walk to the Onyado Nono Namba Hotel but the map showed a lengthy 10 minute walk and took us on a 40 minute detour that required assistance (page 21). The directions to the Dormy Inn Hiroshima indicated a 3 minute walk (page 10) but it was far longer than that and we took a 20-minute bus ride. In addition it would have been helpful on two occasions when there appeared to be tight train connections to know that the tracks were either adjacent or easily accessible (e.g. transferring from the Hikari #507 to the Sakura #557 in Okayama). The Hiroshima instructions could have mentioned that the Dormy Hotel provides a free shuttle back to the train station - or that you can take a free “hop on/hop off” bus with a JR Pass.
Tour Organization
The tour was well-organized, detailed and logical in its sequencing. When a fatality cancelled all trains for awhile enroute to Koya-San on October 24 and we were aware of a 5 p.m. cutoff for checkin to the Shojoshinin Temple, Martin was instantly responsive and formulated a “Plan B”. Thanks by the way for the PERFECT weather lol!
Tour Transportation
The subways and train systems in Japan are terrific - clean and on time. The JR Pass and the SUICA card worked well. Assistance from the initial guide in booking reserved seats allayed some stress. Without question it was initially intimidating when we realized the number of trains and subways and complexity of travel (we counted 24 trains, 30-40 subway rides and 4 cable cars). But dissecting and planning our journey on our second day in Tokyo allowed us to organize and figure out the rhythm of travel. We don’t believe we could have done this in advance without seeing the system firsthand. Again, some additional advice to travellers: you must never forget to tap in AND out. A “Tours by Locals” guide in Kyoto helped us troubleshoot malfunctioning SUICA cards and we realized we still had $27 CDN on our cards! We could have lost this money otherwise. Ideally we would rate this 4.5

Would you go on another tour operating by Samurai Tours: Yes!

Would you recommend Samurai Tours to friends or family: Yes!