Classic Japan Trip Notes

Classic Japan

These trip notes are valid for departures from 01 January 2015 to 30 April 2016. View the trip notes for departures between 01 May 2016 - 31 December 2016

Last Modified: 18 Dec 2015
Classic Japan
Trip code: CJKJ
Validity: 01 Jan 2015 to 30 Apr 2016
A country both steeped in tradition and at the forefront of technological innovation, Japan somehow strikes a perfect balancing act between the serene and frenetic, the quaint and kooky, the reserved and the outrageous. Boasting exceptional natural beauty, sublime cuisine and countless points of cultural intrigue, this trip from Kyoto to Tokyo ventures right into the heart and soul of a truly fascinating country. Meander through tranquil Zen gardens, travel at breathtaking speeds by bullet-train, spend one night in a traditional ryokan and then the next seeking out the liveliest of karaoke bars – this is a destination that never fails to surprise and enamour.
This trip is run by our experienced sister company Peregrine Adventures. Your group is therefore likely to be a mixture of Intrepid passengers and other like-minded international travellers.
Table of Contents
StyleTippingFinish point
ThemesDeparture taxEmergency contact
MapImportant notesEmergency funds
ItineraryGroup sizeVisas
Also available to purchaseYour fellow travellersIssues on your trip
We also recommendSingle travellersWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationHealth
Culture shock rating Meals introductionSafety
Physical ratingMealsTravel insurance
Physical preparationTransportResponsible Travel
Included activitiesGroup leaderA couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point The Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsCarbon offset
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
  • ‘Comfort travel’ means encountering all that the real world has to offer, but with an added degree of, well… comfort. We use more private transport, the travel pace more relaxed, the accommodation a touch nicer. And by paying a little more up front, you’ll be treated to more included meals, more leader-led activities and get a greater immersion in all things local.

Days 1-3 Kyoto
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
On the morning of Day 2 an orientation walk takes us to some of Kyoto’s more important sites, including: the imposing and opulent Nijo Castle – formerly home of the Tokugawa shoguns. From here it is a short bus ride to Ryoan-ji, perhaps Japan’s most famous Zen garden. We finish off at Kyoto’s handicraft centre noted for among things a fine selection of woodblock prints.
The rest of the afternoon and Day 3 are free for further exploration.
Recommended is a gentle stroll through the nearby eastern hills along the ‘Path of Philosophy’ that links Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, with Nanzen-ji Temple. This walk can be extended south through well-preserved ‘old town’ areas to Kiyamizu-dera (Temple of Clear Water) from where there is a justifiably famous view across a wooded gorge toward Kyoto. Also recommended, for those visiting in Spring, is a visit to the theatre for a presentation of Miyako Odori (the Cherry Blossom Dance) performed by elaborately dressed maiko (apprentice geisha). Visit the extravagantly decorated Kinkakuji temple, which was immortalised in Yukio Mishima’s novel “The Golden Pavilion”.
Kyoto is a city that lends itself to walking, and there are numerous possibilities for exploration during this day at leisure in the city. Close to our hotel the architecturally impressive Higashi Honganji temple and the almost surreal Sanjusangendo, home to 1001 statues of Kannon, (the bodhisattva of compassion whose name, incidentally, was later taken up by the camera company Canon) – both make for an interesting visit. Also nearby is Japan’s largest pagoda at Toji.
Another recommendation is to take a walk in the wooded hills of Inari Mountain, famous for its Shinto ‘fox temple’ and atmospheric tunnels of red torii gates. In the late afternoon there will be a short walking tour of Gion – the geisha district – with its many old teahouses, some of them mentioned in the widely acclaimed novel “Memoirs of a Geisha”. At the end of the tour a good idea is to take traditional dinner in one of the many restaurants that occupy this exciting area.
Please note Himeji Castle is currently closed for restoration and is expected to be closed until May 2015.
For passengers who are travelling during this period (August 2014 - May 2015) we will replace this activity instead with a visit to Nijo castle in Kyoto.
Included Activities
  • Himeji - Himeji Castle
  • Kyoto - Ryoanji Zen Garden
  • Kyoto - Nijo Castle
  • Kyoto - Gion District Guided Tour
  • Kyoto - Kinkakuji Temple
  • Kyoto - Handicraft Centre
Optional Activities
  • Kyoto - Bike hire (per day) - JPY800
  • Kyoto - Kiyomizu Temple - JPY300
Hotel Granvia Kyoto or similar (3 nts)
Day 4 Koya-san
As we travel on public transport for the next few days we will forward our big luggage to Hiroshima and take a smaller day pack with us to Koya San.
Today we travel by train to Koya San on a journey which, at least in its latter stages, travels through some of the finest scenery in all Japan. The last leg of the journey takes us on a mountain road rising almost to the heavens and certainly to a world very different from the one we have left behind.
3000 feet above sea-level Mount Koya, in similarity with Mt Athos in Greece, is home to scores of monasteries, the first of which was founded by Kobo Daishi in AD816. The most impressive sight on Mount Koya is without doubt the massive and mysterious Okunoin cemetery, resting place of many of Japanese history’s most famous personages. Some 200,000 stone statues, wooden totems and other, sometimes bizarre, memorials (including a rocket that marks the site of a mausoleum interring the workers of an aerospace company!) lie throughout this moss-laden forest. At the centre of it all, and the reason that this is such a popular resting place for those who could afford the privilege of proximity, is the mausoleum of Japan’s greatest saint, Kobo Daishi. According to popular belief Kobo Daishi never actually died but instead, in AD835, went into a state of catatonic meditation within the mausoleum. One day, upon the advent of the future Buddha Maitreya (Jap. Miroku), it is believed Kobo Daishi will reawaken to lead all humanity to salvation! The cemetery is particularly atmospheric around dawn or dusk.
After visiting the more interesting of the mountain’s sights, we make our way to the comfortable shukubo temple lodgings that will be our home for the night.
Rengejo-in Temple or similar (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Hiroshima
Fortified by a delicious temple breakfast you will return by cable railway to Gokurabashi and make your way to Osaka where you will board your first Bullet Train of the trip for your journey to Hiroshima.
As you speed your way south you will stop en route and pay a visit to Japan’s most impressive samurai Castle at Himeiji. This castle was once featured in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”. It is packed with innovative defensive techniques perhaps one of the reasons why it was never captured.
You will spend the night at a city centre hotel close to Hiroshima’s Peace Park.
The next morning you will visit the A-Bomb Museum and Peace Memorial Park, both of which stand testimony to the fateful day in August 1945 when Hiroshima was chosen as target for the first ever wartime use of the atomic bomb.
In the afternoon might like to head for the enchanting island of Miyajima, which you will reach after a short ferry ride across the Inland Sea. The island is home to the venerable Shinto shrine of Itsukushima, famous for its huge vermilion gate or torii which rises majestically out of the sea. At high tide it is considered to be one of the most beautiful sights in Japan. The size and physical landscape of Miyajima makes it an ideal place for walking. There is the lovely Momaji Park (known as Maple Valley), from where it is possible to walk or take a cable car up to the top of Mt. Misen. The summit is home to a colony of wild monkeys, and provides fine, sweeping views over western Honshu and the island-studded Inland Sea.Also of note is Daisho-in Temple.
Please note that in busy times passengers of the same sex may be required to share triple and quad rooms in the ryokan.
Included Activities
  • Hiroshima - Peace Park & Museum
  • Himeji - Himeji Castle
  • Hiroshima - A-Bomb Dome
  • Hiroshima - Miyajima Island
Optional Activities
  • Hiroshima - Itsukushima-jinja Shrine - JPY300
Hotel Granvia Hiroshima or similar (2 nts)
Day 7 Tsumago
We will again forward our larger bags on to Tokyo today to make travelling to Tsumago & Matsumoto easier.
Today you will return to the Bullet Train tracks and head north to the mountainous centre of Japan to spend a night in a ryokan near the medieval village of Tsumago.
Once a post town during the days of the Shogun, Tsumago is the best preserved of the many staging posts along the Edo period Nakasendo Highway. The highway once connected Tokyo with Kyoto and was immortalised in the famous woodblock prints of Hiroshige.
Hanaya Ryokan or similar (1 nt)
Day 8 Matsumoto
This morning you will have time to explore Tsumago and also have the opportunity to walk along a short section of the Nakasendo Highway towards the next village of Magome.
You will then take a Train and head north to the mountainous centre of Japan and the picturesque castle town of Matsumoto. This afternoon you will stroll through the former merchant district of Nakamachi, where you can find lovely local crafts, treasures and great restaurants.
Matsumoto’s atmosphere is surprisingly cosmopolitan, while maintaining its historic charm and tradition. It has pretty streets and friendly people. You will have the option of visiting the city’s most famous site, the Matsumoto Castle, formerly known as Fukashi Castle. It has an elegant black roof and is sometimes nicknamed Crow Castle. It is one of Japan’s four castles to be listed as national treasures.
Dormy Inn Matsumoto (1 nt)
Days 9-12 Tokyo
In the morning we make our way by local and then Bullet Train to Japan’s amazing capital, Tokyo, and our centrally-located hotel where we will be based for the next three nights.
Tokyo is well-known for its bustling energy and futuristic architecture. However, it also has a gentler side, and its citizens often reveal themselves – particularly outside of working hours – to be some of the friendliest of any capital city in the world. There are also many vestiges of the past, with historic temples and shrines still to be found in some of the most unexpected places, as well as an abundance of parks and gardens which are particularly exquisite in spring when the cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom.
Today we have a varied, full-day tour of the city beginning in the lively Senso-ji temple district of Asakusa, with its many interesting craft and souvenir stalls.
After lunch we are afforded an alternative view of Tokyo as we relax on a short cruise down the Sumida River.
Our boat drops us off at the delightful Hama Rikyu gardens where we have time to stroll along paths that were once the sole preserve of the shogun.
Later we make our way to the shopping district of Ginza where, depending on the theatre schedule, we have the chance to see a short performance of Kabuki, one of Japan’s more spectacular performing arts.
The next day has been left free for further independent exploration or shopping. There are endless opportunities for sightseeing in and around Tokyo; in the east of the city the districts of Shibuya and Harajuku – a magnet for the city’s breathtakingly trendy youth – are particularly interesting, as is the important Meiji Jingu Shrine.
In Shinjuku the city’s highest skyscrapers offer panoramic views that on clear days give great views of Mount Fuji. The area is also home to Kabuki-cho, the Soho (but more so!) of Tokyo.
Ueno is also worth a visit particularly for its park which is home to the impressive National museum. Another great museum which gives insight into old time Tokyo is the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku.
In the evening, the group come together over dinner to bid Japan sayonara and farewell.
The tour concludes in the morning on day 12
Optional Activities
  • Tokyo - Edo Museum - JPY600
  • Tokyo - Hamarikyu Garden - JPY300
  • Tokyo - Shinjuku Garden - JPY200
Hotel Niwa Tokyo or similar (3 nts)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • CJKJ Classic Japan - Single Supplement (CJKJ)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Classic Taiwan (CJKN)
  • Yangzi & Beyond (CBKR)
  • Real Food Adventure - Japan (CJZF)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Physical preparation
In Japan many of our travel connections are made at fast pace and require you to walk up and down stairs at fast walking pace. Please make sure you have an adequate level of fitness.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Please note that many sights, attractions and museums are closed on Mondays.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Japan is Yen (JPY).
Japan is predominantly a cash society and locals carry large amounts of cash for daily business.
Changing cash and travellers' cheques is possible in major cities although the use of travellers' cheques is quite limited and exchanging can be very time consuming. International credit cards can usually only be used at major department stores or large restaurants but cash from non-Japanese bank accounts can be withdrawn via the Cirrus and Maestro systems by direct debiting (as well as Mastercard and Visa cash advance). This is now available at all post office ATMs around the country, as well as 7 Eleven convenience store ATMs, making it very easy to get access to cash throughout the trip at each location 24 hours a day.
We recommend you arrive in Japan with as much Yen as you feel comfortable carrying. If your arrival day is on a weekend please ensure you have enough money for the first few days, either by bringing it with you, or changing it at the airport. Although most locations will have access to a 7 Eleven store with an ATM, be prepared that ATMs may not be available at all times of the day in the immediate area.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
On this trip, we have included gratuities for the essential services that you will receive as part of your tour package. This will cover tips to drivers, specialist local guides (where applicable), restaurant staff for included meals, porters, bellboys and other hotel staff, including room-cleaning staff.
This amount DOES NOT include a tip for your tour leader, so you may wish to set aside some funds for this. It is customary to tip your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip.
You also wish to put aside some money for your own tipping, such as when you are doing our own optional sightseeing or activity that involves local guides and/or drivers or when joining in optional groups meals or dining out on your own. In these instances, we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier. The amounts can vary greatly according to destination, so we suggest that you ask your tour leader to give you guidance on what are appropriate amounts to tip.
Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$1-2 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
Departure tax
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
A 7 day Standard/Ordinary Japan Rail Pass is included in the price of your trip. For those wishing to stay and travel longer in Japan, a Japan Rail Pass extension (total 14 or 21 days) is available. Intrepid offer the chance for passengers to extend their Japan Rail Pass however these Japan Rail Passes cannot be picked up or validated before your tour begins, they can only be extended post tour for another 14 days maximum. Please note the Japan Rail Pass for the Classic Japan trip is validated on Day 5. Please get in contact with your booking specialist to discuss your options.
Please note that Japan Rail Passes are only valid for foreign tourists visiting Japan from abroad for sightseeing under the entry status of temporary visitor (tourist visa).
* Luggage *
You will be expected to carry your own luggage, including moving about busy public transport hubs to make tight connections, up stairs and escalators and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes, sometimes at a fast pace. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.
Please note the Single Supplement is not available in the following locations: • Hiroshima • Mount Koya San • Miyajima • Tsumago.
* Tattoos in Japan *
Please note, decorative tattoos are uncommon in Japanese culture and therefore you may receive curious and sometimes disapproving looks from locals. Generally, nobody will make a comment about your tattoos but please endeavour to wear modest clothing and excersize discretion when using a public onsen.
Group size
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A Single Supplement is only available at the following locations: 3 nights in Tokyo, 3 nights in Kyoto and 1 night in Matsumoto.
Hotel Granvia Kyoto or similar (3 nts), Hotel Niwa Tokyo or similar (3 nts), Hotel Granvia Hiroshima or similar (2 nts), Rengejo-in Temple or similar (1 nt), Hanaya Ryokan or similar (1 nt), Dormy Inn Matsumoto (1 nt)
Japanese style inns (Ryokans) involve sleeping on comfortable futons at floor height. Please note in winter months Ryokans can be quite cold, heating systems in Japan (which is quite different to western countries) is reliant on oil heaters. As such, most open social spaces would not be as warm as closed spaces/rooms. Extra blankets and additional bedding can be requested at some locations, please have a chat to your Leader if your sleeping arrangements are uncomfortable.
Please consider choosing a different trip style if you have difficulty getting up from the floor or have knee, hip or back issues, as futon bedding may exacerbate any pre-existing physical/medical injuries.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
There are shared bathrooms at some of the accommodation on this trip.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
11 Breakfasts, 3 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
USD 250.00
Bus, Train, Train (bullet)
Group leader
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Joining point
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
JR Kyoto Station Karasuma chuo-guchi, Shiokoji-sagaru
Karasuma guchi, Shimogyoku
Phone: +81 753448888
Joining point instructions
Hotel Description:
Hotel Granvia Kyoto is an integral part of the JR Kyoto Station Building, a visually striking architectural masterpiece which also includes a department store, museum, musical theater, and a vast underground shopping mall. Check in time is 14:00.
Joining Point Instructions:
Kansai airport is more than 100 km away from Kyoto and a taxi would cost you around 20,000JPY.
We recommend you take a train as it is a cheap and reliable option.
Japan Railways (JR) runs trains from Kansai Airport to Kyoto directly: Haruka Express (JPY2,770 for non-reserved one way). Also you can catch a direct shuttle bus from Kansai Airport to Kyoto. Both the train station and bus stop are located right outside of the Terminal 1. There are signs in English and it's easy to locate them.
Taking a Train:
If using the Shinkansen bullet train, upon arrival in Kyoto exit via the Shinkansen Main Exit, turn right and walk straight through Nanboku-Jiyu-Tsuro (North-to-South main corridor) until you reach the escalator to the hotel entrance on your right.
When using the Haruka Express from Kansai International Airport: upon arrival at Kyoto exit via the JR Chuo Main Exit and take the escalator on your right to the Lobby on the 2nd floor of the hotel.
Taking a Bus:
You will be arriving at Hachijo-guchi, which is South entrance of Kyoto Stat ion. Walk over the station complex towards North through the Pedestrian Walk way and you will see the sign that says ‘Hotel Granvia Kyoto’.
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Hotel Niwa Tokyo
1-1-16 Misaki-Cho
Phone: +81 332930028
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative Venture can be reached on:
+81 (90) 6531 9269
For all other enquiries and contact details please see the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: Yes - required in advance
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
On this trip, you're expected to carry your own luggage for up to 30 minutes at a time. Train stations are quite complex and usually require a lot of stair climbing, especially when doing a quick transfer from train to train. Elevators aren't always available and cannot accommodate many people at a time, so if you are choosing to bring a suitcase, please ensure you are able to lift and carry it yourself without difficulty. A backpack is recommended for these reasons. Many inns don't allow suitcases with wheels into rooms with tatami mat floors. Japanese transportation is often quite small and cramped so it's best to pack as light as possible.
During your visit to Japan you may receive hospitality from local families/people. A great way to reciprocate is to bring a small gift from your country, eg. animal figurines, pens, flags or stickers.
Please note that the weather is quite a bit cooler in more remote areas outside of Tokyo - please pack accordingly.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
Cold tap water in Japan is generally safe and good to drink so you can avoid the purchase of bottled water by refilling from the tap or public water fountains.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
Responsible Travel
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
Intrepid Travel is a big supporter of the protection of endangered species around the world.
And so it is against Intrepid’s Responsible Travel policy for our leaders to take passengers to places that use cruel practices or supply or serve foods that are on the endangered species list, such as whale, turtle, tiger, bird’s nests, pangolin and shark.
Although a global ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, approximately 1,000 whales are still being killed every year. We do not visit places that serve whale meat on any of our trips, nor will your leader guide you to where it is offered.
For more information on our Responsible Travel policy, see our website:
While Japan is known for its 'out there' fashions overall it is quite a conservative country. Please remember that we spend time at temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, recreated villages and castles, cooking schools and ancient gardens. At these places it is important to be respectful to the staff and other visitors by wearing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 251.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.