Japan Experience Trip Notes

Japan Experience

Last Modified: 20 Nov 2013
Japan Experience
Trip code: CJKT
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013
Steeped in centuries of culinary tradition, Japan is nothing less than a treasure trove of exotic cuisine, potent sake and sweet delights. From Tokyo to Kyoto, our adventure takes us into the heart of Japan, enjoying a smorgasbord of treats in a variety of settings. To complete the recipe, we mix in plenty of culture and top it off with some of Japan's best attractions. Be tempted by tempura, savour your sushi and tickle your tastebuds, as we discover the endless variety of Japan and its cuisine.
Table of Contents
StyleGroup sizeEmergency contact
ThemesYour fellow travellersEmergency funds
MapSingle travellersVisas
ItineraryAccommodationIssues on your trip
We also recommendMeals introductionWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerMealsHealth
Culture shock rating TransportSafety
Physical ratingGroup leaderTravel insurance
Physical preparationJoining point Responsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionA couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsCarbon offset
Spending moneyFinish point Feedback
TippingFinish point description
Departure taxFinish point instructions
  • Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Japan Experience
Days 1-2 Tokyo
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan.
You can arrive at our joining-point ryokan at any time today as there are no planned activities. Please note that check-in time is not until 1:00pm. Your leader will contact you to arrange a group meeting for the evening of day 1, to be followed by dinner.
We start early on day 2 for breakfast (included). During our time in Tokyo, we get to work making soba noodles as well as enjoy a chance to explore the famous Tsukiji fish market.
Included Activities
  • Tokyo - Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Soba noodle class
Optional Activities
  • Tokyo Edo Museum - JPY300
  • Hamarikyu Garden - JPY300
  • Shinjuku Garden - JPY200
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Takayama
Takayama (approx 5 hrs by train) is famous for its traditional inns and sake breweries. We visit the outdoor museum of the Hida Folk Village which aims to preserve the traditional architecture of the area and has a collection of farmhouses we can explore.
There is free time here to explore the many folk art galleries, local markets, museums or just wander the streets of this delightful little town nestled amongst the Japanese Alps as well as pop in to one of the many sake breweries to taste their products.
We also discover the secrets of san sai ryori (cooking with local mountain vegetables), Hoba miso (soybeans fermented with magnolia leaves) Hida beef during our included breakfasts and dinners.
We visit the 600-year-old morning market as well, to try out some of the unusual local specialities that farm women put out on sale from 6:00am every morning.
Our stunning ryokan in Takayama has an irori hearth, included meals and is located within walking distance of the old town.
Included Activities
  • Takayama - Hida Folk Village
  • Takayama - Market visit
  • Sake brewery tasting
Optional Activities
  • Merchant House - JPY700
  • Festival Float Museum - JPY820
Ryokan (2 nts)
Days 5-6 Koya-san
We have an opportunity to stay in a Buddhist monastery for 2 nights at Koya-san (approx 7 hrs by Shinkansen, local train and cable car). Founded in the 8th century by the Buddhist saint Kobo Daishi, Koya-san has been a centre for religious activities for over 1,200 years. We stay in one of the hundreds of temples still operating and learn more about the lives of the monks as we follow their routine of morning meditation and evening prayers. For our meals (included), we enjoy strict vegetarian fare, lovingly prepared and presented by the novice monks.
We visit the temple complex of Kongobu-ji, with its complex history and religious significance. Now the head temple of all Shingon sect temples in Japan it features the largest rock garden in Japan, a sublime creation of white raked pebbles and seemingly randomly placed dark stones. Another must see sight is the graveyard of Okuno-in, a massive area containing over half a million graves. The path leading from the entrance of the graveyard to the resting place of Kobo Daishi is 2km long and on either side are the tombstones of people wanting to rest close to the founder of the Shingon sect.
Our temple lodging in Koya San has shared facilities and we join the monks for prayers before eating shojin-ryori meals.
Included Activities
  • Kongobu-ji
Optional Activities
  • Audio guide - JPY500
Ryokan (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Osaka
Osaka (approx. 3 hrs by train) provides the adventurous with a chance to visit a fugu (poisonous pufferfish) restaurant - at your own risk! We also have the opportunity to taste buckwheat noodles (soba) and okonomiyaki, the region's signature dish, in tiny backstreet shops around this feudal hub. Don't miss the local takoyaki (octopus balls), said to be the best in Japan.
Optional Activities
  • Takoyaki (octopus ball) class - JPY400
  • Bunraku Puppet performance - JPY2500
  • Osaka Castle - JPY600
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 9-10 Hiroshima
Hiroshima (approx 2 hrs by train from Osaka) is a bustling metropolis with a tragic history. We have free time to visit the ruins of the A-Dome building, one of 11 structures left partially standing after the nuclear bomb blast on 6 August 1945, as a horrifying reminder of the destruction of nuclear war. Around its perimeter is the peace park, with monuments and a museum dedicated to Hiroshima and international peace. For dinner we enjoy the local speciality, 'Hiroshima okonomiyaki,' at one of the most famous places for watching this great dish cooked in front of you.
In our time here, we'll spend an afternoon at the nearby island of Miyajima with its famous 'floating' Torii Gate, smoked oysters and the grand Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. Watch out though, for the inquisitive and eternally hungry deer that roam the streets of Miyajima!
Our beautiful hotel in Hiroshima is located close to the peace park and has private facilities.
Optional Activities
  • Hiroshima - Peace Park & Museum - JPY40
  • Hiroshima - Itsukushima-jinja Shrine - JPY300
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 11-14 Kyoto
We travel on to Kyoto via Himeji-jo Castle, a sight to behold. Built in 1580, this 5-storey castle is not only a fantastic example of amazing architecture, but a great insight into ancient life in Japan. From Hiroshima to Himeji-jo the journey takes approximately 1 hr, and then it's a further 1 hr on to Kyoto.
Once in Kyoto there is just so much to do! While here, we visit a Japanese cooking class featuring the seasonal specialities of the ancient capital. Afterwards, feel free to lose yourself in the streets, soaking up the wonderful atmosphere. The city's lively nightlife provides plenty of options for our final evening.
With so much to do in and around Kyoto, you might choose to extend your stay here. You can spend a day at Nara, home of Todai-ji Temple, the largest wooden building in the world and home to a 16 m-high Buddha. Or you could visit Kiyomizu-dera, one of the city's most famous landmarks - an ancient temple renowned for its architecture as well as a crystal-clear waterfall beneath it, whose waters are believed to have therapeutic properties.
There are no activities planned for day 14 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. We recommend you use your JR rail pass to get back to Tokyo (approx. 3.5 hrs), Osaka (approx. 1.5 hrs) or Nagoya (approx. 1.5 hrs) airports for departure.
Please note that due to passenger feedback, from November 2010 we will be substituting Nijo Castle for Himeji-jo Castle. This is due to restoration that is being undertaken at Himeji-jo, resulting in parts of it being closed, and a large proportion under scaffolding. Nijo Castle was the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shoguns and is famous for its 'nightingale' floors which are designed to squeak to warn residents of intruders.
Included Activities
  • Himeji - Himeji Castle
  • Kyoto - Temple/Shrine entrance (2)
  • Cooking class
Optional Activities
  • Bike hire (per day) - JPY800
  • Kiyomizu Temple - JPY400
  • Sanjusangendo Temple - JPY600
  • Todai-ji - JPY500
Hotel (3 nts)
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Bite-size Break - Tokyo (CJZF)
    • Land of the Rising Sun (CJST)
    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. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
    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.
    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 for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
    Many sights and attractions 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.
    If you are happy with the services provided by your group leader tipping - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Please consider this when budgeting for your extra expenses on this tour.
    The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$1-2 per person, per day can be used.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Group size
    Maximum of 12 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. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
    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.
    Hotel (9 nts), Ryokan (4 nts)
    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.
    13 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 7 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)
    All travellers must arrive with a 14 day ordinary JR Rail Pass. Please arrange this through your travel agent. The cost is around JPY45,100 or equivalent in your local currency depending on exchange rates. The price may be subject to agent service fee. Your group leader will assist in validating your pass on Day 2 of the trip. The pass can be used on Day 14 to travel to Tokyo or Osaka airports for your international flights. Please note the JR Rail Pass is only valid for 3 months after issue. If you're unable to apply for a JR pass due to living in Japan at the time of travel, we are able to purchase tickets for you along the way. Please allow approx US$700 for this.
    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 Parkside
    2-11-18 Ueno
    Phone: 81 338365711
    Joining point description
    Located right across from Shinobazu Pond, and conveniently close to Tokyo’s vibrant Ameyoko-cho district and the museums and galleries of Ueno Park.
    Check in time is 14:00. If arriving after 21:00, please telephone us your time of arrival.
    We are unable to offer additional accommodation at Hotel Parkside. For additional nights please book online:
    Joining point instructions
    Narita airport is approximately 60 km from Tokyo and a taxi would cost you around US$250.
    An arrival transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged on arrival. Please advise your flight arrival details at least 14 days prior to your departure.
    For a cheaper option we recommend you take the train. It's not complicated and there are plenty of people around to help you if you need to ask for directions.
    There are two railway companies that run trains from Narita Airport to Tokyo: Keisei Railways and Japan Rail. The train stations for both companies are located under the airport, very close to the exit from immigration. There are English signs.
    If you have a Japan Rail Pass and want to validate it you can do this before you get on the train at the rail pass office in the station. Then use your pass to take the JR 'Narita Express' train to Tokyo station. At Tokyo Station, change on to the Yamanote line (look for green signs) going toward Ueno. This is also a JR line so you can use your JR Pass. From Tokyo station Ueno is the 4th stop and should take about 8 minutes. On arrival at JR Ueno Station, go out the Shinobazu exit. When you get out of the station, you should see pedestrian crosswalks in front of you and on your right. Turn right and cross the street, then turn left. On your right you'll see stone stairs leading into Ueno Park. Walk past the stairs. Soon you'll see a blue and white sign for Keisei Ueno Station. Walk past the station, and look for a small police station on your right, just at the entrance to Ueno Park.
    Keep walking straight, and look to your right. You should see a McDonald's restaurant on the next corner. Turn right at the McDonald's. You will see a large pond on your right, and a concert hall just past the pond. Look across the street, and you'll see an illuminated sign that says 'Hotel Parkside'.
    If you do not have a Japan Rail pass or don't want it validated yet we suggest you take the Keisei Railways train and get off at the final stop, Ueno. The fare is 1,920 yen for the limited express Skyliner train (about 1 hour) or 1,000 yen for the regular express train (about 1.5 hours). Get off at the final stop, Keisei Ueno Station.
    When you exit the ticket gates at Keisei Ueno Station, turn immediately right. You will be at the Ikenohata exit. Cross the small street in front you you, and turn left. Keep walking until you see a McDonald's restaurant on your right, and turn right at this corner. You will see a large pond on your right, and a concert hall just past the pond. Look across the street, and you'll see an illumated sign that says 'Hotel Parkside'.
    Arrival complications
    We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
    If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
    No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
    Finish point
    Hearton Hotel
    Higashi no Toin Dori Oike Agaru
    Nakagyo Ku
    Finish point description
    The Hearton Hotel is located in the historic district near some of Kyoto's main attractions such as the Higashi Honganji and Nijō Castle. The hotel amenities include 24 hour reception, restaurant, cafe and laundry. The modern western rooms feature TV, AC, bathroom and refrigerator.
    We are unable to offer additional accommodation at Hearton Hotel. For additional nights please book online:
    Finish point instructions
    The Karasuma Oike subway station, the intersection of Kyoto's two main subway lines, is a short walk away from the Hearton Hotel. Take the Karasuma line southbound three stops to Kyoto station. The fare will be approximately 200JPY
    From KYOTO station:
    To get to Kansai Airport (Osaka) take the Limited Express Haruka (1 or 2 per hour depending on time of day). The fare is 3,690 yen or free with a valid JR Pass.
    To get to Narita Airport take the Hikari Limited Express to Tokyo station (2.5 hours) then change onto the Narita Express. The fare is 16,330 yen or free with a valid JR Pass. Please be aware that the Narita express requires a seat reservation as there are no unreserved cars. This can be bought / reserved at any JR Green ticket window. Find out before you board which terminal you need to go to (Terminal 1 or 2) by looking at your ticket or checking details on www.narita-airport.jp. If you need to go to Terminal 1 this is the final stop of the train and the station name is 'Narita Airport'. The station name for Terminal 2 is 'Narita Airport Terminal 2'. Please do NOT get off at 'Narita' station; this is the city, not the airport.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative Venture can be reached on +81 (80) 3012 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$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest 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 and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
    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. 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 group 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 group 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 the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides 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 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 group 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:
    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.
    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$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
    Carbon offset
    Carbon Offset C02-e 700.00 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.
    Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.