Japan Family - Essence of the Orient Trip Notes

Japan Family - Essence of the Orient

Last Modified: 20 Dec 2013
Japan Family - Essence of the Orient
Trip code: FJP
Validity: 01 Oct 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
See the many contrasting sides of Japan, from its ancient cities and beautiful temples to the modern whirlwind of downtown Tokyo. Walk through mountain villages, cycle along forest trails and speed across the country on the famous bullet train. Learn about the simplicity of a monk’s life with an overnight stay in a temple and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of natural thermal springs. Whether lucky enough to glimpse Japan’s famous cherry blossom while away or not, the colourful Oriental culture of this fascinating land will dazzle the senses of adults and children alike.
TRIP CHANGE FOR 2014:
Due to traveller feedback this itinerary has been significantly revised to make it much more child focused and to reduce the travel time between destinations. Please see the detailed 2014 itinerary for more information.
This trip is operated by our trusted local partners, The Adventure Company.
Table of Contents
StyleDeparture taxFinish point instructions
ThemesImportant notesEmergency contact
MapGroup sizeEmergency funds
ItineraryYour fellow travellersVisas
Also available to purchaseSingle travellersIssues on your trip
Itinerary disclaimerAccommodationWhat to take
Culture shock rating Meals introductionHealth
Physical ratingMealsSafety
Physical preparationTransportTravel insurance
Included activitiesGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionA couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsFeedback
TippingFinish point description
Style
Original
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Themes
Family, Explorer
Map
Japan Family - Essence of the Orient
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Tokyo
Welcome to Tokyo
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 7pm Day 1.
Make your way to your first nights accommodation and check in. You will meet your group leader and the rest of your family group at the welcome meeting. This evening, if you feel like it, you could head down to Ginza by subway to see the extraordinary display of neon (particularly the Sony building, which houses all the latest products – many of which won’t reach the UK) at Tokyo’s equivalent of Piccadilly Circus. You could also go to Roppongi Hills to see the world class Mori Art Museum, or the Tokyo City View observation deck – the city can be seen in all its glory from the 52nd floor of the tower.
On our first day we set out to explore the fascinating city of Tokyo setting off by subway and local bus for a flying tour of Tokyo’s main sights. The fish market at Tsukiji is a fascinating, if a little smelly, place to start our tour. Then we will visit the Imperial Palace. Here we’ll see the classic view of the Nijubashi (double bridge), the moat and part of the Palace buildings in the background. Then take a tour of the Honda showroom including a demonstration of a Asimo robot. Finally see the Asekusa Kannon Temple.
This evening is free. If you wish you can take the subway to sample some night-life in Shinjuku district, with its constant crowds, extraordinary modern architecture and bright lights - the epitome of modern city living.
Included Activities
  • Asakusa Kannon Temple
  • Tokyo - Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Honda Showroom
  • Imperial Palace Plaza
Accommodation
Shiba Park Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Hakone
Today we take a sightseeing tour of Tokyo by local train visiting Meiji Shrine and Harajuku area. This afternoon there is free time.
Later we depart for Hakone (taking with us overnight bags for just 2 nights - our main luggage will be transferred to Hiroshima and be waiting there for us). Using our rail pass and travelling first by local train, we’ll then transfer to a JR (Japanese Railways) shinkansen - the so-called bullet train – taking us to Odawara. The total time of the journey will be 90 minutes. It’s astonishingly easy to travel by train in Japan. Trains operate with metronomic precision, and the sight of a white-gloved guard, bowing to a carriage full of travellers, is something we’ll never forget!
Our day’s travel will end with an opportunity to bathe Japanese-style at your hotel’s delightful Onsen (hot springs).
The following day we will do the so-called Hakone Circuit; we’ll get a pass which allows us to travel by funicular railway, cable car, lake steamer and train to cover the area. There’s something for everyone here: Hakone has an excellent open-air museum of modern sculpture, but one of the main attractions is the volcanic area of Owakudani, with its sulphur pools which emit foul-smelling, but supposedly beneficial, gases. Try one of the hard boiled eggs, which are turned black by the water, they are alleged to prolong your life. If the weather is fine, we’ll get sublime views from Lake Ashino-ko of the icy cone of Fuji-san; Japan’s definitive mountain broods serenely on the skyline.
From Odarawa station we catch a train to Nagoya, from where we board the express train to Nakatsugawa then the local train to Nagiso. The whole journey will take about three hours, before taking a taxi to Tsumago for overnight nights at a traditional Japanese ryokan.
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel, where the owners take pride in preserving the atmosphere and history of the building, which is usually wood. A garden is also a common feature. We will stay in a Japanese-style room on a futon, which will be comfortable enough (but don’t expect modern conveniences!) and tonight we will enjoy a traditional style home-cooked meal.
Included Activities
  • Meiji Shrine
  • Lake Ashi Cruise
  • Ropeway Ride Owakudani
Accommodation
Hakone Palace Hotel (1 nt), Tsutamuraya Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Hiroshima
This morning we’ll catch a local bus to the small town of Magome in the Kiso Valley. This valley is renowned as the route of the ancient Nakasendo post road, an imperial highway from the Edo period that once ran from Kyoto to Tokyo. It makes a welcome change as we stretch our legs with an easy 9km walk up and over Magome-koge Pass back to the town of Tsumago (roughly three hours away). There’s time to enjoy the traditional atmosphere of these villages, stopping in places where original travellers would once have stopped to rest and take fresh horses. The villages are steeped in history, and are as authentic as anything we're likely to see on the main island of Honshu. Later transfer to the station by taxi to board our JR express train to Nagoya. At Nagoya we change train and take the bullet train to Shin Osaka. Then take another bullet train to Hiroshima. Arriving in the evening it's then just a short walk to our hotel, where our main luggage will await us.
The following day we take a tram to Miyajima-guchi (approx. 30 minutes) and board the ferry for the short 10 minute crossing to Itsuku-shima (also known as Miya-jima) island - officially designated (the Japanese just love lists…) as one of the ‘Three Most Scenic Places in Japan’. The renowned bright scarlet torii gate rises directly out of the ocean. Dating from 1168, this 16m high, 24m wide structure stands at the mouth of a small bay so that any boat entering the bay would have to pass through it. The island is dominated by Mt. Misen; depending on the time we could walk up (it takes a couple of hours). After our visit we return to Hiroshima.
Included Activities
  • Itsukushima Shrine
Accommodation
New Hiroden Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-8 Mt Koya
Today we can rise early and participate in a traditional early morning prayer ceremony at dawn, then enjoy a vegetarian breakfast. Then we make a walking tour around Mt Koya (2800ft) visiting Kongobuji Temple and Okuno Inn Shrine. Later transfer to Mt Koya station by local bus and catch the Nankai express train (approx 30 mins) to Namba where you transfer to Shin Osaka station and take the bullet train to Koyoto (approx 15 mins). On arrival it's a short distance to walk to our hotel.
Included Activities
  • Hiroshima - A-Bomb Museum
  • Peace Memorial Park
  • Kongobuji Temple
  • Okuno Inn Shrine
Accommodation
Rengejo Inn (1 nt), New Miyako Hotel (1 nt)
Days 9-11 Kyoto
The charms of the former imperial capital of Kyoto are discreetly hidden, and our stay will reveal some of the finest temples, shrines, palaces and gardens in the country. We have the whole plenty of time to explore - though we could easily spend a week in Kyoto without getting bored!
Explore the city by local bus visiting Heian Shrine and the Kiyomizu Temple – this temple being one of the most famous landmarks of the city thanks to its role within the realms of Buddhism, and reached by a narrow trail dotted with traditional Japanese shops. Its location is scenic - atop a hill, with a waterfall below and the area is dotted with numerous other temples and shrines! We’ll also visit Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple), which is almost entirely covered with gold foil, and is one of the most famous landmarks of Kyoto. Plus the Ryoanji Temple with its rock garden. This evening we have great fun at a Japanese cooking lesson at Old Kyoto House.
The following morning we jump onto bicycles to explore the old town. The afternoon is free for our own activities - or maybe some more cycling.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart our accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Included Activities
  • Cooking Class
  • Kyoto - Kinkakuji Temple
  • Kiyomizu Temple
  • Ryoanji Temple
  • Kyoto - Guided bike ride
Accommodation
New Miyako Hotel (2 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.
  • FJP - Essence of the Orient - Single supplement (FJP)
    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
    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.
    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.
    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.
    Tipping
    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.
    Important notes
    AGE RESTRICTIONS:
    Age restrictions apply to this trip: minimum age 5. Please note that anyone aged under 18 must be accompanied by (and share accommodation with) a parent or legal guardian.
    LOCAL PARTNER:
    This trip is operated by our experienced local partner, The Adventure Company.
    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. 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:
    www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
    Single travellers
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. On our Family Adventures, single relatives or friends are welcome to travel along with a family. These single travellers share with people of the same gender for the duration of the trip and in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Please note that 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 Comfort and Original style trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (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 available on this trip, please refer to your booking agent for further information.
    Accommodation
    New Miyako Hotel (3 nts), Shiba Park Hotel (2 nts), New Hiroden Hotel (2 nts), Hakone Palace Hotel (1 nt), Tsutamuraya Hotel (1 nt), Rengejo Inn (1 nt)
    GENERAL ROOMING CONFIGURATIONS:
    Family of two - All family groupings of two will be put into a twin room.
    Family of three - Wherever possible we will put you in a triple room. Please be aware that in some places triple rooms are in short supply. This means that, in practice, a triple room will often simply be a twin room with a mattress on the floor or a further bed squashed in. Where it is impossible to provide a triple room, you will have to decide which of your party takes the single room.
    Family of four or more - You will most likely stay in two twin rooms. If and wherever possible we will aim put you in a quadruple room. Whilst we will do our very best to ensure that families are roomed close together (in some cases, we can arrange adjoining rooms), we can’t guarantee this. Most family holidays occur during peak season and we sometimes have little to no control over where you will be put. You need to come prepared for this.
    Accommodation is clean and simple. You'll mainly stay in small, locally-run, 2-3 star hotels and guesthouses, which reflect the character of the area,generally these will be a twin room with private facilities. Sometimes you'll stay in larger, more comfortable hotels or occasionally rustic accommodation with basic facilities. We use a variety of accommodation on most trips; chosen for their value for money, location and atmosphere. We also try and incorporate unique accommodation experiences, such as a night with a local tribe, or sleeping under the stars in the desert.
    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- or post-trip accommodation you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
    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.
    Meals
    10 Breakfasts, 3 Dinners
    Budget for meals not included:
    USD 400.00
    Transport
    Train, Train (bullet), Bus, Taxi, Boat, Cable car, Tram
    All travellers must arrive with a 7 day ordinary JR Rail Pass. Please arrange this through your travel agent. Your group leader will assist in validating your pass on Day 2 of the trip.
    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 description
    Shiba Park Hotel is located in the heart of Tokyo. Has great access to 4 major train and subway stations, and is close to Tokyo's major sightseeing spots as well as the business districts. The famous Tokyo Tower and the beautiful temple (Zojoji) are just a few steps away. The hotel has a restaurant and all rooms have a TV, hair dryer and coffee and tea facilities.
    http://en.shibaparkhotel.com/
    Joining point instructions
    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.
    From Narita Airport easiest way will be by Airport Limousine Bus. The bus will stop at Shina Park hotel, the journey takes 90 mins and will cost JPY 3,000 per person.
    From Haneda Airport you can take the Airport Limousine Bus which will stop at Shina Park hotel and will cost JPY 900 per person. Or take Monorail to Hamamatsucho station and walk to the hotel. This is very easy to do and there are plenty of people around to help you if you need to ask for directions. The train station is located under the airport, very close to the exit from immigration.
    You can also validate your Japan Rail Pass before you get on the train. (Before you validate your rail pass, though, consider any travelling you might want to do as and after the trip concludes in Kyoto.)
    Your leader can help you validate your rail pass on Day 2 in Tokyo as well.
    For the time table of Airport bus, please refer to below website
    http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/
    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 description
    Located in front of Kyoto station, good access to most of places in Kyoto. JR trains, subway, Kintetsu line and local buses all depart from Kyoto station.
    The hotel has a restaurant, all rooms have TV, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and free wifi.
    Check out is at 12 noon and offers luggage storage.
    http://www.miyakohotels.ne.jp/newmiyako/english/index.html/
    Finish point instructions
    A pre booked departure transfer from our hotel to the airport may be available depending on date of travel and if arranged at the time of booking. Transfers cannot be arranged during the trip. Please advise your flight details at least 14 days prior to your trips start date. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid.
    To travel to Kansai Airport, you are able to take the JR Express train Harukua from Kyoto Station (Kyoto is the first stop and Kansai Airport is the last stop) The journey takes 90min on train and costs JPY 3,690 per person for 2nd class reserved seat
    To travel to Itami Airport you are able to take the airport bus from Kyoto Station. The journey takes 60mins on the bus and costs JPY 1,280 per person.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency only, The Adventure Company can be reached on Tel: +44 1420 593000. For further contact details please use 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
    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.
    JAPAN:
    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
    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.
    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.
    WATER BOTTLE:
    Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. We recommend at least a 1.5litre capacity. 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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
    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.
    Health
    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.
    Safety
    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:
    TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
    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!
    PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
    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.
    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:
    LOCAL DRESS:
    Dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
    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:
    Feedback
    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.