Winter Japan Trip Notes

Winter Japan

Last Modified: 10 Oct 2012
Winter Japan
Trip code: CJSF
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2012
Pack some winter gear and head out to explore the far north of Japan - a fascinating and rarely visited part of this diverse country. See the amazing Sapporo Snow Festival and enjoy some of Hokkaido´s energising winter sports. Return south to visit Nikko - a truly beautiful winter wonderland, peppered with ancient temples, gardens and shrines. Bookended by days in Japan's electric capital, this trip mixes the energy and excitement of Tokyo with the serenity of Nikko's temples and the white beauty of Sapporo in winter, to create a journey rich in cultural icons, history, tradition and seasonal delights.
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
Included activitiesJoining point Responsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionA couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsCarbon offset
TippingFinish point Feedback
Departure taxFinish point description
  • 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.
Festivals and Events
Winter Japan
Days 1-2 Tokyo
Konnichiwa! Welcome to Japan.
You can arrive at the joining-point hotel at any time on day 1 as there are no planned activities aside from a group meeting in the evening followed by dinner at a nearby local restaurant. Your leader will contact you to arrange this meeting via a welcome note on your arrival.
Tokyo is famous throughout the world as a megacity, but you will soon discover that there is more to Tokyo than its neon lights.
Harajuku is where the present and past collide as the cos-play kids prance and preen just outside one of Tokyo's most important Shinto shrines. Teenagers from Tokyo and the surrounding area converge on Harajuku, out to see and be seen in their goth/punk/French maid finery. Nearby Yoyogi park is another meeting point for the areas fringe groups. Right next to all this modern youth culture is Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the late Meiji emperor and his consort. The Meiji emperor is revered as the emperor who brought Japan out of its self imposed isolation as a semi-rural backwater and put it on the track to rapid modernisation in the early 20th century. Shinto wedding ceremonies still take place today for the city's high society and elite who can afford the service in such a revered place.
Nearby Harajuku are the Shinjuku and Shibuya areas. Famed for a seedy underbelly that feels nothing like the rest of Tokyo or indeed Japan, the adventurous can venture for a night walk through 'Piss alley' and Kabukicho areas of Shinjuku for some local beers and buzzing, neon-filled night scenes, or stroll the backstreets of Shibuya's 'love hotel hill' to see another slice of the complex contemporary Japanese city life.
There is an option (availability permitting) to watch a sumo training session at one of the many beyas (stables) in the area but be aware that even if this is offered the stable master requests that complete silence and no photos be taken during training as it would distract the wrestlers.
Optional Activities
  • Shinjuku Garden - JPY200
  • Tokyo Edo Museum - JPY300
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-5 Sapporo
On day 3 we travel by shinkansen (bullet train) to Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido (approx. 10 hrs). We arrive in time to enjoy Sapporo's famous ice festival, one of Japan's biggest winter events which began in 1950 when high school students made 6 snow statues. These days it has developed into a week-long extravaganza including 15 international teams competing to build the best snow statue (judged on 7th February). In total there are generally about 300-400 status constructed in the various sites that the festival takes place and the TV tower in Odori Park is an excellent spot to get a birds eye view.
In between the festivities take some time to enjoy the other attractions Sapporo has to offer. Constructed in 1878, the clock tower is the oldest building in the city. Take a cable car up the nearby mountain to look down over the city or visit the brewery which produces the famous beer to which Sapporo lends its name. For hearty and warming meal slurp down a bowl of crab ramen (Hokkaido's famous for it) or warm up in one of the many bars with some hot sake.
Included Activities
  • Snow festival sights and performances
Optional Activities
  • TV tower - USD7
  • Clock tower - USD2
  • Hokudai garden and Ainu museum - USD4
  • Beer Museum - Free
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 6-7 Asahikawa
On day 6 we travel north to Asahikawa (approx. 2 hrs) by local train. Once the largest settlement of the native Ainu people then a centre for history and commerce in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) it is also famous for being one of the first areas in Japan to be developed as a ski resort. Another claim to fame is the coldest recorded temperature in Japan: -41 degrees Celsius (-41 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in 1902.
While we are in town there is the opportunity to see the city's local snow and ice festival which, while smaller than Sapporo's, is also worth seeing for the various seasonal events that take place as part of it.
If you're interested in skiing or snowboarding use our time here to head up the slopes on one of the many runs available. Nestled in the Taisetsu mountain range, Asahikawa is the perfect base for some of the best snow Hokkaido has to offer. Spend your evenings back in town warming up in an onsen. We'll visit a brewery to sample some of the local sake. The area has long been a centre for sake brewing, using the clear mountain water to make the high grade rice-based alcohol. If you want to learn more about the brewing process you could visit the sake brewing museum.
Included Activities
  • Asahikawa ice festival
  • Sake brewery tasting
Optional Activities
  • Ski/snowboard hire - USD50
  • Folk arts and craft village - USD14
  • 1 day lift pass - USD30
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 8-9 Hirosaki
On day 8 we leave Hokkaido as we travel south to Japan's largest island of Honshu. In the stunning mountains in the north of the island and a 6 hr train ride from Asahikawa, Hirosaki is a beautiful castle town which makes a perfect stop-off point on our way to Tokyo. We'll visit Hirosaki castle ruins, which was built in the 17th century. Ruled by the Tsugaru clan that controlled most of northern Honshu, Hirosaki also has a number of temples which are beautiful to wander through in the snow.
We have some time to explore the town in the lead-up to its own Snow Lantern Festival. This yearly event is a popular fixture on the winter calendar in Hirosaki and originated as an opportunity for community interaction and exercise during the long, cold winter. The present-day festival showcases exquisite snow sculptures and features attractions and events to interest and entertain the whole family.
Our Ryokan is located in an basic but important historic building located close to Hirosaki castle and the Snow lantern festival location.
Included Activities
  • Neputa festival museum
  • Snow Lantern Festival
Optional Activities
  • Chosho-ji - USD3
Ryokan (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Sendai/Matsushima
Further south (approx. 4 hrs by train) we reach Sendai with treelined streets with a vibrant downtown and plenty of restaurant options. Why not visit the wooded hilltop park- Aobayama-koen, the site of the former Sendai Castle or stop by the Sendai City Museum?
Whilst here we journey to the beautiful Matsushima Bay. Famous as one of the Japan's three most beautiful views, the eroded pine-topped islands that dot the bay have long inspired poets and painters alike who made what was once a month-long pilgrimage to the area. After a long journey, a haiku poet of the 17th century was so moved by the view that he could only write: 'Matsushima ah!/a ha Matsushima, ah!/Matsushima ah!'. Many both before and after him have been awestruck by the viewing spot we will visit.
We will also visit Zuigan-ji, the most notable Zen temple in this area of Japan. Founded in 828 it is a temple of the Rinzai school of the Zen sect of Buddhism and was rebuilt in 1604 by the one-eyed samurai who ruled much of the area.
Included Activities
  • Zuigan-ji Zen temple and gardens
Optional Activities
  • Kanran-tei pavillion - USD2
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 12-13 Nikko
A short train ride (approx. 2 hrs) takes us to Nikko, north of Tokyo. Established as a monastic retreat in the 8th century, Nikko became more famous in the early 17th century when it was chosen as the resting spot of the first Tokugawa shogun. He unified Japan after decades of civil war and no expense was spared in construction of Toshogu, the shrine dedicated to him. It is picturesquely surrounded by a forest of 350 year old cedar trees and we have the chance to explore it as well as other temples and shrines in the area.
A recommended bus ride for those who want more nature is possible up to the amazing Nikko National Park and Lake Chuzenji where you can see wild monkeys, deer, boar and birdlife among volcano peaks, spring-fed lakes and wildflower-filled ash fields.
Included Activities
  • Nikko - Toshogu Shrine
Optional Activities
  • Bus to Chuzenji Lake (return) - JPY2200
  • Imperial Villa - JPY500
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Tokyo
Heading back to the metropolis of Tokyo (approx. 2 hrs) we take advantage of our time to explore some of the many fascinating sides to one of the world's largest cities. Peruse the many museums, do some last-minute shopping or simply explore some of the many backstreets of the city's fascinating neighbourhoods.
There are no activities planned for day 15 and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. If you'd like to stay a little longer, there are plenty of sights to see in and around Tokyo.
Hotel (1 nt)
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Highlights of Kyoto (CJAK-O)
    • Highlights of Kyoto (CJAK-O)
    • Japan Express (CJRB)
    • Land of the Rising Sun (CJST)
    • Taste of Japan (CJKT)
    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:
    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

    At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
    Physical rating

    Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
    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 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.
    Hotel (10 nts), Ryokan (2 nts), Guesthouse (2 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.
    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.
    2 Breakfasts, 2 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 400.00
    Train (bullet), Train
    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
    Kinuya Hotel
    2-14-28 Ueno Taitoku
    Phone: 03 38331911
    Joining point description
    Located in the heart of Tokyo, great for exploring. Ueno Park is the height of activity on weekends, so is well worth a look. Although Tokyo is a big city it is not too difficult to get around, quite safe, and people are friendly and helpful. Be sure to take a business card from reception before heading out into the streets, just in case.
    Check-in time at our joining point hotel is after 2:00pm. Early check-in is not guaranteed, however if you arrive early, luggage storage is available. Speak to the hotel reception on arrival.
    We are unable to offer additional accommodation at Kinuya Hotel. If you are spending extra nights in Tokyo consider booking direct with the hotel.
    Joining point instructions
    Narita Airport is approximately 60 km from Tokyo and a taxi will cost you approximately 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. The train station is located under the airport, very close to the exit from immigration.
    If you have a Japan Rail Pass and want to validate it you can do this before you get on the train. Before you validate your rail pass, though, consider any travelling you might want to do after the trip concludes in Kyoto.Take the JR Narita Express train to Tokyo Station (1 hr) and from there change on to the Yamanote loop line (green line) going toward Ueno. From Tokyo Station, Ueno is the 4th stop and should take about 8 minutes. On arrival at Ueno Station, follow signs to the Shinobazu exit. Don´t go out the central exit. If you find yourself in a large concourse with a Starbucks coffee shop and an Anderson´s bakery, you've gone the wrong way.
    At the Shinobazu exit of Ueno Station, you should see a Spanish restaurant on your right. Stand with your back to the Spanish restaurant. You should see a crosswalk in front of you and one on your right. Cross the crosswalk on your right and turn left after you get across the street. Walk about 50m. You should see a staircase on your right that leads to Ueno Park. Don´t go up the stairs. Walk another 15m and you will see the entrance to Keisei Ueno Station. The station name is written on a large sign in white letters on a blue background.
    Go down into the station and walk past the ticket gates you´ll see you your right. Go up the stairs and out the Ikenohata Exit. The Kinuya Hotel is right in front of you across the street.
    Take the Keisei line train and get off at the final stop, Keisei Ueno. The fare is 1,920 yen for the express Skyliner train (about 1 hour) or 1,000 yen for the normal train (about 1.5 hours). When you get off at Keisei Ueno go out the ticket gates (there is only one set of ticket gates at this station) and turn right. Go up the stairs and out the Ikenohata Exit. The Kinuya Hotel is across the road at the top of the stairs.
    Your leader will help you validate your rail pass on Day 2 in Tokyo. This will enable you to use the JR system to reach either Narita or Kansai airport from Kyoto (considerably more expensive than Narita Airport to Ueno Keisei on the Keisei Line) on Day 14 or Day 15 for those staying an extra night in Kyoto at the end of the tour. If you are flying in on Day 1 - arrival day - and flying out Day 14 - departure day - you can validate your rail pass at Narita Airport on arrival and still use the JR system to reach either Narita or Kansai airport from Kyoto.
    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
    Kinuya Hotel
    2-14-28 Ueno Taitoku
    Phone: 03 38331911
    Finish point description
    Located in the heart of Tokyo, great for exploring. Ueno Park is the height of activity on weekends, so is well worth a look. Although Tokyo is a big city it is not too difficult to get around, quite safe, and people are friendly and helpful. Be sure to take a business card from reception before heading out into the streets, just in case.
    Check-in time at our joining point hotel is after 2:00pm. Early check-in is not guaranteed, however if you arrive early, luggage storage is available. Speak to the hotel reception on arrival.
    We are unable to offer additional accommodation at Kinuya Hotel. If you are spending extra nights in Tokyo consider booking direct with the hotel.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Melbourne Office can be reached on Tel: +61 3 9473 2650. For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week. 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 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 675.00 kgs per pax.
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.