Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Have a safe and happy new year

Tokyo in March on Classic Sakura tour
Kyoto in April on Sakura Highland tour


Happy New Year !!

It's great to end the year well in Sydney. The days are long and the weather's been warm. I've been taking it easy at this time, enjoying the beach and coastal walks with friends. I hope I can stay awake to see the New Year in. Do you have any plans?

Nakasendo in May on City Lights & Alpine Trails tour
Onuma National Park on North to Kamui Mintara tour in June



Thank you

In 2014, Riki's Tours Japan really took off! It's been quite a busy year. My small group tours all filled up with great fellow travellers. Thank you for finding my tours and spending time with me in Japan. Being with you is the best part of my business. I love travelling with you. Doing all the books and paper work is less enjoyable of course. I need to thank Jason for helping me with this side of things, and also the marketing and brochure design and everything else. Hopefully, I can fully clean up my office today before the New Year rolls in!
Shirakawago in September in City Lights & Alpine Trails
In Hakone on Nat-san's tailored tour in October


My year in review

As mentioned, my tours in 2014 were full with lots of happy travellers. I think I can say we all shared great times together in Japan. I also need to thank Nat-san for finding me to help with his tailored tour, bringing together friends from Australia and the U.S.
On the Kumano Kodo in November, Spirit of Japan tour
Nara Park in November on Autumn Colours tour








Into 2015

Most of my tours in the first half of the year have filled up, but there are still two places on my Sakura Highland tour departing 12 April, which is a fantastic tour taking in the cherry blossoms in Kyoto and mountainous areas. Later in the year, I have lots of space remaining including City Lights & Alpine Trails in September, Spirit of Japan in October, and Autumn Colours in November.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thinking of an independent tour of Japan?

For independent travellers

If you'd like advice putting together a tailored tour of Japan, please get in touch. I can organise something for you to follow in the style that suits you. Or, if you have your own group that would like to be guided (and I'm not guiding others), then I could be at your service. In fact, my next tour is for a group just like that, with special requests for sightseeing and food experiences - It should be great! Some places I can recommend that I have experienced, but are not part of my organised tours include:

Hokkaido in Winter, where you can combine skiing with touring experiences, such as walking on drift ice on the Sea of Okhotsk (pictured).
Northern Kyushu, which is a great place to enjoy rural landscapes, hot spring resorts and experience traditional pottery villages such as Onta.
Yakushima Island off southern Kyushu, which is World Heritage listed, is a wonderful place to do some serious hiking in ancient cedar forests, with views of the ocean all round.


Prayers for Mt Ontake hikers

Recently, you would have heard the terrible news of Mt Ontake blowing its top in Central Japan, killing nearly 50 hikers. On that day, I happened to be touring with fellow travellers just in a nearby valley. We didn't see or feel anything that day, but it was a reminder that Japan does face very powerful natural forces from time to time. I wish everyone safe travels wherever they may be in the world.


Tour report: City Lights & Alpine Trails, Sept 2014

Once again, I was lucky to enjoy a great trip from Kyoto to Tokyo via the Japan Alps with a terrific group of fellow travellers. The weather gave us a great walking day on the ancient Nakasendo from Tsumago to Magome in the Kiso valley (pictured). Here is some feed-back from two travellers:

Riki made our trip enjoyable because of his delightful personality, his kind-ness, and his extensive knowledge of Japan - Helen

I enjoyed the variety of city & country. Your intimate knowledge of Kyoto, Japanese food and customs was in-valuable - Anne


Bookings for 2015

My 2015 tours are now filling and my Classic Sakura tour has just sold out.

Sakura Highland in April
four spaces
City Lights & Alpine Trails in May
four spaces
North to Kamui Mintara in May-June
six spaces
Combined Walking Tour in May-June
four spaces

My 2015 Autumn Tours later in the year are available. Remember, my tours are guaranteed to depart with just two travellers, so if you have a travelling buddy, you can book ahead and organise your flights with confi-dence knowing that your trip will run.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm looking forward to leaving Sydney's wet weather behind!

Sakura tours filling fast

Fortunately for me, my cherry blossom tours have been filling fast. The Classic Sakura tour has just one spot remaining for a lucky single joiner, while Sakura Highland, which takes in beautiful mountainous areas such as Matsumoto Castle, has space for six. So if you want to visit Japan for the cherry blossoms, please get in touch.

Places to see: Kurama

Kurama is a temple complex in the mountains north of Kyoto that is special to me. According to Japanese legend, it is the place where Ushiwakamaru was taught how to become a sword master from Sojobo, King of the Tengu, which is a scary red-faced big-nosed mountain god. Kurama is special for me because it’s close to where I grew up, so my family would often visit there together. We could feel like we were away from ordinary life. I will take my fellow travellers there on a day-walk through the forests of Kurama on my Autumn Colours tour in November. Should be wonderful!

Movies to see: Departures

While thinking about my past in Kyoto... When I was a junior high school student,  my mother’s friend used to work at a local eigakan (cinema), and she would let me in for free. I liked going there to see the world outside Japan. One of my favourites was the 1985 film, My life as a Dog, which is a Swedish film about a boy growing up in the countryside. Have you seen it? It taught me that on the other side of the world, people feel the same things… Anyway, if you are interested in Japanese films, I suggest you watch Departures (Okuribito), which is a nice Japanese film about a family with a funeral business. It's a bit like Six Feet Under - one of my favourite box sets.

Late Summer tours ahead

The rest of my 2014 tours have all filled up! In mid-September, I will be meeting up with fellow travellers in Kyoto to start my City Lights & Alpine Trails tour. I’m looking forward to watching the grand finale of the Sumo together, and also visiting Kamikochi in the Japan Alps. And also eating the food! I'll be running this tour twice next year, so why don't you join me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting everything ready for next year


2015 Tours online now

I've just finished my tour line up for 2015. I've made some changes to hopefully make them even more wonderful! My Classic Sakura tour now includes a stay at Hakone, so we may wake to views of Mt Fuji. I've also extended my Sakura Highland tour to give you more time in both Kyoto and Tokyo. My walking tours in the green season stay the same, so if you want to see Kamikochi (pic above taken on tour this year), why don't you join me?

My 2015 brochure is done!


Ookini to my friend and helper Jason, for putting my 2015 brochure together. Here's the front and back cover. You can see it all in electronic format here. What do you think? He's refreshed the website too, so check it out. I know it drives you crazy sometimes Jason, but thank you for your labour of love.


Spring green tour report

Here is a pic of wonderful fellow travellers overlooking Shirakawago village in central Japan. My City Lights & Alpine Trails tour was made up of a great mix of people from all around Australia. They all got on very well together, which made a very happy tour. It was agreed that the two nights at Kamikochi (despite the cold and the rain) was a highlight. It's a great place to get away - surrounded by snow capped peaks, beautiful river and monkeys! Thank you for finding my tour and joining me. Ookini!


2014 Tour update


Nearly all my tours have sold out for the rest of 2014. Only my Kumano Kodo walking tour has spots left. It's one of my favourite tours and was great last year. See details here:
14 Nov  
Spirit of Japan
more than 5 left     $2690     8 days

Monday, May 12, 2014

Looking forward to the warmer weather in Japan

May in Japan: azaleas, strawberries and shinryoku (try to say it!)

It's getting cooler each day here in Sydney, but it's getting warmer each day in Japan. Mid-May to mid-June is one of my favourite times to visit Japan. Why?

  • The days are longer, so you have more time for sightseeing.
  • It's not too cold and not too hot, so you don’t have to pack heavy clothes.
  • The azaleas are in full bloom.
  • Strawberries are in season and you can’t get enough.
  • Shinryoku - new green: who can resist walking under new green foliage!!
So I'm really looking forward to guiding nine fellow travellers from next Saturday on my City Lights & Alpine Trails Tour. This itinerary is very unique, including a special viewing of the Kamogawa Odori, which is one of the most traditional dance performances by Maiko and Geiko in Kyoto's Pontocho Alley. We're also spending several days in the alpine region of central Japan - visiting, Gero Onsen, Kamikochi and Tsumago, where we get to stay in traditional inns and take hot spring baths. I can't wait! After this tour, some of us will be continuing on North to Kamui Mintara. Follow me on Facebook for updates.

2014 sakura tours report

We were blessed to have had great weather and happy memories on both the “Classic Sakura” and “Sakura Highland” tours. We saw so many cherry blossoms across Japan. On the first tour, we enjoyed a snow shower on Mt Misen above the floating red gate, followed by brilliant blue skies. On the second tour, we could enjoy hanami at our secret spot near Matsumoto. Here are some comments from my fellow travellers:
  • Riki is a relaxed guide always reassuring, caring and reliable. (Ms Mar)
  • We have seen & experienced life in Japan in a way we would never have achieved on our own. (Mrs Robertson)
  • Riki treated all of us as part of his family. (Mr Kannangara)
  • Personal + historical knowledge of Japan, terrific consideration of our well-being. (Mrs Collins)
  • I’ve been on a few guided tours. Usually the tour leader goes away at the end of day, but Riki was always available to take us somewhere interesting for dinners. (Mr Collins)
Thank you for all your kind comments. It was wonderful travelling with you and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Mr Kimura the Hiroshima taxi driver

My personal highlight in April was meeting with Mr Kimura in Hiroshima again. It was pure coincidence. I took his taxi last year in May, and I happened to take his taxi again this year too with my fellow travellers.  He is an 83 year old taxi driver who experienced the atomic bomb when he was 13 years old. He lost his father and three sisters at the time. He still drives his taxi three times a week and often talks about his experiences with visitors. He doesn’t blame anyone for what happened, he says sensou wa sensou (war is war). Click here for a video of him talking with us.


Hands on experience: indigo dyeing

Are you interested in doing something more than sightseeing?  During my "Classic Sakura" tour, I shared Japanese indigo dyeing experience in Tokyo with my fellow travellers, and it turned out really well. Tade Ai (Polygonum or Knotweed) is the plant which creates the beautiful dark blue colour, which you've probably seen on traditional Japanese fabrics. The plant is native to Japan, and many can still be found growing wild in Shikoku. Its green colour changes when it touches the air.

The year ahead

I'm starting to plan for next years' tours. I will probably change the "Classic Sakura" tour a little by including stays at Mt Fuji and Himeji Castle, which is Japan's best. It's been under wraps for renovation since 2010, so it will be great to see it again. Also, don't miss out. It's not too late to book yourself on one my Autumn Tours this November.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wishing my fellow travellers well for my upcoming Sakura tours of 2014

How to enjoy Sakura Hanami in Japan

When I think of hanami, I think of the start of each school year in April that I had as a youth in Japan. So for me, hanami is a time to open my mind to new ideas with the warming weather. The best way to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Japan is to have a picnic party with friends under the cherry trees to welcome in the season. Having a hanami party among Japanese people with the blossoms floating around would surely become an experience you'd never forget... But there are some must-have items to properly enjoy a hanami party, which you can pick up at a 100 yen store: a picnic sheet, a pack of kairo (disposable iron powdered body warmers - yes it's true!), plastic glasses, a bottle opener, and your favourite booze! You can get food for your hanami party at the basement of any department store. They make beautiful bento-boxes full of seasonal treats that are cut and packed with tender loving care, including takenoko

Takenoko - What I look forward to eating in Spring
Fresh takenoko (bamboo shoots) arrives on kitchen tables throughout Japan at this time of the year. It tastes good grilled, boiled or steamed and has a distinctive woody texture and fragrance that always reminds me of Spring. It's like a best supporting actress for any main dish, and I recommend that if you're in Japan for early Spring that you give it a try.

This pic was taken last year at Okouchi Villa in Arashiyama near Kyoto. It has some of my Autumn travellers wearing jackets to match the season! It was a great trip. This year, my Autumn Colours tour in late November provides some unique insights into the culture and nature of Japan. It includes a visit of the Benesee Art Site of Naoshima. It's a truly tranquil and picturesque spot situated on three islands of the Inland Sea, where you can reflect on art in nature on your own terms. My tour also has four gentle day walks under a golden leaf backdrop, so why don't you join me?

2014 Tour Update

Here's a pic of me on the Kumano Kodo last year when when I was researching my Spirit of Japan tour. The Kii Peninsula is such a special place. Anyway, I'm leaving Sydney for Japan on Thursday to meet my fellow travellers for my Sakura tours. I'm really looking forward it. Although you've missed my Sakura tours this year, it's not too late to book yourself on one of my Spring Green or Autumn tours.