Ookini (Thank you) to everyone who joined our Autumn season tours this year. I just returned safely to Australia and I'm happy that my customers have done likewise. My Spirit of Japan tour enjoyed great weather before things changed dramatically with Typhoon Hagibis in early October. Unfortunately, Jason had to cancel the Shinetsu Trail Full Trek while my group of Golden Alpine Trail travellers were battening down the hatches on Mt Madarao. Things cleared after that so we could continue with our travels, and my Deep North Autumn Walks tour also had some great blue sky weather (pictured right). Back in Australia, I am saddened to hear about all the bushfires. I hope everyone and their families are OK.
Information night 12 Dec: Dewa Sanzan, the pigrimage trail less taken
Jason & I will be hosting a talk at 6pm on December 12 at Trek & Travel in Sydney about our new hiking tour - the Dewa Sanzen Pilgrimage. Taking in the three sacred mountains of Dewa in north-western Tohoku, this 8 day tour is a fresh addition to our line-up for keen walkers. While Dewa Sanzen is less well known than the Kumanokodo or the Nakasendo, it has a long history steeped in Buddhism + Shintoism. The mountains lie in the pristine nature of the Asahi-Bandai National Park, and have been continually worshipped by yamabushi, the mountain ascetics, for hundreds of years as a place for spiritual rebirth. Come along to our feast for your imagination, supported by sake, sushi, and special guest (yamabushi), John McBride. Register your interest here or just show up!
Private group tours
Do you have a small group of friends who would like to travel together in Japan? For 2020, we have some spare time available in nice travel season for groups of travellers with a common interest. These travel times include:
- late April (ideal for sakura in the north)
- early June (ideal for mountain trails)
Get in touch with us if you would like to take one of these available times.
We have just finished updating our website for 2020. All tours are now on sale. We have a similar line up to 2019, with the addition of a new tour on the Shinetsu Trail & Nakasendo. Be aware that both the Classic Sakura tour and the City Lights & Alpine Trails tour have almost sold out already - so get in quick for the last spots. Unfortunately, we have had to increase prices a little due to the effect of the fall in the Australian dollar as well as an increase in Japan's consumption tax from 7% to 10%.
ANA direct from Perth
Perth travellers can now enjoy direct daily flights with All Nippon Airways to Tokyo Narita from 1st September. This is a big time saving as previously you would have had to travel through Sydney or somewhere else in Asia. See their website for deals.
New tour: Half Trail Plus
For 2020, we have created a new short walking tour of Nagano Prefecture to see the display of early summer flowers in the mountains. The 9 day Half Trail Plus tour will have you on two gentle sections of the Shinetsu Trail and two historical parts of the Nakasendo. This tour will be escorted by Jason with the help of a local mountain guide on the Shinetsu Trail. In early June, Jason worked with the local guides on trail maintenance and provided English lessons for them (pictured left). He loved the beauty of the Shinetsu Trail in this season, like the lovely native Camelia (above), and would like to share it with you.
Both Jason and I got back to Sydney last week, and now is the time that we plan for 2020. Our sakura tours are on sale (see below). We are also considering two new walking tours in early summer just before the Tokyo Olympics. One may be a tour of the Shinetsu Trail and the Nakasendo, and the other could be a pilgrimage of Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata Prefecture. I'll go to investigate the area in a couple of weeks. Look out for details in the next newsletter. My tour prices for 2020 have had to increase a little due to the fall in the Australian dollar and an increase in Japan's GST rate but they still present great value with nice accommodation on all tours.
My Classic Sakura tour was one of the first tours I designed when we set this small company up in 2013. It has changed little since then and is one of my most popular tours. It suits first time travellers to Japan, and also those who are want to see the sakura at their best in some classic locations.
We think the North Sakura tour is popular with Australian travellers because they enjoy taking the road less travelled, and they also enjoy being closer to rural areas and nature. Another advantage (or disadvantage perhaps) is that this tour has you sleeping on western beds for the entire journey! This tour suits travellers who are visiting Japan for a second time because I'll take you to some lovely places that see fewer tourists.
Are you an independent person like our supervisor (pictured)? We understand that not everyone wants to join a group tour, but we can still look after you on an independent tour. Jason does most of this work and he enjoys putting itineraries together for you. You'll get everything you need to travel independently with peace of mind backed up by all of our knowledge and experience. Please get in touch if you want to travel independently in Japan, but don't know where to start.
Kicking the plastic
We tend to accumulate quite a bit of plastic rubbish as we travel, so we've taken some small steps to reduce plastic waste. Here is our new cloth eco-bag (pictured) which we now distribute to all our travellers. The Japanese writing reads "I don't need a plastic bag". And on our Shinetsu Trail tours, instead of the throw-away bento-boxes that we use for lunch each day, we are giving all travellers their own re-usable bento-box and chop-stick set. We hope this helps to reduce our plastic footprint.
Off to see the sakura bloom
Next week, I leave Sydney for the cooler weather in Japan. The plum blossoms are already in bloom - they arrive a few weeks before the main event, the cherry blossoms! Because of the warmer winter, the blossoms are expected to bloom a little earlier than usual, but according to the forecast, they will fit my tours nicely. For travellers joining me soon, don't forget your warm jackets and hay fever tablets!
I'm sure many of you recognise the man standing beside me in this pic. Yes, it is 'Deeks' - Robert de Castella, the greatest Australian marathon runner, who first rose to fame when he won the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan in 1981. I was lucky to meet with him after finishing the Port Macquarie Half-Marathon a few weeks ago. He's now the Director of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, which we support. Please go to their page to learn more about this fantastic program that supports indigenous youth to reach their goals.
Ookini (Thank you)!
Thank you to all our travellers, past and present, who have spread the word about our tours. We are happy to say that we have sold all our tours for 2019. If you missed out this year, hang in there! Our 2020 tours will be released in Jul/Aug. Stay tuned!