A space for me to reflect on Japan and my tours. Thank you to all my fellow travellers.
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Riki's September 2022 Newsletter
We did it! First post-COVID tour done!
Riki's Tours Japan is back! We cleared all the steps, enjoyed each day and completed our first tour post-COVID! At all the accommodation where we stayed, we were told that we were the first tour group from overseas since COVID began. We were treated so kindly and I appreciate everything they did for us. Despite this, I understand why we were one of the first because it was almost too much to prepare, and there were also so many what ifs before we went. However, eight fellow travellers trusted us by joining our 20 day City Lights & Alpine Trails walking tour from Kyoto to Hokkaido. They trusted us to organise all the documents needed to acquire a tourist visa, and they also had to present a PCR negative test result before flying to Japan (fortunately, no longer needed). Anyway, our fellow travellers had a great time and we had lovely warm weather filled with sunny days (as pictured above on Mt Kurodake in Daisetsuzan NP, Hokkaido a few days ago). I'm so happy to be able to get back to do what I enjoy. Ookini for walking with me!! The next City Lights & Alpine Trails tour is in May and is filling fast, so get in touch if you would like to join.
Devil Ark sponsorship
We have been donating to Devil Ark on an ad-hoc basis for some time now, but this year we have taken up their offer to be a special 2022 sponsor. This required us to donate $2022 to help with the running of their ark for Tasmanian Devils. In return, we get some social media mentions and most excitingly, a private tour of their park north of Sydney. For more information about Devil Ark and to donate however you can, go to their website or Facebook page.
Four spaces available on Autumn Colours tour!
Our Autumn Colours tour is one of our most popular, but unfortunately we had four travellers recently pull out. This could be good for you though because it was sold out, but now it's not! This itinerary includes not only Tokyo and Kyoto but also Kanazawa, Kurashiki, Nara and Miyajima. Please contact us ASAP if you'd like to enjoy the beautiful colours departing November 19!
When will "true" independent tours be possible again?
Unfortunately, Japan is still not open to "true" independent travellers despite what you may have heard. It is still necessary to have all flights & land arrangements pre-organised from the Japan side, who will certify your travel and then issue a visa. It's not the way most independent Australian travellers want to travel, who prefer to buy their air tickets themselves. According to the media & newspaper reports in Japan, PM Kishida will make another announcement about lifting restrictions for independent tours, which may include visa free travel to Japan. However, we have no details about when this will occur nor how it will be. It's a frustrating situation for those who have pre-purchased airline tickets by themselves and are now waiting for Japan to be truly open, but we just have to wait and see. Our apologies to everyone who has contacted us that we cannot help at the moment. We hope to be arranging independent tours again in the new year. We'll let you know when this becomes possible!
We are delighted to tell you that our first tours since the COVID pandemic began are ready to go! We have five tours scheduled until the end of the year, starting with City Lights & Alpine Trails at the end of this month. All tours are sold out except for our ceramics & art tour - Earth & Fire in November, and our penultimate aesthetic tour - Autumn Colours also in November. The last couple of years have been a tricky time for us since COVID appeared at the start of 2020, but we made it to the other side and we are thankful to everyone who has supported us.
When will Japan open to international travellers?
You may have heard that Japan is now open to international travellers, but if the truth be known, there are still several restrictions in place. First of all, you can only visit Japan as part of a guided tour (like mine). And although you "can" visit Japan independently, you are required to be locally guided every day, and as this is extremely costly, independent travel as you know it, isn't really a thing in Japan yet. We are hoping that next year, independent travel returns to normality because it was actually the largest part of our little business.
Our 2023 tours are on sale
We are happy to announce the release of our tours for the first half of 2023. The year kicks off with our Classic Sakura tour at the end of March. Next up is our North Sakura tour in late April, which takes you on the road less taken for cherry blossoms in the far north of Japan. Spirit of Japan, our walking tour of the Kumano Kodo and the Nakasendo, departs in May and is always very popular. Lastly we have a May departure of our signature tour, City Lights & Alpine Trails. Please get in touch if you would like to join any of these tours.
We had wanted to advise you of the opening date for tourists by now, but the Japanese government has not indicated a date yet. However, it’s looking more positive than last year as overseas student & working visa holders can enter Japan now so many think the opening date for tourists will be announced after the national election of the upper house in July. One thing Japan won’t be relaxing for sure is mask wearing on public transport. Also, they ask you to refrain talking which has proven to be hard for some of my fellow travellers.
Can Riki's Tours Japan survive?
Thank you for thinking about us as we’ve been asked this many times. We’re ok thanks to our simple way of operating with just Jason and I working from the front room; no rent to pay for office space, no stock on the shelves or any significant outgoings. However, not doing any guiding with my fellow travellers for almost three years has made me realise that I miss my work, so I really want to get back into it and do better job in the future hopefully soon. Fortunately, I have had the chance to try out some new places in Japan a bit myself - as pictured above at Motonosumi Shrine in the far west of the main Honshu Island.
A gift for you
We have 50 copies of the “100 Experiences in Japan” magazine made by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation). It includes beautiful pictures and 100 suggestions of things to do from well-trodden sights to more unusual adventures and contemporary experiences. We’ll send this copy to our first 50 readers who respond this newsletter with your mailing address. We’re always looking forward to hearing from you!!
Availability for 2022
We have five tours prepared and ready to go from this September. Four of them have sold out and so the only one left for you is Autumn Colours, which has just four more spots. Please let us know if you’re interested in this tour. You can safely book with us. We have consistently refunded all customers who missed out on tours due to COVID. What’s more, our booking terms allow you to cancel with 100% refund until the day before your departure for any COVID related impediments to travel.