I was asked by a fellow volunteer at the Portland Japanese Gardens to comment about the recent Sukiya Living (JOJG) tour I participated in this October. The tour was extremely well coordinated and comprehensive. Visits were not just restricted to gardens in Kyoto, Nara, and Ohara, but to many related places as well. Those included a Sake brewery, professional gardening business, the home of a world-known calligraphy artist, the home and shop of one of twelve remaining calligraphy ink makers, tatami makers shop, and a warehouse that sells all kinds of bamboo. All ground transportation needed for the tour was included, hotel accomodations (PalaceSide Hotel), 12 breakfasts, 10 lunches, and neighborhood shopping needs and subway and financial instructions were fully covered. The list of other activities is too long to cover here. The time and energy devoted to the tour by our guides, Douglas Roth and Tomeo Goda, was evident in the seamless movement from one daily event to the next. Douglas' and Tomeo's contacts have been at a very personal level. That provided access to private homes and gardens, as well as institutional sites not normally open to the public. A gem of a tour. Alan
Thanks for taking the time to write to us Alan. I was the one who asked about the tour. Did you feel that you spent enough time in each garden or was it rushed? What was the age range of the attendees? Did everyone go their separate ways on the day off? Did you arrange your own flights and was their any pitfalls to be aware of?
The tour was listed as a walking tour, and that was certainly the case. One needs to be in reasonably good shape to maintain the pace. At least one person had some physical restrictions on how fast she could go up stairs and inclines due to medication, but everyone on the tour made sure she was able to stay within sight of the group. The pace was, at times, brisk, but not rushed. Attention to the schedule was required, but if anyone were to become separated from the group, each of us had a daily itinerary in english plus japanese to show to a taxi driver if necessary to meet at the next stop. Ages on this tour were from 30's to 70's. On our free days, some people linked up to travel together, but not all. Most used one of the two free days to visit the Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa which most Japanese citizens never get to visit but foriegners do (there is a lottery for citizens). The other day, some of us went to the Miho Museum. Airline reservations were the responsibility of each person, but needed to have the arrival at Osaka's KIX airport on the same day. The tour price included a one night stay at the Nikko Hotel at the Kansai Airport before going to Kyoto the next day. By staying until Octber 27 after the tour, the return airline fare dropped over $600 which paid for the 5 extra hotel days plus food, so it pays to check fare prices when planning the trip. Bought a Japanese Railway train pass in the U.S. (not available in Japan) for day trips from Kyoto (Hiroshima, Tokyo, and other) after the tour...money well spent.
Alan, thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions. How many people were on the tour? Does Doug help with suggestions on how to accomplish things ( like staying the extra days and the rail pass)?
There were 14 people on the tour, and I believe a full tour would be no more than 15. Free day and post tour activities are up to the individual. A good travel agent familiar with Japan should be able to get the info you need. I have not had the chance to do much foreign traveling until this year, so let an experienced friend handle the details. Pay a little extra for legroom on the plane (coach-plus), it was worth it.
We used Sankie Travel of Americas, www.sankeitravel.com, Seattle, 1-800-801-4069
Did I post all this to the wrong area of the website (Forum as opposed to Travel Resourses)?
I should add that Douglas and Tomeo were extremely helpfull with any questions and details one might need or ask about. They both spend a couple of weeks before the tour actually going everywhere guests will go on the tour, and a couple of weeks after doing follow up at the places we visited; they do their homework.
By the way, there was one person from Sweden, a couple from B.C., and another couple from the U.K. The rest of us were well representative of the Nothern tier states from coast to coast.
I was also on the October Sukiya Living Walking Tour of Kyoto and agree with everything Alan said. I kept an extensive blog, which I am currently updating and expanding. When I finish it, I'll post the link to it here, if anyone is interested.
Mary we would love to see the blog, thank you for the offer and welcome to the forum.
Mary, I would love to read your blog as well. It gets closer to us committing every day so we are starting to get real excited.
Thank you for your kind words of welcome to this forum.
I have finally finished editing and adding photos to my blog from the Sukiya Living tour in October. It was a much larger project than I expected, but it was a great way to relive the trip. You are welcome to read it. If you have questions, or want specific information or more photos of any of the gardens we visited, please email me at that website, not here, as I may not check here often.
Go to: http://www.mytripjournal.com/Kyoto2011
I hope you can get a good sense of the trip from my blog.
Fantastic, Mary! Thanks for the blog and the photo's
Makes one really consider making the trip before retirement!
Thanks so much
Al, I did the trip after retirement, but do it when you can! The tour leaders are very good about sending out pre-trip information. They stress the need to be able to walk up to 8 miles a day, and they are correct. Be prepared for standing, walking, climbing steps. Also wear really comfortable shoes that are easy to remove, because you'll be taking them on and off a lot, going into homes, temples, etc.
I have other suggestions, like learning the basic polite Japanese phrases, being aware that Japan is an expensive country, etc. Japan is a very safe country in which to travel, which is wonderful.
Glad you enjoyed my blog. It's the first time I've been successful at keeping good notes on my trips to Japan.
If you have any specific questions, I'm happy to answer them.
Thanks to both of you for sharing this. I cant wait to see Meiho's blog!
Al, you didn't post in the wrong place - it is all part of the forum. Part of my duties are to try and keep like information in the closest board, which is why i moved the thread here.
Don, I visited Meiho's blog and got lost in it for almost an hour. Very well done. I feel like I don't even need to do the tour now. lol. Actually, Annie and I sent off our deposit to Doug on Tuesday morning. Now to figure out what we want to do while in Japan after the tour ends.
Thanks again for sharing Meiho!
Enjoy every moment. Someday Betty and I hope to wander gardens in Japan with Doug and Tamao. Hopefully you can share some of your photos and insights, too, upon return.
Meiho and Alan,
Thank you for sharing your thoughtful responses.
Al and Mary, thank you for sharing your experiences in Japan. And Ward I am so happy you and your wife will also have the opportunity to explore Japan.
Mary I so appreciated you taking the time to create your blog on your visit to Japan. It was so interesting and well done. On Oct. 23rd I thought the bridge configuration was very cool, I have not seen that before. And the garden at Hiroshima reminded me of Rockford's Anderson's Japanese Garden for some reason. Also the pruning photo with the umbrella hung under the limb to catch the debris, that one I am definitely trying, what a great idea. I am also going to buy some of the netting they spread on the ground. I now use old sheets but you cannot see through them.
Thanks again I have so enjoyed sharing your trip to Japan with you.
Meiho's blog is a delight. Congratulations, Mary, not only on making the journey but also describing it so wonderfully AND working hard to include photographs.
Going on one of these tours certainly is on my list of things to do!
Because of your blog, I was convinced this was the tour for me this October. The detail you related about the ups and downs, (weather) the beauty and specialness of the gardens you viewed were all a part of helping me to decide this is a tour designed by people who love gardens, and want you to enjoy them as well. It seems like a fabulous mix of gardens and art.
While it seems expensive, in view of all that you get, my feeling is, if not now, when. And I think it will be a wonderful way to celebrate my 65th.
Thank you again,