Full Trip Planning

I offer full trip planning services to help you get the most out of your precious time in Japan. I work closely with my business partner, Koko Ijuin, to help create the perfect itinerary for your trip, based on your budget, your tastes and your Japan wish list. Once we fix an itinerary, we help you choose the best accommodation in each city or town, across a wide range of budgets. We can also help plan each day and provide dining recommendations, as well as full transport details between destinations. Essentially, we give you everything you’d get on a package tour, minus the flag-waving tour guides, the large groups of strangers and the touristy destinations (see the full-comparison between my services and a tour company/travel agency below for details).

Please note that there are certain things we cannot do. Because we are not a licensed travel agency, we do not actually sell accommodation or transport tickets. We can, however, make accommodation bookings for you (you then pay for the accommodation directly to the hotel or ryokan upon check in or check out). Outside of peak travel seasons (April, mid-August and New Year’s), it’s not necessary to reserve or purchase train tickets in advance. However, if you wish to do so, we can work with a Japan-based licensed travel agency to make train reservations and provide train tickets in advance.

We charge ¥20,000/US$186/€151 per hour for our full trip planning services. We record the time we spend on any inquiry closely, and we provide an invoice listing time spent on each aspect of your trip. Please note that we do not usually work on trip planning/consulting during April, May, October and November because these are our busiest seasons. This does NOT mean that we don’t consult on trips that take place in April or May; it means that if you would like us to help you plan a trip that will take place in April or May, please contact us well in advance of those months.

Phone/Skype Consulting

In addition to the full trip planning service described above, I offer phone/Skype consulting. This is ideal for those who just want to get some high-level advice about planning their trip, or feedback on an itinerary they have already created on their own. With this service, we do not produce a full itinerary and we do not make any arrangements (however, of course, we are happy to book private tours with any of our guides). Unlike full trip planning, we offer phone/Skype consulting year round.

How to start? Please email me to let me know what you want help with. If I can help you, we will set up a phone or Skype call. If I cannot help you, I will do my best to point you in the right direction to find the assistance you need (online, with another agency, etc). Note that in some cases, it is possible to move from a phone/Skype consultation to a full consultation (described above), but in other cases, our workload will not allow this. Please note that we prefer not to comment on itineraries created by other agencies.

We charge ¥15,000/US$135/€114 per hour for our phone/Skype consulting services. Payment is in advance via PayPal. Half-hour (¥7,500/US$67/€57), 45-minute (¥11,250/US$101/€86) and 1-hour consultations are possible. After the consultation, I will send you a brief email giving you links to the things we discussed (ryokans, hotels, place names, useful web pages etc). After this, however, I will not be able to reply to follow-up emails/questions without incurring another consulting fee calculated at the above rates.

So, if you are suffering from information overload and just need to talk to a human being to help plan your Japan trip, please email us and let us know how we can help!

ChrisRowthorn.com Tours vs. Other Japan Tour Operators

A Point-for-Point Comparison

If you Google “Japan Tours,” you will find an almost endless list of tour operators offering trips to Japan. The fact is, most large international tour companies have no local staff in Japan. They hire people like me and my guides to do their tours for them (and charge a hefty fee to do so). Why not go straight to the source and eliminate the middle man? Here is a brief summary of what sets me apart from the competition:

Destinations: Crowded Tourist Traps vs. Secret Gems

Most tour operators to Japan, even those claiming to be boutique or specialist agencies, offer remarkably similar itineraries. These usually include the resort area of Hakone and Kyoto sights such as Nijo-jo Castle and Kinkaku-ji Temple. Sure, there is nothing wrong with these places, but they are the Japanese equivalents of Niagara Falls, Times Square and the Empire State Building in New York; they’re on the itinerary of every Japanese and foreign tour group and they are always crowded. Wouldn’t you rather see secret temples and intimate gardens? Wouldn’t you rather enjoy such places in peace and tranquility, with only your family and friends and an insightful private guide? This is what I offer, and I offer it for less than most Japan specialist tour operators.

Personal Attention: Cookie-Cutter Packages vs. Fully Custom Itineraries

With most tour companies, even boutique agencies, you will be treated like a number. Your tour will be one of hundreds chosen from a list — “Japan 1234-5667X/56” — and you’ll get the same customer service that you’d expect from a budget airline or phone company. In contrast, I work with only a handful of clients each year; you will only ever deal with me and business partners, Keiko and Koko. Starting with a phone call to get acquainted, we will establish a close personal relationship to help you plan the perfect trip just for you — tailored to your specific interests, budget and taste. And, you might be surprised to discover that this personal attention actually costs less than what the big Japan specialists charge.

Private Tours: Groups of Strangers vs. Fully Private Tours

If you’re like me, you like to travel at your own pace, with companions of your own choosing. If you join a group tour, you’ll be herded around like a child on a school outing, at the mercy of the schedule and the whims of your companions, some of whom you may not get along with. You’ll dine with them, travel with them, walk with them and bathe with them when you visit a hot spring. Why slog around Japan in the company of 20 strangers, seeing the same old tired tourist spots, when for less money you can see truly special off-the-beaten-track spots with only those closest to you?

Specialist Knowledge: Surface Impressions vs. Deep Insights

Most tour operators who offer trips to Japan also offer trips to dozens of other countries — for them, it’s Tokyo Tower one day and the Eiffel Tower the next. Even if they focus on Japan, their guides often have minimal knowledge of Japan, and many can barely speak Japanese, let alone read it. In contrast, I’ve lived in Japan for over 19 years, and traveled the length and breadth of the country in the course of writing 19 guidebooks to the country. I’ve had the time to go beyond the obvious tourist sites to discover the real secret gems. In addition, my guides and I have spent years thinking about, writing about and studying about Japan.

Read what previous ChrisRowthorn.com guests have to say.

Fees & Rates

For details on rates, see Fees and Contact. Please also note that I am not able to provide free consultation, advice or trip planning.