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 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 and May because this is our busiest season. 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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
In addition to our trip planning services, we offer full consulting services. For example, we might help you with:
- Finding brilliant ryokan (traditional Japanese inns)
- Arranging geisha entertainment
- Determining whether or not to purchase a Japan Rail Pass
- Getting you great ringside seats for a sumo match
- Arranging a lecture on Noh (Japanese performance art)
- Visiting secret onsen (hot springs)
- Renting cell phones at reasonable rates
- Renting pocket wi-fi units that allow internet access across Japan
- Buying a custom-made kimono
- Attending a formal tea ceremony
- Experiencing a private ikebana (flower arrangement) or shodo (calligraphy) lesson
- Studying meditation at a Zen temple
- Buying baseball tickets
- Finding the perfect kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine) restaurant
- Touring traditional kimono workshops
- Finding the perfect Japanese garden
- Seeing a kabuki performance
- Arranging private transport and airport transfers
- Translation and interpretation
In short, we can help you with anything that would be difficult or impossible to handle on your own. Our consulting rates and seasons are the same as those for trip planning. See above for details.
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.