We offer full trip planning services to help you get the most out of your precious time in Japan. We work via email/phone/Zoom/Skype 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.

If you don’t want a full itinerary created, we can just talk on Zoom or Skype (or via email) to help you create your own itinerary. This is great for those who know what they want, but just need some questions answered and some feedback on their planning and choices. 

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 US$130 (about CA$162/€107/£93) per hour for our full trip planning services.  Payment can be made via PayPal. We record the time we spend on any inquiry closely, and we provide an invoice listing time spent on each aspect of your trip.

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.