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96 Reviews

  • Reviewed December 2019
    Teresa Humphrey

    Put this on your to-do list. Every day a winner.

    This was an amazingly rich first experience of travelling in Japan. The trip offers an excellent balance with cycling in varied and impressive scenery, countless included visits along the way allowing insight into the history and heritage of the country, and full immersion into the culinary and lifestyle culture.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many highlights in a trip which offered lots of contrasts between city and landscape, a rich cultural heritage and gastronomic variety. Highlights of riding along the dramatic rugged western coastline of the Noto peninsular gave way to the delights of riding small lanes through fishing villages on the softer eastern coast. And then came the spectacular scenery of the mountains, clad in wonderful autumn colours. Entering the UNESCO village of Shirakawa-go exceeded all expectations, and the experience of total immersion in the traditional way of life when staying in a local farmhouse when the daytrippers had gone home was a real high spot. There were so many cultural highlights that the names tended to merge, but we particularly remember being bowled over by our visit to the Myojoji temple complex. The garden at Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, and the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto were memorable. Walks around Tokyo and Kyoto at night with the guides who knew where to go were an unexpected delight. And finally, there were some inspirational banquet-style meals, taken in the traditional way, kimono-clad, quite wonderful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tea was unfailingly enthusiastic, friendly and encouraging to the group with a healthy respect for cycling safety. He was readily available at all times of day and night to deal with any issues arising and was very an efficient organiser to ensure each day ran smoothly to plan. He was keen to help us understand many aspects of Japanese history and culture, and had put thought into places to visit en route, including ones not on the usual tourist agenda, which made interesting and unexpected diversions, often with opportunities to engage directly with local people. The co-team members, Akiko and Taichi were also fluent and engaging people who added much to the enjoyment of the holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to go with an open mind about eating in the Japanese way and expect to eat with your eyes as well as your mouth. Fish, raw and cooked is delicious, but non-pescatorians may have limited choices. You will develop a bread and cheese craving after 10 days or so but the odd bakery snack stop will crop up along the way. Several meals are taken wearing kimonos provided by the establishment, so you don't need a large off-bike wardrobe. You will need good rain gear 'in case' and flexibility of layered and warm !clothing to cope with variations of wind and temperature, although you won't need to carry this on the bikes as the support bus is regularly at hand to access day bag supplies.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hired bikes were good quality, light touring machines.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    Neil Lawson

    Wonderful Experience

    A wonderful insight to this facinating country. Seeing the country by bike is certainly the best way to do it, giving the opportunity to get an insight into the real Japan and it's people. We travelled in late November, spot on for autumn colours but obviously run the risk of colder, wet and windy weather. That said a bit of rain and strong headwind are a price worth paying. Accommodation was a mixture local Ryokans and modern hotels. The standard of the hotels was mixed, but generally very good. The food was one of the highlights, lots of real japanese food in all its guises from formal set meals (dressed in traditional kimonos) to simple noodles or curry/rice for lunch. Another highlight was definitely the guide Tatsuya 'Tea' along with his driver Tiachi and assistant Akiko. Organisation was calm and slick with clearly a lot of effort going on behind the scenes. The last couple of days are in Kyoto, this is good, but the hords of fellow tourists at the big attractions make you realise how special the time cycling away from the crowds was. If you are thinking of visiting Japan and are modestly cycle fit I would wholeheartedly recommend this trip (and in our case it attracted a very pleasant, like-minded group of people to share our experience).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Cycling in the hills away from other tourists. The leader, Tatsuya was pretty inspirational too.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Top bloke and no mistake.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just do it. Be prepared to food outside your comfort zone.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Take warm clothing and waterproofs if traveling at the extremes of the season.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    John Cartwright

    Truly a magical tour. It will make you want to return .....soon !

    If ever you wanted proof that cycling is a great way to get to know a country then this is it. And what a country. So different in every respect to the UK. The upside of travelling in November is the glorious colours to be seen all around you, enhanced if you're lucky by blue skies. The downside, and this was outside anyone's control even our meticulous leader 'Tea', is that the weather can be changeable and quite cold at times.We had some challenging days cycling against a very determined headwind. If you're a hardy northerner this will be no problem, but if you're a southern softie bring plenty of layers. Having said that most of the rain fell at night and we were only caught out once and that was at the end of a ride, so you could say that luck was on our side. For the most part the cycling was on quiet back roads with plenty of interesting stop-offs along the way, where our knowledgeable guides shared their knowledge and passion for their country. Hotels were a mix of western and traditional japanese inns which were generally of a higher standard than you might experience on many Exodus holidays. The traditional inns were very special and allowed you to immerse yourself, sometimes literally, into this unique culture. The food was excellent, but you do have to be prepared to experiment with a cuisine that is distinctly different from ours. The phrase 'holiday of a lifetime' is probably overused, but if you're prepared to soak up the culture, be experimental and are relatively fit then this holiday will probably come very close to matching that description. And of course the toilets - you're going to be very disappointed when you return to the UK or anywhere else for that matter!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We visited a small family run ryokan which was our first introduction to a japanese inn, and this for me was the best night of the holiday. It was quite basic in its facilities with no ensuite in any room. But it had a bar (quite a rarity) where you could warm up after the ride, in preparation for an exquisite evening meal followed by an impromptu japanese 'harp' recital. You just had to remember which shoes to wear, and of course no footwear on the tatami mats in the bedroom and dining area. There were many other contenders, but if I was asked to pick just one that would be it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mr Tea, as I called him, was a true professional. Very methodical and meticulous so that nothing was left to chance resulting in a very smoothly run holiday. He certainly went the extra mile every day, cycling up and down the group as we progressed, resulting in a vast array of photos of us on the move, and I don't think I've ever been on a holiday with so many group photo requests! He was ably supported by Taichi, our driver and Akiko our sub-leader. They worked hard after we'd finished cycling and were up again in the morning ensuring that the bikes were in tip top condition. Very impressive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Follow the advice in the trip notes. Take plenty of cash although credit cards were accepted as payment in most places, but not on the metro! Travel out a a couple of days before the tour starts to acclimatise and get to know Tokyo, and maybe also an extra day in Kyoto at the end. Depending on the time of year bring plenty of layers as it can get cold in the mountains, particularly at night. Don't bother with too much evening wear. Traditional japanese kimonos are available in many hotels. Just be open minded and read up about japanese customs before you go out. Politeness is embedded into japanese society so don't let the side down.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    David Griffiths

    Don't go for the Snow Monkeys!

    There are two reasons to go on this trip: in Spring for the Cherry Blossom, or later in the year to see the Snow Monkeys. We did the latter, and in fact the last departure of the year, the next being in April. We did not see any monkeys, and the people we spoke to, including the staff at the monkey centre, said that it was too early to see them. They come to a hot spring when it's really cold. When we were there, it was not cold (avg 17 deg in the day), and in any case, the hot spring had suffered damage from Typhoon Hagibis and was not filling up. We spent a morning hiking to what was essentially a muddy pool for no reason. This was a real waste of time. Apart from this, the trip was enjoyable, but there are a number of free days which really should be filled up with - for example every person on our trip wanted to see Mount Fuji but we had to do that ourselves on a free day - I feel that this should have been part of the itinerary; the tour finishes in Tokyo with a free day on the Friday, and then another free day on the Saturday before being collected for the airport at 6.30pm. There's lots to do in Tokyo, but we lost our guide before the tour finished. I don't want to be only negative - we really enjoyed the vast majority of this tour, but it could have been so much better.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hiroshima - but we didn't have enough time there.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hard working and well organised but didn't go above and beyond. He was great in explaining all the customs and etiquette.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take plenty of cash - UK debit cards don't work in most machines and credit cards are not as widely accepted as in the UK.
  • Reviewed October 2019
    Simon Lord

    Kumano Kodo: A fascinating insight in to Japan.

    This was an excellent trip that we thoroughly enjoyed, giving an insight into contrasting landscapes/areas of Japan and to its culture and food. After initial exploration in and around Kyoto, the four days on the Kumano Kodo trail were quite demanding (particularly because it was so hot on our departure) but we got a fascinating insight into one of the more rural areas, staying in traditional Japanese hotels. A good proportion of the trail itself was in trees with occasional viewpoints and shrines, it also passed through villages and rural settings. The trails are well made and on some days the walking was long, as set out in the trip notes. The traditional Japanese food we ate every day was elaborate and carefully prepared – a bowl of sticky rice and an array of up to around 10 other small dishes of food for each person – at each meal, including breakfast; lunches were bento boxes. There was much fresh seafood by the sea. Travelling on the efficient Japanese public transport was interesting and enjoyable as it is indeed very punctual, but also uncrowded and generally very comfortable. The last couple of days in Tokyo were different again – a short time to get an impression, but as we are not really city people, this was fine.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The end of the Kumano Koda trail after four days of hard walking, with a fantastic temple and views to a high waterfall. We also enjoyed the pearl museum and learning about the Ama divers.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hide, our leader, ensured the trip ran well which was no small feat give the numerous buses, trains and overnight stays that were required to complete our journey.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We went in early September and it was very hot (often over 30 degrees, a hang-over from the hot summer), and the walking was at the upper end of the moderate scale (give the heat). We found sticks important, particularly as the trail could be mossy and slippy after rain. Bring a swimming costume also – there’s opportunity for swimming in the sea as well as useful for the outdoor hot spring.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A fascinating insight in to Japan.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Sasha Heriot

    Excellent taster of Japan

    This trip was an excellent way to experience many different aspects of Japan, although I feel like I have only touched the surface, and I want to go back! Japan, the people, and the food are all truly wonderful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I loved being out of the cities and experiencing more of the countryside and mountainous regions. One of the highlights was seeing Mount Fuji appear over the hillside whilst ascending in a cable car. We did this on one of our "free" days. This day trip was suggested by our tour leader who also accompanied us for the whole day. Another highlight for me was the thermal baths experience.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our first leader, although very pleasant, was very inexperienced. I was grateful to Exodus that they changed our leader on day 3. The new leader was excellent and ensured that we all had an enjoyable holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not expect a relaxing holiday. The days are very long and you will do lots of standing on very crowded public transport and a huge amount of walking almost every day. Although it is very popular in blossom season, I would have much preferred to go when the weather was warmer. We have blossom in the UK after all! Knowing now how easy it is to get around Japan on public transport, I would be very happy visiting there independently. I flew with KLM (connected in Amsterdam both ways), which seemed a much better choice than the group flight - no long mid-night connections, more "direct" route and shorter flight time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The country is very easy to get around using public transport, however it would have been much better to have had a minibus/coach to get around the sights in the cities, as the local public transport "experience" made the days very hectic, somewhat stressful, and much longer than they needed to be. I feel that if local public transport is used, the trip should be graded higher than a 2 as some people on the trip did struggle with the long days. and the huge amounts of standing and walking.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Peter Loughridge

    An excellent introduction to Japan.

    We have always wanted to visit Japan and this trip gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit the cities, rural areas, travel by train, experience Japanese cuisine and, best of all, explore by bike. The itinerary was varied and interesting. Onsens (hot baths) have to be experienced and helped relieve tired and aching muscles at the end of the day. We stayed in a mixture of modern hotels and the more traditional ryokans with tatami mats and futons. The Japanese people we met were always polite, pleasant and helpful. This was a travel experience like no other. Just do it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Arriving at the first ryokan and learning how to observe Japanese customs in this environment.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very well organised and efficient. Perhaps a little shy at first but this passed as the trip progressed and his confidence in dealing with the group developed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring a fairly large backpack as there are two separate days when you don’t have access to your suitcase. Keep your evening wear to a minimum as many of the hotels and ryokans provide a yukata (a casual summer kimono). Be prepared for rain and low temperatures. Very little fruit available generally and virtually none at breakfast.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Japanese drivers generally considerate and patient. We felt safe on the roads.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Beverley Evans

    Amazing country, trip felt rushed though

    This trip gives the opportunity to see a lot... which is great BUT I have to say it felt like we were running from place to place. Public transport is efficient but a little constricting. It would have been good to have a minibus in Kyoto as the traffic did not seem bad there. This then relieves the feeling of missing out on things as you are made to choose between things to do due to timings of buses/trains etc.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Mt. Fuji was AMAZING... such a shame this is not part of the itinerary! We went to Lake Kawaguchi, instead of the suggested Hakone and it was the best day of the entire trip. The friendliness of the people and the general feeling of safety. Japan is a wonderful place.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky was fantastic and had a very hard job keeping everyone happy. He encountered some difficulties but always found a solution. He was very kind and knowledgeable and was great to talk to.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack an umbrella. Make the most of the ample convenience stores (7Eleven and Family Mart) as they are great for picking up breakfast items and snacks for the day. Also they do excellent sushi etc. Wear really comfortable shoes as there is a LOT of walking... 7-12 miles a day. Some of the temples have a lot of steps. Don't be afraid of the Tokyo underground... it's busy and looks confusing but it's easy to use once you get the hang of it... and ask for help. The people are really friendly and will go out of their way to assist you. Make sure you have handy pockets for the train/bus passes. You'll need them all the time. Be prepared to sit on the floor when up in the mountains. Also, maybe pack wetwipes for the Ryokan unless you enjoy communal showering!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I felt the trip was a little over priced. The first Ryokan we stayed in was VERY basic. Zero privacy to wash and one toilet per floor.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Eric Watts

    A hectic agenda with some nice moments

    The first problem was sleep deprivation, 18 hours in the air with a gap at Dubai and the time difference of eight hours means you need time to recover. We did not have adequate time the departure was 8am the next morning which meant getting up at 6.30 to get organised and have breakfast. A better option would have been to fly the day before and spend the first night in a hotel in Osaka. The sleep deprivation has knock-on effects such as the difficulty in arranging the lights and blind switches in the Kyoto hotel. They were simple to use once you got used to them but caught me out as I was unfamiliar -there was an opaque blind behind the translucent blind and it was not possible to tell this until the daylight woke me up at 5 AM. It would have been useful to have the hotel staff demonstrate how to use all the controls as it meant I had a second night of poor sleeping. There were too many sites to see in Kyoto and Tokyo meaning very early starts and late finishes with inadequate time to recover before going for meal and then having little time to digest before going to bed which also impairs sleep.. Most days we stopped for lunch and apart from the sushi lunch meals were mediocre and usually in soulless shopping malls. A long break for lunch is unnecessary and simply prolongs the day. Taking a snack and a brief lunch break would mean an earlier finish and some time to relax in the evening. The traditional meals were good but too often we went out in the evening to very crowded and uncomfortable restaurants on occasion sitting on stools at the counter which is a very poor substitute for a comfortable meal to celebrate the end of a busy day. On one occasion in Kyoto and two in Tokyo it was hard to find a comfortable restaurant other than going for a pizza which is not what we intended in visiting Japan. Although the express trains were good local trains are often too crowded for comfort and judicious use of a minibus would have been very helpful: for example New Year’s Day there was hardly any traffic on the road but we were in dreadfully crowded trains and given the option I would far sooner stay in a coach than trudge along a dreary the street market in the rain. There are too many boring markets and too many visits to shopping dreary shopping centres. It was a major mistake to try and see all sides Tokyo in one day. If the morning consisted of the shrine, sky Tower and the Imperial Palace that would have been sufficient and then we could choose extras for ourselves such as the art museum. Visiting the shopping area to see the equivalent of Oxford Street and then to visit the street market which have nothing of interest, all in the pouring rain was a sad waste of the afternoon. Finally although your information included average rainfall figures it did not adequately explain that we could be out all day in prolonged rain so that on the last Wednesday everyone was soaked through. My waterproof clothes were too heavy to be worn in hot weather and I do not normally take an umbrella when going walking but it was the best way of dealing with warm rain and it would be helpful to make that point prominently in your info. Japanese art and culture is interesting and I really enjoyed what we saw but unfortunately there was far too little and too much time spent travelling.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was no single inspirational moment. Many of the shrines were impressive, Mount Fuji is spectacular and the cruise on the nearby Lake was delightful. The Zen gardens were impressive. The Hiroshima visit was very educational and presented some unpleasant truths in a very powerful way.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He worked very hard, was very energetic and very helpful. He had the unenviable task of trying to keep everybody happy all the time and he tried to his utmost to do this, this meant that most of us joined in with trying to see everything, which in retrospect, was not the best idea. It would have been more helpful to have a range of options so that there were alternatives e.g. for those with the limited interest in shops and markets. I enjoyed the visits to the snow monkeys and would have preferred to have spent more time walking in the surrounding countryside

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do your homework thoroughly so that you know what you want to see and what you don't want to. Prepare for the rain, an umbrella is more useful than an anorak because of the usually warm whether. Don't be swept along to see sites that don't interest you, street markets may be interesting for some but in Tokyo the goods on sale were incredibly tacky the market so severely congested that it's hard to move and the novelty value soon wears off

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Given that Japan is a mountainous area would have much preferred more opportunities to walk in the countryside. The visit to the beach resort of Tokyo, in the rain was a dreadful waste of time so travellers should prepare options as alternatives to pointless activities. The travel notes gave too rosy a picture of Japanese public transport, although the express trains are good local and suburban trains that we used were often packed and we had to stand for long periods. It would have been better to have seen fewer sites but have been able to spend more time there to enjoy them
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Fiona Hodge

    Japan. Ancient and Modern

    A superb trip, exploring a wide variety of destinations and experiences. Very stimulating. Wonderful to travel on public transport. I never expected to see and do so much. I loved the traditional wooden buildings / hotels we stayed in in the mountain areas. All the accommodation was excellent.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The beautiful blossom , temples and the gardens. Mount Fuji. Japanese hotels and hospitality. The pace and excitement of the trip. The variety of experience

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Decky is a beautiful and wonderful man. He was so kind, professional and good humoured. Knowledgable and entertaining. Outstanding group leader. Nearly broke down in tears to say goodbye. He was very supportive to members of the group with mobility problems. Gave everyone full and equal attention. Totally trustworthy and reliable. You had better keep him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Only go on this trip if you have sufficient energy to walk long distances , maybe up to 9 miles. Try and go in April when the blossom is out. It is breathtaking.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Great trip for energetic enthusiastic and curious travellers