North American Post Japan Tour 2017 report
by Rick Buckles,
When my wife first approached me in January about going to Japan in late September 2017, I did not think much more about it. As we were getting closer to fall, I started wondering and worrying. How am I going to pack everything I need in a 21” carry on? Would I be able to convert yen to dollar? How would we communicate if our interpreter was not with us? How would I tell the cab driver where to go? How would I endure a 10 hour airplane ride? Also,I would be spending 12 days with 18 people I did not know. All of these thoughts kept running through my mind.
Judy, my wife, suggested that since we, were leaving from Seattle, that we should arrive a few days early to explore the city before our departure for Japan on Sept. 26. Did I mention that our family is from Michigan? Our daughter Reiko was also going on the Japan trip. Reiko flew into Seattle on Saturday, Sept. 23 and the 3 of us had an incredible time exploring the city. We also got to meet family members on Judy’s mother’s side for the first time at a dinner at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. I cannot say enough nice things about our experience meeting these 13 gracious, warm and friendly folks. This was a wonderful precursor to the start of our adventure.
Reiko, Judy and I arrived at the airport Tuesday morning. We briefly met the other 18 people in our group before we boarded the plane for our 10 hour flight. The flight was one of the best I have ever been on. The food was good (2 meals), the seats were comfortable, and the flight attendants were friendly and caring.
After landing in Narita Airport and a short bus ride to our hotel, we went to our rooms exhausted but feeling good and quickly fell asleep. When we went down for breakfast, I was greeted by one of the most impressive buffets I have ever seen. It was a mixture of Japanese and Western food. It was great!
We boarded a train and headed into Tokyo and our next hotel. I was a bit intimidated at first with all of the people, bright lights, and noise in Tokyo, but as Judy and I immersed ourselves into our surroundings, we came to really enjoy it.
We left Tokyo on the Shinkasen bullet train. As we headed into the interior of Japan, I was in awe of the beauty of the land. The mountains, forests, and rivers were breathtaking. I was taken by surprise as I was not expecting this.
As our trip progressed, I became more and more aware of the planning and organizing that went into it. Our leader, Elaine, and our interpreter/guide, Shigeki, did an amazing job of not only maximizing our tour but also allowing us enough free time to explore as much or as little as we wanted. This was especially true in Kyoto. The day trips out of or in the city were well thought out and arranged. Having Elaine keeping us on task and Shigeki guiding us to the right train, bus, or subway was, in my eyes, a miracle. Kyoto was a wonderful place.
I learned a lot about the Japanese people and their culture. They are a friendly, polite, and trusting people. Their respect for others and their honesty is something to behold. The transportation system is something to envy. The food was presented in a visually appealing way and was also delicious.
What made this trip memorable, in addition to the leadership and organization of our tour leader and the knowledge and helpfulness of our guide, was how great all the people on our tour were. I have never been with a more interesting group of people. Everyone was so friendly and warm, from the 20+ year olds to the 90+ year olds. I could not have hand picked a better group to go on this trip with.
Needless to say, all of my pre-tour worries never came to fruition. If you are thinking of going to Japan, this is the tour to go on. Judy and I look forward to returning.