Three geishas
Lucy Fernandez
Owner, AffordableTours.com
Toll Free (800) 935-2620
E-mail: lucy@affordabletours.com
Monograms Independent – Best of Japan with Hiroshima – View the entire itinerary

Omotenashi – a Japanese word that conveys the sense of warmth in hospitality and a hallmark of Japanese culture. Beyond a friendly reception, there is a sense of anticipation that is one step ahead of the spoken request. Throughout our journey in Japan, we experienced the gracious service and welcome for which this ancient island nation is known—never rushed or compelled by a schedule—but always treated with genuine care by our local hosts and virtually all of the service personnel we encountered. Japan is a land of many contrasts, beautifully reflected in the harmonies of rest and rush we experienced in Tokyo and Kyoto. As an independent vacation, our 10-night program combined the best of modern amenities and the serenity of ancient traditions.

Arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International airport can be an intimidating experience, but we were immediately put at ease by the waiting arrival transfer service that took us to our hotel, the Conrad, uniquely situated in the upper floors of the 37-story Shiodome Building. Shiodome district is one of Tokyo’s newest areas, reclaimed from a former railway center and adjacent to the exclusive (and pricey) Ginza district.

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On arrival, we were met by our local host, Mayumi Sato, who immediately displayed the best of “omotenashi” and Monogram’s commitment to personal service when she happily provided the name and address of a local shop where I could purchase a model of the famous “Bullet Train” for my grandson. Mayumi went on to book a tour for the following day and left after providing her cell phone number and calm assurance that she would be available if we needed any assistance. We set out and explored the area, including a visit to Hama-Rikyu Garden, a quiet and lush retreat in one of the largest and busiest metropolitan areas in the world.

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After a visit to the Ginza district, where we found the model train and a few other treasures, we went back to the Conrad to enjoy a traditional shabu-shabu dinner before retiring for the evening. We anticipated an early morning start on the excursion we planned to ancient and lovely Kamakura, famed for its giant Buddha and the vibrant port city of Yokohama.

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As expected, we were picked up on time and delivered to a bus terminal for our tour. Touring Kamakura included the 43 foot bronze Buddha at Kotoku-in Temple. Found here is the largest Buddha in the country, dating from 1252. Traveling on to Yokohama and Tokyo Bay, we were introduced to the gorgeous Sankein Gardens of Yokohama – a city that is home to the largest “Chinatown” in Japan.

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During an included city tour, we were treated to views of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower and enjoyed a short cruise on Lake Ashi while visiting the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. We were lucky enough to have excellent weather and, after an included 15-minute cable car lift, enjoy clear viewing of this iconic volcano/mountain. We were delighted that the often cloud-shrouded mountain revealed itself so clearly during our visit. Such clear views can be rare!

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The next morning we were once again greeted by our local host and transferred by taxi to the station to board the “green car” (First Class) service aboard the Shinkansen Express, more commonly known as the “Bullet Train.” Our comfortable two hour trip to Kyoto ended as we were met by our local host and taken to the Westin Miyako, a hotel that caters to tourists with its hillside setting and proximity to the best of Kyoto’s historic attractions. It offers three traditional Japanese gardens, all of which create a quiet enclave near the heart of one of Japan’s largest cities.

 

During our time in Kyoto we took an included visit to the Imperial Palace, enjoyed the tranquil setting of Kinkaku-Ji, known as the Golden Temple, and climbed to the top of the Buddhist temple, Kiyomizu-dera, another of the famous sights that symbolize Kyoto to the visitor. During our stay, we enjoyed a visit to the weeping cherry tree of Marayuma Park, a highlight of any tour tour to Kyoto and noted as the best experience of cherry blossoms in Kyoto. We went on to enjoy shopping in the geisha district and ended our time in Kyoto with a tempura dinner.

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Once again we experienced the amazing bullet train to Hiroshima, where we were taken by local train and ferry to visit the island of Miyajima and the floating torii gate – which is so evident in any pictorial reference to Japan. We were also given the opportunity to visit the oyster growers and enjoyed eating oysters in a number of different ways. After some inevitable shopping, we visited the Hiroshima memorials and museum to learn about this terrible atomic scar on Japan’s history.

The Monograms experience in Japan was a reminder that Globus has invested a lot of energy and time in perfecting the concept of “independent, but not alone.” Coupled with the omotenashi spirit of Japan, this tour offering is a compelling reason for would-be travelers to the “Land of the Rising Sun” to consider the Globus Family of Brands.

Globus offers a First Class escorted program, as well as a more independent program through Monograms. Both present an excellent opportunity to savor an amazing country that is distinctly rooted in ancient tradition while always staying in touch, and leading, in the modern world. Arigato to Globus Monograms and the nation of Japan for this wonderful experience.

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Before continuing on to our last destination, Osaka, our local made a quick diversion to a local grocery market so that we could stock up on macha green tea and face brushes. We again enjoyed the speedy bullet train service to Osaka, where were again met by our local host and checked in to the beautiful Imperial Hotel in Osaka for our last night. The local host suggested a visit to Osaka Castle, which we enjoyed very much! For our goodbye dinner, we sampled a traditional teppanyaki to make our experience of Japanese cuisine as complete as possible.

After an early breakfast we made a farewell visit to the cherry gardens, here thought to be the finest in all of Japan. Our local guide’s service ended with an escort by bus and taxi to the airport in Osaka. We were not just dropped off but escorted inside and given help with check-in and final preparations for our departure. It was time to say goodbye to an amazing country.

View the entire itinerary of my Monograms tour “Best of Japan with Hiroshima”

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Lucy Fernandez
Owner, AffordableTours.com
Toll Free (800) 935-2620
Fax (281) 269-2690
lucy@affordabletours.com

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