Our Travel Style
At Journey to the East we are committed to providing authentic, small group tours to Japan – whether standard tours or custom-built for private groups. Our travel style is to immerse you in the culture and landscape of the country and expose you to a rich variety of unique experiences.
We do this by taking you beyond the tourist hotspots to explore the lesser known parts of Japan. We seek out attractions and experiences that offer authentic insights into Japan’s culture, history and people. Our tours are designed to strike the right balance between the classic highlights and local secrets, the urban and the rural, the historic and the contemporary, and in doing so, reveal the true heart of Japan.
With Journey to the East, you will have a fun, safe and deeply rewarding journey through this endlessly fascinating country!
Explore Japan like a true local – discover an area on foot, eat at neighbourhood restaurants, experience using public transport, stay in atmospheric local inns.
By using local transportation and exploring on foot, you will 'rub shoulders' with local people as they go about their daily lives. There are no 'tour buses' on a Journey to the East itinerary!
We bring added authenticity to your experience by partnering with locally owned accommodation suppliers – typically three to four-star traditional ryokan inns or western style boutique hotels – which provide friendly service and comfortable accommodation in charming local neighbourhoods.
You will also enjoy atmospheric local restaurants, hand-picked by us, which specialise in particular culinary styles.
Extra Small Group Tours
Enjoy a more intimate and personalised journey through Japan with our extra small group tour format – capped at just 8 people.
A maximum of eight people is lower than the industry standard, even among other small group operators. The result is a more intimate immersion into Japan’s culture, and more flexibility to respond to travellers' specific interests.
The extra small group format allows us to take a spontaneous detour down an interesting backstreet, pick our way along a country path to see an exquisite local temple, or visit a small family-run restaurant instead of the tourist venues serving mass produced food. We can also explore protected cultural sites which are often off-limits to larger groups.
Take advantage of the small group sizes to connect with local artisans and experts through specially arranged sessions and learn first-hand about Japan’s cultural traditions.
A long association with Japan has allowed us to develop a rich network of experts and artisans who love to share their knowledge or craft. Depending on your itinerary, you might join a private reception with a Buddhist monk, experience a chado tea ceremony with a Japanese tea master, learn about the intricacies of making soy sauce in a centuries-old family business, or chat over a late-night bowl of noodles with a yatai street-cart vendor.
Meeting local people and sharing stories is a characteristic of our tours. These connections bring you closer to the local culture and give precious insights into modern-day Japanese life.
Food is well and truly a central focus: at each stop, we showcase an exquisite and diverse selection of Japanese culinary styles. Often the smaller restaurants offer the most authentic and delicious cuisine.
The Japanese cuisine you might enjoy ranges in style from elegant kaiseki banquets to regional specialities. You will eat in rustic local restaurants as well as in more formal tatami-mat establishments, sample popular street-food and visit some regional fresh-produce markets.
You will be exposed to the rich diversity of Japanese food culture, both traditional and contemporary, and eat like the Japanese eat. Meals typically include fresh seafood, wagyu beef, seasonal vegetable dishes and other delicacies. Staying at Japanese inns, you will have the opportunity to experience a traditional breakfast and try miso soup, grilled fish and pickles.
Friendly Local Guides
Your friendly, English speaking, professionally trained guides are also a local resident. Their inside knowledge adds great depth to the places you're visiting.
All our English speaking Japanese guides are residents of the city or region you’re visiting. This brings unparalleled insider knowledge to your experience – whether by explaining a particular cultural tradition or facilitating a conversation with a local.
Your guides are dedicated, professionally trained and accredited. We make sure they are comprehensively briefed at the beginning of a trip about our customers to ensure you have a seamless experience. We believe our team of friendly guides is one of the main reasons behind the consistently high customer satisfaction ratings we are fortunate to enjoy.
Owner-Operated & Local
Feel secure and comfortable knowing that your tour is directly managed by Journey to the East. We don't outsource to other operators and we aim to 'pre-test' every experience before we offer it to you.
Journey to the East is owner-operated by its founders – Yuki Takano and Col Beardmore. By managing all aspects of the business ourselves, we can ensure you have a top quality experience from arrival through to departure.
We communicate directly with hotels, restaurants and tour guides, and make sure they understand our expectations and your individual needs.
In addition, Journey to the East ensures locally run businesses, such as family-owned restaurants and accommodation operators, directly benefit from our tours.
Carefully Crafted Itineraries
Each season has its own magic, and each of our itineraries has been carefully crafted to capture that magic and allow you time to enjoy it.
We pride ourselves on offering tours to Japan at the absolutely right season. Far from running cookie-cutter tours throughout the year just to fill seats, Journey to the East will only visit a destination at a particular time if it has genuine seasonal appeal.
A great deal of thought goes into planning and road-testing our itineraries to give you enough time to truly savour an experience and to minimise time on the road. Our travel style is typically relaxed and considered – we are not into rushing from one sight to another!
We remove every possible travel stress from your experience by ensuring you’re properly briefed and well supported.
Like every country, Japan has its own mix of the quaint and quirky, which may sometimes take you by surprise. We provide comprehensive pre-departure materials with practical advice about things like the banking or mobile phone system, as well as background notes on cultural customs.
While on the road, our guides provide additional materials and suggestions for things you might like to try or do in your free time.