travel in Japan

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I will be traveling alone in Japan in October for a week. Are there any travel agencies or guides you can recommend to assist me? Thanks!

Dont know what to assist you with, Japan is a fairly large country. Have you gone to the travel section in a book store to get a book on Japan? There is a lot of information available.

This might help you. On this page at the top under "Travel Resources" there is a line to "tourism offices".

This is what they had for Japan.

Japan: Japan National Tourist Organization, One Rockefeller Plaza, Ste. 1250, New York, NY 10020; 212/757-5640… or 340 E. 2nd St., Ste. 302, Little Tokyo Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012; 213/623-1952, www.jnto.go.jp or www.japantravelinfo.com

Greetings from Kyoto.

I can vouch from a lot of experience that the tourist information on the JNTO website and from its offices is very useful. In particular, its Practical Travel Guides that focus on specific regions of Japan at http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/index.html are extremely helpful.

If you have only a week I recommend that you concentrate on just one or two areas. For example, you can easily base yourself in Kyoto and see other places in the Kansai area, such as Nara, as well.

There are several festivals in Kyoto as well as nearby areas in October, including the Jidai Matsuri and Kurama Matsuri on October 22. If you plan to be here at the time of the festivals, it is important to secure accommodation in advance.

Some cities in Japan have volunteer guides, sometimes called free guides or welcome guides. (Similar to the greeters available in some US cities). I was especially happy with my guide in Kyoto.

See, e.g., http://www.tokyofreeguide.com/ and http://kyotofreeguide.sakura.ne.jp/

I can second the enthusiasm for Japan's Volunteer Guides. They are lovely people with excellent English language skills who want to share what they know and love about their city. I arranged for a guide in Kyoto to accompany me on "The Philosophers Walk". It was an excellent experience - we started with lunch (my treat), then took transportation to the beginning of the walk. She explained the history of the area and gave me info. about the shrines and stores along the way. I was able to ask questions about life in Kyoto. We ended with tea at a local teahouse (my treat) then she dropped me off at my hotel. The Volunteer Guides Club then followed up with an evaluation. Everything was very professional and, as I mentioned, a good experience.

www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/travel/guide/list_volunteerGuides_a-n.html

I just traveled solo in Japan this past April. I found the individual websites for each town on my intinerary very helpful. Just google "visit ________" to find them. The existence of any local volunteer guide group will often be mentioned in these city/town sites.

Check the following country-wide website for contacts for volunteer guides: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/travel/guide/list_volunteerGuides_a-n.....

Also the following country-wide website has great self-guided walks which you can print out for several destinations: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/destinations/.

Each volunteer guide group has it's own system of assigning guides. Some want you to "apply" well in advance and others say you can just contact them once you arrive so read through the group's information. I found that the norm was that you were expected to pay your guide's entrance fees as well as you own, although many regular guides have an understanding with many of the sights to get in free. You should also treat your guide to lunch. In Kanazawa I knew I was going to have the same guide for two days so I also brought a small gift from home to give him.

If you want any day tours while you are there, you can check www.viator.com or http://www.jtbusa.com/en/tour/t-sunrise.asp. What they offer are the standard bus tours. I just did one of those in Kyoto as sort of an orientation my first day. And again, the individual town websites can direct you to other local tours available including walking tours.

I highly recommend getting a rail pass which allows you to day trip on your own. For example, from Kyoto I day tripped to Nara, Arashiama, Inari, etc.

And I made good use of Trip Advisor's forum for Japan getting great advice from locals in each of the areas I planned to visit.

Enjoy your trip.

This sounds like a great idea! I certainly will investigate. Thanks so much.

Thanks to everyone who replied. I will be with my sister and niece for 2 weeks, so will have already visited many places by the time I have time alone. I have lots of guidebooks and am using those to plan our trip, since I have had short visits in Japan before. But I have never had the time to explore an area alone, so am looking forward to doing that. I like the idea of local volunteer guides and will look into that. My niece lives on a US Air Base but will not have time off to travel with me. I am considering staying in Tokyo and visiting the various neighborhoods, and also perhaps taking a longer train trip. I'll have a JR Pass. Your replies have been a huge help for me! Again, I thank you!