Japan may be only one-twentieth the size of Australia but it punches well above its weight for cultural, historical and gastronomic diversity. Two of TravelManagers’ personal travel managers (PTMs) are now more confident in selling this fascinating destination to their clients thanks to invitations from Japan Holidays to participate in a seven-day famil hosted by the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Jennifer Jones is TravelManagers’ representative for Wahroonga on Sydney’s upper north shore. She says her clients are already benefiting from her new-found knowledge of Japan.
“Having had the opportunity to experience first-hand what Japan has to offer, I can now suggest various experiences in certain cities, from a three-hour bike and kimono experience in Kyoto, to a sushi-making lesson in Tokyo.”
Jones says she was surprised and impressed by the diversity of experience available to visitors.
“I would have no problem recommending Japan to anyone because I could provide honeymooners with a different set of experiences to a history buff or a family,” she explains.
TravelManagers’ Sheri Foreman, representative for Eagle Heights in the Gold Coast hinterland, also participated in the famil. She says clients who are anxious about the language barrier or personal safety have nothing to fear.
“I felt genuinely welcomed to Japan. The feeling of personal safety and level of courtesy were even higher than I had expected.”
Jones agrees with this observation.
“The Japanese people were very friendly and obliging, making us feel welcome wherever we went,” she says. “It’s also very kid-friendly so it definitely suits the family market.”
For both PTMs, a visit to Hiroshima was a special highlight of their time in Japan.
“Hiroshima leaves you with a deeper understanding and compassion for the Japanese people and their level of suffering as a result of the dropping of the atomic bomb,” explains Foreman.
Jones agrees that their time in Hiroshima lived up to expectations.
“The Japanese people have built an amazing Peace Park and Museum. Many of the victims of the A-Bomb who are still alive today give talks to share their experience with visitors: it was very insightful and very moving.”
Equally jaw-dropping but for a different reason was Jones’ first experience of the world-famous Shinkansen or “bullet train”.
“To stand on the platform when a bullet train goes past is literally jaw-dropping – I have never seen anything move so fast in my life!”
Both Jones and Foreman also savoured the opportunity to try as many Japanese gastronomic delights as possible. From vanilla and green tea-flavoured ice cream to kushikatsu (deep fried meat and vegetable skewers) or okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), Japan is foodie heaven.
“Coffee is not as we know it though,” adds Foreman. “It’s usually canned and bought from a vending machine – you choose the colour red for hot or blue for cold!”
For less adventurous diners, Foreman says there were plenty of options to suit a more Western palate.
“The shopping arcades and train stations often have a whole floor of restaurants, where hungry travellers will usually have the choice of traditional Japanese or more Western-style meals. They’re sometimes on the top floor so you get to enjoy great views of the city while you eat,” she adds.
According to Foreman, another highlight was the three-hour bike ride through the back streets of Kyoto, including the geisha district and the parkland with its beautiful temple and shrines.
“I felt we were able to experience everyday Japan, as the Japanese live – and after all the yummy food we’d eaten, the exercise was very welcome too!”
Jones was equally impressed with her time in Kyoto. With a population of close to 1.4 million people, it was much bigger than she had expected.
“The train station is huge, with lots of shops and an amazing shopping mall with many well-known international brands.”
After an action-packed itinerary that squeezed in as many highlights as possible, both Jones and Foreman says they would happily return to Japan.
“I would like to visit Japan again in all four seasons as I believe each will provide an entirely different experience,” Foreman says. “Japan is ideally suited to those who wish to travel the length and breadth of it, soaking up the atmosphere and different experiences. I’m excited to start sharing what I’ve seen with my clients.”
For more information or to speak to someone confidentially about TravelManagers please contact Suzanne Laister on 1800 019 599.