FAQs: Hidden Japan

Culture, Cuisine and Kayaking

What's special about Japan?

Where to start?! The artistry that runs through every element of daily life. the incredible food culture. The contrasts – from hyper modern cities to bucolic farmland to wild coastlines. The kindness and civility of its people. The lovingly preserved traditions and rituals – from green tea ceremonies to communal bathing. The stunning temples, monasteries, and perfect gardens. The chance to meet Shinto priests, and watch Zen archers practice with exquisite slowness and precision. The cosy sushi bars that seat only a handful of people, where you have the chef’s undivided attention. The trains – the high speed Shinkansen, and the more sedate local trains, all comfortable and prompt to the second. The superb art galleries and museums, filled with dizzyingly beautiful work. The history, stretching back millennia. The fact that one city, Kyoto, and its surrounds, can have 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The squeaky cleanness, which should never be underestimated! And this is just the start of the list…..

What is the food like?

Fresh, fresh, fresh, and treated with the utmost respect, love and artistry. Meals are a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. Often they are a dizzying array of small dishes, including fish, vegetables, tofu, meat, soup and rice. During our trip we will be sampling many different local specialities. We will eat everywhere from tiny sushi bars, to top restaurants, to tucked away cafes serving only soba noodles. The food in Japan is a big part of the adventure.

Where does the trip start and end?

It starts and ends in Narita Airport, Tokyo. We arrange airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip.

How do I get to Tokyo?

You can fly direct: from Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto with Air Canada; from New York or Los Angeles with United, ANA, JAL, American Airlines or Delta; from Washington DC with United or ANA.

What are the physical activities on the trip and what level of fitness do I need?

The hikes are easy and none are more than two hours in length. The kayaking excursions will each be about two hours in length, and we may do two excursions on each kayaking day. As we use stable double kayaks it is suitable for everyone. However, if you are a beginner we suggest you take a couple of introductory lessons beforehand. On the city tours we will be walking for up to two hours at a time, with lots of stops along the way, but please note that that in some places, for example Kyoto, there are numerous steps. Also, for some meals we will be seated at very low tables, so you should be able to sit down on the floor and get up without too much difficulty. This also applies to some of the sleeping arrangements, when you will be using futons very low to the floor.

I’m a vegetarian, is that a problem?

This is not a problem on any of our trips; you just need to let us know in advance what you can and can't eat. The same goes for any food allergies – please give us full information on these.

What are the accommodations like?

A real mix, from Western style hotels to ryokans, which are traditional inns. In the ryokans you will experience true Japanese lifestyle. On arrival you swap your city shoes for slippers. Your sleeping room will be covered with a tatami mat, and the bedding is a futon and quilts, which are made up at night and stored away during the day. Inside your sleeping room you go barefoot. A fresh cotton robe (yukata) is provided for each guest. You can wear this around the ryokan, and when you are going to its onsen (hot spring bath). Meals at the ryokans are usually presented at low tables, and you will be sitting on cushions or low benches.

What can you tell me about the onsens?

Bathing is a time-honoured tradition in Japan, dating from the early Shinto period, and it is taken very seriously. All our accommodations will have en suite bathrooms with showers, but it would be a shame to miss the onsen experience. These are pools fed by hot springs, and they are communal – separate pools for men and woman. You are required to bathe naked, but if this is a challenge for you, some ryokans have small private baths, or ofuro, that you can use. As with all things Japanese, using the onson requires certain rituals. Before bathing you wash yourself from top to toe in areas specified for this close to the pool. Stretching out and soaking in hot spring water, with steam rising around you, sometimes with a spectacular view, is a fantastic experience. Traditionally the bathing is done before dinner, but we admit to sometimes going to the onsen last thing at night – a deep sleep is assured!

What will the weather be like?

Temperatures will be pleasantly warm, ranging from 24 C by day and 15 C by night. There may be the chance of some showers.

Do I need a visa?

Canadian and US citizens do not need a visa for Japan.

Do I need insurance?

Medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, is mandatory on all our trips. We also strongly advise you to purchase trip cancellation insurance which should be done within a few days of making your booking.

Do I need vaccinations?

Your routine vaccinations (tetanus/diphtheria, polio and measles-mumps-rubella, etc.) need to be up to date. Please consult with your physician or local travel health clinic for any other vaccinations that may be recommended in your case.

What about malaria?

Japan eradicated malaria in 1959, and to date there have been no new outbreaks.

What does the trip price cover?

Airport transfers on the first and last days of the trip, all tour guiding, excursions and entrance fees, all accommodation, all meals, and water.

What does the trip price not cover?

International flights, airport transfers not on the first or last days of the trip, beverages other than water, personal insurance and gratuities for our kayak guide and local trip leader.

How can I access cash when I'm on the trip?

ATMs are available throughout Japan

What clothes and equipment will I need?

When you sign up for the trip, we will provide you with a comprehensive clothes and equipment list.

I’m travelling alone, is that a problem?

Absolutely not. We have many guests who travel with us on their own. They appreciate the camaraderie of our Hidden Places groups, and usually go home with newfound friends.

You can pay a the Single Supplement if you’d like your own room or you have the option of sharing accommodation with another suitable single guest. In the case that we don’t have anyone for you to share with we charge 50% of the Single Supplement for a ‘forced’ single accommodation.

Can I talk to someone who has previously travelled with you?

Of course. Just ask and we will be happy to put you in touch with one of our Hidden Places guests.

Hidden Places Travel
Box 318, 185-911 Yates Street
Victoria, BC, Canada V8V 4Y9
Phone: 1 250 589 9844 / 580 3480
Toll Free: 1 877 830 8747