Japan-wide Travel Services for all Kariya Guesthouse Guests!
Travel services (tours, reservations, itinerary advice, etc.) are available to all guests staying with us in Kyoto. Consider these services to improve the quality of your travel time anywhere in Japan. All pre-booked services can be paid for when you check in to one of our guesthouses. We offer Self-guided tours (without a guide; PDF; using bilingual, intelligent instructions) and Private Tours (with a guide) in Kyoto & Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. We also offer services for restaurant reservations; car/driver hire; airport transfers & travel advice and off-the-beaten-track adventures . . . Inquiries/Quotes/Details*. *Allow for a turn around time of at least 24 hours; email inquires only; and remember we offer these services all over Japan: Tokyo, Kamakura, Nikko, Hakone, Takayama, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara . . .
A Little About Us & What We Do Best
We specialize in helping travelers to Japan with everything and everywhere! Ian Ropke, the Japan travel expert behind KG Travel Services, has lived in Japan for over 25 years and is fluent in Japanese and the ways of Japan. He is the author of a Historical Dictionary of Osaka and Kyoto (Scarecrow Press, 1998; available on Amazon.com) and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Kyoto Visitor's Guide from 1994 to 2009.
We plan client itineraries based on what the client wants to do and experience in Japan; if they are overwhelmed by the choices, we will simplify the process by suggesting good tour ideas and options. Our itineraries take into account the massive crowding of Kyoto in spring and autumn and ensure a reasonably tranquil time in a city that gets 10 million visitors in April and then again 10 million more in November. In Kyoto and Tokyo we favor mixing well-known attractions with less known high-value locations and backstreet surprises, as well as quality shopping/art & craft streets/spots (as eye candy and as a shopping experience). We offer the following services all over Japan.
Self-guided Tours (option #1) or Guided Tours (option #2)
Option #1: Self-guided tours If you do not wish to be with a guide all the time, wish to explore the wonders off-the-beaten-track Japan or are on a tight budget, then our Self-guided Tours are ideal (from Yen 8,000/half or 4-hour day). These PDF format tour itineraries are self-guided and contain everything (logistical information in Japanese and English; clear instructions for taxi drivers/train ticket sellers in Japanese; walking guidance and maps; ) you will need to have a great day in Kyoto/Tokyo/Nara/Nikko/Kamakura or in one of Japan's many off-the-beaten-track destinations Japan has to offer: samples available on request. More detail on Self-guided tours below.
Option #2: Private guided tours Private tours with a trained, friendly guide are ideal but they can also be expensive for some (from Yen 31,000/half day or 4-hour day plus expenses; for up to 6 group members; add 10% for each extra member over 6). See details for this option below.
Option #1: Self-guided Tours: customized; with Japanese/English logistic and walking information (PDF format, highly detailed)
For clients who don't want a guide every day or wish to experience off-the-beaten track Japan, consider our Self-guided Tour options (Yen 7,000/half day, 4 hrs; Yen 12,000-18,000/full day, 8 hrs). Self-guided Tours (delivered in PDF format) can be designed for day or night tours in Tokyo and Kyoto and all over Japan (day trips or overnight trips). Self-guided Tours are customized to your interests and include detailed travel information for each destination in English and Japanese (for taxi/bus drivers and how to get tickets for train/subway; platform #s; accurate train departure/arrival info; walking maps; and smart J/E instructions/questions for doing everything on your own.
Option #2: Private Tours with Professional Guides
Create tours that suit your travel preferences: Feel free to combine elements from various tours; or make suggestions; we will then add what you have suggested, where feasible, and create an itinerary that perfectly suits your preferences. Tour start & end times: Completely flexible; often 9:00-17:00 (full day) or 9:00-13:00 or 14:00-19:00; the choices are yours! Meeting place: The guide generally meets the client in their hotel lobby and takes them back to the hotel at the end of the tour (other meeting and drop off places are also possible).
Tour pricing, expenses, cancellation: Full day tours (8 hours) are priced at Yen 45,000 and half day tours are Yen 31,000 (4 hours) for private groups with up to 6 members (add 10% for each person over 6); this includes customized itinerary planning and the service of a trained, friendly guide but does not include expenses incurred during the tour (temple/museum entry; lunch; private car/van transportation or public transportation). Expenses: Expenses can be managed by the client and kept very low if so desired. Temple entry is usually US$3-7/per person (a few top temples charge more). The client is also expected to cover all of the guide's expenses (lunch, etc.). Transport options: Most clients assume having a vehicle and driver is part of the private tour service base cost. It is not. If you want a car and driver for your tour (van, sedan, luxury car or bus) let us know and we will book one. Cancellation fees: Our cancellation fees are as follows. 1) up to one week before tour start date: 30%; 2) one week to two days in advance: 50%; on the day of the tour: 100%.Inquiries/Quotes/Details*. *Allow for a turn around time of at least 24 hours; email inquires only; and remember we offer these services all over Japan: Tokyo, Kamakura, Nikko, Hakone, Takayama, Hokkaido, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara . . .
Tokyo & Kyoto Sample Tour Itineraries
Tokyo-area self-guided/guided sample tour itineraries
Old Tokyo: full day: 1) A fascinating stroll around Tokyo's vast wholesale food and fish market; 2) Take a 15-min taxi ride to one of the finest 18th century gardens in Japan; 3) Then enjoy a boat ride through Tokyo Bay and up the Sumida River to the rich historical setting of Asakusa Temple; excellent lunch options; 4) After lunch you would take a short taxi or subway ride to an atmospheric district which survived the war and the 1923 earthquake: home to an ancient cemetery, dozens of time-worn wooden Buddhist temples and many old craft and typical Japanese neighborhood businesses; 5) the end of this day can either be spent in the traditional markets of the Ueno district; or at the National Museum and in Ueno Park; or following a short subway ride, you could experience traditional Japanese tea ceremony within the exquisite grounds of an 18th-century former samurai pond garden estate (with 500 year old bonsai trees).
New Tokyo: full day: Tokyo is famous for its super modern architecture and street culture and luxurious restaurants, hotels and shopping worlds. Tokyo is huge, a metropolis of 12 million in the center of a dense urban area, Kanto, of nearly 40 million people! The moderns centers of the city include Harajuku, Aoyama, Omotesando, Shibuya, Shinjuku, the Ginza, and several hipster/youth districts like Shimokitazawa and Daikanyama, as well as world class mall complexes, and contemporary art museums/scenes.
Old/New Tokyo: full day: A customized combination of the above two tours (Old Tokyo and New Tokyo).
Kamakura: full day: This top-value destination (only one hour from Tokyo) is perfect for strolling, biking and hiking and/or strategic taxi use. The tour includes an introduction to early Japanese Zen gardens and architecture (13th century), a look at a special shrine cave complex, a stroll through a bamboo forest garden, a visit to one of Japan's best and oldest shrines, the wonder of Kamakura's giant outdoor bronze Buddha, sun/wind worn seaside scenes, and a great lunch experience (optional) at an amazing historical hillside estate surrounded by extensive gardens with views of Mount Fuji if you're lucky.
Hakone/Mount Fuji (hiking, traditional and modern art museums, hot springs): full day: We have an excellent route for visiting the hot spring town of Hakone on the outskirts of Tokyo, which is famous for its proximity to Mount Fuji; departure from Shinjuku on a private train line (about Yen 6,000 round trip and including discounted entry to many attractions in the Hakone area; the tour makes use of an alpine railway line that stops a various area on the way up to the top (Gora); from the top a gondola swoops across the mountain to another attractive area before the ropeway leg that leads down to Lake Ashi.
Useful Tokyo-area planning information: 1) For reliable train schedule/planning all over Japan in English: http://www.hyperdia.com; 2) Getting a Japan Rail Pass: http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html ; 3) Tokyo tourist/event information, Metropolis magazine: http://metropolis.co.jp/default.asp .
Kyoto-area self-guided/guided sample tour itineraries
The wonderful jewels (famous and off-the-beaten-track) of the east side: full day: This very popular tour covers an 8-kilometer stretch along the Higashiyama side of Kyoto. During the tour you will see top attractions such as Kiyomizu Temple, the Nanzenji Zen complex, the Silver Pavilion and the Gion as well as high-value spots such as Honen-in Temple, the Path of Philosophy, Chion-in Temple, Yasaka Shrine, a huge hillside cemetery, a small bamboo forest, interesting backstreets and neighborhoods, and craft shops. This tour can configured to include Nijo Castle.
The fascinations of northwestern and western Kyoto: full day: This tour starts with the exquisite Zen gardens of the Daitoku-ji Zen compound, followed by a visit to an ancient shrine complex (often used for samurai film sets) and a tea break at one of two shops that have been competing for customers for 400 years. The next stop would be the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) and its fabulous pond garden estate. After or before lunch, you would take a romantic tram line (or taxi) to Arashiyama, on west side of the city. Arashiyama offers secluded river walking, monkey viewing and feeding (great for kids!), strolling in the area's world-famous bamboo forest, a chance to explore a number of top-value temples and gardens, see thatch roofed farm houses and walk through very old residential and shopping areas.
Off-the-beaten track Kyoto: full day: During this tour you will be taken to an eclectic selection of top-value areas/locations not mentioned in most guide books; old, living neighborhoods, serene scenes that offer the quintessential Japan experiences we all hope for; secret spots; stunning gardens and views over the city; despite the off-the-beaten track nature of this tour you will never be very far from the city's most famous areas and you will not waste time getting from zone to zone; lots of strolling; lots of serendipitous exploration and relaxation.
Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine & Gion night walk: 4 hours: 1) Enter the vast sacred precinct of this world famous shrine (devoted to the rice harvest and by extension the world of commerce in all forms) by following a secret back forest path to the base of the mountain and then from there climb up tiered stairs past purification waterfalls and literally thousands of orange torii shrine gates; including ancient stone sculptures of foxes and dragons; 2) The second part of the tour leads you through the exotic and aesthetically stunning Gion district where the legendary geisha and maiko study work and play.
Nara: full day: Nara is 30-min from Kyoto on a super-fast private train or 45-min. away for those traveling on a Japan Rail Pass. The tour is broken into two parts (though other configurations can be created for this very large historical area). 1) The tour begins at Horyuji Temple (Japan's oldest Buddhist temple/monastery which has the oldest (early 8th century) wooden buildings in the world, as well as excellent museum of art and antiquities. 2) The second half of the day focuses on the stunning 15th-century attractions of Nara Park, once the end of the legendary Silk Road.
Useful Kyoto planning information: 1) For reliable train schedule/planning all over Japan in English: http://www.hyperdia.com; 2) Getting a Japan Rail Pass: http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html ; 3) Local Kyoto tourist/event information, Kyoto Visitor's Guide: www.kyotoguide.com
For more information, please inquire. We would also be happy to call you to discuss your trip before arriving at one of the Kariya Guesthouses.