The content of the tour and the experience itself opened my eyes to what is truly important to my existence and exposed myself to the beauty that is international travel!
Cooksan / Adult traveler Visalia, CA. / Posted on August 02, 2017
Arigato! Yes, thank you because I had an absolutely great time visiting Japan. I really enjoyed visiting all the different sites, shrines, temples, and all of the delicious food. Our tour leader in Japan was absolutely lovely as well. Very knowledgeable and insightful.
The only "con" I had (if you can call it that), was that we didn't spend enough time in Tokyo. And I do wish we would've had more time to do exploring for ourselves.
But that only left me with the desire to want to visit again. I'm very eager to go back!
Overall, I had a great time and greatly look forward to visiting again!
BlueBackpack / Adult traveler Mission Viejo, CA / Posted on July 28, 2017
Good experience but one problem
This trip is a very good deal. All hotels and most of the food is paid for. The tour guides are very helpful and really try and pack the days full of experiences. I only had one problem. I am allergic to seafood. I break out and have very bad stomach pain if I eat any form of seafood. I told my group leader as well as the tour guide ahead of time, and all seemed well. One night we went out to eat tempura, and my dish was separate from the rest and was vegetarian. I was eating for about ten minutes, and then the tour guide comes up to me and tells me that the sauce and the soup that i had been eating probably contained fish. The next day I broke out in a rash and was very nauseated and sick. I am just glad that I didn't have a worse reaction. Be wary if you have allergies to seafood and visit Japan. A lot of stuff contains fish broth.
Maxgrey / Student traveler Dudley, NC / Posted on July 26, 2017
Japan Trip Review
-too much time at American-style malls: we could have just gone to those malls in the US instead of flying all the way to Japan
-too many shrine visits: the shrines are all very similar and have very similar decorations- once you've seen a couple, you've seen them all
-not enough time at the bamboo forest
-not enough time at the Hiroshima Peace Museum
-overall, very odd timing schedule
-I liked the traditional Japanese dinner, tea ceremony, Ryokan style hotel, and kimono dressing A LOT: it was a lot of fun experiencing Japanese culture!
-trip tour guide and local tour guides were very friendly and eager to share information about Japanese culture and monuments
-I felt like I had enough time to go off on my own and explore
-I did love the shopping experience in Japan, just... not the extent of time we spent doing it
-American tour guide that went with us on the trip made us look like the ugly Americans because she made a big deal out of moving us all around for 360-degree pictures, and didn't seem to know that the Japanese people around us were staring at us because we were being rude... a lot of the other students on the trip were tired of it by the time we flew back to the US
Bienne / Student traveler Gilbert, Arizona / Posted on July 14, 2017
AMAZING AND I LEARNED A LOT OF CULTURE AND LANGUAG
Thank you EF Tours for sending an amazing tour guide!
I was able to absorb culture and teachings of history and language as much as I wanted! :)
I absolutely praise the tour guide because she was always relaxed even tho there were a few hard times!!!
Thank you EF Tours!
MKtaxi / Student traveler OR / Posted on July 13, 2017
Not enough focus on education
Japan is wonderful! There were many wonderful activities we engaged in and many beautiful places we visited. However, except for Hiroshima, we didn't go to any museums at all. I think it would have been great to go to at least one Japanese history museum and one Japanese culture/art museum. We spent a LOT of time in shopping malls, especially malls with American stores. This felt like a time filler or something set up to amuse the students. A little shopping is nice but this felt like far too much. And certainly it's something we could do here in the US. As an "education first" tour, I expected more educational and cultural activities. I really enjoyed Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, the Bamboo Forest (even though we were there such a short time), the Great Buddha Statue, the tea ceremony and kimono dressing (my favorite), Nijo Castle, the shrines (although there were too many), and the traditional Japanese hotel we stayed at in Hakone and the traditional dinner we participated in at that hotel. The pace of the tour felt very uneven. It felt like we were rushed through some places (like Hiroshima and the Bamboo Forest) and spent far too much time in other places, especially shopping. In sum, I would have liked to have spent more time on Japanese culture, history and language, and less time shopping.
Finallygotthere / Adult traveler Gilbert, AZ / Posted on July 12, 2017
I think this is a trip for the spring
We went June 22nd to July 2nd. It was so hot and humid that I would not recommend this trip for the summer months. It's just too hot to be pleasant- and downright dangerous on the hottest days (Japanese warnings were posted and were being put out on loud speaker when we were at Himejii shrine- drink water and take salt tablets, they said- to prevent heat stroke.) If you are used to very very hot and humid weather, maybe this trip is for you, if you aren't, then take it in the spring. The walking in the heat can be pretty extreme, and there is a ton of walking- bear that in mind. On our free day we did 9.5 miles and 35 flights of stairs- and pretty much exhausted everyone on the trip- and we did it all in the heat.
The trip itself is very complete and gives you a good overview of Japan- though it is very shrine heavy (I like shrines, so I did not mind, but some of my kids wished for less of the shrines, and more of somethings else.)
Food was an issue for my travelers. The food was not of the highest quality, and at one of our hotels many of our travelers felt ill. Many of my students filled up on fast food or snacks from ubiquitous convenience stores, as they were not eating much of the dinners. If you have food allergies, this is NOT the trip for you- the Japanese do not really understand food allergies very well and there is a tremendous language gap. Don't expect the Japanese to speak English- because they do not.
But all this being said, my students were glad they went and felt they saw a very different culture. I would not personally take this trip again because of the things I've mentioned- I'll stick with Europe.
vintage / Group leader california / Posted on July 04, 2017
So much fun!!
I had no idea how beautiful Japan could be. I was in such a beautiful world with a rich culture I was proud to experience!
Aqualillianna / Student traveler Orlando, FL / Posted on July 02, 2017
Great country, but poor tour
One cannot review the culture and aspects of a country; it is not something that can be placed stars on. You can choose any country that EF offers tours for and expect a great experience simply being present in a new environment with classmates. This part does not change with any educational tour or travel agency.
Thus, I will focus on primarily the tour itself, which is the part that EF specifically offers in competition with other travel agencies. I will cover praise and criticism by points rather than in chronological order.
- There were no outstanding needs to contact EF. The tour and flights were all booked correctly.
- Good density of places to visit. The tour's itinerary was loaded with many points of interest, yet there was no feeling of exhaustion. I took around 900 photos by the conclusion of the tour.
- Excellent cost-effectiveness. It's difficult to beat EF in terms of pricing, especially in how they provide a fairly solid estimate with one big price tag.
- Tour guide knew his history very well, even if he was unable to explain it fluently. You could ask him about the history of a specific point of interest, and he could tell you very precisely its roots, whether they be from the Meiji, Edo, or Tokugawa period.
- Every dinner was authentic Japanese food. No exceptions.
- Tour guide had poor command of English and was extremely difficult to understand. In Japan, "Engrish" is very common, and it's admittedly very difficult to find someone who can speak English fluently and correctly. However, this really reveals that you get what you pay for: if you want a cheapo tour, you will get a cheapo tour guide who might not be all you wanted. I will reiterate this: he was not a captivating tour guide, and it took great effort to try to absorb the information he was disseminating.
- Little time spent in the actual points of interest, possibly due to an inefficient use of the tour bus. In many cases, it's cheaper and faster to use the subway to get to places, although I concede that the tour bus is useful in times where one wants to see the area that leads up to an important or unfamiliar destination. Still, on the worst day, we were on the bus for a cumulative three hours, yet we only had around forty to fifty minutes per point of interest. No wonder I took so many pictures, as the tour felt rushed and didn't give me time to take in the view before we had to get back in the bus to go somewhere else.
- Miscommunication with EF during the tour. We were promised two people to a room on the first hotel, but instead were assigned three to a room. The arrangement wasn't that bad after all, but it still contradicted the claims made in the travel meetings. What's more, we were informed something about an EF group from Las Vegas that would be merging with our group, but this also never happened (they toured separately from us, but we encountered them occasionally).
- Reversed tour. There is, in fact, fine print that EF is allowed to do this if reversing the tour would save money, but it's still unpleasant and detracting from the intended experience. My group leader, who is a native speaker I know very well, told me before the tour that she was irritated from the reversal, since it's much better to start from Tokyo, the modern part of Japan, and work one's way southward to the more traditional Kyoto.
- The last day of the tour was poorly planned by EF, so our group leader had to change the itinerary of that day (well before the tour, obviously) to some significantly better plans. Originally, the whole day would have been basically hanging around in Ueno Park, but she changed that to going to Tokyo Skytree, Hongwanji Temple, the Tsukiji fish market (which is moving elsewhere very soon), and the Edo-Tokyo Museum. We had to foot the bill for the attractions of this day, including Skytree, the museum, and 100 grams of toro (fatty tuna).
- Poor distinction between what is already paid by EF and what we would have to pay for in addition to our tour. For instance, some of our subway tickets were already bought ahead of time by our tour director, but some we had to pay for with our money, which doesn't really make sense because all of the transportation was supposed to have been covered by the tour cost.
- Our group leader (and her husband and kids) ended up doing most of the work, especially rounding up everyone and ensuring that they are all present.
- Less time than you would expect to spend your own money. After all, they want the tour to be educational, rather than just general tourism. But the interesting part was that we had to *vote* to go back to Akihabara, because we were only given two hours (including lunch!) to buy the games and figurines we had always wanted to buy from Japan. Even after the small petition, the final decision was to make Akihabara and Harajuku mutually exclusive, which means that you could only choose to go to one or the other. I decided to just go to Harajuku purely because I'd feel guilty if I didn't stick to the original plan, but I regret the decision in retrospect because I ended up buying absolutely nothing there. (They just sell Western clothes in Harajuku, so you're a Westerner buying used Western clothes in a non-Western country.)
There are probably quite a few number of points I am missing here, but this should be sufficient to give you an idea of the specifics of the tour that are not covered in the generic "it was really great and I had a lot of fun!!" reviews.
As a recent high school graduate, I'll be looking forward to my next trip to Japan, but this time with another travel agency that provides more transparency in terms of itinerary and fees. I'd also be predisposed to spending more money to get a longer and better quality tour that actually gives me time to enjoy viewing the temples and monuments, rather than frantically taking pictures to appreciate later.
LostInBinarySea / Student traveler San Antonio, TX / Posted on June 30, 2017
What a Trip!
I had an amazing time in Japan! Our tour guide was incredible, the sites were breathtaking, and the food was delicious. Dietary restrictions were not a problem for me or anyone else in my group, even when we had to find food on our own. If you are going in the late spring or summer, be aware that humidity and mosquitoes will be a problem. Smoking is also more prevalent, so I would advise those with asthma to bring a mask or simply be aware that they may have more respiratory problems in Japan than in America. Most places were fairly English friendly, but I would make sure you can at least say thank you and excuse me (I used those phrases the most). Overall, I had a wonderful time and I would love to visit again!
AndPenny / Student traveler Silver Spring, MD / Posted on June 30, 2017