Early in the year an inquiry arrived wanting one of our standard schedules, a
"Best of Japan" trip covering two weeks with time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama and
Kanazawa. As well as some day trips (Nikko and Matsushima) the time went
quickly and was able to show off the charms of Japan for our guests from the UK.
Was our holiday excellent? No, it wasn?t, it was INSANELY excellent. The tour met all our expectations and much more. It was tailored to meet all demands.
Our guides, Wendy, Koji and Patrick could not be more kind, friendly, patient, helpful and knowledgeable. Hotel accommodation was luxurious.
September 2017 - Custom Tour - 30 days
We received a request to create a trip between two and six weeks and we
suggested something in the middle. The result was a month long tour around
many parts of Japan. Despite the one month duration the time did not drag
as we had so much to do. There were many highlights and wide variety.
The first half included Hokkaido, the Sapporo autumn festival, the fort and
great seafood in Hakodate, Jomon history in Aomori, a visit to the gold mine on
Sado Island and eventually ending back in Tokyo for an afternoon at the sumo.
The second half picked up with a trip as far south as Iwkuni and Hiroshima
before spending time in Kyoto, the alps with Takayama and the coastal Kanazawa
(including a trip to Komatsu).
The tour for independent travellers: If you are planning a
visit to Japan and need some help with the logistics and language then this is
the company for you (unless you really like being on a bus in a large group). We
recently completed the 4 week grand tour of Japan with Patrick and can honestly
say we have never had such an easy and stress-free holiday. The train travel is
a marvel and being just ourselves there was plenty of opportunity to vary the
itinerary and do something different. We had experiences we would have struggled
to find had we been on our own. What we learned with Patrick did mean we were
more than comfortable looking after ourselves for our add-on week in Tokyo.
July 2017 - Custom Tour - 10 days
Back in July 2016 we received a request for a custom/private trip covering
ten days split five in Kyoto and five days in Tokyo for either two or three
people (we would not know until the trip started). In the early exchange
of emails one of the first things we did was save them US$500/person on an
airfare they were booking from Okinawa to Osaka. We also received a
lengthy list of destinations that they wanted to cover.
We put all of these ideas/destinations into a logical order and essentially
squashed a two week trip into ten days. At the conclusion of the tour we
agreed that we had covered about 95% of the original list and added in some
extra bits including finding turban shells "like grandma used to make" (to eat)
and also an evening at the karaoke (hopefully the video will be deleted).
I highly recommend using Japan Custom Tours if you are planning a trip to
Japan. You can create your own trip, tailor it to your needs and desires,
and even change it as needed. We just returned from a trip with Patrick as
our guide. We were able to see so much within our 10 days because of
Patrick's knowledge of the trains as well as the cities that we visited
(Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Myajima, Tokyo, Nikko, Kanazawa, Hakone, and
Enoshima). Patrick was also entertaining, making the trip truly memorable.
His attention to detail and individual preferences contributed to a great
experience that my family will not forget.
April 2017 - Cherry Blossom Tours
Following on from the March tour we launched straight into our April blossom
tours. With a larger group we included a number of optional activities for
people in each of the places we visited. For this tour some of the
- Tokyo cherry in full bloom at Shinjuku Kyoen and other great displays in
Kanazawa, Sendai and Takayama.
- Spending a day at a craft village for hands-on experiences near Kaga Onsen
- Visiting the Kyoto costume museum and then being allowed entry to the
rarely opened 500 year old national treasure Shoin building (part of Honganji
Temple in Kyoto) - open as part of the accession of the head priest
- Visiting the newly opened wing of the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
- Catching the wisteria flowers at Nara.
Japan Custom Tours definitely tries to accommodate individual preferences
among their small group tours. We were probably among the more adventuresome in
our recent tour. Patrick and Wendy often let us go off on our own ahead of the
rest of the group and/or let us remain at some locations for more time to
site-see and gave us directions on how to get back to the hotel at night. So I'd
recommend working with this company to let them know what you want from a tour.
Given that you're part of a group tour, it's not possible to always accommodate
everyone's individual preferences. But this company definitely tries to
customize each day on the tour so that different people can do different
(External site review)
March 2017 - Early Cherry Blossom Tour
For our 2017 early cherry blossom tour we covered central Honshu, the
Japanese Alps, Kyoto and Hiroshima. The schedule
here) covered many highlights of Japan including:
- Two mountain towns (Takayama in Gifu and Kamiyamada onsen town in Nagano)
enjoying onsen and traditional Japanese foods.
- Major sights in Kyoto including Fushimi Inari, Kiomizu Dera, Kinkakuji and
- Kanazawa and Kenrokuen and the magnificent blossoms of the plum grove.
- A return to Tokyo as the cherry blossom season started to come into bloom
more seriously with visits to famous viewing locations of Meugero, Yanaka
Cemetery, Ueno Park and Shinjuku National Gardens.
We have just returned from a trip to Japan...and while it is easy to complain
when things don't go well, its also important to tell people when it goes extra
well. We travelled with Japan Custom Tours a small company headed by two New
Zealanders. We wanted to have a look at a wide variety of places and things and
we didn't want to have to battle the train system on our own, and we didn't want
a large bus tour. As it turned out it was a very small group tour at cherry
blossom time, and it went wonderfully. My impression is that as Patrick, who
organised our trip, has lived in Tokyo for some years, but still retains the
knowledge of seeing Japan from a visitors point of view. He streamlined the
train travel, made sure no day was so laden with travel so as not to see
interesting things on arrival, and organised a wide range of experiences. The
accommodation was excellent with two stops in ryokan's for that real Japanese
experience. Highly recommended.
(External site review)
November 2016 - Autumn Colours
For the autumn leaf viewing season we conducted two tours taking in different
parts of the country to catch the colours at different times. The schedule
here) covered some highlights of Japan including:
- A visit to Nikko and Lake Chuzenji and clear views of
Kegon Falls at the peak of the koyo season.
- Great views of Fuji from Lake Ashinoko on our day
trip to Hakone including Odawara Castle.
- Brilliant autumn colours in Nagano, Hiroshima and
Kyoto (and many other spots along the way).
- Bumping into and enjoying the occasional festival or
- Some great food and shared company.
A trip to Shirakaga to the world heritage village with its unique steep thatched
roof houses was the highlight of this holiday,the Autumn colours on the
surrounding mountains were fantastic. Patrick was our guide for 17 days as we
crisscrossed Japan. We contacted him 12 months ago with a list of sights we
wanted to see and he was happy to adjust his tour to include them. We were a
group of 9 and Patrick was extremely patient and calm when at times we wandered
along like Browns Cows looking in shop windows or distracted by local events.
Nothing was too much trouble and overall the holiday was fantastic.
(Originally posted on TourMatters.com (now defunct), external site review).
We organised a custom tour for a couple from Canada covering 18 very busy
days. While we worked on a customised schedule for them (see
here), we ended up adding in many extra activities including:
- Visits to five different castles, a couple of
aquariums, and a private cruise around Toba Bay
- Samuari training in Asakusa including kimono photo
shoot, plus an interview with a ninja
- Hunting for antique sword hilts (tsuba) and mochi
molds (kashigata) and a customised t-shirt
- Heading to many specialist shops and suburbs like
Mitsukoshi department store for kimono fabric purses in Nihonbashi,
Kagurazaka in Tokyo for tabi, and Yuzu miso in Kyoto
- Trips to the Dali exhibition, traditional weaving,
venetian glass museum, the Robot Restaurant and taiko drumming festival
- Interesting restaurants based on local knowledge and
recommendations including Hiroshima okonomiyaki, Kobe beef, a Ninja
restaurant, sushi and tempura.
Neither my husband, nor I like to follow a flag on an large tour, and we do not
enjoy being part of an entourage. If you like those kinds of tours, be my guest.
If you really like to be spoiled, indulged and generally change your mind if you
get bored, then this is the tour for YOU! Japan was my bucket list trip and I
wanted to see the country of my dreams. Patrick did that and more. He asked the
right questions before we travelled, listed to our needs while we were on the
road, and stayed up nights trying to find the obscure item I wanted to find the
next day. Because it was just us, we could spend as little time or as long as we
wanted at each site. Without Patrick we could not have managed the trains and
subways, not could we have found the many out of the way places we wanted to
see. When you are spending morning to night with a stranger, it can be trying.
Patrick was fun and we laughed our way thru the better part of 3 weeks on the
road. The day trips from the major cities were highlights and the small,
intimate out-of-the-way restaurants were the best.
(External site review)
March and April 2016
For two months across March and April we criss-crossed the country with three
different groups. Each tour had its own unique features and included a few new
places that we had not been before.
The March tour was the most ambitious, planned by a couple from the USA and
joined by a couple of New Zealanders. Their list of places was extensive and
included Fukushima Aquamarine, Nikko and Edo Wonderland, Yakushima (an island
two hours south of Kyushu by jetfoil) with 1,000 year old forest trees, sand
baths at Ibususki, Nagano, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka for the sumo (and managing to
catch the last train back to Kyoto) and onsen in the Japanese Alps. We even
managed to get them a night at the Godzilla room in Shinjuku.
Probably the most ambitious piece was organising a wedding in secret and working
through the red-tape needed to put it in place. It was not until we got Miss D
on a train for a day trip back to Tokyo for an appointment at the US Embassy,
our lawyers and the City Hall that she worked out what was going on. By the end
of the week she was Mrs D.
Our core cherry blossom tour started at the beginning of April and covered two
weeks. Despite a wet start to the month, the timing was perfect for full bloom
at Shinjukugyoen. Despite seeing some other terrific displays around the
country, the general consensus was that this was the highlight.
An additional request for this tour was to include a side trip to the art island
of Naoshima. The weather was brilliant and in the space of a few hours our
guests made the most of their time. It did make for a long and complex day of
seven trains, a couple of ferries and a taxi to deliver us to our hotel in Kyoto
at the end of the day, but it was worth it.
This tour included some of our regular spots and also Sendai for the blossom at
Ogawara and a visit to Matsushima Bay.
Rounding out April was another group from Australia. While cheery blossom was an
interest, it was not the core basis for their trip. We covered more ground by
including Aomori and Hirosaki Castle Park (maybe three days before peak bloom
for 2,600 trees), Sendai, Hiroshima, and Kyoto.
We also included an excursion into the mountains, staying at an onsen in
Takayama and being in time for an additional float festival marking the 80th
anniversary of the city. Completing the scenic journey across the alps we
included a night in Kanazawa before returning to Tokyo and getting everyone to
With another eight weeks of travelling completed we have picked up a few new
places and things to do. Feedback from our guests is being incorporated into our
future plans, and we are adjusting the locations we visit slightly to avoid some
of the more crowded places.
I just wanted to thank you both for an excellent holiday. You showed us a
fabulous time and so much of Japan, The country, People, and customs . We loved
the trains, food and company. Once again, many thanks
Pam O, Australia
We organised a custom tour for a family from the USA at the end of January
taking in Kyoto, the snowy mountains of Nagano and Tokyo. While it was
only a brief ten days we still managed to cover a lot of ground and included
plenty of opportunities for our guests to take photos of the wildlife at
Hiroshima, Nara and Nagano as well as fitting in sights around Kyoto and Tokyo.
Patrick was our guide for ten days at the end of January 2016. We travelled as a
family of four, parents and two adult children. We spent time in Tokyo, and the
Kyoto area. We had a wonderful time. Patrick and his wife specialize in small
group travel. You can see the trips that they offer on their web site, or you
can do as we did and contact them directly to arrange a private tour. Patrick's
extensive knowledge of local culture and customs perfectly complimented his
western sensibilities and he was spot on regarding choice of hotels, the
location of the hotels, and in making all the travel arrangements including
getting tickets for trains and museums. He was available when ever we needed and
wasn't there when we wanted alone time. Patrick made the trip easy and
enjoyable. Our trip was tailored to our desires and interests. His choice of
restaurants was excellent. Wendy was not able to travel with us on our trip. I'd
travel with Patrick again in a heart beat.
(Originally posted on TourMatters.com (now defunct), external site review)
Across the Christmas and New Year period we had the opportunity to tour with
a family from Australia following the route outlined on our
Winter in Japan schedule.
With an excess of energy, we managed to pack in a lot during the two weeks
- Taking the Miyajima ropeway and hiking to the top of
Mt Misen and then taking the long way back to the ferry.
- The naval museum at Kure, followed by Hiroshima
Peace Park and Hiroshima Castle.
- Walking to the top of Inariyama at Fushimi Inari
shrine in the rain (actually to only day it rained).
- Treking around Shirakawa-go and Takayama.
- Diung some Ninja training in Nagano.
- Walking through the fresh snow to see the "snow"
- Hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year) at
midnight New Year's eve/day at meiji shrine (a huge crowd in the forest at
- Some awesome karaoke in Shinjuku.
You guys are incredible!
L&N, Australia (via facebook)
For November we had two tours, a short Introduction to Japan and a longer
Autumn Leaf tour. In between the two we also had a chance to spend a week
For the Introductory tour we needed to take our guests straight from Narita
to Kyoto to help them make the most of their time in Japan. Highlights included:
- Kodaiji temple, Heian Shrine and gardens and Nijo
Castle in Kyoto
- Visits to Meiji Jingu in Tokyo with the
chrysanthemum displays, and shopping in Omotesando during the Halloween parade
- Testing different beers at English style pubs during
the baseball finals
My husband and I had a wonderful and innovative trip to Kyoto and Tokyo with
Patrick and Wendy. Do not expect the usual scripted guides; instead you will be
traveling with two road warriors who are truly fascinated by Japan in all its
iterations and love to show its attributes" its food, its focus on convenience,
its smoothly operating rail and metro systems as well as its beautiful temples
and shrines. Patrick and Wendy are careful to put together a trip that suits
your style and pace. They are helpful and considerate at all times and most of
all fun to travel with.
R&N, New York
(External site review)
For the longer Autumn leaf viewing tour we had a busy schedule based on the
list of places our guests had selected. This made for a busy 16 day tour
covering eight cities. However, they managed to pack a lot into their time
and the weather was warm and settled for all but two days. Highlights included:
- Viewing the autumn leaves at Nikko in amongst the
forest and shrines
- Taking the ferry around the islands of Matsushima
- Staying at a Japanese inn, with local foods and
geisha entertainment during dinner
- Sightseeing around Kyoto and Nara during Autumn,
including staying in Arashiyama
- Enjoying Miyajima in the late afternoon/dusk with a
beautiful sunset together with the floating torii gate
- Food - everything - especially the ramen
We had a request for a short (six day) tour avoiding Tokyo and Kyoto.
Picking up our guests from Narita we immediately whisked them to Takayama
followed by Kanazawa and Nagano. Highlights included:
- Shirakawago for the gassho-zukuri and the Hida Folk
village houses in Takayama
- Visits to Kanazawa castle, Kenrokoen, and the 21st
Century museum of Contemporary Art (and a few late night ice-cream runs)
- Ninja training in Nagano before geisha entertainment
at our ryokan before visiting an old style castle/fort.
The time was short, but we still managed to do a lot, enjoying the settled
It's great to be able to have someone else look after everything - it's like
being one of the kids again. Normally we're doing all the organising, but
this is very relaxing.
For two weeks we hosted a family on our Best of Japan Tour covering many
sights of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima and Takayama before heading back to
Tokyo. The early portion included a fairly rapid selection including
visits to Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Shibuya, Sensoji, and the Omotesando shopping
area in Tokyo. Shifting to Kyoto allowed visits to Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji,
Heian shrine, Gion, Kodaiji, Fushimi Inari and a full day across in Nara.
During the second week the pace slowed a little as we headed to Hiroshima and
enjoyed some stunning summer weather at Miyajima. Heading away from the
coast, and along the Kiso Valley to Takayama we were able to include the Hida
Folk Village, exploring the old part of the town, the festival float hall and
the rather intriguing puppet performance museum. Heading back to Tokyo we
attended the sumo (a last minute addition to the schedule), and also included
visits to the Imperial Palace, a brief look through Shinjuku and trip to the
200m high observation decks at the Government Metropolitan Building. A lot
packed in with some additional details included on our
The first week of July saw us based in Shinjuku (Tokyo) exploring different
areas of the city each day including Naka-Meugero, Nippori, Ikebukuro, Odaiba
and even a trip out to Saitama (Omiya) for the JR East museum. The rainy
season provided a lot of light rain, but the temperatures in the low 20's did
not put us off enjoying an opportunity to attend a music festival and some of
the great Tokyo shopping.
After Tokyo, we headed north to the Tohoku region, taking in Aomori and
Hirosaki Castle and Park before catching the "resort" train on the Gono line and
around the coast line providing great views of the rocky coast line before
arriving at Akita and a hugely entertaining meal at a Namahage themed
restaurant. A side trip to Kakunodate before heading to Niigata, Kanazawa
and Kyoto with hot summer temperatures and brilliant clear days. The
appearance of a typhoon added some more rain, but the day at the Nagoya sumo was
well worth it, before heading back to Tokyo for a final two days. This
provided one of the highlights of the tour, a dinner cruise on the Sumida River
to Odaiba. A tour report is included on our
Just wanted to thank you for introducing us to the delights of Japan. We
enjoyed every element, from the towering skyscrapers of Tokyo to the amazing shrines, temples and historically significant
sites to be found around every corner in Kyoto, and beyond.
It was great to travel with a small group, and the flexibility to be able to
dip in and out of trips and outings gave a very welcome, relaxed vibe to the
The accommodation was all of a very good standard, a nice mix of 5 star luxury,
mid range and traditional Japanese ryokan, the last of which was such a new and
An unforgettable trip, we all agreed!
Thanks again, R, P & G, England
Three weeks of touring chasing the cherry blossom from
Kyoto in the south up to Sendai in the north. The rail system efficiently
delivered our guests to Nara, Kanazawa, Nagano, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Sendai.
The Spring weather made for some hot days and some wet weather too, but our
guests made the most of the opportunities, including a cherry blossom viewing party in a
Tokyo park, Kodai-ji temple, Kinkaku-ji temple and Gion in Kyoto, Todai-ji
temple in Nara, Miyajima
in Hiroshima, Ogawara and Matsushima in Sendai and a lot more. A tour report is included on our
Thank you for a lovely trip.
It is wonderful that there are people out there who listen to what people want
and then plan a trip around this. Because of this, I did everything I wanted to
on my first trip to Japan.
I was amazed at the quality of our accommodation. Well done Patrick! I was
expecting much smaller rooms and tiny bathrooms.
Thank you for being so tuned in to my seafood allergy. I lasted the whole
trip without being sick once!!
Thank you Patrick for organising the Japan Rail passes. I had heard from
people who had done it themselves that it involved a lot of form filling. Thank
you for saving us from that.
And lastly, I've just got back from cashing in yen that I didn't use on the
trip. So thank you for taking us to such lovely, reasonably priced restaurants.
Back home safe and sound after a wonderful time in beautiful Japan. Not only is the scenery lovely but the people are too - so polite and courteous and yet so hard working. In a country of 124 million people, there is no rubbish and no graffiti - just a huge respect for their fellow man and a desire to live in harmony. Many thanks to the small group I was with of Aussies, Kiwis and of course the Brits. Also thanks to Japan Custom Tours and their Japanese friends for all the laughs especially at the Karaoke Bar.
Lots of bullet train rides, walks for miles taking in the cherry blossoms and sights and drinking a fair bit of
Deirdre C, Australia
Thanks so much for your
organisation, language skills, guiding, transport management, companionship and
humour (so many hats you have to wear.)
We had a very memorable time.
C & J, New Zealand
and Wendy have been excellent tour hosts, all accommodation pre-booked and train
travel (Japan Rail Pass Shinkansen, subway and local lines) handled smoothly by
Patrick with his impressive working grasp of Japanese spoken language and
written kanji (symbols). They were also both excellent company, with Wendy
providing little personal touches here and there.
We covered quite a lot of countryside in our 15 days, with all our requests
skilfully woven together by Patrick: highlights were the snow monkeys, deer at
Nara, Ryokan accommodation with traditional dinner and breakfasts, the
beautiful gardens, shrines and of course the cherry blossom did not disappoint.
We both highly recommend the small size (greater flexibility) and customised
nature of Japan Custom Tours.
J & L, Perth Australia
A short, one week tour from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Winter was still in evidence as it was quite cold at times, but our guests made
the most of the opportunities, including Kodai-ji in Kyoto and Todai-ji in Nara.
Two weeks in Kagoshima, Fukuoka,
Nagoya and Kyoto. As it was autumn leaf viewing season, a visit to Arashiyama was
one of the highlights of the Kyoto leg. A tour report is included on our
Two weeks covering Tokyo; Beppu (for onsen - hot springs - and the Super GT
car racing at Autopolis); Hiroshima (including Miyajima); Nagoya (for the F1 at
Suzuka and a Toyota Car Museum and factory tour) and much karaoke in Kyoto.
We booked our dream trip to Japan in October 2013 with Patrick and Wendy. My
wife who doesn't travel well feared the worst, having heard of Japan's
congestion and lack of western food. Not only is Japan now her favourite
destination but she also enjoys a lot of Japanese food and Patrick and Wendy
found plenty of western food when cravings brought the need for it. We conquered
the world's busiest railway stations with ease and Patrick took us to far away
places for the Super GT motor racing and Formula 1. Patrick also speaks Japanese
so this makes travelling around the remote parts of Japan a breeze. Couldn't
recommend this team more!
Andy B, Auckland