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Client Blog: Jen and Darran's Japan adventure

I've been looking after Jen and Darran's holidays for years now and we share similar tastes in experiential adventure and travel.

Incredibly, Japan remains unticked on my list so it’s been inspiring to enjoy this fascinating country vicariously through their fabulous travel blog...


Japan has always fascinated us, however, due to my fish and seafood allergy, we didn't think it was a viable destination.

Attending Jo’s fantastic online event with Inside Japan during the pandemic confirmed that it would be a mind-blowing experience and inspired us to make the trip. (Winning the lovely gin prize may have played a part too😊).

The presentation was highly informative and filled us with the confidence to commit to fulfilling the holiday of a lifetime. We also both had big birthdays in 2023 and decided this would be the perfect gift to each other.

Inside Japan had different itineraries to suit various tastes and budgets, and I worked closely with Jo, who helped pick the right trip for us.

We knew the Best of Japan option would be busy but we were determined to see and do as much as possible in two weeks.

There was a lot of preparation involved with extra trips also booked in addition to the tour, and as it approached and our pre-trip pack arrived, the excitement grew.

We flew with British Airways and Japan Airlines from Inverness via Heathrow and Frankfurt onto Tokyo and didn’t have the best start, with a delay at Heathrow and only narrowly making our connection. The Japan Airlines staff however could not have been more professional in assisting us upon our arrival in Tokyo. Our luggage didn't connect and arrived at our hotel the next day thanks to their efficiency.

A private transfer from the airport provided the opportunity to experience the incredible beauty of Tokyo at night. Shortly after arriving in Asakusa, we went for an evening stroll, enjoying some delicious snacks and meeting some wonderful local people. The atmosphere was so welcoming and relaxing after a long journey.

We had an excellent and comprehensive itinerary with a good balance between busy cities and relaxing countryside, plus free days and recommendations on how to fill them.

On our first tour of Tokyo, our guide helped us to organise rail passes and seating reservations for the whole trip.

The Japan Railway Pass was excellent value for money and the Shinkansen system was amazing. The trains were immaculate, on time and easy to use, as was the subway.

We travelled around on our own, a little apprehensively at first but soon worked it out, plus everyone was super helpful in giving directions and guidance.

Tokyo was not what we had expected at all. We were concerned about it being chaotic and stressful but due to the incredibly polite nature of the people, we found it pleasant and safe to explore.

The night Go-Karting was an additional trip that we were extremely excited about and it more than lived up to expectations. Driving across Rainbow Bridge and around the streets of Tokyo at night was a real highlight. We also really enjoyed the cookery class.

Both Tokyo and Kyoto surprised us with the contrast between the quiet spiritual areas and the bustling tourist ones. Both the deep spirituality of the temples and the beauty of the architecture profoundly affected us.

We were pleased with our accommodation, especially the contrast between the city hotel rooms and the village ryokans.

The ones in Takayama, Miyajima and Hakone were idyllic, peaceful, and very beautiful, and the forest setting in Hakone was especially welcome after the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

We were incredibly well looked after, and our host in Miyajima Island was especially wonderful.

At the Ryokan in Takayama, we braved the slightly odd feeling of the communal hot springs and loved the private hot spring bath at the one in Hakone.

There were so many outstanding moments and experiences, including:

Seeing Mount Fuji albeit briefly

The nighttime Geisha tour in Kyoto

Osaka especially at night

Miyajima Island

Nara’s craft fair - packed with astonishing local artisans

The breathtaking bike ride through the mountains in Hida-Furukawa.

The hot spring town of Hakone - the most tranquil, relaxing, and rejuvenating place.

The brilliant vending machines: The warm can of hot chocolate was sensational.

The Peanuts and Pig cafes in Tokyo

Hiroshima – poignant and humbling

The culinary adventure was hugely enjoyable too. With my seafood allergy, I had been a bit worried but Inside Japan were fabulous with their communication to the ryokans, who overall managed to accommodate my requirements and couldn’t do enough to help.

We tried a variety of food and enjoyed many local specialities – including black lava bread, black curry bread and delicious varieties of ramen.

Oddly enough, one of the standout meals was in a Korean café in Asakusa and we particularly loved all the delicious pastries and desserts – the deep-fried custard Momiji Manju in Miyajima was incredible.

The fabulous steak in a little bar in Takayama was the best we’ve ever eaten; the plum wine was a new experience; Darren relished the deep-fried scorpion fish and seared swordfish in Hakone; and the gyoza which were available everywhere were unfailingly delicious.

Ironically, with us packing for cooler conditions, Japan was experiencing its warmest autumn for 100 years with temperatures of more than 25 degrees most days.

There was a national holiday while we were there, and it was very busy on the trains so if you are visiting at this fabulous time of year, make sure to book your train early because seats were limited due to the holiday.

The return journey from Tokyo to Inverness via Heathrow was seamless; Japan Airlines staff were wonderful, and the plane was comfortable and clean.

We can't recommend Japan highly enough from a cultural, culinary and spiritual standpoint. Inside Japan were fantastic, particularly with my dietary requirements and everything about the trip was well planned, enabling us to experience places we wouldn't have thought to visit.

The information provided for each area was incredibly helpful, the tours were engaging and all the guides were fantastic.

We'd love to go back one day and explore more, especially the northern and southern parts of the island.

Jo is amazing and I recommend her to everyone. She is incredibly knowledgeable, makes the process fun and is a pleasure to deal with. And she gets as excited about holidays as I do.

Thank you, Jo, for your presentation and for organising an incredible holiday. We made memories every day - it was the best experience we've ever had, and we’ll be forever grateful that we got to experience such an amazing country with the most wonderful people.



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