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Japan - Land of the Rising Sun Tour

We have had a truly wonderful experience in Japan! The people are friendly and welcoming, the locations spectacular and the food delicious.
The Riviera experience packed a lot into a relatively short space of time but whetted our appetite for more. The holiday was enhanced by our tour guide, Francis, who ensured we were organised and had a lot of fun. Also have to mention our local guides Ted, Miki and Meg who were very knowledgeable and great comedians! Would love to return one day.

Review by Robert Taylor on 21 October 2016

We recently returned from the Riviera’s Land of the rising sun tour and it was a wonderful experience. The tour was very well planned and made the best and most efficient use of our time taking us to the key sights and places of interests. We were accompanied by local guides who were warm and friendly. Their narrative was very informative and included elements of history, culture, language and humour which served to enhance our visits. Our tour manager was the inimitable Paul who made everything run smoothly, adding to the narrative with even more humour! He ensured we were fully prepared for our free time indicating options for dining out and places to visit in the evenings. He was a real star. The night spent in the Ryokan, the traditional Japanese inn, in the historical Ginza district of Kyoto, was unmissable, as was our opportunity visit to a private home for a tea ceremony.
We had travelled with Riviera before and had been satisfied with their holidays. Naturally, when choosing a holiday in Japan, we considered a number of options. Rivera appeared to offer excellent value for money. Our experience told us that we had had a perfect introduction to Japan at a very competitive price. We would wholeheartedly recommend this tour.

Review by Nicki and Simon Jefferis on 19 October 2016

Excellent insight to Japan. Paul, our tour manager, was great fun and organised everything in a professional and timely manner in keeping with Japan. Local guides were helpful, friendly and informative. 10/10

Review by Nigel and Sandra on 8 October 2016

Excellent organisation. Brilliant Tour Manager - thank you, Paul. Good hotels. Local guides all excellent and informative.
Gained a very interesting introduction to this fascinating country, to its people and its culture.

Review by Susan Squire on 8 October 2016

Fabulous tour. Really gives you a good look at Japan, both modern and traditional. Highlights for me were the bullet train trips ( trains CAN run on time !) and feeding the deer at Nara. Derek the Riviera guide and all the local guides were excellent and the Japanese are extremely polite and willing to help with directions etc.

Review by Paul Bosomworth on 19 September 2016

Our first time on a tour and were not disappointed, very well organised with an extensive and interesting programme. Our tour manager Paul O`Connor was excellent, both amusing and informative, with loads of help and advice for us if we needed it, we were a small group and Paul catered for our needs accordingly, which was brilliant. All in all a great holiday experience.

Review by Mary & Graham Jones on 9 July 2016

Just back from Japan where we had an incredible, if tiring, holiday, seeing this amazing country in the space of a very short time thanks to the indefatigable Michele whose attention to detail and quiet efficiency made all the difference. This is our third trip with Riviera and it won’t be our last.

Review by John and Loretta de Lange on 13 June 2016

This was a very organised and enjoyable tour, which exceeded all expectations!  Every detail was taken care of by our excellent Tour Guide, Michele, who was very informative and helpful.  The holiday was a fantastic experience, incorporating all the important sights in Tokyo, Hakone, Hiroshima, Kyoto and Nara, each accompanied by a local Japanese guide.  We also had the chance to dine out independently, giving us first-hand experience of Japanese cuisine and etiquette.  A special thanks to Michele for a memorable holiday.

Review by Helen Graham on 11 June 2016

Thank you very much for a well organised holiday of a lifetime. Carol and I are not seasoned travellers but have always had an interest in visiting Japan. Our visit exceeded our expectations. Paul the tour manager was extremely helpful, amusing and was at all times conscious of the needs and safety of the group. Our three couriers, all Japanese ladies, Mika, Miki and Junko were a dream all of them had differing personalities but extensive knowledge of their country and its history. A special treat was when Junko presented each of us with our name in Kangi Script on Japanese paper, totally unexpected and unsolicited. Our visit to Mount Fuji was amazing and the atmosphere at Hiroshima moving. The honesty and helpfulness of the Japanese people in spite of the language barrier was very humbling as was the cleanliness of their entire country. Thank you!

Review by Keith & Carol Little on 11 June 2016

This was a truly excellent tour in all respects. Japan is a fascinating and very enjoyable place to visit. The tour was extremely well managed and organised. The Tour Manager Paul O’Connor did an excellent job - we were very well looked after. All the local guides and the driver were also excellent. We would thoroughly recommend this tour and Riviera Travel.

Review by Mike & Ruth Townson on 8 June 2016

We wanted to express our absolute pleasure with everything we experienced on our Japan tour. We fell in love with Japan and its people assisted by our Tour Manager Paul O’Connor whose own enthusiasm for all we were introduced to shone through. His good humour and attention to detail allowed us to relax and enjoy all this amazing country had to offer and to gel as a group. Our local guides were keen to share their passion for their country with us and informed and entertained us in equal measure. We were delighted and moved by such a fabulous trip and would recommend it to anyone. Thank you to all involved in planning and delivering such a superb experience.

Review by Julian and Edra Cooper on 7 June 2016

Much of the success of the trip was due to your holiday tour manager, Mr Paul O’Connor. He is one of the best tour managers we have come across in some 50 years of holiday travel. Not only was he extremely efficient but combined this with an exceptionally friendly and helpful personality. He got to know all of us by name very quickly and made a point of trying to accommodate individual needs., Thanks to him my wife had no travel sickness problems - a matter which we had raised with you before our holiday started.

Review by Brian Daley on 7 June 2016

Let me say, at the outset, that I have been fortunate enough to have travelled the world, on business & pleasure for some 40 years. I have ‘done’ the Far East (if you said all the Far East - excepting, Australia, New Zealand - and Japan, you wouldn’t be far away), the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North and South America. So, I am not easily impressed.

This year being our 40th wedding anniversary we wanted somewhere special and Japan was our first choice - but where in Japan, there is so much to see? Normally, we are ‘independent travellers’, the only time we’d been on an organised tour , before, was sixteen years ago when we did the (quite brilliant) Nile cruise. What we needed was an overview of Japan - if we liked it, we could always return (on our own) - which is where Riviera Travel came in.

But first a few words about Japan.

A few words: wow and then WOW followed speedily by a WOW and then three!!!

I have just copyrighted a new word: Wowderful ™ - this is only to be used as an adjective for Japan and I am trying to agree a 10 Yen royalty payment, with the Japanese government, for every time my word is used (I am going to be rich!).

Now, let’s quash a few misconceptions about Japan.

Japan is ‘very foreign’: yup, you’ve got me there - Japan is foreign, if you consider a spotlessly clean, litter-free, well organised country as foreign. With a population of 128 million and just 700 homeless people, where the trains run on time - pretty foreign to what I’m used to, wowderfully foreign. If it foreign to be polite and to smile and to say hello to strangers then Japan is very foreign.

The people have few civil liberties: rubbish! the people are marvellous, happy smiling people, always on hand to help a lost stranger or tourist; as one did, spending 30 minutes of his time in guiding us to a recommended restaurant.
And so honest……..when you enter the breakfast room, in the hotel, of a morning and have to “claim” your table before collecting your buffet breakfast, what do you leave on the table? In Japan, you leave a wallet or a mobile phone. Can you imagine? And your wallet is there when you return with your tray laden with breakfast goodies - would that be the case in London, or Paris, or New York? I’ll leave you to decide.

Japan is expensive: perhaps it once was, but no longer. A good meal for two, including drinks, cost us as little as £20 and never more than £50. I would say the prices were akin to - or below - UK prices.

The food is all raw fish: You can have raw fish, or raw meat if you like - but there is much more to Japanese food than uncooked fare. I had many Japanese meals - and I’m a vegetarian. But, if you don’t fancy Japanese, there are Italian restaurants in an abundance - or Chinese, Indian, Mac-a-Donalds (pronounced the Japanese way) or KFC- you’re spoilt for choice.

Japanese hotel rooms are small: not so, rooms are not massive, but we have stayed in much smaller rooms (and paid more for them) in London, Rome & Paris. We stayed in the Hakone Hotel for one night, and our room came with a separate dining room and was as large a room as we have stayed in.

Japan is overcrowded: yes, it is crowded; but because of the respectful nature of its people, it is not push & shove & let-me-get-there-first. Due to no fault of anyones, we were delayed one time and ended up in Tokyo, travelling by their ‘underground’, in the rush hour. Yes, it was crowded, but, unlike London, people waited for passengers to get off the train before they got on, people were given ‘space’ and no-one pushed or shoved or pressed against you. It was a far more comfortable experience than I have ever had on the London Underground.
One night, my wife and I were in the busy shopping centre of Ginza, with a million neon lights and thousands upon thousand of locals and tourists enjoying their favourite pastime: shopping. As I looked around, I was struck by one overriding sensation - the one sensation I least expected: it was peaceful. Peaceful. I mentioned this to my wife and she thoroughly understood. How strange is that?

Now, back to Riviera Travel.

First off - mission accomplished! We wanted an overview of Japan, to encourage us to return, and that is exactly what we got. There was so much crammed into such a small period of time, it was almost breathtaking - but it worked.

Our guide for the entire trip was Paul O’Connor, who via his cheerful good humour, and obvious experience, held our motley group of 40 or so people together. Paul had time for everyone - and each and every request, no matter how daft, was dealt with sympathetically. Thank you Paul, I know you have a couple of challenges ahead, but I think I speak for the entire group by hoping you’ll come out the other end stronger and healthier - I’m sure you will. Then there were local Japanese guides to guide us around Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Hiroshima and Kyoto. These guides were knowledgeable and helpful - but most of all they were great fun. I really didn’t expect that on one particularly long coach journey, Kyoko, (our Tokyo guide) would have 40 or so people (the vast majority won’t see 60 again) singing Japanese nursery rhymes and doing (very basic) origami. I am sure that sounds unbelievably naff and tacky - you had to be there; it really was fun.

Generally the accommodation was good - my favourite was the Marriott Courtyard in Ginza, Tokyo and my least favourite the Hakone Hotel - rather tired, in my opinion; but, still immaculately clean, and they do serve a good dinner and breakfast (shame the bar was as dead as the proverbial dodo - no, it was deader than that).

We had to fit so much in, that all the visits were a bit whiz- bang, 45 minutes here, 45 minutes there. But, the organisation involved in getting this group of tourists here and there - on time, was impressive. We were always back at the hotel by late afternoon, giving us time to freshen up, so that we could explore the local sites and then have dinner at a reasonable hour.

My least favourite excursion was the visit to the fish market- did we really need an hours ‘free time’ there? Couldn’t we have spend more time at the next shrine (don’t forget I’m a vegetarian - I was never going to like it!)?

My favourite? I almost hate to say it - was Hiroshima. We nearly didn’t go. I object strongly to making a theme park from horror & tragedy. But, Hiroshima now stands for peace. The message came across loud and clear: war is awful, nuclear war more so, everyone is guilty, no-one is innocent. Enough is enough: Hiroshima stands, now, for peace - no more war; who can argue with that?

My abiding memory? Could that be Paul, our guide’s, face when he realised that after safely negotiating all our luggage onto the inter-terminal bus at the airport, that the driver - keen to stay on schedule- was pulling away, leaving his luggage on the pavement. (Yes, I guess you had to be there - but it was insanely funny: hope you got your bag back, Paul).
No, it must be the sea of laughing, waving school children calling ‘Hello’ to us, asking, with genuine enthusiasm “Where are you from? - really? Eng-ger-land? Do you like Japan?” Yes, we like Japan very much.

Thank you to those school children, and the chap who spent half an hour of his life trying to guide two, lost, tourists to a restaurant, and Paul and Kyoko and Heroko and the other guides whose names I can’t remember, and all the other Japanese folk we came across, and, yes, thank you, Riviera Travel - we had a wonderful time.

Japan - we will return!

Review by R Neil & Ann Davies on 4 June 2016

My wife and I would like to thank you for an excellent tour to Japan. The itinerary and guides were first class. Suzuki san, our driver was the smoothest and most unflappable it was possible to be and as for Paul, the tour manager, what a legend. Helpful, accommodating, informative and funny in equal measure. He really knitted the group together and made a good experience into a great one.

Review by Barry Stygall on 3 June 2016

We returned a few days ago from a thrilling tour of Japan. We would both recommend this trip for those of you hoping to get a very satisfying, introductory overview of the country. It is a very intensive, packed tour - there is a fair bit of walking involved -  but due to the fact that everything is so well organised and the Japanese guides are so informative, you can relax and absorb the wonders of Japan. What a time to have visited, too, with the G7 summit being held there and Barack Obama making a historic visit to Hiroshima only a few days after us. We have to make mention of our fabulous tour guide Frances Chetcuti. Her passion for Japan was infectious; her one-to-one attention to the members of our group was exceptional. She played a massive part in making it a memorable, moving and fun tour.  We will definitely be booking another trip with Riviera Travel in the not too distant future - due in no small part to the professionalism and warmth of Frances.

Review by Nadia and Roy Banton on 1 June 2016

Our fourth tour with Riviera and once again surpassing all expectations. Our guide Paul O’Connor from the outset merits an 11/10 rating, very efficient in all respects, yet always with an overlying relaxed amusing banter. The tours itinerary is brilliant and diverse and packed in so much within the permitted time constraints.  Japan is indeed an amazing, its people would appear to have great pride in their country, they are extremely friendly, every where so clean yet their cities are buzzing, we could explore freely at all times of day on our own without fear.  thank you all at Riviera. 

Review by Bob and Lynne Martin on 25 May 2016

Having just returned from Japan I felt compelled to write.  It is easy to complain when things go wrong but we should also say thank you when things are right.
Although I was travelling with a married couple who are very close friends I was a ‘single’ and slightly apprehensive. I need not have had any concerns. The whole group was very friendly and to all those who read this testimonial thank you for your company.
Paul O’Connor was a brilliant tour manager and managed to combine his knowledge, efficiency and enthusiasm with a sense of humour.
I am convinced that if I had undertaken this trip on my own I would only have covered a fraction of the sights and experiences afforded by your tour.
Well done Paul and I will certainly travel with Riviera again.

Review by Brian Prince on 23 May 2016

A brilliant trip. The local guides were excellent. Our driver Suziki san was as smooth and unflappable as it is possible to be and as for the legend that is Paul O’Connor, what can I say? Helpful, accommodating, knowledgeable and funny he made a good trip into a great one. This was our third Riviera trip and it maintained the high standard previously set. Well done and we’ll be back for more.

Review by Barry Stygall on 23 May 2016

I had the sudden & amazing opportunity to step in at the last min replacing someone who couldn’t go & join my daughter & her friend on this adventure.  Riviera made it so easy to change the details with a very reasonable charge to do so - well done, Riviera!
Everything was perfect - the choice of places & experiences on the itinerary, the hotels, the driver, the Japaneses guides and your own tour manager, Paul O’Connor - who was brilliant at what he did! I’m now encouraging friends to put Japan on their bucket list & suggest they use Riviera for that first taster.

Review by Sue Wernham on 22 May 2016

I have just returned from the Japanese Land of the Rising Sun Tour and I wanted to let you know that my travelling group (my friend and my mum) thought the tour was excellent. Our tour guide, Paul O’Connor was brilliant. He was enthusiastic, friendly, funny and very well organised.  The local guides were amazing, particularly Mika in Tokyo and Jungko in Kyoto.
The tour itself was excellent and covered a huge amount of Japan although this meant that sometimes we felt we didn’t have enough time in some of the places. However we feel we can go back to Japan now at a more leisurely pace.
We would definitely travel with Riviera again in the future, and hope that all the tour guides are like Paul!
Thank you again for your excellent tour.

Review by Beth Wernham-Kemp on 22 May 2016

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