Q: “I’m not from the United States; can I still participate?”
A: Yes! You are responsible for getting yourself to and from Japan, so you can come from anywhere you like. However, please note that Japan requires visas for visitors from certain countries, and you are responsible for arranging for visas in such an event.
Q: “Can I participate if I have to leave the tour early?”
A: You can depart the tour earlier than the end date of 23 December 2020, but you must inform me of your plans at the time of registration so I can arrange and put down payments on accommodations accordingly.
Q: “I want to reserve a space, but I’m not positive I’ll be able to participate yet. Is that okay?”
A: Generally, yes. Once you’ve paid the deposit, you’re effectively committed to the trip unless an emergency arises, but until then you can register with the intent to participate. If registrations reach 15 participants, I will continue to register participants on a first-come first-serve waitlist (you will be notified if you are waitlisted or not).
Q: “How much of the participation fee goes to you?”
A: Of the US$2000 participation fee, approximately US$500 is an administration fee. This administration fee covers my airfare, accommodation, and domestic (Japanese) transportation, as well as compensation for labor involved in planning, organizing, and implementing the tour. It also goes to compensating any special speakers and, if there are enough participants to warrant it, to the addition of an assistant organizer in Japan.
Q: “Can you guarantee that we’ll be able to visit [particular activity/site]?”
A: I cannot guarantee that we will be able to participate in any given activity, although some are much more likely to occur than others. In particular, obtaining tickets to the Ghibli Museum is contingent on luck and timing, as there is a very short, very crowded window of opportunity to buy them. I will do my best to accommodate everyone’s wishes but can make no guarantees about specific activities.
Q: “What happens to my participation fee if I have an emergency and have to withdraw from the tour?”
A: In the event that you must cancel after the deadline for payment of the balance, I will refund to you US$500 (administrative fee) plus any money that has not already gone to paying for accommodations, transportation, or other activities. I will not be able to refund any money that has already been used for pre-payment of activities, accommodations, etc.
Q: “I have mobility restrictions; how accessible is the tour?”
A: In general, Tokyo and Kyoto are relatively accessible for people who use assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs. Many stations are equipped with elevators to take passengers to/from platforms, and there are dedicated spaces for mobility equipment. That said, there are certain aspects of travel in Japanese cities for mobility impaired travelers that may come as a surprise and should be noted:
- If you use a wheelchair, you must inform the station attendant at the gates that you will need a ‘slope’ to get from platform to train car (one will be waiting for your at your arrival station as well); there are virtually no barrier-free trains in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka.
- Mobility scooters are typically not allowed on JR (Japan Rail) trains; subways and private train lines have their own rules.
- Most Japanese hotels do not have accessible rooms in the generally understood sense of the word (wider doorways, accessible showers, handles on the walls).
- Many shops and restaurants will have at least one step leading up to the entrance (this is much less of an issue in shopping malls, where restaurants are quite plentiful).
- Amusement parks – particularly Disneyland and Universal Studios – are quite accessible and designed on the same general principles as those parks elsewhere.
I can’t recommend the website Accessible Japan highly enough; there’s a ton of detailed information that will probably answer any specific questions you might have.
Q: “I take a medication that’s prohibited in Japan. Can I bring it if I have a doctor’s note/prescription?”
A: NO. While the likelihood that you would be caught bringing such medication into Japan is low, Japanese law is clear that these medications are absolutely prohibited even with a prescription.
Q: “I’m vegetarian; what are food options like for me in Japan?”
A: Vegetarianism (and veganism as well) are growing in popularity in Japan, and you should have little difficulty accommodating your needs.
For other questions, email me at ldhmorimoto [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll add them here!