General Walk Japan and Tour FAQs
1. WALK JAPAN & TOUR LEADERS
Where is your company registered?
Walk Japan Limited is a Hong Kong-registered company and licensed travel agent (License No. 354159). Walk Japan partners with The Japan Travel Company, a Japanese-registered company licensed to operate tours in Japan.
Who do you employ as Tour Leaders?
A typical Walk Japan Tour Leader is aged 30-60, holding, at a minimum, an undergraduate-university degree and speaks English at native or very high level. All our Tour Leaders have long experience in Japan and are proficient in the Japanese language. Our Tour Leaders are not traditional tour guides in the sense that they do little else besides lead tours: all have successful parallel or previous careers in journalism, translation, teaching, business, media, agriculture, finance, social activity and academia amongst other occupations, adding a great deal to the quality of a Walk Japan tour.
What languages are Walk Japan tours conducted in?
Walk Japan tours are conducted in English. Our Tour Leaders are either highly proficient in or native speakers of English and have either native or a high level of ability in Japanese.
2. BOOKING & PAYING FOR A TOUR
How do I book a Walk Japan tour?
If you would like to book one of our tours, you can either click on the Book Now button found at the top of each page of our website or from the tour page itself by clicking on your preferred tour dates. Once we receive your booking form our office will email an invoice for the deposit that, once paid, secures your place/s on the tour. If you would like to book one of our Wayfarer Self-guided tours outside of these dates, please use the contact us form and our customer service team and will advise you as to availability. Once we receive your booking our office will email you an invoice for the deposit that, once paid, confirms your booking.
What are the payment requirements?
A 25% non-refundable deposit is required to confirm a place on a tour, with the remaining 75% payment payable one calendar month before the tour start date.
Walk Japan has no minimum group size. Once we accept a booking, we guarantee to run the tour, irrespective of group size. We consider this policy to be fair to our customers, many of whom have made other travel arrangements that would be disrupted and inconvenienced by any cancellation on our part. Our booking conditions are found here. Please read them carefully, in particular Section 13 which deals with cancellations.
What level of consumer protection is available to me when I book with Walk Japan?
Walk Japan takes a large number of customers on tour each year from around the world including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the USA, and the UK. Since our establishment in 1992, we have never failed to provide anyone with a tour that they have booked with us. We also reimbursed all customers who wished to have their money returned to them after we were forced to cancel tours in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, and the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Regarding travel industry association memberships and formal bonding/compensation schemes, Walk Japan is a member of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents (HATA) and the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong (TIC). Customers who book with us directly on guided tours, which include accommodation, are protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund (TICF), to which Walk Japan pays a compulsory levy on funds received. Please note that customers who purchase self-guided tours or guided tours that do not include accommodation or book through travel agents and not directly with Walk Japan are not protected by the Travel Industry Compensation Fund.
Customers who book with us directly and pay by credit card are protected by our processor, Trust My Travel, regardless of the type of tour booked. In the event that Walk Japan fails to provide your trip for any reason, in accordance with our booking conditions, your funds will be returned to you.
How quickly should I book?
We recommend booking as early as possible. Our tours fill quickly, especially during the peak seasons for cherry blossom and autumn/fall leaves when departures often are fully booked between 6 months and a year prior.
How long will you hold a booking before I need to commit to it?
We will hold a booking for seven days by which time the deposit needs to be received by us to confirm it.
How can I pay for my tour?
We accept bank transfers (also known as wire transfers) and credit card payments, the latter in partnership with Trust My Travel (Membership Number TMT51439), which specialises in travel payment management and protection. To cover the costs associated with this, a 2.5% surcharge will be applied to all credit card payments.
Invoices issued by Walk Japan are accompanied by detailed information regarding the bank transfer process. In general, we have found that specialist foreign exchange and payments companies such as OFX offer more transparent and competitive pricing than retail banks.
Your tours are priced in Japanese Yen. Can I pay by bank transfer (wire transfer) in another currency?
As Walk Japan’s costs are primarily in Japanese Yen (JPY), we price and charge for our tours in Japanese Yen, and the large majority of Walk Japan customers choose to pay us in JPY via bank transfer.
However, we do accept payment for our tours in USD, AUD, NZD, GBP, CAD, SGD, HKD, and EUR. If you wish to pay in a currency other than JPY, please inform us at your earliest convenience so that we may issue you with an amended invoice.
When issuing an invoice in a currency other than JPY, the exchange rate used is a reflection of:
- The cost of converting your chosen currency into JPY to pay for your tour. Our bank conversion rates favour the bank, rather than the official spot market rate, so we need to account for this in our exchange rate.
- The currency risk of billing in advance in your chosen currency, as it is possible that the exchange rate may change unfavourably between invoicing and receipt.
Can I book air flights through Walk Japan?
Walk Japan does not retail airline tickets. Most, if not all, of the time you should be able to find reasonably priced flights by dealing directly with airlines online. Please refer to the Access tab shown with the tour details on the website to find the airports in Japan most convenient for your tour.
I am a single traveller, but do I have to pay the single supplement? I don’t mind sharing a room.
The single supplement is required for all single travellers. Wherever possible we provide single rooms but due to the nature of some of our accommodation this is not always possible. Please note this usually only happens on a maximum of two nights on a tour itinerary.
We do not pair single customers up mainly because most requests from single travellers are for single accommodation.
What will I receive after booking my place on a tour and when?
After receiving your manifest form and approximately two calendar months prior to your tour start date we send you a Pre-tour Pack by email. The Pack contains such information as a clothing checklist, how to travel to the tour meeting point, accommodation details, itinerary, travel advice, and a reading list. Approximately two weeks before the tour start date, your Tour Leader sends a message to you by email introducing themselves and also providing you with any relevant updates, such as the weather forecast.
If you require information on the itinerary prior to receiving the Pre-Tour Pack please refer to the tour details on our website.
I notice that insurance is compulsory for your tours. Does Walk Japan provide insurance cover or do you recommend a particular insurance provider?
Personal Travel insurance is mandatory for all tour participants, as a precondition of Walk Japan's own Public Liability Insurance. Walk Japan does not provide personal travel insurance for tour participants and you must purchase your own. We are unable to recommend any insurance provider.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your insurance is suitable and adequate for your particular needs and it should cover, for example, medical expenses, personal accidents and repatriation in the event of illness, personal liability, loss of personal belongings as well as loss suffered in the event of tour cancellation for personal reasons.
Please read your policy details carefully and carry the policy documents with you throughout the tour. You will need to provide your insurance details in your manifest form.
Are you able to guarantee non-smoking accommodation throughout your tours?
We always book non-smoking rooms at Western-style hotels, but not at traditional Japanese accommodation, as frequently, no distinction is made between smoking and non-smoking rooms in these establishments. However, traditional Japanese rooms, which have no curtains, carpets and other soft furnishings, do not retain odours in the way that Western-style rooms do, and we are confident that you will have a trouble-free stay in Japanese inns. Having noted this, many establishments throughout Japan are now smoke free regardless of being Western or Japanese in style.
I require en-suite accommodation throughout. Are you able to provide this?
En-suite availability varies widely by tour, but all Walk Japan scheduled tours, with the exception of our Kyoto and Tokyo city tours, have at least one night where facilities in Japanese inns are shared. If en-suite accommodation is essential throughout, then instead of a scheduled tour, you may wish to consider a private, custom tour with us.
As a general rule of thumb, the accommodation we use is chosen with as much comfort as possible while also providing an interesting and authentic experience of Japan.
What is the correct way to bathe at the Japanese inns?
It is not uncommon that toilet and bathroom facilities are shared at Japanese style accommodation. Although many overseas visitors may not be used to this, the facilities are spotless and use is not onerous. Bathing is in the typical Japanese style of washing before soaking in a bath. In some cases, baths are designed to be used by one person or one couple at a time, while others are communal and separated by gender. Your Tour Leader will give a full introduction to bathing, in addition to other matters of etiquette, upon arrival at your first inn of the tour, including how to distinguish the “Men” and “Women” bath curtains found at the entrance to the baths! You can also find a useful overview of using communal baths in Japan here.
6. FOOD & DRINK
Are all meals on the tour Japanese?
The majority of the nights on our tours is spent in Japanese accommodation, where meals, especially dinner, are nearly always Japanese. Breakfasts are usually Japanese but, depending on the establishment, a simple, western-style meal may be offered. Most accommodation will also provide coffee and/or English-style tea after a Japanese breakfast. On the nights when we dine out in restaurants, our meals are mostly Japanese but usually more eclectic in nature with the provision of some western-style dishes.
Please note that the actual number of nights in Japanese accommodation varies from tour to tour. Details can be found in each tour’s itinerary section. For further information please see the Food & Drink page on our website.
Can vegetarian or vegan diets be accommodated on tour?
In Japan, specific dietary requirements such as vegetarianism, kosher food, and a number of food related allergies and problems, such as coeliac disease, are not widely understood nor catered for. Consequently, we cannot guarantee to provide meals catering to individual diets. Specifically, Walk Japan is unable to provide strict vegetarian or vegan meals. This is because almost all stock (the base for soups and sauces) contains meat or fish products, and vegetables, if prepared as tempura, are fried in the same oil as meat and fish. Aside from this limitation, we endeavour to cater wherever possible to individual requirements and most of our accommodation is usually able to provide one or two alternative dishes. Please let us know in advance if you have any special dietary needs.
Contrary to some commonly held ideas about Japan, the concept of vegetarianism does not really exist in the country outside of Buddhist temples. However, Japanese meals are usually made up of a large variety of dishes and many of these are suitable for all but strict vegetarians and vegans.
If you have very specific dietary needs we suggest you also bring other food items to help supplement your meals.
Should I join your tours if I do not like fish?
Almost all our tours can be enjoyed by individuals who do not wish to eat fish. Two notable exceptions are our Izu Geo Trail and Michinoku Coastal Trail tours, where we spend most nights on the coast and meals are primarily made up of local fish. On all of our other tours, meals consist of a mix of rice, noodles, vegetables, fish, pork, chicken and beef make an appearance on the various menus we enjoy on our tours.
I have coeliac disease. Can you cater for a gluten-free diet?
In Japan, along with a number of other food-related problems found elsewhere, coeliac disease is not widely understood or catered for.
We provide advance notice to our accommodation providers, and having worked with us for many years and experienced many different dietary requirements, they will strive to not serve you dishes that they are aware contain wheat. However, it is the case that some processed ingredients used in the kitchen may not have their constituent parts listed. Chefs may not know that a particular ingredient contains gluten, and even if they do, most likely they will not have a gluten-free substitute available for use, for example soy sauce. We strongly recommend that you bring your own gluten-free soy sauce as it is uncommon in Japan.
If you can tolerate small quantities of gluten, then you do not have any major concerns. If you suffer from coeliac disease, however, then there will always be some level of risk with meals in Japan.
Is good coffee available? If espresso coffee is unavailable, will I have access to boiling water to use in a portable coffee maker?
Coffee can be very good in Japan but not always. Outside of the big cities, espresso and similar Italian-style coffee is uncommon. Please feel free to bring your coffee and coffee maker. Hot water will always be provided by our accommodation.
How much should I expect to pay for meals not included in the tour?
Expect to pay between JPY1,000–1,500 per person for lunch and JPY3,000–4,000 for dinner.
7. FELLOW TOUR PARTICIPANTS
Are Walk Japan tours suitable for children?
We do not accept children under the age of 12 years on our scheduled guided tours. Children must be accompanied and aged 12 years or above at the time of departure in order to accept their booking. However, children under the age of 12 are welcome on private custom tours. They are also welcome, at certain times of year, on our self-guided Nakasendo or Kiso Wayfarer tours.
Our tours are certainly suitable for young teenagers if they are good walkers. Our principal concerns are that there is little disruption to the other tour participants and that the Walk Japan Tour Leader is not held any more responsible for children than for any other participant. We also welcome schools from within Japan and from overseas on tour, and the students — who range in age from 12 to 17 — all complete their tours in fine spirits.
I will be joining the tour by myself. Are your tours friendly to solo travellers and do many of them join your tours?
Solo travellers are most welcome and, indeed, make up approximately 20% of all our customers.
Who are typical Walk Japan tour participants?
Our customers typically include couples and solo travellers ranging in age from mid-30s to mid-70s but also include younger and sometimes older participants. They hail from many countries including but certainly not limited to Australia, USA, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong and the UK, and are of a very wide variety of occupations. Regardless of the make up of a tour, we find the groups come together very well with plenty of interesting conversations not only about Japan but also on many other topics. Many long-term friendships have been made while on tour.
8. COMMUNICATIONS & INTERNET ACCESS
Do you recommend that we rent a SIM card or internet device in Japan for use during our tours?
There are a wide variety of call and data plans available for visitors to Japan, and we are unable to recommend any one particular provider. What may be most ideal is dependent upon the length of your stay in Japan and the purposes for which you require it.
In the rare case that you require a mobile/cell phone with a Japanese number, rental providers will send the device to your first night’s accommodation or to your arrival airport for pick-up. It is worth noting that your credit card may be pre-verified for as much as JPY 50,000 until you return the device. In any case we recommend arranging this before you arrive in Japan, as the process will not be possible once you first meet your Walk Japan Tour Leader.
Ultimately, most customers do not require a rental phone with a Japanese number. Even in the absence of a data or SIM plan, WiFi internet access is widely available. However, please verify with your provider that your phone will work in Japan and check associated charges before leaving for Japan. You can always be reached while on tour through your Tour Leader’s mobile phone, the number of which is provided prior to your tour. Please note, however, that in the Japanese countryside, mobile reception can be variable outside of village, town and city centres.
A comprehensive guide to Internet access, wi-fi and SIM cards can be found here.
9. PREPARATION FOR AND WALKING ON TOUR
I am not an avid walker. What level of tour is suitable for me?
We regard Walk Japan tours to be cultural walking tours, of particular interest to those keen on gaining an understanding of Japanese society, customs, and history. It is Walk Japan’s policy that tours are run at the Tour Leader’s pace, which is a comfortable walk, and not by anyone who wants to rush on. We do not rush through Japan. Our priority is to allow for a comfortable and enjoyable walk for allowing everyone time to enjoy the views, take photographs, stop to talk about points of interest en route (mini-explanations from your Tour Leader) and to be able to hold conversations with your travelling companions while walking.
On a Level 3 tour such as the Nakasendo, which we consider to be a mid-level walk in terms of its difficulty, there are steeper sections but these do not last long and are followed by easier terrain that aids recovery. The emphasis of all our tours is to absorb and enjoy rather than think one has to race to the day’s finish.
It may be that certain tours are not recommended due to their remoteness and lack of mid-way transport options, and in this regard we will also be able to advise. On the tour itself, your Tour Leader will discuss your desires and options in the evenings with you for the following day’s walk.
Do I need to train for Walk Japan tours?
Being in reasonable shape will help you maximise your enjoyment on tour. The best way to get in shape is to start exercise gradually and build up over a period of time. Regular walking, including some irregular terrain, should be sufficient practice for the Nakasendo Way and, indeed, most of our tours.
What shoes do I need for walking?
We recommend proper light-weight trekking shoes for most of our tours. Some tours, such as the Hokkaido Hike, require trekking boots. Advice on footwear is provided in the Pre-tour Packs.
Do I need walking poles?
We always recommend the use of walking poles. For our more rigorous tours we either strongly recommend or require their use.
What do you do when it rains?
Even if it rains – which is a possibility at any time of the year in Japan – we still walk. The walk remains interesting and enjoyable, and there is plenty to see and do. In case of bad weather or fatigue on the part of participants, taking a taxi or other transport onward to your accommodation is often an option – your Tour Leader will advise.
10. SEASONS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS IN JAPAN
When is the best time to see the cherry blossom?
The cherry blossoms start to bloom in Okinawa as early as mid-January and can be seen in Hokkaido as late as early May. Notoriously fickle and lasting at peak bloom only a scant few days, the cherry blossom can prove elusive.
When is the best time to see the autumn leaves?
Given the huge difference in latitude between Japan’s northern and southern most tips it is possible to view the autumn leaves for almost three months somewhere in Japan, starting in mid-September in Hokkaido.
When is the rainy season in Japan?
The rainy season is a constant variable but the following shows the average starting and ending dates of the rainy season for selected regions of Japan, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Note, Hokkaido does not have an official rainy season.
Kinki (incl. Osaka, Kyoto)
Kanto (incl. Tokyo)
During the rainy season it does not rain every day. In fact, Tokyo registers only an average of 12 rainy days in June. As for the amount of rainfall, it varies from days with intensive downpours to other days with occasional sprinkles.
Will my tour be affected by national holidays, such as Golden Week?
Our tours are largely unaffected by Japanese national holidays, although you may find that certain areas and sights we visit will be more crowded than usual.
Please contact Walk Japan for further details.