(Hokkaido tour in October 2018)
"Everything is taken care of, so the trip essentially has no stress!"

First, Yass (tour guide) and Monma-san (bus driver) went well above and beyond all expectations! They were informative, kind, caring, and knowledgeable about places of interest and wonderful restaurants. It was hard to say “Good-bye,” because of the friendships we had developed with the other tour members, but even more to those who so went out of their way to meet our needs and interests. It would be difficult to find more outstanding people.

It is difficult to please all of the people all of the time, so taste in food is difficult to assess. I thought all the meals were good. The two that were standouts were the butadon (delicious), and lunch in Kushiro where we made our own fresh seafood bowl and had ramen at a Michelin star restaurant!!  All the ice cream were stand-outs, as well!

 The accommodations were all fine, clean, and quiet. It might have been nice to have more than one night with an onsen, but there were only a few of us who used it, so perhaps that’s not a necessity. I love it but not everyone does.

All in all, it was a wonderful tour! I now understand why tours are so popular! Everything is taken care of, so the trip essentially has no stress!
Thank you for a wonderful experience and please let me know when/where your next available tours will be!

Domo arigatto gozaimasu!

Kathy Saiki
Sanger, CA


(Hokkaido tour in October, 2018)

"Overall, I would rate the food with 10 stars."

The first thing that crosses my mind for this evaluation was the variety of dishes we tried. Many were new to us. The food was phenomenal.

1. We enjoyed the Japanese breakfasts at the hotels. I liked all the hotels.

2.  We have fond memories of the Ainu women quilters coop. We have photos of us in their ceremonial robes. This was a very good venue choice. Their quilting and sewing are exceptionally beautiful. And many of us purchased items for souvenirs.

3.  The barbecued salmon, vegetable and salmon soup cooked in a clear broth was sweet, and potato dessert was tasty. These dishes are traditional Ainu food served by the lake. Many school children were at this fun event.

4.  The Chan Chan Yaki was delicious at the kombu farmers cooperative. Salmon and veges were cooked over a grill and Mrs. Sanzen (farmer's wife and cook) used her own miso sauce to make this dish. The miso was roasted on the grill and added a smoky flavor to the dish.  We purchased some of the wood toys carved by an older kombu fisherman. I think we as a tour group learned a great deal about people's livelihood, and realized how hard they work to make a living. We appreciate their sharing their life experiences with us. Hopefully, they enjoyed our company. There was a lot of laughter while we were eating. I think they like to meet other people from outside their community.

5. The beer garden was fun as we cooked meat and veges on a dome type grill. As we entered the garden restaurant, it was smoky and you can smell the lamb cooking! 

6. The kaiseki bento lunch was really yummy. We all enjoyed this very much.

7. The fish and other seafood the fish market in Kushiro was so fresh. The tour group sang its praises, especially for the toro salmon--it melted in one's mouth.

8.  Many of us love the ice cream made in Hokkaido. It is not too sweet and very light.

9.  Everyone loved the ramen made with fish base soup. That was very special. It is lighter than the tonkatsu type of ramen. At this place, some of us tried it all!

10.  Our experience at the nagaimo farmers coop was awesome. We grilled bread, mushrooms, sliced nagaimo, tomatoes and dipped them in 3 delicious sauces. Many of us tried the freshly grated nagaimo with shoyu. Delicious!!

11. Our robata farewell dinner near our hotel had a good variety of fish and seafood.

Overall, I would rate the food with 10 stars. For me, the food I eat when I travel makes the travel experience so much more enjoyable and memorable.

Betty Jo Yamamoto
Albany, CA


(Hokkaido tour in May 2017)

“Had we been on our own, we would have never known to go to the places and meet the local people."

My wife and I have traveled on three of Mariko's Community Travel tours: Northern Kyushu (arts and crafts), Central Kyushu and Hokkaido. Our groups were always 10-12 people. Her Northern Kyushu tour is our favorite – we learned so much about arts and crafts in Japan. Because the groups are small, we were able to visit local places and people whose work and craft would be overwhelmed by the crowds in the huge tour buses. With the tour buses, you go to stores big enough to handle crowds. With Mariko's tours, our group went into a potter's studio to see her making cups, bowls or saucers, watch her techniques and hear her talk about her craft.

Had we been on our own, we would have never known to go to the places and meet the local people whom Mariko introduces us to. Personally, I've never worked with clay and kilns, or dyed threads in indigo to weave cloth on a hand loom. But I learned so much that I never knew about these arts. We were welcomed into homes, studios and workshops. And more times than not, we heard stories about passions, motivation, challenges or break-throughs from the artisans about their craft. Those kinds of moments forge rich people-to-people connections that make travel worthwhile, and that Mariko loves to foster!

Her tours are marked by attention to detail at every step of the way. Mariko knows travel can be exhausting if the logistics are not in place and managed smoothly, so she makes sure the basics are in place: transportation, lodging, meals and translation when needed. When there was a last-minute glitch, she was totally prepared and ready with an alternative. On top of all this, Mariko makes sure travelers are well-informed about itineraries and schedules, as well as the specifics about places and people we are visiting.

The food was fantastic! We ate well, we ate often and we had fun! With Japanese food ubiquitous in the U.S., there were many things we already knew. But being in Japan, of course, we saw a much wider range. And as much as possible, Mariko tries to make sure we eat in restaurants that cater to local people, even as she makes sure we always experience an upscale place, too. But the food always had to be good!

We tried many new things, learned many new things, and always came back with a fresher understanding about the Japanese people and their culture! We highly recommend Community Travel!

Steve and Mary Louie
San Francisco


"Eight reasons why I always look forward to Japan travel with Community Travel Service"

1.  Itinerary is well planned and interesting. Mariko does preliminary scouting trips to choose the best places for us to see.

2.  Food is always good. We eat well on these trips and get to try regional specialties.

3.  Small group travel is congenial. It’s like traveling with new friends. We have fun.

4.  Trip always includes overnight stay at onsen. Soak away your stress and eat gourmet dinner and breakfast. Restful to sleep on tatami. Relax in nature.
5.  Don’t have to worry about speaking Japanese. Many non-touristy places we visit need reservations by Japanese speaker.

6.  Meet local people. Small group size makes it easier to interact with locals. We get invited into people’s homes because we don’t arrive in big tour bus.

7.  Pace is comfortable. Just the right amount of activity is in schedule each day.

8.  Meet friends from previous trips. Many of us are repeat travelers from past tours.

Harriet Fukushima
Oakland, CA     

(Harriet has taken Community Travel's Japa tours 8 times since 2005.)


"Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed my trips to Kyushu with Community Travel Service."

We first found out about your tour from our friends.  My husband and I went in 2005.  There were three other couples on the trip.  The highlights were our tour of the bamboo museum, a stay at the ryokan with the individual furos (baths), a visit with Bob Okasaki, a sansei potter who lives in Karatsu, a trip to Onta where they pound the clay they use to make their pottery and the kasuri dye works.

In 2015, I took the tour with my daughter.  The tour was led by Hiro Nishimura.  Changes were an all Tofu breakfast (wonderful) and a show with a traveling Japanese dance & song group.  We enjoyed all the meals, especially the Japanese breakfast in Kitsuki, the dinner at the fish market, and the Izakaya with the fried fish bone.

I went again in 2017 with my grandson.  His mother and I thought he would enjoy all the different meals on the tour, which he did, but it was too much pottery for him.  He is 23 years old and more interested in robot and Gundam.   I forgot to mention one other highlight of the tours: The fireworks in Hita.  The fireworks this year were really spectacular.

I still wear the Kasuri dress I bought in 2005.  It will never go out of style.
Thank you, Mariko, for an outstanding tour of Kyushu.

Fumi Fukuda
San Francisco, CA