This trip far exceeded my expectations!
(Hokkaido tour participant in fall 2017)

I had been to Hokkaido for a few days back in the 1970s and looked forward to spending more time there. This trip far exceeded my expectations! I was delighted to see the fall colors in the parks and even from the van as we passed by. After we failed to see Japanese cranes in a park, one of us spotted a pair of cranes close to the highway!

Most of the hotels were “business” style, meaning that businessmen stayed for a night or two. I guess most of them brought just an overnight bag, and so often there wasn’t much room for a suitcase that held two weeks’ worth of clothes. This was not a serious problem. The modern onsen hotel was very luxurious, as was the huge buffet there.

As for sightseeing, it was varied and interesting. For example, we saw a new park that features several museums in a wooded atmosphere. In one of those museums we were invited to a violin concert. There is still space on Hokkaido for such places, and usually there were few tourists besides our small group.

One of my favorite days was towards the end, when we visited a fisherman’s house, where the fisherman’s wife was trimming and sorting Kombu seaweed.  Walking to and from the house, we stepped on stones that are used to dry the seaweed. Lunch was a whole salmon cooked on a large grill with many vegetables and a miso sauce. After lunch we visited a charming little museum which had children’s wooden toys made by the Kombu fisherman in the off-season as well as a nice gift shop featuring local products.

The Japanese people I met on the trip were all polite, friendly, and helpful. As someone who does not speak Japanese but look Japanese to some, I appreciated that. Our guide, Yass, was a great guide and companion.

The food was excellent, including the buffet breakfasts. Mariko arranged many unique meals and food stops for us, including freshly made soba, an Ainu picnic, European-style cheese, and bakeries.

Last night I saw on t.v. that Japan’s tourist industry is doing very well in 2017. I can understand why, but we did not experience crowds on this trip. Thanks to Mariko, I learned a lot about how and why Hokkaido is different from the rest of Japan, and I hope to return some day.

Cordelia Chang
Albany, CA


“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 been on 8 Community Travel tours 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