Mike Roberts founded Samurai Tours, which specializes in packages to Japan, based on his love of the island nation’s culture. Courier spoke with him about his company and tourism in Japan.
What led you to focus on Japan?
From the first time I visited Japan more than 25 years ago, I was fascinated by the people and culture. Even today, I am still impressed how they merge the old and new into their daily lives.
How do connect your travelers to the local culture?
It is not so much the places we visit, although we do include a number of very Japanese places other operators don’t go, but rather the way we travel. We use public transportation only, and we avoid the large tourist hotels and try to use Japanese-style inns called ryokans as much as possible.
What changes have you noticed in the Japanese market?
In the last few years, the Japanese have been making Japan more tourist-friendly. There are more signs in English, and more people are willing and able to speak English. When it was announced that Japan would be hosting the 2020 Olympics, this process was accelerated. However, when you get off the beaten path, there is little English spoken, and you still can discover the old Japan.
What are a couple of your favorite only-in-Japan experiences?
The Japanese have raised the art of [hot thermal] bathing to a whole new level, and visiting an onsen is a great way to experience this. Also, there are still active Geisha districts around Japan, but the best can be found in Kyoto. We include a “Meet a Maiko” session in many of our tours.
Top photo: Japan streetscape
Photo by: CC unsplash.com/Sorasak: bit.ly/2m4yDK4