August 06 2011
Japan somehow feels like a forgotten frontier again, following a huge drop in visitor numbers. Hotel prices in Tokyo have plummeted, with the likes of Hyatt offering 50 per cent off every second night. But a deal isn’t everything. InsideJapan Tours (www.insidejapantours.com; from £450, including meals and transport) offers four-day “Volunteer for Japan” packages, enabling non-Japanese speakers to assist with rebuilding in Tohoku.
This can be done on its own or added to an itinerary – I’d recommend anything put together by Duff Trimble, a former Butterfield & Robinson exec who launched specialist operator Wabi-Sabi Japan (www.wabi-sabijapan.com; from £650 per person per day). Trimble is now picking up where he left off in the spring, and his bespoke itineraries may include meetings with a 14th-generation saké maker (a so-called “National Living Treasure”) and stays at the country’s very best ryokans.
Pictured: bamboo forest in Arashiyama, western Kyoto, one of the areas covered by Wabi-Sabi Japan’s bespoke trips.