Pretty fast, we almost coming to an end of our tour in Japan, booked with Apple Vacations & Conventions Sdn Bhd or better known as Apple Holiday. Wait, there is also another name – Sakura Holiday. Seriously, I am pretty confused who are dealing with. The payment was made to Apple Vacations & Conventions Sdn Bhd, but the tour coordinated by Sakura Holiday, which is also known as Kanan Holiday. The companies seems to share a common address, so I presumed these companies belong to the same owner, but the operations are being sub-contracted to its subsidiaries.
We first checked if the tour guide would speak basic English when explaining the attractions, not completely in English, but at least some explanation since I know nothing about Japanese. Well, only 40% of the tour, in fact day 1 was in English, the rest of the time, the tour explanation was in Mandarin and Cantonese. And, Samuel Tan, a.k.a. me, was my dear Retna’s interpreter. I think it is kind of hard to enjoy the entire trip, if more than 60% of the time I spent my time translating everything from Mandarin, Cantonese into English for Retna. We paid the full amount as others as well. If the tour consultant has informed us that the tour manager is unable to converse fully in English (this case almost 60% non-English) then, we would not have go with this tour.
Meals arrangement also rather uninspiring. We had shabu-shabu on day 1, which has very limited selection of food, and the refill was in mess, no plates, food ran out and the restaurant is located on the fifth floor of the building, which only two lifts are in service. So long awaiting just to have a meal on a very cold evening. We then had Taiwanese cuisine and unagi for dinner, which I think were among the best meals of the entire tour. The following day we had Tempura and buffet dinner. Yesterday we were having cold tempura lunch and deep fried pork for dinner. Tonight is worst as the dinner was disastrous – BBQ grill in a lower end restaurant, which I think might not even patronised by the local Japanese, the place is dirty and smelly. The ventilation for smoke (bad combinations – cigarettes & grills) almost non-existent. I really hate eating with smokers, especially in our group, there were chain-smokers.
While we were in Tokyo, we were briefed to have sesame oil fried tempura for lunch, despite the lunch was cold, I think one of the restaurant that we passed by which serves tempura has stronger aroma of sesame oil.
The hotel arrangement for the last night stay could have been better. Marroad Narita International Hotel, according to TripAdvisor was among the worst hotels in Narita. One of the reviewers said avoid level 12, go and read, you would know what I mean.
Although my iPad was wet after one of the tour member poured water on it, we enjoyed Kyoto, Osaka very much and we think we will return again with our kids. These two places would really give ourselves some serious lessons about Japan, why the culture is important, the traditions etc. We missed sightseeing of so many wonderful parks in Kyoto as well as Tokyo, which was replaced by luxury goods shopping trips and Shinjuku Uniqlo shopping. Seriously, we already have Uniqlo in Malaysia, what the heck we need to shop there again. So Retna and I spent our time in the nearby Japanese stationery outlets.
A night in Shinjuku could have been better if the tour manager as well as the tour members were not focusing on the night life entertainment. In fact, some married men were asking the tour manager if they could get laid in Shinjuku.
Well, overall, we really enjoyed ourselves very much, since this is the first time we visited Japan. I am sure we will come back again, perhaps by ourselves, not with Apple. I mean the tour company.