Windows to Japan is a dynamic young company (established in 2005) that enables travelers the opportunity to have intimate encounters with Japan’s fascinating culture. We bring our travelers directly to the heart of Japan through the soul-stirring “windows” we have interwoven into our tours.
Our extensive knowledge, contacts, and personal connections have been established during our many years living and working in Japan. This puts us in a unique position to open up more windows and provide more tour options through which you can encounter a Japan that exists far beyond the known attractions and away from the usual well-beaten tracks.
We give you our utmost personal attention and hand-craft our tours to your specific and individual needs, whether you are on a group or independent tour.
Our welcoming guides and friendly, efficient management team are always on hand to support your stay and to help to turn your journey in Japan into an unforgettable encounter.
In Japan there is a title given to those who dedicate their lives to honing and perfecting a single craft. Keeping their focus wide, paying attention to the smallest details coming from all sides, noting all elements and components involved from start to finish, these shokunin make original, solid and singular pieces of beauty, flavor, and design. We find these artists inspiring, and strive to emulate their passion through crafting one-of-a-kind, whole-cloth tours, custom made for each guest. From start to finish, we consider everything that goes into every tour. As a good meal enhances the flavors of its ingredients, we hand-select locations, encounters, and experiences for every journey, combining them to make a most tantalizing dish, a wonderfully crafted and presented full work of art for all involved.
Avi is the founder and chief manager of Windows to Japan. He graduated from the Faculties of East Asian Studies and Anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1994. While studying, Avi became a licensed guide, and went on to become one of the senior guides for a leading travel company in Israel. Avi has traveled extensively and has guided expeditions all over Asia including journeys through the Silk Road.
Avi first visited Japan in 1989, staying for one and a half years. He then returned to Japan in 1995 and has been a part of the country ever since. During his time in the land of the rising sun, Avi practiced for three years at a Zen monastery, obtained a second dan black belt in Kyudo Japanese archery, studied the arts of Japanese pottery and bonsai miniature plant cultivation, and has participated in a whole host of other Japanese arts and traditions. Avi’s years of experience within Japan have given him unique insights into local cultures, and have revealed to him secrets that are invaluable for creating and guiding tours throughout the island nation. He looks forward to introducing you to the land he loves.
Originally from Shanghai, Wendy is Avi’s partner in the company, and in life. Having lived in Japan since 1997, she graduated with a PhD in Anthropology from Kyoto University in 2006, and is fluent in Japanese – almost as if it were her mother tongue. While studying anthropology at Kyoto University, Wendy specialized in Chinese Christian villages. At Windows to Japan, she proves to be a miracle worker when it comes to solving problems, famous within the office for her stunning speed at finishing the most impossible jobs and then asking for more.
Heading into high school and already showing interest in the travel business, Sheizaf often visits our office to check in on us, and to put her quadrilingual skills to good use. Shiezaf tags along on inspection tours, offering opinions from a younger generation, and can boast acting as a interpreter for a Kyoto geisha to allow one of our guests to fully grasp the intricacies associated with geisha makeup and style during one of our unique experiences.
A colorful and fun addition to the family, Yehonatan, being an elementary school student, brings vibrancy, a love of legos, and youth and a lot of questions that keeps all of us on our toes. Known for a slight stubborn streak along with his inquisitiveness, Yehonatan helps keep Avi at the top of his game in regards to guiding, testing his patience related to the question “why?”
FIT Team Manager, Individual Travel, Guide
Since his first encounter with Japan through the pages of a kanji book, Julian’s fascination for Japan has never ceased to grow. Holder of an MA in Japanese Studies, Julian spent two years studying at a Buddhist university in Kyoto, specializing in Japanese religions. Even now he never misses a chance to discover new temples, Shinto shrines, or attend local festivals. At part of Windows to Japan, Julian is proud to be included in the very exclusive circle of “Buddhist Experts” with Avi leading the way. As a FIT tour designer, Julian’s main goal is to share with travelers his love for Japan, and to help guests discover and join in on the lesser-known, unique experiences here.
The in-house Batman and all-round superhero enthusiast, Jeremy is our resident comic expert. Graduating with a degree in International Business and Management, he has experience in arranging golf tours across South-East Asia, and ski tours in Hokkaido. Now, Jeremy works to assist Avi with group tour management. Comics, video games, and snowboarding are his interests, and he has a different Batman t-shirt for each day of the week – a fact he is very proud of.
Maru-san is our main Tour Operations Manager and is the one who puts it all together. Maru loves great food, Japanese hot springs, and high-class, unique ryokan inns. She believes that such ryokan inns preserve the spirit of traditional Japan, and so is particularly delighted when our guests enjoy them as well. Maru has plenty of curiosity for the world around her, enjoys classical and jazz music – Keith Jarrett in particular – and is fond of literature, including authors such as Stephan Zvike. Maru majored in East European Culture and Russian Studies at a University in Osaka. She also boasts talents in speaking English, Hebrew and some Russian.
Raised in a unique and artistic family in Kyoto, Moe doesn’t fit the stereotype of a traditional Japanese woman. Once a shy little girl, traveling to many countries with her family in her childhood brought out her desire to explore the world on her own. Moe believes getting to know others is important to knowing herself and recognizing who she really is. She lived in the U.S. for a total of three years and majored in International Policy Studies while attending university in Japan. In her free time, Moe enjoys playing the piano, especially Chopin and Liszt, taking her dog to the park, and watching live soccer matches.
Fluent in French, Japanese, and English, Naoko has experience in the hotel industry, and holds extensive knowledge regarding hospitality services in Japan. Naoko works with our group tours, making sure even the smallest details fit in well to make one whole, memorable experience. Naoko enjoys discovering quaint, more secluded places off the beaten path. She also enjoys cycling, rediscovering Japan’s beautiful scenery.
From hotels to full tour design, Shizuka came to Windows to Japan with more than fifteen years of experience in the service industry under her belt having worked in hotels across Japan and the Fiji Islands. Shizuka is a very caring person, and in addition to taking good care of our guests, she takes great care of the office, making sure to keep it sparkling clean. Just don’t ask about the current state her desk.
Born in Fukushima, Ai studied in Kyoto. She worked in Latin America, Tokyo, and New Zealand before returning to Kyoto. She speaks fluent Japanese, English and Spanish. Ai’s name means “love” in Japanese, and she sees tour operation as a way to share her love for the world and to change it for the better. 🙂 Ai invites you to try an adventure in the Tohoku area, her original home. She will be more than happy to share her experience and knowledge of — and passion for — the area and its warm-hearted people.
Ai describes herself as a “nice social vegetarian.”
Raised in Sydney, Australia, David first visited Japan in 2006 before graduating from the University of Sydney with an honors degree in Asian Studies. Moving here in late 2010, he travelled the country north to south before settling in Kyoto shortly after the Tohoku earthquake. He now looks to dedicate himself to sharing his enthusiasm for everything Japan has to offer the world.
After fist visiting Japan with her family at the age of eleven, Helena became fascinated with its culture, becoming an especially avid fan of manga and anime during her childhood years. The Dragonball manga and anime had a particularly strong impact on Helena, influencing her to take up kickboxing at the age of fifteen and starting her on the way to taking up many other sports, including rowing and boxing during her university days, and outdoor activities, such as hiking. The desire to learn Japanese (and finally be able to read manga in their original language) brought her to Japan after graduating university with a Masters in Biochemistry in her home town of Cambridge, England. She is keen to share the insight into aspects of the Japanese culture she has gained through experiences meeting incredible people during her time learning the language, working and traveling here in Japan. Helena loves the outdoors, keeping active and exploring, hiking regularly in the mountains, running, cycling and traveling to the Japanese countryside in her spare time.
Ken brings laughter and good vibes into the offices of Windows to Japan. A UCLA graduate fluent in English and Japanese, Ken will serve as your helping hand during your journey in Japan. He has a passion for finding and eating delicious local cuisines, and has a taste for fine wines – truly an avid believer in enjoying the finer things in life. As a passionate follower of sports, both domestic and international, he will be able to help you with a wide range of domestic sport viewing. If you need anything in particular prepared during your time in Japan, Ken will do his best to make your idea a reality.
Maki-san is our master of logistics. She is the one who calls on excellent services for transportation, and is amazing at securing the best on short notice, even during peak seasons. Maki whole-heartedly welcomes you to Japan, and looks forward to helping you discover Japan, and assisting you throughout your stay. Maki, a tea master herself, has keen interests in tea ceremony and Buddhism, and hopes to share her enthusiasm for Japanese culture.
Of her six years experience working in the travel industry in the Maldives and three years working in the hotel industry in Germany, Makiko writes, “I worked in the Maldives feeling its nature all over my body, and I worked in Germany touching its deep history in my heart. I love to travel the world. Each moment and each sight I had while traveling the world gave me a new impression.” These experiences have inspired in Makiko a wish to make make tours that allow visitors to truly touch and feel Japan.
Motivated to build communities and meaningful connections, Meredith looks forward to using her extensive background in business, community development and outreach to open up hidden, interesting wonders of Japan for travelers to experience. As a fan of shotengai shopping streets, downtown bustle, countryside charm, and local eats, regularly going out to unearth diamonds in the rough, she hopes to share her enthusiasm for amazing yet overlooked local scenes.
Reina is a skilled classical ballet and hula dancer who speaks fluent Japanese and English. Born and raised in Kyoto, Reina moved to the United States when she was thirteen. After graduating from the University of Hawaii with BAs in Geography and Dance, she returned to Kyoto. Reina’s love and passion for travel have brought her to many countries.
In Japan, she’s found another passion — finding great bars. If you’re looking for a good cocktail or watering hole, Reina’s the one to ask. As a Windows to Japan FIT tour operator, Reina enjoys drawing upon the knowledge and skills she learned working at a luxury hotel to help her come up with unique and memorable experiences for our guests in Japan.
Having caught the travel bug after her many escapades throughout Europe, Sam decided to follow her dreams and live in Japan. Her goal was to immerse herself in the culture and learn more about the country that she had visited over many summers in her youth. In addition to traveling, Sam loves to watch movies, sing karaoke and cook Filipino dishes. She looks forward to sharing her passion for traveling and Japan by planning personalized trips for those who wish to learn more about this fantastic country.
Following her heart and moved more and more by reading novels on the region, Tomoyo moved to Kyoto from her home of Saitama Prefecture after graduating university. Tomoyo enjoys the cozy historic streets, and on her days off, explores the city with her accordion in tow with dreams of holding concerts at small cafes (to which of course you will be invited). In the office, Tomoyo looks forward to helping craft travelers’ stays, providing interesting information in addition to the necessary.
Born in Kagoshima and raised in Kyoto, Yumi lived in the U.S. state of Iowa as an exchange student in high school. After graduating from the University of Osaka, her work for a tour operator allowed her to live in Australia and Hong Kong. In Japan, Yumi has worked for the Tourism Bureau doing overseas promotion. She loves traveling with her daughter.
Bringing experience and joy into the office, Takako brightens our days with her warm smiles, and mastery of the service industry. Holding an MA in translation from Macquarie University in Australia, Takako also brings with her a background of excellence having worked as a concierge and front office manager for hotels in the happening cities of Tokyo and Singapore. In her off time, Takako enjoys reading and listening to music, and – even more importantly – watching her son’s soccer games on the weekend. She is enjoying her time with Windows to Japan, and looks forward to sharing her happiness as you travel.
Meet some of our in-house guides.
Anat is an expert photographer with a remarkable ability to capture the stories of Tokyo’s streets in all their pulsating life and energy. Her masters degree in Film and Ph.D. in “Feminist Movements Through Photography” are testaments to years of conceptual and artistic training. Anat lived more than a decade in Tokyo. Let her vision and experience guide you through Japan’s exciting megalopolis and beyond.
Filled with knowledge of traditional Japan and skilled in French, English, and German as well as her native language, a day with Ayumi as your guide is sure to be an in-depth adventure. Ayumi is a specialist in Japan’s gardens and cuisine, and is in fact a certified garden designer and culinary coordinator, as well as a instructor of ikebana flower arrangement.
Chiharu brings her love of meeting people and learning about different cultures into her guiding days in the best ways as her unending interest in discovery often lends itself to making days of wonder for all. Also boasting keen skills on reading any situation, she is quick to make your day most enjoyable, using her great abilities as fashion advisor, food coordinator, and time manager to make a day designed just for you, your tastes and mood. It is her sincere hope to use her skills to make your days in Japan memorable, fun, and relaxed.
Our Kyoto-based Israeli guide has lived in Japan with his family since 2004. Famous for his translation into Hebrew of Murakami Haruki’s book Norwegian Wood as well as The Key by Tanizaki Junichiro and several other books, he, among his many other academic accomplishments completed his PhD at Doshisha University and is currently teaching there while continuing to translate and guide.
Emi was born and raised in Nara, the ancient capital of Japan. She holds a degree in foreign studies. After becoming a guide, Emi moved to Kyoto and now lives in a traditional machiya townhouse. She is a member of the Kyoto traditional musical art foundation and enjoys attending lots of geisha events every year.
On her days off she spends time with her son and husband, both very active in cycling and running. Guided days with Emi are lively and energetic, matching her personality perfectly.
Hailing from Israel, Heli came to Japan over a decade ago as part of a trip, and soon found herself in love with the country. Upon arriving to Kyoto for the first time, she decided that this would be her place to stay. Making a wonderful life of multiple endeavors and adventures, she has gained experience in many areas through her jobs, and being the owner of her own coffee shop in Kyoto. Heli has great insight into the Japanese day to day, and with her excellent skills with the language, she easily shares and spreads her love of Japan’s history, culture, and people.
Hiro was born in Tokyo, the famed modern metropolis of Japan. At age seven, he moved to Moscow where he spent the rest of the elementary school years. At university Hiro played drums in a jazz band and still enjoys playing as a hobby, along with learning the guitar. Hiro’s other hobbies include paragliding, and his current personal record is flying 108km in the skies of Australia.
Having visited over twenty countries, Hiro understands diverse points of view, a trait which allows him to clearly explain Japan’s history and culture to guests from various backgrounds. With ten years of experience under his belt, he is also knowledgeable, flexible, and able to provide a high level of insight and customization to the travelers he guides.
Michelle majored in East Asian studies and International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2003 she was awarded a scholarship from Japan’s Ministry of Education and came to study in the west coast city of Kanazawa for five and a half years. Graduating in 2008, Michelle holds an MA in law, and a Ph.D. in international and environmental studies. Before joining the team here, she was recruited in 2011 to work for the tourism board in Tsuruga, a small, coastal town on the west coast of Japan. She joined the Windows to Japan team in late 2012 with a strong ambition to provide travelers with unique and insightful experiences with the people and cultures of Japan.
Omri is a certified Japanologist with academic degrees in Japanese history, Japanese language and culture, and Japanese media. He has won various research grants and awards and studied for extensive periods of time in Kyoto and Tokyo. Still, he firmly believes that travel, exploration and aimless wondering taught him more than most textbooks or lectures. In his specially tailored tours, Omri likes to pursue the elusive concept of “Japan” and its meanings in different times and for different people. His primary interests are Japanese cities, Japanese history, art and architecture.
A powerful woman indeed, Teiko has been working as a tour guide since 2008 while raising two daughters, working as a history teacher, and holding a degree in English Literature after attending university in the United States. Teiko is ecstatic that she can use her experience as a mom and international student, along with her experience gained during her career as a history teacher to present a well-rounded picture of Japanese life, giving guests a sense of the depth of Japanese culture and history as well. To Teiko, guiding is the path she was called to take as she always finds it exciting and enjoyable to meet new people from around the world, and introducing Japans famed and hidden places to them.
Real reviews from real travelers…
Windows to Japan has successfully created a memorable itinerary for our short trip to this amazing country.
Our experience actually started a couple of months before the actual trip while enjoying Julian’s expert advice. His patience, knowledge and expertise of Japan is unbelievable and has allowed us to create a tailor made itinerary suited to our interests and preferences.
Julian and his team have succeeded in highlighting all the main sights, attractions, museums and shopping areas while never forgetting attention to detail!
Our guide, Doron, was very knowledgeable and proved to be great company. Transportation was done by luxury cars with English-speaking professional drivers.
We definitely recommend using Windows to Japan for any trip to this special country, it will create memories to cherish forever!
Jossi & Adele Parnas (March 2017)
Please accept our thanks and appreciation for the wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience we enjoyed through the good services (excellent, in fact) of Windows to Japan, its team and guides during our visit to Japan in March 2015. Our children do not stop raising memories from this trip and especially the intimate experience in the many special activities you arranged for them (Zen, Manga drawing, Origami, Samurai- and Geisha-dressing, calligraphy, Aikido, woodblock printing and Ninja class — to name just a few). Our guides, Omri and Heli were second-to-none.
Hope to see you soon in another visit to Japan.
Merav Rodav (March 2015)
Just a note of thanks for the OUTSTANDING job you all at Windows to Japan did arranging our accommodations, transportation, guides and sight-seeing suggestions for our recently completed trip to multiple locations in Japan. In our opinion, Windows to Japan deserves “five stars” for all aspects of our journey — conveniently pre-paid hotel accommodations (and their locations near to what we most wanted to see), detailed transportation arrangements, and recommendations about what to do and see at all the cities and towns we visited.
Your contractors who assisted us — specifically, our Kyoto and Nara guide, Teiko, and the driver(s) who transported us to and from the ferry at Uno — were very professional. All were on time and Teiko was very, very knowledgeable explaining what we were seeing and the Japanese culture she helped us experience.
I do hope to find time to go into more detail in the not-too-distant future about our fantastic experience. For now, however, I just want you to know my fiancée Harriet and I were absolutely amazed every day of our trip how all the pieces you arranged fit together perfectly. As you know, I have family in Japan — a daughter and her three children — who were able to share our adventure in a few places. The transportation and accommodation logistics Windows to Japan provided made our meetings easily occur. Knowing what train we were aboard and where we were seated enabled them to easily find us — even though they boarded at different stops.
Thank you, again, for a terrific job arranging our adventure. My fiancée, who had never been to Japan before, was very, very impressed with the travel agency I chose to help with all phases of our planning.
Jim Strothman (August 2015)
You succeeded in giving us a taste of the many faces of Japan — the new and the traditional, the West and East. The trip was planned perfectly, and every problem was dealt with by quick and efficient service from Windows to Japan staff. We will not hesitate to recommend to our friends to use your excellent service.
It was an unforgettable trip, and we will surely return to visit Japan and we’ll surely call you.
The Weiss family: Shlomo, Sagit, Thom, Bar, Shar (July 2015)
Thank you for a magic introduction to Japan. We spent 14 days with our guide. We appreciated very much the thorough planning, the sites chosen during the visit, the very high level of guiding and introduction to the understanding of the spirit, customs and values of the Japanese people, and of course the fantastic landscapes. We came back home with a will to further investigate so vast and interesting a country in the near future.
Shadar and Barnea parties (June 2015)
This Honeymoon was done with both Avi and Michelle of our onsite [partner] “Windows to Japan.” I cannot say enough about them. This was a long planning process with numerous changes and desires coming in to the planning process. Working with Michelle Haddad and Avi Lugasi was a pleasure from day 1. They were attentive to the questions and desires of the clients — and so responsive in a timely manner to every email or phone call regardless of the hour of the day or night. Avi’s contacts in Japan are so knowledgeable, gracious, and caring — and the experiences they provided for the travelers were unparalleled. When I had to reach them for a change the clients needed to make — Avi was on top of it instantly in the wee hours of the morning. He gave his time and expertise to make sure these clients received the journey they were expecting and much more. I cannot say enough for the seamless planning — attention to detail — and immediate responsiveness provided by Windows to Japan. This was truly a team effort — and Windows came through with flying colors.
Betsy Domoto, Aldine Travel (Virtuoso agent)
Just wanted to let you know how happy I was to see Windows to Japan added to Signature Destinations Specialist portfolio. Avi and his team are incredible and I hope the members will appreciate them as much as I do. They can craft the itineraries and they will make any professional shine. My clients still talk about their Japan tour.
Julia Shore, Reid Travel of Florida, Inc. (January 2015, Signature agent)
My clients had a great trip and were delighted with the detail of the itineraries, the quality and friendliness of the guides, the travel arrangements, the accommodations, the restaurant recommendations, etc. They did not have one negative thing to report in the entire trip. I highly recommend [Windows to Japan’s] services and look forward to working with them in the future — without hesitation.
Kevin Landry, FROSCH (April 15, Signature agent)
Our negotiations with Windows to Japan, which started more than two years ago, were to our complete satisfaction. The team was always attentive to our requests and tried their best for us.
As we chose to be independent travelers, we found their proposals, understanding, and tutorials regarding our itinerary — excellent! The hotels were good and ideally located. Distribution of interest throughout the days was substantive, bright and fun. Their custom-made plan for us for public transportation and independent driving was accurate to the last detail, thus gave us the confidence to travel around and to fit, with no problem, with Japanese lifestyle. It was such a great experience!
We hardly used guides, twice, and both were excellent, each in its own way.
We’ll come again this year. Again at Autumn, and again as independent travelers through the Windows to Japan company. We highly recommend them.
Hanna and Josh Kfir from Israel (Nov 2014 and Nov 2015)
Windows to Japan proved to be an excellent choice for our trip. It was easy to exchange ideas and special requests and the company had several unique suggestions. They prepared several key documents for us including a very detailed itinerary. It included a variety of suggestions for activities at each location and precise information (with tickets where needed) for all travel (train, subway, bus and boat). Most importantly, everything went according to plan without any glitches! We had a wonderful time.
Jan Dryer (May 2015)
Amazing trip, perfectly tailored to our family’s interests. Windows to Japan was very responsive, friendly, and flexible.
Susan Greshman (June 2015)
I wanted to thank you for putting together a really great trip. Everything went really well, no huge surprises, and I just wanted to thank you. I wanted to especially thank you for arranging the guided tour with Omri, a lovely and intelligent young man, who took us to see things we never could have found on our own.
Mr. Huson (June 2015)
It is with great pleasure that we remember our vacation in Japan and it is in great part due to a wonderful job that your company did not only guiding us but also arranging all the train tickets and hotels. Our pleasure was certainly so much greater that we felt very well taken care of at all times and did not need to deal with those small things when we were there.
All the guides that we spent time with were excellent. We spent an unforgettable day with Ayumi in Kyoto, where she concentrated on Japanese gardens, We visited many beautiful gardens and she explained to us a lot of details about them, In addition we had an opportunity to ask her many questions about life in Japan which she answered in the most interesting way.
Julian, who guided us in Nara and Kyoto, was very knowledgable and very pleasant. He listened to our interests and sometimes changed the “master plan” for us. So as a bonus he took us to a less-known geisha district and to a workshop of a woodblock print artist where we were able to buy some absolutely beautiful prints.
The best days ever we spent with Michal, as she was a fantastic guide, fantastic company and included hot spring visit that we thoroughly enjoyed.
In summary, Michal, Ayumi and Julian all did a great job and made our stay fascinating and very interesting. The custom program fit to our interests was extremely pleasant for us. We can recommend your company to all who visit Japan.
Ewa Wajnberg and Birgitta Wajntraub (March 2015)
A trip of a lifetime thanks to Windows to Japan! The trip perfectly planned for us and the support and care we received while touring was amazing. Thanks for showing us an incredible time! This trip surely exceeded all our expectations.
Anis Koussa (March 2015)
Windows to Japan made my wife’s and my dream trip come true, and we couldn’t have found a better company to plan this trip with! We started off giving the agency a long list of events, activities and sights that we really wanted to fit into the trip. With great care and patience, the staff at this travel agency worked with us to understand our wish list, research ways to fulfill the list, and determine how to pack it all in one trip. Not only did Windows to Japan fit in all of our must-haves and crazy ideas into the trip, they managed to do it in a way that allowed us to take our time and not feel rushed while we we’re on the trip. Our tour guides who showed us around different parts of Japan were friendly, patient, and extremely knowledgeable in the areas we visited. With so many memorable moments on the trip, it was hard to describe how amazing this trip was to our friends and family. I highly recommend using Windows to Japan to plan your trip and I know my wife and I plan on using them again the next time we go to Japan.
Dave Tran (March 2015)
Windows to Japan worked with us to develop an itinerary that fit our needs and our limited schedule. The result was outstanding! We were able to move at our own speed yet see an amazing amount in the time we had. Our guide for two days was attentive and flexible, modifying our tour on-the-fly as needed to avoid crowds and see as much as we could. We like to travel as independently as possible. WTJ provided many suggestions, transportation guidance, and accommodations that allowed us move at our own pace. Overall, this was a great travel experience.
Hugh Fisher (November 2014)
I am pleased to be able to say that our experience with Windows to Japan met or exceeded our expectations on every level. We had visited Japan five times in the last 25 years and it is a place we love. We had previously made all our own arrangements but this trip we wanted to explore some areas that were a little more ‘off the beaten path’ and that would be a more unique cultural experience. This was the mandate we gave to WTJ, and they took our idea and ran with it. When we arrived at our hotel in Tokyo all our travel vouchers were waiting for us. We also received a welcome e-mail and contact information so we could get in touch with our agency at any time if we needed any help at all. They sent us on a wonderful tour of the Inland Sea. We took many ferries and visited and stayed at some of the most dramatic settings I have ever seen. Then we went back to Honshu, to the north shore on the Sea of Japan. Our travel agency arranged rental cars for us which was wildly optimistic on their part but in the end gave us the flexibility to see many smaller towns and attractions that you couldn’t get to any other way unless you tracked down a bunch of day tour buses which wouldn’t have suited us nearly as well. The European-style accommodations ranged from good to excellent. The Japanese style hotels and the ryokans that our travel agency provided ranged from excellent to incredible. One of the big features of this travel agency’s service is the daily itinerary of highlights where you are visiting. Whether it was Tokyo or Iwamiginzan the company had recommendations for fascinating things to do or see that you won’t find in Frommers or Fodors. As we neared the end of our trip my wife and I said to each other on more than one occasion how much we felt that the value that we received by letting this travel agency plan our trip for us far exceeded what we paid for it. We would recommend their service highly.
Jim & Michelle McDonald (October 2014)
We had our honeymoon in Japan and we were definitely not disappointed. Michelle at Windows to Japan provided us with an excellent trip — very detailed, with plenty of options for our itinerary. In fact, once we arrived at our first hotel, we were provided with a comprehensive binder which contained plenty of maps, restaurant suggestions, and activities for each of our destinations in Japan!
We visited plenty of temples and shrines and some of the most amazing food. The guides that our travel company provided us were very knowledgeable and friendly. It was an amazing experience — my wife and I would highly recommend using WTJ to anyone planning a trip there.
As an additional comment — most of the planning took place via email, as we live in the U.S. and they are based in Kyoto — was not an issue for us at all.
James Keene (August 2014)
I had worked with Windows to Japan over many months to plan a four-week vacation with my family throughout Japan. I found the team at WTJ to be both exceptionally frank about the challenges of such a trip and quite flexible and supportive in making things work. They spoke a lot from personal experience of their travels in Japan and felt sincere and enthusiastic about helping us have the best experience we could while in Japan.
There were only minor hiccups with transportation and accommodations along the way — most everything went very smoothly, which is a huge success given the duration and complexity of our trip. The tour book they sent us was stocked with great info and was very well organized. While in Japan, the team was responsive to both emails and phone when we needed them (which wasn’t very often).
Overall, we had a blast. The team allowed us to do our own thing while providing us the support and structure we needed to wring all that we could from our time in Japan.
Marc Jacobs (August 2014)
We were 100% pleased with the support we received from Windows to Japanon our recent trip to Tokyo and Kyoto and couldn’t have done it without support from the company’s team. The guides they set us up with were incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and dedicated to making sure that everything worked out as planned. One small but impressive example was when our Tokyo guide called us in our hotel room after our first to personally check to make sure we had all the information we needed for transportation for the following morning.
This was our first trip to Japan and WTJ answered all of our questions (there were many!) leading up to our departure and provided us with detailed information and all of the material required to insure a successful trip. They also gave us the flexibility we were looking for, but provided us with a solid understanding of how to get around Japan, and insights into Japanese culture.
I would recommend Windows to Japan to anyone interested in going to Japan!
Jay Andersen (July 2014)
Overall this was a marvelous trip for our introduction to Japan. It was well-organized with much attention to detail. Though I was initially hesitant to set this up, essentially by email to a foreign country, it went very well. Michelle had excellent command of written English, was very flexible in the itinerary, and customized it for the 4 of us. The guides were either very good or outstanding, very knowledgeable, and very conscientious about my wife’s shellfish allergy.
Anthony Atwell (April 2014)
Windows to Japan was indispensible in making our trip to Japan such a resounding success. We have traveled to many places around the world but when first began researching our trip we felt overwhelmed with; the Japanese language, the railway, where to go, etc. and all the books that we read just seemed to make our decision making process more difficult. As independent travelers we wanted a tailor made trip that focused on Japanese ceramics and art. We gave our travel specialist and his team a blueprint of what we wanted to see, questions about what we shouldn’t miss etc. and it was like we them gave puzzle pieces that they beautifully completed. Everyday we turned to our book that held plans, tickets, hotel confirmations, train schedules, and additional sites to see with everything spelled out clearly and concisely. This detailed planning was an excellent value and I’m sure that we could not have done such a wonderful job on our own! We had two excellent tour guides who were so knowledgeable and personable that it was like touring around with an old friend. We would highly recommend Windows to Japan to anyone going to Japan. Japan was a magical experience that far exceeded our expectations.
John Rohlfing (July 2013)
A+++++ rating for Windows to Japan and Michelle (my advisor). I plan many trips all over the world. This company was by far the best I have ever used!
I chose them for 3 main reasons: After only 1 email it was obvious that they understood exactly what I wanted, their prices were competitive and their communication was concise and immediate.
During the planning stage, they continued with their speedy responses to my numerous emails, they offered wonderful ideas, advice and suggestions, as well as ways to reduce the trip costs! They were also extremely patient with my millions of questions and answered each one thoroughly!
There was also no language barrier, Michelle is fluent in English. I have discovered that this is very important when planning a trip to a non-English speaking country! Upon arrival at the first hotel, there was a binder waiting at the reception desk. It was so incredibly organized. It contained all the vouchers and tickets, a detailed explanation letter, a day by day itinerary, along with information and maps for each city, concise train and travel directions, as well as a removable plastic sheet which you can take with you during the day (rather than the whole binder). It was apparent that a lot of work had gone into the preparation. It was an invaluable asset and made stops at tourist information unnecessary! All the arrangements the company made were perfect, absolutely no hitches!
The hotels were excellent, all superbly located! Michelle was absolutely dead-on with her suggestions, especially regarding one of the hotels I wasn’t too sure about… but she was right!
I could go on and on, but the bottom line: This was an incredible trip, thanks to the skills, expertise and professionalism of Michelle and WTJ.
Japan is an amazing country, but would be difficult to visit without the assistance of a good local travel company to organize the logistics, etc.
Definitely do not hesitate to Windows to Japan for your planning. You will enjoy your trip that much more, knowing that you are in ‘good hands’ and everything will be perfect! Domo Arigato Michelle and Avi for ensuring that this trip was a wonderful experience!
Marcie Rubenstein (May 2013)
The trip was truly a joy, much of which had to do with Windows to Japan, The accommodations were all pretty special, and specially in Kyoto, very well located. The guides, Avi, Michelle and Masayo were outstanding, providing us with many insights into the culture. Of course all is made possible by a really beautiful, well-cared-for country.
Luis Montero (May 2013)
The plan created for us was both intensive and intelligent — the choice of sites was right: geographically, historically and logically. The choice of hotels was extremely successful as they were all very good localized, comfortable and easy to get to.
The transport organization was very efficient and well thought, which helped us to concentrate on the touristic attractions without having to worry about getting there and about. The reviews, the instructions and recommendations prepared for us in a special booklet were very helpful and made our journeys smooth. The choice of guides was also very good. Both ladies, who guided us in Kyoto and Tokyo, were pros who showed us the well-chosen highlights. They were very nice and we had a good time.
The pottery experts were a treat. Through them we’ve gained an intensive and authentic impressions of pottery and potters in Japan. The two days we spent with them made the trip to Japan (from the point of view of pottery) unique and extremely exciting. The ryokan was also well-selected. The people there were very friendly, nice and made the visit very enjoyable. Despite the fact that communication was elaborate due to the language difficulties, we still had a good time. Food was good and an authentic experience. Summing up, we would like to thank Avi, Michelle and Wendy for organizing our tour to Japan so well. Our expectations in terms of interests, comfort and expenses were certainly met.
You’ve certainly opened for us a well-designed perspective on Japan and we both consider it to be a very successful first and not last visit.
Elad Grozovski (February 2013)
Phone: +81 (075) 711-2527
Fax: +81 (075) 468-8966
Emergency phone: +81 (070) 4412-8030
If dialing from outside Japan, please omit the first zero
Kyoto, Japan 601-1253