Picture this: you want to explore Japan, but for some reason, you just don’t have enough time or money. Perhaps you’re too busy at work, it’s peak season and the reasonably priced transportation and accommodation options are already fully booked, or you just don’t think you’ll need that much time to explore the area you want to see. In that case, Shiki no Tabi is the tour company for you. It has “day trips” from Tokyo to farther locations in Japan, Kyoto being one example. Of course, they’re technically not day trips, since buses leave for the destination at night and you arrive the next morning, but they feel like day trips anyway. Read on to understand what I’m talking about.
Day trips to Kyoto
Last year, in November, I found myself wanting to go to Kyoto to see the autumn leaves, but I only decided to go at the last minute because I wasn’t sure I could make time for it. Because Kyoto is known for its beautiful autumn colors, most buses and flights were already fully booked, and so were most hotels and hostels, leaving only the insanely expensive options. But luckily, I found Shiki no Tabi, which solved my problems instantly. Thanks to it, I got to see the autumn leaves at the last minute for 13,000 yen!
The bus left on a Friday night, and I arrived in Arashiyama at about 5 or 6 am on Saturday morning. The Shiki no Tabi page for the autumn leaves tour mentioned something to the effect of how Arashiyama is hugely popular in autumn, but that it could be difficult to get to some of Arashiyama’s popular sights—hence the early stop at Arashiyama. Arriving just in time to see the sunrise, I was able to take pictures without a million other tourists in them. Afterwards, I had the entire day to myself, and come nightfall, before heading back to Tokyo, we stopped by an onsen, because after spending the previous night in a bus and a long day in Kyoto, of course we had to freshen up and take a nice, relaxing bath! Admission for the onsen was included in the 13,000 yen fee. I considered Shiki no Tabi’s fee to be a good deal, as I would definitely have spent more if I booked a hotel and paid for transportation (and the onsen fee!) separately. (Of course, the trade-off was less comfort, but a cheapo like me can go without that from time to time.)
Is a bus tour right for you?
You can probably imagine by now that Shiki no Tabi’s quick-tour packages are not for those who want to spend more than a day seeing an area. In my case, having visited Kyoto before, I considered seeing the autumn leaves as my priority, and much as I wanted to stick around a bit longer, I just couldn’t afford any more time. If you’re a light sleeper and/or you don’t like sleeping in buses, Shiki no Tabi is not for you, either.
I recommend their tours to repeat travelers to an area, and/or those who only want to see something specific. They’re also perfect for cheapos and busy people. Let’s say you’re a busy office worker who wants to take a quick vacation. You can leave Tokyo on a Friday night after work, be in the destination by early Saturday morning (and have the entire day to explore it yourself), leave on Saturday night, and return on Sunday morning (and you can hopefully relax on Sunday before the dreaded Monday rolls along)! (Just to clarify, though: Shiki no Tabi also offers some weekday tours.)
Day trips to other destinations
Kyoto isn’t the only destination that Shiki no Tabi offers quick, whirlwind tours to, though. Mie Prefecture’s Ise Shrine, considered to be one of Japan’s most sacred shrines, seems to be a popular one, too. The company offers bus tours to the shrine from 10,980-15,980 yen (as of September 2015). Buses depart from Shinjuku Station at night, and you’ll be there the next morning—and back at Shinjuku at night, as if you just took a day trip (never mind the fact that Mie is quite far from Tokyo)! From Tokyo, Shiki no Tabi can even take you as far as Hiroshima, Shimane and Tottori! And since a trip that long entails being on the road for 2 nights, the fee (22,000 yen as of September 2015) also covers entrance to an onsen. But in case you’re wondering about Okinawa—no, sorry, there’s just no way you can travel to Okinawa from Tokyo by bus and be back in no time (and most importantly, traveling there by bus is impossible). If you don’t want to go too far, though, the company also has tours to nearer locations from Tokyo, such as Karuizawa, Hakone, and Mt. Fuji.
So the next time you want to take a “day trip” someplace far, you know where to look. Call 03-5203-1502 (Japanese only) for inquiries, or check out Shiki no Tabi’s website. The site is in Japanese ,but you should be able to get by and book your trip using Google Translate. Or if you have one handy, ask a friend who knows Japanese to help you with your reservation.