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It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but Tokyo didn’t disappoint. Sake is everywhere. But as an American who doesn’t speak Japanese, sampling the drink took some work – not that I mind a little effort, considering that my métier sometimes involves sipping (and making sense of) 50 pinot noirs in a sitting.
Having a few destinations in mind is key to making the most of a sake safari in Japan’s capital. I wanted to cover the bases and visit a hotel, a department store food hall, a sake bar, and a restaurant. After asking everyone from U.S. importers to Japanese sommeliers for ideas, I set off on my quest.
Satisfy your inner samurai this winter and say “Ohaiyou!” to Japan with exclusive new packages from gay pal American Airlines, especially when they start flying direct into Tokyo Haneda airport, shaving an hour off the transfer from distant Narita.
Book by December 31 and travel between January 11 and February 28, 2011 for only $899 (plus tax/international fees) round-trip economy per person from Los Angeles including at least a three-night and up to six consecutive night stay at a three-star hotel. Airfare is near that much on it’s own, so it’s like getting the (typically expensive) hotel for free! Fly nonstop to Narita from Chicago for $60 more, Dallas for $110, and New York‘s JFK for only $100 more – including the Haneda route beginning January 20. Prices are per person, based on double-occupancy. Read more
Japan’s ryokan tradition has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Small, family-run inns, ryokans steep travelers in old-fashioned Japanese culture with an emphasis on cuisine. They’re commonly found in Kyoto or in the countryside and frequently feature onsen (hot springs). Staying at one – especially for foreigners – is like stepping into the consummate picture of Japan’s past: Austere rooms are arrayed with tatami mats and shoji screens, guests sleep on futons and dress in yukata (cotton kimonos), and the staff strives for pitch-perfect service.
Over the past decade, however, some travelers – Japanese and foreigners alike – have expressed a desire for more-modern creature comforts. Enter the rise of what I call the “neo-ryo”: luxury resorts with modern amenities that take their visual cues and ethos from the old-school inns. Read more
After undergoing a multi-million dollar refurbishment, the 100-passenger, all-suite Clelia II has been showing off her new look on the Great Lakes this summer – but it will be the last time the vessel sails these waters. Orion Expeditions made a surprising announcement last fall that beginning in May 2011, the company would begin a long-term charter of the Celia II under the name Orion II. Now that the 2011 brochure has been released – it’s official – and customers are getting an idea as to what the new ship has to offer.
On June 18, Orion II will make its grand debut on the “Natural Treasures of the Russian Far East,” itinerary ? which looks to be an experience of a lifetime. The schedule is chock full of volcanic islands, remote beaches, and opportunitie to witness wildlife – such as brown bears and the massive Steller’s sea eagle – in their natural habitat along the Zhupanova River. The ship embarks from Kushiro, Japan, on a 10-night odyssey to Petropavlovsk, Russia and covers a corner of the globe that is often overlooked. Stateroom rates start at $6,930 a person.
After a series of cruises focusing on the Inland Sea of Japan, for the second half of 2011, Orion II will call on ports in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and Cambodia (among others). For more information, or to view the rest of the recently released 2011 schedule, visit www.orionexpeditions.com. Interested in sailing the Clelia II before it changes hands? Check out this summer offer from Sherman’s Travel Magazine.
The Luxury Sailing Asia year-round for the first time, Yachts of Seabourn presents a fresh batch of captivating itineraries on its 208-passenger Seabourn Pride. On August 10, the yacht will embark from Kobe, Japan, on a 12-night odyssey to Shanghai, China. En route, the Pride will call on two ports in Japan (Kagoshima and Nagasaki), then three ports in South Korea (Busan, Mokpo, and Jeju), before crossing the Yellow Sea and making three more stops in China (Qingdao, Jiangyin, and finally Shanghai). Onboard, guests can dine on cuisine designed by chef Charlie Palmer, take in a comedy show, or mingle in the regal Sky Bar. Read more
Explore the Land of the Rising Sun with this ten-night guided excursion currently on offer from SmarTours. This itinerary begins in Tokyo, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour of the Imperial Palace district, dating back to the 15th century. Next up, you’ll visit the surrounding countryside around Mt. Fuji and Hakone National Park, a pristine natural area revered by poets for thousands of years. Other package highlights include the historic thatched-roof village of Shirakawago, a UNESCO world heritage site, and more than 2,000 ancient temples and shrines in Kyoto. This comprehensive tour includes round-trip airfare from LA and all local transportation and transfers, plus daily breakfast and guided sightseeing. Book by May 28 (for various departures dates through November 2009) to save up to $800 per couple. Package rates start from $2899.
Offering magnificent views of Mount Fuji and gorgeous Lake Ashi, the Hakone Prince Hotel is the place to come for a one-of-kind taste of Japan’s natural beauty. Guests can discover the remnants of 400,000-year-old volcanic lava flows inside the nearby Owakudani Ravine, explore the botanical gardens around Hakone Gora Park, or simply unwind with a soak in the hotel’s brand-new lakefront onsen. Japanican.com, a leading online booking site, is currently offering a special 3-night stay at this upscale hotel, including round-trip bullet train tickets from Tokyo, for the low price of 27,900 JPY (about $288). Booked separately, this itinerary would cost you approximately 64,520 JPY (or $667). Valid for stays through December 28, 2009, you’ll save about $379 with this affordable train and hotel package.
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