What makes a tour ecologically conscious?

They’re finally ready! We’ve got our Japan Alpine tours ready to go!

First, here are the itineraries:

Midsummer 2022 Group Tour:

Fall Foliage 2022 Tour:

Full disclaimer: this blog entry will also be cross posted to our related photography website.

Today I’d like to talk about ecologically conscious tours.

Travel is good for you; How to make it better for Earth

No one will deny that travel is good for you, and also good for the world. It promotes understanding of cultures different from one’s own and also for the natural beauty of Earth. But how can one take advantage of traveling while minimizing their carbon footprint? We consulted with a leading university specialist who spends her time researching and teaching about this very topic.

The verdict? There’s no way around it. To travel, you’re going to have to emit greenhouse gases. Purchasing carbon offsets is a popular way to counter this, but unfortunately not very effective and has led to the term “green-washing”. This is the thought that “I’m offsetting my footprint, so therefore I can continue what I’m doing.”

What are some things we can do to be more conscious of the environment when we travel?

One advice is to slow down. Literally.

For example, instead of emitting X amount of C02 on flights for a one week trip, slow it down, and emit the same amount for a three week trip, or longer if you can. This means you’ll be zipping around less overall and staying put more.

Another great piece of advice we received was instead of purchasing offsets, plant a tree. It’s really that simple and there are many great organizations doing something similar.

What are we doing to help?

We’ve designed our alpine tour with a few things in mind to minimize environmental impact:

1) Duration - our tour is 3 weeks long, following the above advice.

2) Small group - the tour is designed with a small group in mind - this means more movement will be done by bus rather than having passengers spread across smaller vehicles.

3) Slower pace - the alpine tour is designed with a slower pace in mind. This allows, once more, for fewer emissions and also provides our travelers with the chance to take in more of the local culture.

4) Donation - we donate a portion of ALL trip sales to organizations that are planting trees across Japan. We’re also actively involved in beach cleanups locally and support cleanups in various parts of the world.

More about what makes our Japan Alpine Tour so unique next time!

“Bamboo products don’t really have a good reputation. I want to change that.”

Mr. Chifuyu Enomoto

Mr. Chifuyu Enomoto is a Japanese artist living in the outskirts of Kanazawa City. He’s been producing magnificent works of art for decades now. His works have been displayed in galleries around the world. Kizuna Travel spent the afternoon with him, enjoying locally made organic sweets and roasted green tea while talking about his life and works.

Mr. Chifuyu Enomoto

Discovering Bamboo

“What made you want to do bamboo as opposed to other crafts?” we asked.
 “I’m not really sure, to be honest. Since I wanted to travel the world, I thought getting a normal job wouldn’t work with my plans. I initially thought ‘perhaps I could do pottery’.”
“As it turns out, there are many people doing pottery in Japan, and to get started it's expensive to build a kiln. Then I’d be limited to one place where the kiln is. So I searched for another craft while I was studying pottery and discovered bamboo – I knew it was the one right away.”

Combining Bamboo with Lacquer

“After I graduated from university, I went to a bamboo craft technical school in Oita Prefecture for a year. After that, I went to another bamboo tech school in a different prefecture for another year. And after that, I moved to Wajima City (Wajima City is a city at the top of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture. It is well known for its lacquer) and learned lacquer for another 5 years. Later in my career, I was sent to Germany by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to learn about a similar weaving craft techniques using willow and not bamboo. I wanted to stay for a year, but since I was over 50, I was only allowed to go for 3 months.” (Enomoto Sensei laughed at this point.)

A basket created combining bamboo, lacquer, and gold leaf techniques.

As we talked in Mr. Enomoto’s workshop, we had the opportunity to enjoy some of his previous works. He showed us some of the willow baskets he's weaved, combining the best of techniques from Japan and Germany. We were also given the privilege to see some of his most cherished pieces – one of which took 3 months to make and is a perfect execution of bamboo, gold leaf, and lacquer techniques.

Looking Forward

“Coronavirus has been hard for everyone, but things are starting to look better. What do you plan on working on as things improve?" we ask, as our time together starts to wrap up.

“Rather than producing high end works of art, I want to focus on making more practical items. There’s no shortage of bamboo items in Japan with probably 1,000 bamboo craftsmen, but I like to think I’m the only one who combines techniques from willow working with bamboo, which should give people something more interesting.”

Mr. Enomoto’s wife is skilled at working with cloth, having created unique works of art for a local inn as well as having a gallery of her own works.
“It would be great to produce something combining her cloth skills and my bamboo skills. We’ve got something like this little bag, a good mix of techniques. I think this would a great hit with the ladies. This example here uses cloth from Indonesia”

A "bag" created with bamboo and hand printed cloth from Indonesia.

Here's a fun, simple itinerary suggestion to explore Japan's Nature:

Wake up early, enjoy a Japanese breakfast at your ryokan. After breakfast, meet your guide and head to the mountains.

There you'll enjoy a morning of kayaking around Tedori Lake, a gorgeous turquoise mountain lake located in the southern part of Ishikawa Prefecture. While moving around the lake you'll enjoy the lush green mountains as the snow-fed streams seemingly spill into the lake.

Once your kayak session is over, head to lunch at a local sushi shop. We love Kame Sushi in Yamashiro Onsen, although there are other delicious cuisine types available, including one serving locally caught bear meat.

After you finish lunch, stroll the local towns and check out the vibrant local crafts scene. If you prefer something a little more immersive, there are many local artisans willing to open their shop and for a hands-on experience.

Finally, your day will end back where you started - at your ryokan, enjoying an exquisitely prepared Japanese dinner.

Simple luxury, Japan nature style.

For more itinerary suggestions to explore nature in Japan, check out our itineraries page, here.

Tedori Gorge & the Mountains of Ishikawa

We recently braved the heat and headed to the mountains to explore the Tedori River in Ishikawa Prefecture.

As we always mention, Japan's natural beauty is underrated, and it's easy to see why! With the river a stunning turquoise, the mountains a deep green, and the rice fields providing a contrasting green/yellow, it truly is a painting come to life.

Here we explore the Tedori Gorge, its surrounding area, then head deep into the mountains where the rivers start to begin their journey to the ocean. In addition to small countryside villages we also enjoy some narrow valley views nestled in the Japanese Alps.

Along the way we found some wild walnuts growing and cracked some open for a quick snack. Their flavor was a bit tart and sweet, with the nut still not matured (pictured). We also came across some sun-soaked mountain berries along the path, which were amazingly delicious.

Park Hyatt Tokyo

Park Hyatt Tokyo Visit - July 2020

Rare cars.  Gorgeous hotels.  Private experiences.  Exquisite dining.

Many often associate luxury travel with life's finer material pleasures.  However, the heart of the entire industry is something money can't buypeople.  The luxury travel industry relies exceptional people serving guests in a myriad of ways.  If a guest asks for something, they should receive it in a prompt and professional manner.

The highest level of luxury travel involves anticipating everything guests want before they even have the chance to ask for it.  By doing so, guests will realize a level of comfort that gives them true peace of mind and relaxation, allowing them to enjoy their holiday on a deeper level.

Like many during this pandemic, I have become restless staying at home.  Work is a Groundhog Day- style routine: wake up, eat breakfast, work on my computer, Zoom, or Slack without leaving the house, day after day.

While this lifestyle has its advantagesI've been able to spend nearly every minute with my new born daughter for the first year of her lifeit leaves me yearning to reconnect with my service industry roots.  I missed meeting with the people who make our industry great.

As one can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity to visit the great folks at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and break the nearly half-year drought from business trips and meetings.

Arrival & Gym

Upon stepping through the doors, the duty manager greeted me by name and assisted with my bags.  Next was a quick forehead temperature scan. We then made our way to the lobby, bypassed the front desk, and headed directly to my room for an in-room check-in.  Along the way, I passed at least a dozen hand sanitizer bottles.  Even pre-pandemic, I had become a bit neurotic about trying to use every bottle hand sanitizer I could after a particularly rough flu season a couple years back.

After an explanation of the hotel, its facilities , and a summary of my various reservations, I quickly made my way to the gym to squeeze in a brief workout.  The gym wasn't particularly crowded, and again hand sanitizers and cleaning solutions were everywhere.  In addition, a staff member would come in every ten minutes or so to wipe everything down.  Never obtrusive, they entered quietly, worked methodically, and then slipped out of the area.

New York Bar

Next on the list of activities was a few drinks and dinner at the New York Bar.  Recently, bars are rightfully catching flack for being one of the worst places to be during this pandemic.  Drunk people, as it turns out, aren't so good with rules and boundaries. With Tokyo in the midst of several consecutive days during which virus cases have topped 100, it wasn’t surprising that the crowd at the New York Bar was rather thin. Nevertheless, tables were appropriately spaced, and all workers had masks on.  But I'd rather talk about the service!

Although I had missed the deadline for food, the staff let me order off the room service menu and eat my meal at the bar instead.  I ordered a cheeseburger (my international gold standard for hotel cuisine) and a glass of champagne.  The champagne appeared quickly, as did the burger, and both were delicious.

As my champagne started to disappear, I was asked if I'd like another drink.  Of course!  This time, an IPA was on tap, which in hindsight I probably should have ordered first with the burger.  Regardless, the IPA came quickly, even though I had a few more sips of champagne left.

The music at the bar was amazing, and the singer's gentle, soothing voice adding to the relaxed atmosphere. "Well we're all in the mood for a melody and you've got us feeling alright...'cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see, to forget about life for a while" Her rendition of Billy Joel's Piano Man was, by far, the highlight of the night.  After returning to my room and enjoying a hot bath, I had no trouble quickly falling asleep once I turned out the lights.

The Next Day

Breakfast the next morning was in-rooma standard for all guests for safety and comfort.  Breakfast arrived about 20 minutes after calling room service.  Although there was no buffet spread to choose from, there was more than enough food to hold me over, along with a glass of fantastic carrot apple juice.

After breakfast, I returned to the fitness club to enjoy a massage, which I followed up by alternating between the dry sauna and the cold bath.  To be honest, this was the first massage I have ever experience. I have never had much interest in massages and was usually too busy, anyway.  But I was feeling a bit beat up due to extensive weight training over the past three months, so I figured I'd give it a go.  The Swedish Massage was exactly I had hoped it would be, and I could feel the deep muscle tension slowly fade away, particularly in my lower back and hamstrings.

My visit ended with a hearty lunch at Girandole, the restaurant located between the reception and Peak Lounge.  For lunch I was joined by my good friend, the senior sales manager at the Park Hyatt. We discussed how the world had changed since our last meeting, what we anticipated for tourism’s uncertain return, and strategy.  During these talks, I realized something.

My stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo was spectacular not because of the amazing room, the delicious food, the soothing music, or the relaxing massage.  It was spectacular because it was so "normal."

Feeling Alright

I had nearly forgotten we were in the middle of a pandemic.  Life felt so normal, as if I had been transported back to a year ago when travel was booming and there weren't enough hours in the day to get through everything on my agenda.  Nowadays everyone is going out of their way to emphasize sanitation and cleanliness as a selling point.  The Park Hyatt Tokyo quietly worked behind the scenes to make sure my unexpressed need was met. This allowed me to forget the worries of the world and, even if only for a night, to enjoy refuge from the craziness.  And it worked exceptionally well.

During my stay, I was able to focus on my mental and physical well-being in a clean and safe environment.  There were no reminders of reality everywhere I turned.  The staff executed this at an impressive level, focusing on genuine and caring smiles that could be easily recognized, even from behind a mask, and felt immediately.  In a country known for amazing service, the staff at the Park Hyatt Tokyo took it to a higher level, and did so as a team.

Here at Kizuna, we're looking forward to the day when Japan opens its borders back up, and our guests can experience first-hand the magic that comes with the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s amazing service.

"Well we're all in the mood for a melody and you've got us feeling alright...'cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see, to forget about life for a while"

**** Check out our itineraries page for ideas planning your next trip to Japan