Off the Beaten Path: A Different Side of Japan

By Michael P. Marsh

April is a popular time to visit Japan because it is sakura season. Sakura, the cherry blossoms of Japan, herald the arrival of spring, symbolizing both the fleeting beauty of life and the renewal it brings. The flowering trees in variations of white and pink draw enthusiastic visitors from around the world.

The sakura at Omiya Park in Saitama, Japan. Photo Credit: Michael P. Marsh

The cherry blossoms were an alluring draw to make my reservation for a spring sojourn, but the primary purpose of my trip was to see the snow monkeys, which had been on my bucket list for several years. An escorted group tour from Honolulu with Non-Stop Travel offered both.

Billed as “Off the Beaten Path: A Different Side of Japan,” the tour package included a plethora of hands-on experiences, including soba noodle making, Imayo Tsukasa Sake Brewery tour and tasting, strawberry picking, green tea field and factory (pack your own canister of tea), Hakone Yosegi-Zaiku box making, and sushi making. The round trip from Tokyo included visits to Omiya, Niigata, Sado Island, Nagano, Matsumoto, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, and Tokyo. I even managed to fit in a day trip to Kyoto and Nara by myself.

Michael and fellow tour member Sylvia, participating in our hands-on activity of making fresh soba noodles!
Michael and fellow tour member Sylvia, participating in our hands-on activity of making fresh soba noodles! Photo Credit: Michael Lindo

The package included roundtrip airfare from Honolulu, 10 nights in hotels, 21 meals, tips for local guides and bus drivers, and all taxes and fees. Highlights of the tour included the JR Super Express Train Ride (bullet train), Northern Culture Museum, Niigata Furusato Village, AEON Mall Niigata Minami, Jetfoil Ride to Sado Island, Oni-Daiko (Demon Drums) Performance, Sado Gold Mine, Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Centre, Tarai-bune Boat Ride, Shukunegi Fishing Village, Jetfoil Ride to Niigata Port, Pia Bandai, Zenko-ji Temple, Hokusaikan Museum, Jigokudani Monkey Park (for Nagano Snow Monkeys), Daio Wasabi Nojo, Matsumoto Castle, Unagi Pie Factory, Michi-no-Eki Stand Kakegawa, Owakudani, Hakone Ropeway, Mt. Fuji, Ameyoko Shopping, Asakusa Sensoji Temple, and Nakamise Shopping.

I guess they don’t call the company “Non-Stop Travel” for nothing. We were on the go the entire duration of our sojourn. Despite the exhaustion, I was grateful to cover so much of the Land of the Rising Sun on this ambitious itinerary.

Our group of 30 travelers was escorted by a tour manager, Michael Lindo, and his lovely wife, Beverly. They accompanied us on a round trip from Honolulu. Their assistance and support throughout the tour gave us peace of mind. In addition to being a valuable resource, they also interacted with the local guides to keep us on schedule.

Group shot
Photo Credit: Michael Lindo

Joining an organized tour with Non-Stop Travel provided me with the opportunity to experience Japan with the new friends I met. It was wonderful traveling with a group from Hawaii because everyone brought their aloha with them. They were an amazing, warm, welcoming, friendly, and courteous group of folks. Have you ever been on a group tour where someone buys you lunch just because they “enjoy your company?” Or treats you to soft cream for breakfast? I’ve never experienced anything like it in all my travels. They say it’s not just about the journey but who you travel with that matters, and this group really added to the experience.

Choosing a pre-arranged group tour provided a worry-free chance to fully enjoy Japan with limited effort on my part. It was an awesome trip!

Michael at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Nagano, Japan.
Michael at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Nagano, Japan. Photo Credit: Michael P. Marsh

While waiting for the flight back to Honolulu to depart, I sat in exhaustion, thinking about how fortunate I was to have experienced just about everything I had on my list. Not only was the group tour itinerary ambitious to begin with, but I also added some extras, therefore making it a completely jam-packed journey through Japan. I achieved the three things I wanted most to see: cherry blossoms, snow monkeys, and Mt. Fuji.

Life, like the cherry blossoms, is beautiful yet fleeting. Seize the opportunity to make your travel dreams a reality and experience the wonders of the world. Time flies, so don’t wait to ignite your sense of adventure!

Jam-Packed Japan!

Discover Michael’s immersive journey through Japan as he shares in-depth, firsthand experiences of each day on tour in Japan. From cherry blossom marvels to encounters with snow monkeys and the majestic Mt. Fuji, delve into the details of his adventure at Gain insights, tips, and a deeper understanding of the Land of the Rising Sun through Michael’s vivid narratives and captivating storytelling. Don’t miss out on this virtual voyage; click the link to embark on an enriching exploration of Japan!

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Ready for an unforgettable journey through Japan’s cherry blossom season? Non-Stop Travel’s tours are your ticket to exploring Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mt. Fuji amidst stunning pink and white blooms. Dive into traditions, savor delicious cuisine, and create lasting memories. Book your cherry blossom adventure today at!

Michael P. Marsh

About Michael P. Marsh

Michael P. Marsh resides in Mililani. An avid traveler, Michael has visited all seven continents, 56 countries, and all 50 states. His favorite destinations are Aruba, New York City, and New Orleans. He writes about his adventures on his travel blog, Michael enjoys concerts and theater and is the proud Dad of two tiny Yorkshire terriers, LuLu & Spike. He runs a nonprofit called Responsive Caregivers of Hawaii, providing services to adults with developmental disabilities.