As a global tour operator, we are committed to operating every one of our trips in a way that respects and benefits local people, their culture and economy, while minimising our impact on the natural environment.
We travel in small groups and wherever possible we use local transport, stay in locally-owned accommodation or homestays, eat at authentic local restaurants, support traditional artisans and small-scale businesses, and provide opportunities for travellers to interact with local people.
The maximum group size on this food-focused trip through Tokyo is 12 passengers, so we can visit small-scale restaurants, bars and markets. There are lots of opportunities to eat fresh, local, seasonal food – for example, at Tsukiji Fish Market, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world, where you’ll eat the freshest sushi breakfast imaginable. We also visit a rice wholesaler, where we learn that many locals only eat rice that is sourced from their home region, and a sake brewery to sample the quintessential Japanese beverage direct from the producer.
We travel between Tokyo and Hakone on a bullet train, which is clean and modern and has recycling facilities for paper, bottles and cans. Once there, we stay in a traditional Japanese ryokan where we truly experience the local culture. We sleep in the traditional style on a futon which is spread out on a tatami mat, dress in a yukata (traditional robe) and enjoy a traditional multi-course dinner, referred to as ‘kaiseki’. This is a highly regional and seasonal approach to dining and dishes will vary according to what is freshly available at a particular time of year.
Hakone forms part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and is home to hot springs, mountains, bush walks, lakes, and breathtaking views of Mt Fuji. We are only too aware of the need to preserve this stunning natural environment and that is why we operate this trip on a carbon neutral basis, by offsetting 250kg of C02 emissions for each passenger.
After a three-year process, we were proud to become a carbon neutral company in 2010 and we have an ongoing programme to measure, reduce and offset the carbon emissions from our offices, stores and trips. We also offer passengers who book their flight through us the option to offset those emissions. To date, we have offset more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by investing in a range of internationally accredited renewable energy projects in destinations where we travel.
As well as a Responsible Travel Code of Conduct which we adhere to as a company, we expect our staff and travellers to demonstrate the principles of responsible travel and provide a number of responsible travel tips to facilitate this, for example advice on what clothing is appropriate and respectful. In Japan, where dress standards are quite conservative, we recommend modest clothing which covers the shoulders and knees particularly when visiting temples, working monasteries, holy shrines, cooking schools and ancient gardens.
As a tour company, our responsibilities don’t stop when our tours end. In 2002, we established a charitable foundation so that our passengers and staff could support grassroots community projects around the world. To date, it has donated over £2million to over 75 projects around the world which are involved with health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, and environmental and wildlife protection. We match every donation made by passengers and pay the administration costs, so every penny that is donated goes to a good cause.