Kristin Frick has the travel bug, the kind of incurable itch that landed her at Classic Journeys as our Senior Guest Services Coordinator. When Japan began to show up on our radar as a most-requested destination, she raised her hand and said, “Dekimasu!” or “I can do it!” Given that she lived and taught English in Japan for three years, asking her to handcraft the itinerary was a no-brainer. Kristin’s firsthand knowledge and passion for Japan guarantee you a remarkably well thought out experience.
Why did you move to Japan?
I’d been living and teaching in France, but it was difficult to get a visa. So I made a leap to Japan, where getting a visa was not a problem, as they bring native-speaking English speakers into classrooms. My planned six-month stay lasted three years!
Is the country as insular as they say?
It can definitely be an insular society. I couldn’t communicate at all, so I had to jump in and learn quickly. I got to know the people and culture very well through teaching English. What really stands out was that I taught older people in addition to kids. It was fascinating to get to know them and hear their stories from growing up, in some cases before WWII. It gave me a new perspective on their history and culture that we don’t get in the United States.
How did you translate your experiences into the new Classic Journeys trip?
First, I knew that you absolutely need connections with local people. Because it’s a safe country, people are tempted to go on their own, but you miss the real Japan by doing that. I wanted to replicate unique things I did there, like going to generations-old farms or visiting tea plantations. We also go to Tokyo Sky Tree, which is one of the biggest buildings. It’s an ancient society rich in tradition and history, but it’s also hyper-new, with bright lights, big cities and a wild and crazy urban energy. I want our guests to see and feel that old/new dichotomy.
Why should travelers go to Japan now?
In practical terms, the U.S. dollar is strong against the yen, so we can offer great value. Even though Japan is far away, it’s easy to get there on the many nonstop flights from American cities. The art, architecture and food are all on a level that’s light years beyond anywhere else. The food, in particular, is incredible. Japanese restaurants have more Michelin stars than any other country in the world!
What does Classic Journeys provide that travelers can't get anywhere else?
We have a unique bento-box approach to this trip that’s very different. Our core itinerary explores Tokyo, the countryside near Mount Fuji, and Kyoto. We stay in an especially beautiful hotel at Mount Fuji that has stunning views. Kyoto is a more traditional city, a perfect counter-balance to ultra-modern Tokyo. The bento box idea is to offer an add-on post-tour extension to Hiroshima, a pre-tour itinerary for Tokyo, and an optional mid-tour hike up Mount Fuji. Each guest can do all of them, none of them or any combination. Everything is high quality, pre-designed and easy. Not every visitor can say that about their travels in Japan, but I know that ours will!