“Confidence comes from being prepared.” – John Wooden.
NOTE: This article was written in April 2022 when borders were closed. Japan’s international borders for foreign tourists have since been reopened.
There’s no denying pink flurries of blossoms set against sapphire skies and a snow-capped Mount Fuji is THE ideal experience in Japan. Unfortunately for the third consecutive year, visitors aren’t able to experience this beautiful phenomenon in person *cries in tourist.*
While our dreams have to be put on hold for another year, there is one benefit to come from it – Japan virtual tours. Huh? Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – that’s not the same as being there. What could a Japan online experience possibly do to quell our border-closure blues?
Recently, I was kindly invited by the team at Arigato Japan Tours to participate in their limited edition Online Hamani Experience and discover the answer to this burning question for myself. And boy, was I impressed – these virtual tours are especially useful when planning a trip to Japan!
While other articles about virtual tours for Japan recommend online presentations and live cams to get your fix, I quickly realised the Arigato Japan Tours are MUCH more than that. And a LOT more fun.
During their live virtual tours of Japan, you’ll gain a tonne of insight into exactly what to do when planning your own hanami visit once borders reopen. Not to mention other kinds of themed tours for outside cherry blossom season, too.
To be an Invisible Tourist at home before being one in Japan, read on for more!
This guide to Japan virtual tours will cover:
This Japan virtual tour was a press invite and contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Who are Arigato Japan Tours?
Arigato Japan Tours is a culinary tourism company to help visitors learn more about Japan and Japanese culture through delicious food.
Did you know Arigato Japan Tours were the first in the country to bring their popular experiences online once borders were closed to tourists? They’ve been featured by Forbes, BBC Travel, The Japan Times, Tokyo Weekender and more.
I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be working closely with Arigato Japan Tours moving forward as our travel philosophies so closely align – expect to see more soon!
What is hanami?
You’ve probably already noticed me mentioning this word a lot! Hanami is the Japanese word for “flower viewing party,” which in time has evolved to refer to cherry blossoms more specifically.
Japanese people get together in groups, lay out a tarp beneath the blush flowers and picnic to celebrate this brief season. It sounds like so much fun, no wonder it’s high on visitors’ wishlists when curating a Japan itinerary!
Online Hanami Experience: Japan Virtual Tour Review
Now, let’s get into Japan virtual travel and my online hanami experience. It’s great news that these cherry blossom virtual tours will be running annually to help you prepare! Book your own online hanami experience here.
Before the tour
It was easy to join the tour via a Zoom link provided via email. Don’t worry about forgetting your allocated time, you’ll receive a reminder email day before! It’s a good idea to log in 5 minutes before so you’re on time.
To make the most of the experience, Arigato Japan Tours recommend you have a few things ready beforehand:
- You may wish to wear something pink or bring along some pink-themed snacks. If you can get your hands on some Japanese snacks, this is a great opportunity to nibble on them during the tour! Next time I’ll be sure to stock up on Ramune, it’s one of my favourite Japanese beverages.
- Don’t forget to bring along a notepad and pen – these tours are live, interactive and are made fun with your participation in sakura-themed games and quizzes!
- Finally, think of any questions you’d like answered by a local about visiting Japan during spring. You’ll have a chance to ask at the conclusion of the tour.
During the tour
I couldn’t wait to hear more about hanami from a local’s perspective. Our host, Lauren, who has lived in Japan for over 20 years, was so excited to share her knowledge about Japan during this season.
Despite having seen dozens of hanami seasons during her time in Japan, she demonstrated just as much enthusiasm as someone who had recently moved to the country. It was so lovely to see, that kind of energy is infectious!
Now I’m not going to reveal too much about the tour’s contents because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but things you can expect to learn and experience are:
- Why Japan doesn’t actually have 4 seasons (there are more than you think!)
- The real truth behind why cherry blossoms are so popular & their meaning in Japanese culture
- Why the busy month of April isn’t the only time to see sakura (cherry blossoms)
- Some beautiful Japanese words related to sakura
- All about sakura related food, fashion & more
- Suggestions for off the beaten path places in Japan to admire the blossoms
- Hanami travel tips: Be sure to use these in conjunction with my guide to spring travel in Japan
- Sakura photography tips
- And much more!
After the tour
Once the tour is complete, the last 15 minutes are the chance to ask your host any questions. Nothing beats local knowledge to give you confidence when you explore Japan in person.
After your online hanami experience, you’ll receive a Resource Pack via email that outlines everything discussed in your session so you don’t forget by the time your own Japan trip comes around.
Add these hanami tours to your spring Japan itinerary
With so much knowledge gained in just one hour online, imagine how much you can learn on an actual foodie tour on the ground in your favourite cities in Japan!
Bookmark this page or save to Pinterest to remember to add these hanami foodie tours to your spring Japan itinerary:
Overall thoughts on my hanami virtual Japan tour
As I mentioned earlier, I was very impressed by this online Japan tour. I’ve seen a few other Japan virtual tours since 2020, but Arigato Japan’s was a real stand-out.
I can honestly say this one session covered things that had taken me several years to learn from my own research and cultural experiences in Japan.
- I realised these kinds of tours aren’t just to fill a void during border closures – they will actually fast-track your knowledge ahead of your Japan visit, which is something I always highly recommend. Confidence comes from being prepared!
- Sure, preparation for your visit can also be done by reading blogs, books and watching YouTube videos. However, what sets these Japan virtual tours apart is that they are interactive – you’re able to ask a local questions, participate in quizzes to test your knowledge, little challenges and more.
- It’s not just an online presentation, the fact that it’s in real-time with a certified guide and you’re able to have fun whilst participating is truly something else.
- As someone obsessed with this country, even though I have visited Japan in early spring in the past, this Japan virtual travel experience with hanami had me excited at the prospect of revisiting during the peak sakura season.
- Applying what I learnt to my future sakura trip was going to make it even more meaningful than just taking pretty photos, especially if I plan to visit the offbeat spring destinations mentioned in the tour.
A huge thanks to Arigato Japan Tours for inviting me to this unique experience!
So what’s stopping you? Grab your Japanophile friends, get the family together and capture that aura of excitement at the prospect of being able to visit during this season. With more countries in Asia beginning to lift restrictions for tourism, we can only hope Japan is not too far around the corner *fingers crossed!*
More live virtual tours of Japan
Interested in finding out in-depth information about areas you plan to visit and foodie experiences you hope to try? Check out these additional Japan virtual experiences by Arigato Japan Tours to gain insider knowledge ahead of the real thing!
Did you know? Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, and is the most sacred mountain in the country.
Concluding this Japan online tour experience
That’s a wrap! What do you think about these kinds of online experiences by Arigato Japan Tours? I’m sure you’ll agree they’re more than an ordinary presentation citing Google Street View with a brief glimpse of Shibuya Crossing or Tokyo National Museum.
Now having known more about them and what they’re really like, are these tours something you would try before your Japan visit? Which city would you do? Let me know in the comments below.
While you’re here, take a look at my Japan travel blog to help you be even more prepared for your future trip – Discover how to “be invisible” with my free itineraries, learn the do’s and don’ts of Japanese etiquette, my essential tips for what to pack for Japan (as well as what NOT to bring to be a responsible tourist) and much more!
If you found this helpful I’d love for you to leave me a comment and share this article with your friends. You can also come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or TikTok for more Japan travel tips and inspiration!
Until next time,
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This review of Arigato Japan virtual tours contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!