“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome abroad to HIS Airline 123.” The tour starts with the lovely smile of Minami-san wearing a uniform of flight attendant and the atmosphere turns to exciting. This tour is hosted by H.I.S. Co., Ltd., one of well-known travel agencies in Japan. They offer various virtual tours about introducing not only Tokyo but must-visit-and-see spots all over Japan.
Japan has four seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. Each season changes landscapes dramatically and that is why not so a few international tourists come back to Japan in different seasons. In spring, Japanese people are waiting the call of cherry blossom blooming that means the end of long cold winter.
The fall is the best season to visit Japan. This is not only because the weather is not so cold either so hot, but also it is the season of harvest such as Japanese mushrooms called Shiitake, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, oysters and so on. There are many phrases in Japan to describe what a good season the fall is. As people hear the news about when and where the cherry blossoms are blooming in spring, it happens to the autumn leaves as well.
Gingko trees turn to yellow and the ground is covered by golden leaves. Maple trees turn to red and its merlot color spreads into greenery mountains like an impressionism drawing. That’s the typical sight in Japan and there are tours to see beautiful landscapes covered by colorful autumn leaves. For this year, what makes it special is people can enjoy several spots of autumn leaves nationwide in Japan via online.
H.I.S. Co., Ltd. has branches all over Japan so during the virtual tour each tour guide from Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Kyoto and Fukuoka are appeared and they introduce the area’s history, culture, local food and famous tourist spots.
What is surprising is the tour starts with the scene of inside aircraft and there is a guide Davide-san waiting you in Haneda Airport, the main international airport in Tokyo as if you actually arrived Japan after spending long long hours on the airplane. The scene of airport is enough to entertain you and make you ready to start travelling.
The first destination to see the autumn leaves is Gaienmae, Tokyo. The weather via the screen looks perfect sunny and Ginkgo Tree Line Avenue is fabulous. Tokyo is well known for the place with high buildings or colorful electric ads so it is surprising that some of parks in Tokyo like Gaienmae have tall trees and pretty flower gardens. Here is the spot where you don’t go by yourself but the guide, this time Valentin-san escorts.
Second destination is Sapporo in Hokkaido. The most northern prefecture in Japan. After we saw people in Tokyo wearing T-shirts or light jackets and enjoy sunbathing, the winter already arrived in Sapporo. Piphat-san’s thick winter jacket and the gray cloudy weather make even us feel chilly. He turns his camera to show the autumn leaves but his small (and funny) scream tells the best time here is already over.
The new guide, Takasuji-san, shows Nijo Market, 15 stores and restaurant are gathered. His crab-shape hat is fun to watch and even the people at the market are smiling at him. As various crabs are lining on the store, I would have to admit the one sad thing about the virtual tour is while the guide eats the tasty seafood rice ball, what the audience can do is just watching and guessing how the taste should be. I can see the people add “eating a real seafood rice” for to-do list in Japan.
As dreaming of juicy crabs and sea foods in Hokkaido ,the tour moves on to the third destination, Sendai. Andy-san’s cheerful voice and the samurai hat welcome us. Sendai is located in the northern part of Japan’s main island so the weather there seems cold but the rainbow luckily appears in Sendai and warms up both our feelings and hearts. That’s the gift of live broadcasting; something unpredictable happens.
The fourth destination is Kyoto, the worldly well-known and super popular place that you could easily tell even from the screen. The guide, Robyn-san starts her guide in Kyoto from the bamboo garden and while she is walking, many tourists are also there. Some of them are wearing yukata, the traditional Japanese clothing so as if we travel even into the old old time. As hopping to souvenir and craft shops, each item is dedicatedly hand made so shopping and finding good Japanese crafts is up there.
Fukuoka, the last destination, shows another aspect of Japan since it is located in the different island and is south from Kyoto and Tokyo. Ofuchi-san introduces the history of how Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is built and shares the interesting story that the shrine is dedicated to Sugawara Michizane. Because the person was a great scholar, today many students come and pray for their academic success on exams.
If you actually visit these 5 spots, it will take 7 to 10 days so this 90-minute virtual tour is like a summary of Japan. Japan’s size is as same as California, just only one state of the United States. However, as guides mention that the weather in Hokkaido forwards approximately one month ahead from Tokyo or other southern areas. When the north prefectures are ready for winter, the south prefectures still enjoy Indian summer. Japan is bigger and more diverse than its actual size.
In 2020, traveling especially internationally has become a pipe dream. People dream to go anywhere besides own place. The impressive thing about this virtual tour is you can feel extraordinary by the guides walking and showing how each city is now. The lively atmosphere are delivered even via screens and furthermore, you must know all guides’ warm hearts as waiting for our actual visits.
If you are interested in the tour I took, here is the link.