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From the Forum to Face-to-Face

How three members of our online community “reunited” in Kyoto, Japan

Posted on 1/5/2016 12:47:00 PM in Traveler Insights

Users of OAT’s Travel Forum will no doubt recognize the username “richard r,” because Richard is our most active participant. The problem is, as Richard and his forum friends often lament, there simply aren’t that many users. “In the nearly six years that the forums have been available, I’ve taken seven OAT trips with about 90 different fellow travelers—and only one expressed an awareness of the forum's existence,” says Richard. “It’s a shame, as the forum has proven to be a valuable tool for clients to ask questions about prospective trips and receive answers from those who have taken them. It’s also useful for calling attention to problems experienced while booking and traveling.” In addition to bringing travelers together in a virtual sphere, the forum has also facilitated real-life connections—as Richard discovered in Japan. He hopes to see more fellow travelers on the forum soon.

By Richard R., 16-time traveler from Winchester, MA

It was my pleasure to have joined 15 others for Japan’s Cultural Treasures with Mariko-san as our outstanding Trip Leader. I had lived, worked in, and visited Japan over many years, but had not been back since my wife and I left in November of 1988. I considered returning independently to see what has changed and remained the same, but my wife no longer travels afar. Desiring some company, my OAT group could not have been better. Our October weather was perfect; rain on the night of our arrival that put a snow-cap on Mt. Fuji for our photos, then nothing followed but blue skies and fall colors.

I returned to Japan out of a strong feeling of nostalgia, as my family and I thrived and thoroughly enjoyed Japan and the Japanese. My return wasn't all that my dreams had led me to expect, because all of my close former friends had passed away or gone missing over the years. The upbeat part of this trip was that the itinerary and weather were excellent, and I made 15 new fellow traveler friends—plus, three more forum friends with whom I had a marvelous face-to-face reunion in Kyoto!

Karyn K., Sharon C., and I have been active participants in the OAT Travel Forum for some time, but were not directly in touch with one another before our connection via the Forum in September 2015. Karyn has been a professor of law for many years in Kyoto, Japan. She has traveled twice with OAT and is now planning her third trip. Sharon and her husband Clint are retired in Texas, and have traveled with OAT nine times.

Sharon is an experienced international traveler, alert to all opportunities to get the most out of their OAT itineraries by seeking opportunities for low-cost, independent adventures at the same time. Part of Sharon’s search to get the most out of their days in Japan was to seek suggestions and share ideas on the OAT Forum. Karyn responded to Sharon with detailed suggestions in the Forum based on her wealth of experience in Japan.

In the course of their exchanges in the Forum, Karyn suggested getting together for dinner one evening when Sharon and Clint would be in Kyoto during Japan’s Cultural Treasures. When Karyn learned that I’d also be in Kyoto at the same time with an overlapping OAT group, I was invited to join them.

Karyn arranged for us to meet at the end of the afternoon in a Kyoto hotel lobby just halfway between Sharon's hotel and mine. Once gathered together, Karyn suggested we dine at one of her favorite restaurants in the sparkling new and impressive Kyoto railroad station, so we took the conveniently located subway. Dining in a railroad station doesn’t impress by words alone, but believe me the Kyoto station is a DESTINATION! We had a fine time together at the table, then Karyn took us on a tour of the station, including a view of the city lights from the roof terrace.

At the end of the evening, we were thankful that the forum existed to assist us in creating a really memorable meeting within a great adventure.

Richard’s Japan’s Cultural Treasures group was led by Trip Leader Mariko Okada, who always helped them make the most of free time—including a special opportunity in Kyoto, where their visit coincided with the annual Jidai Matsuri parade on October 22. “Mariko booked us front row seats for the Jidai Matsuri,” says Richard, “in which more than a thousand locals parade in clothing and armor representing Kyoto culture through the centuries.” Meet Mariko in this video:

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