Out of the Bento Box: a Japanese Incentive Adventure

September 7, 2018

by: Phil Cochrane

Kimonos.  High-speed trains.  Snow monkeys soaking in natural hot springs.  Samurai swords. Teppanyaki. Summon your inner sumo wrestler and break free of the incentive travel beach box and jump into the well-balanced bento box of Japanese adventure!

You’ve done the Caribbean.  Hawaii is in the books. This time around take your crew to the Land of the Rising Sun.

The bustling, modern streets of Tokyo may be the first image that comes to mind when thinking of Japan, but a mere 2.5-hour ride by bullet train or a low-cost, one hour flight will lead you to Kanazawa, Ishikawa (Say that ten times fast), a region rich in Japanese culture.  Ishikawa in Japanese means rock river and is the perfect jumping off point for experiencing an incentive travel event like none other. 

Hot Springs Hotels

Spend the night at a traditional Japanese hotel like the Ryokan Matsusaki or the Yunokuni Tensyo where each room is done in the classic sukiya style—clean, wood lines, opaque paper shoji doors, tatami woven mats, and simple, low wooden tables.  

Slip on your kimono and wooden sandals and enjoy an authentic Japanese meal. Cross beautiful bridges and courtyards surrounded by lush trees on your way to the famous indoor and outdoor hot springs for a dip.  Pink cherry blossoms, verdant greens, crimson maple leaves, or pristine white snow—there is never a bad time to relax in the natural tanbuboro hot springs which date back 1400 years.  Oh, and don’t worry if you forget your swimsuit; skinny dipping is an acceptable part of Japanese culture.


Don’t put away your kimono yet!  You’re going to need it today. After all, that’s how everyone is dressed around town.  Eat a delicious lunch at Rokkakudo, an incredible teppanyaki restaurant, where Japan’s world-famous steak and skilled chefs are on full display.  Then stroll along Kenrokuen Garden’s peaceful stone pathways and wooden bridges over water so smooth it reflects the manicured beauty of this iconic Japanese garden.  Next, wander the Higashi Chaya District lined with wooden buildings and shop for regional handicrafts. Visit an actual samurai house and see how the Nomura family lived in the 16th century, including beautifully painted screens, koi ponds, and a suit of samurai armor.  Head over to Kanazawa Castle for a time-honored tea service (You know you’ve been wanting to experience it since watching Karate Kid 2 back in 1986).  And the woodworkers in your group will drool over the castle’s incredible interior timber framing.  In the evening speed forward in time with a group dinner at the classic Motorcar Museum of Japan.

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You had me at ‘Snow Monkey’

On the exhilarating bullet train (200mph) ride back to Tokyo, stop in Nagano to see the Japanese Macaques—resident celebrities of any decent nature show—enjoying an open-air hot spring or “onsen” at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park.

Eat like a Sumo Wrestler

Though an entire post could be devoted to things to do in Tokyo, one of my favorites was dining at Hananomai Ryogoku for an entertaining and eye-opening sumo demonstration.  P.S. With food this good, I can see how sumo wrestlers can down 20,000 calories a day!

Company Culture

Honor.  Respect.  Excellence.  Work Ethic. These ideals embody Japanese culture.  And aren’t those the very ideals incentive travel is rewarding?  You can do the beach any old time. Why not make your next incentive program unique and unforgettable.  Say konnichiwa to Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture!