Just returned to Hawaii from a quick trip to Japan which included 2 days in Kyoto. First, if you’re thinking about taking a relaxing trip to Kyoto avoid the Thanksgiving weekend! It’s already peak season to visit Kyoto to witness the changing colors for autumn, but what is Thanksgiving day in the US is also a national holiday in Japan. Everything and everywhere was crowded with local and foreign tourists. Talking Saturday night Las Vegas strip crowds and Disneyland Main Street after the fireworks crowded sidewalks! Did not see that coming so didn’t plan for that! Fortunately, we had Masaki as our tour guide and he did plan for it! Masaki or “Makoon” which is his nickname, was EXCEPTIONAL. He anticipated the crowds and had it programmed into his itinerary for the day. He had us start early and we were able to stroll through Gion and take in the culture behind the mystery. He was well informed and prepared so provided unique insight to every site we visited. We visited numerous temples and shrines (he explained the difference!) before the crowds become a problem. Instead of relying on taxis to get around which is the norm for private tours, he had planned using the subways and rail because of the anticipated traffic congestion on the surface streets. He even had us enter the bamboo forest from the exit end to avoid the crowd trying to get in the front gate. Simple things which showed that Makoon had taken the extra effort and thought in pre-planning to ensure that our day would be as stress-free and enjoyable as possible! Our day tour of Kyoto could have easily gone the frustrating route with all the crowds, lines, traffic, etc. but we were very fortunate to have Makoon as our guide. His dedication, sincere love of the city, and his efforts to make your visit truly memorable was quite impressive. Mahalo Makoon for a job well done!