When we went to Nippon2007, the plan was to do touring with our friends, instead of going through the official NTA (Nippon Travel Agency). Somehow because we asked about staying overnight at Nikkou, the NTA person thought we are going to their official Nikkou tour, and right before we left, asked if they can charge the $500. I was of course assuming that this is something that our little group is doing. Truth be told, since our friend handled all of the arrangement, what I told NTA was basically, "do whatever our friends are doing." It didn't occur to me to ask for clarification and I didn't really think about it and said yes.
We spent half a dozen days in Kyoto/Kanazawa having a grand old time and then went to Tokyo. Then I got a letter from the NTA person about the Nikkou tour next day. I talked to our friend and then we have to rush out to meet with out Japanese friends for the evening. But it slowly dawned on me what happened was that our friends were NOT on this tour. So we either go with the official tour or go with our friends. Of course we opted for the latter.
It was a good decision, as we ended up spending a lot of time on the sights that we wanted to see (still tons more photos to process), but the NTA person said they may not be able to give refund. May be 80%. Well I figured 80% is not too bad. The bad way to look at it is we lost $125, but the good way is that we saved $375 traveling ourselves (the Japan JR Rail Pass that we got covered most of the transportation trip).
Well, just got a check from NTA. They said unfortunately the Nikkou Tour operator Sunrise Tour says that since we canceled last minutes, they refuse to give refund. The NTA was nice enough to give 50%.
So while 50% back is better than nothing, one can argue that the NTA should have known that clearly we have not taken ANY other tours with them throughout the trip and that we are traveling with our friends, so they should have confirmed that in fact that is our plan. Yea it's my fault for not following through with everything but you know, losing $250 kind of sucks. Oh well.
I guess the bad guy is Sunrise Tour, and frankly we will not do business with Nippon Travel Agency again either.