World Odyssey’s self-professed adventuress Lucy Garbutt experiences first-hand the peaceful ease of the Japanese culture…
The rich platter of Japanese traditions cannot fail to fascinate even the most cynical together with beguiling words such as geisha, sushi, samurai, bonsai, kimonos, feng shui, bullet trains, futons, Zen and origami providing added intrigue.
As an undergraduate Anthropologist one of my most interesting lecturers specialised in Japanese culture. This lecturer’s idiosyncratic tendencies transported us to Japanese shrines and temples, tea houses with sliding paper screens and tatami mat floors and titillating geisha girls with their exotic wigs and elaborate shironuri makeup.
An hour in Dr Henman’s company always made for a fascinating journey! One such revelation was into the act of gift giving in Japan which is deeply rooted in tradition. Gifts are given on all occasions with the emphasis on the actual act of giving rather than the gift itself and the way a gift is wrapped and the wrapping itself is as important, if not more so, than the actual gift!
Our family recently witnessed such traditions first-hand when we hosted a delightful Japanese language student for the summer holidays. Our guest arrived festooned with gifts for all, intimately wrapped and folded in exquisitely patterned gilt edged paper. During the month we experienced our visitor’s quiet and charming etiquette, being always appreciative, grateful and thankful for our hospitality and polite to the point of embarrassment. Bidding farewell for the day on the first morning involved a bow which I emulated and this then continued in a ping pong fashion with our new friend eventually having the last bow! On one occasion, kimono clad, we took part in a tea ceremony and over the weeks the children created stock piles of meticulously folded origami creatures. We are now all equally enchanted by our beautiful visitor and her fascinating country and cannot wait to visit!
As we all know Tokyo is all shopping zones, modern skyscrapers, high-speed trains and flashes of neon. In complete contrast to its futuristic capital and many large cities, rural Japan is a calming antidote with its ancient Buddhist temples and shrines, tea ceremony masters, traditional ryokan inns and centuries-old craftsmanship and surprisingly, seventy per cent of the country is a sprawling mountainous wilderness.
You can ski in the world class powder in Furano, hike along the centuries old highway in the heart of feudal Japan, follow ancient pilgrimage routes in historic Asuka, enjoy magnificent scenery in the Japanese Alps and lush forests around iconic Mt Fuji. Other intriguing cultural activities include hands on experiences such as a private audience with a trainee geisha, lessons in taiko drumming and traditional Japanese crafts such as paper making, pottery, cloth dyeing and woodblock print making – all of which provide uniquely Japanese experiences.
Another highlight of Japan is its fabulous food ranging from sushi to soba noodles and you can also take part in an Osaka street food evening tour, a guided noodle tour and explore the Nishiki market with its bustling arcade of all manner of colourful, unidentifiable ingredients!
If you would like to organise an adventurous journey to Japan or anywhere else in the world, a holiday can be tailor-made by World Odyssey – for more information on anything to do with your next holiday please call one of our travel specialists for advice on: 01905 731373