Japan Travel: Satisfy Your Yen For True Japanese Culture | Activity holidays | To travel

In the summer of 1853, four American ships sailed Tokyo Bay, ending Japan’s 200 years of self-imposed isolation. The extraordinary, island country they found immediately captured the world’s imagination, sparking a craze known as Japonism that forever changed Western art and aesthetics. Japan continues to fascinate and delight; a land of striking modernity and ancient traditions, where elegant geishas, ​​robed priests and visionary engineers are all part of the authentic face of Japan.

Immerse yourself in the exciting and serene world of Shinto monks, street vendors, anime characters, Okinawan centenarians, tech innovators, J-pop megastars, ancient philosophers, onsen dwellers and more. others.

From architecture to martial arts; from ramen to robots; kawaii in Kusama; ikigai to ikebana; from towering skyscrapers to shrines – Be More Japan unveils the art and creativity behind modern Japanese life through its kaleidoscope of contrasting places, people and practices.

Here are some essentials to do while visiting Japan:

  • Cross the threshold of the world of the gods at a Shinto shrine.

Some are peaceful and intimate, while others are bustling destinations ringing the bells and chatter of people discussing the romantic fortunes they have bought from the shrine stalls.

  • Picnic under the cherry blossoms in spring – a true Japanese celebration of nature and the changing seasons.

You can even hunt the flowers as they come to life in stages across Japan, from March in the south to early May in the north.

  • No talent required: sing your heart out at karaoke. You can order food and drink right from your private, soundproof room, so settle in for the evening and get ready to sing your favorite songs in the ultimate song.
  • Experience a tranquil tea ceremony and fall under the spell of this traditional and elegant ritual.

The ceremony is filled with moments of Zen-inspired peace and meditation, and beauty in the form of ceramic bowls and wall art.

  • Visit Kyoto, a historic icon in the heart of modern Japan. The city is home to an incredible variety of incredible architectures, with more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other city on the planet.

With 1,600 Buddhist temples, Kyoto is an absolute must-see for any culture lover.

The best way to experience the city is to stay at a ryokan (traditional inn), where you will sleep on a futon on tatami mats and dine on classic Japanese cuisine washed down with lots of sake.

  • Express yourself in style in the fashion districts of major cities. Get inspired on Sundays when the streets become a parade of stylish shoppers – either showing off the latest chic trends or continuing the Japanese tradition of colorful experimentation.
  • Find your inner peace in a Zen garden. Sparse and barren at first glance, take a closer look to research the significance of each rock and stone choice, as understanding the scene unfolding in front of you is the key to unlocking true stillness.
  • Join the tumultuous celebrations at a summer festival. While every festival is different – some honoring a particular shrine or historical event – you’ll find that they’re all filled with exuberant crowds enjoying delicious street food, lively entertainment, and quality time with friends and family.
  • Create a living sculpture in an ikebana class. Everything from the choice of the vase to the spaces between the twigs and the flowers becomes an artistic tool to design a piece that captures the fleeting beauty of nature.
  • Discover a vending machine classic: canned coffee, an everyday staple all over Japan.

Forget about ordinary coffees and stop by the nearest vending machine – you’ll never be far from one of these ubiquitous gadgets – to enjoy a refreshing coffee in the heat of summer or a deliciously hot can in winter.

  • Take a dip in a relaxing hot spring. As one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, isn’t it any wonder that hot springs are an integral part of Japanese culture? Find out why they are so important to Japanese people by diving into a rotenburo – an outdoor hot spring – to enjoy not only a unique cultural experience, but also stunning natural views.
  • Savor award-winning whiskey from Japan in a refreshing highball, which pairs perfectly with meat or seafood.

Thanks to its seasonal climates and the native wood used for the cask, Japanese whiskey has now taken center stage around the world.

  • Japan is home to some of the best (and weirdest) snacks in the world.

Try umaibo or “delicious stick,” a popcorn stick that comes in savory or sweet versions, with popular flavors such as cheese, corn soup and teriyaki burger.

Onigiri are rice balls usually wrapped in nori seaweed, most of which are triangular and contain a filling of meat or vegetables.

Hiyoko cakes (meika hiyoko) are sweet buns shaped like chicks.

Filled with a yellow jam made from red beans, with seasonal flavors such as green tea or cherry blossom.

  • Take a fast train. When Japan launched the Shinkansen in 1964, it left the rest of the world in its dust.

As you quietly accelerate to 200 mph (320 km / h), you’ll feel like you’re already in the future.

Be More Japan, published by DK Eyewitness. £ 16.99, dk.com

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