17 January 2019
Blending trendy streets with traditional gardens and historical relics with contemporary art, Japan is the ideal place for an unforgettable, culture-filled escape. Immerse yourself in this incredible destination, packed with ancient capitals and modern metropolises, and take the opportunity to immerse yourself in a range of traditional Japanese experiences. Here is a selection of our favourite ones that we’re sure you’ll adore.
There is no better time to visit Japan than in the next two years, as they are set to host two of the world’s biggest sporting events. From 20 September to 2 November 2019, 20 nations will battle it out in the Rugby World Cup across 12 venues spread across three of Japan’s four main islands. Attention will turn to Tokyo in 2020 for the Summer Olympic Games, where the finest athletes from every country will be competing for bronze, silver and gold. If you want to attend an event, get in contact with your Travel Counsellor who will be able to put together a package for you.
“Japan is my favourite country because it has a wonderfully rich history, interesting culture and great food. Add to your experience by staying in a Ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese style guesthouse, and don’t pass up the opportunity to try their famous drink, Sake, made from rice water.”
Japan’s marquee annual event is cherry blossom season, where sumptuous panoramas come into bloom thanks to powder-pink sakura petals which cover streets and gardens throughout the country. As they flower from the south of Japan to the north, it is possible to chase the cherry blossom if you happen to miss them in one place.
TC tip: Enjoy cherry blossom season even more with the Japanese tradition of Hanami – where friends and families sit together underneath a blooming cherry blossom tree to enjoy a picnic.
Thanks to its high level of volcanic activity, Japan is awash with natural hot springs or onsen. A firm favourite with many visitors, these large baths are filled with water geothermally heated beneath the ground, which then rises to the top at a pleasantly warm temperature perfect for a relaxing soak. Try Hokkaido’s top casual bathing spot Noboribetsu Onsen, surrounded by lush countryside and red-leafed trees, or bathe at the Yubatake hot-water fields at Kusatsu Onsen, where water is filtered and cooled through wooden chutes before reaching the main bath.
TC tip: Bathers must disrobe completely before using an onsen, but if you would prefer more privacy, book a private bath in advance.
You’re never far from lively entertainment in Japan, whatever the time of year. The 450-year-old Giant Lantern Festival at Chita Bay each August features huge, colourfully decorated lanterns said to keep sea monsters at bay. Meanwhile, from late January to early March, the Yuishigawa Kamakura Festival is a spellbinding display of light and snow, with hundreds of snow huts filling the streets of the small onsen town of Nishikawa.
What better way to experience Japan than a trip to watch Japan’s national sport? Sumo is steeped in tradition and its ritualistic aspect can be just as mesmerising as the spectacle itself. While the pushing and shoving can be over in a matter of seconds, the pageantry of sumo, from the pre-match throwing of the salt to the silk-robed, priest-like referees, make it an event like no other in Japan. Two-week sumo tournaments are held six times a year in four different locations, with two of the most prestigious taking place in January (Tokyo Sumo Tournament) and July (Nagoya Sumo Tournament).
TC tip: With Sumo events only taking place an average of once every two months, tickets tend to sell fast. They can, however, be purchased online, so make sure you let your Travel Counsellor know well in advance so that they can secure your seat.
From origami to calligraphy and from byōbu screens to kagura masks, arts and crafts are integral to Japanese culture, and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. At Ontayaki Pottery Village you can see distinctive Onta ceramics and try your hand at a pottery workshop, while Omiya Bonsai Village has the world’s first museum dedicated to the ancient craft of bonsai and hosts monthly workshops.
If you would like to book your Japan holiday and give some of these amazing experiences a try, contact your Travel Counsellor and take advantage of exclusive benefits including a 24-hour duty office, ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.