Japan - what a wonderful destination! I was looking forward to visiting Japan and seeing the lovely old Pagodas and shrines and also enjoying the Sakura Cherry Blossoms but...I was not prepared for everything else that Japan has to offer. I was blown away by the cleanliness of every town and street. I was so impressed with the friendliness of the people. I was equally impressed by the travel we did on the high speed bullet trains that crisscross the country and the super modern train stations and shopping malls. The food was delicious, the countryside was beautiful and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites were outstanding. Japan should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is a modern country unlike any that you have visited before and yet it retains the beauty, history and charm of the past. The cherry blossoms were lovely but this trip is so much more!
Our 15 day trip was very comprehensive. We spent time in the big cities of Tokyo and Kyoto and we were also in the mountains visiting small villages where there was still snow in the fields and the traditional houses had thatched roofs. We visited Hiroshima and the beautiful Peace Memorial Park as well as the sobering Peace Memorial Museum. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites were breathtaking. I now have a picture of Matsumoto Castle hanging on the wall of my home. Equally impressive was Himeji Castle and Nijo Castle as well as other pagodas and Torii gates.
A highlight for me was staying overnight in a traditional Ryokan (Japanese Country Inn). We had our 11 course dinner dressed in our Yukata (Japanese dressing gown) and slept on colourful futons in our lovely Tatami matted rooms. We were instructed in the proper sauna traditions and had great fun relaxing in this spa.
Another highlight was the exotic food that we experienced around the country, which was all so delicious. We had several multi-course dinners which were all different. The thinly sliced beef in our Shabu-Shabu dinner, that we cooked ourselves in a broth, was extraordinary! As explained by our guide the Kaiseki dinner at our ryokan had 5 tastes, 5 cooking methods and 5 colours and was 11 courses. We also had Sukiyaki which was Hida beef thinly sliced and vegetables that we cooked on individual grills.
We travelled by cable car, boat, high speed bullet train, regular train, subway and private coach. Everything ran smoothly in true Japanese fashion. We experienced the tea ceremony; we made Japanese Washi paper and we attended a traditional Musical Japanese show. We visited several traditional Japanese gardens which were serene and beautiful. In these gardens we saw wedding parties dressed in their beautiful silk kimonos worth 1,000’s of dollars.
There was so much more packed into our 2 weeks in Japan. We felt we were immersed in the culture and history of this fascinating country. This is definitely a country that should not be missed.
Craig Travel's 2023 Japan journey is now out! Join next spring and experience the charms of Japan!