When I was 20, I was lucky enough to live in Japan for two months, but I never really felt that I managed to crack the veil around Japanese life. My trip with Getaway did that in just two weeks! I travelled further, learnt more of the language and through our fantastic guides learnt to understand more of the complexities of the Japanese culture and mindset. Even pouring a cup of tea is totally different in Japan with its own rituals and customs!
We landed in Tokyo and spent a few days gobsmacked at the size of the city, its 36 million people and the ease with which the city runs. People are polite, thoughtful (no-one makes phone calls on the trains as that would be considered rude to the other passengers) and the city is totally safe.
Tokyo never feels claustrophobic as there’s large parks that are the lungs of the city and a peaceful haven for its people. Jump on a Shinkansen (Bullet train) and it won’t take long to be whisked to the countryside where the natural beauty of Japan is astounding. Once you leave the big cities, there’s space, greenery, dramatic mountains and beautiful islands. Our first stop was the open air museum at Hakone. Wandering around the huge statues with a backdrop of beautiful gardens and distant mountains, was truly relaxing and inspiring…now I just need to erect a 50m high statue at home to remind me of Hakone! Every day finished with an Onsen (natural hot bath) – the perfect way to reflect on the day while staring meditatively at the mountains.
I was apprehensive about our next stop – the city of Hiroshima. A place of so much devastation, destruction and death. I had read many books about the Atomic bomb being dropped on August 6, 1945 but had no idea what Hiroshima would be like in 2017. Well, its a thriving city of two million people with a passion for modern architecture and art. Hiroshima will never outlive its past and the city always remembers that horrific day. The area where the bomb was dropped is now The Peace Park – a permanent memorial for all the direct and indirect victims. Against the backdrop of the still-standing Genbaku Dome, you can wander through the gardens, leave a crane at the Children’s Peace Monument, pray at the cenotaph and learn more of the history at the Museum. We can’t change the past but by learning about it we can change the future.
The beautiful city of Kyoto was revealing in many ways. With Scenic, we had dinner with a Maiko (Kyoto’s version of a Geisha) who performed ancient dances and chatted with us in her usual graceful way. It was delightful to understand this elaborate ritual of their make up, kimonos and the delicacy with which they conduct their lives.
For me, Japan has it all – incredible food, natural beauty, a fascinating culture, imperial Palaces, a strong sense of spirituality and welcoming people. Oh, and Sumo wrestlers!
Every day was an adventure and I’ll be forever grateful for my time spent in the land of the rising sun.