Sayonara, sushi, sake, samurai are some of the words people are familiar with when they think of Japan. Japanese cuisine is a cult worldwide and slowly becoming a local favourite. However, there is a lot more to Japan apart from the sushi craze and the many movies based on the legendary samurai warriors.
Old traditions and the new age glitzy modern world co exist in harmony, which you don't see in many countries and is quite unique to Japan. The Japanese spirit is resilient, strong and very welcoming. Japan has many WOW moments and despite all their tourist spots and traditions, nothing is really familiar. It's all distinctly unlike any other culture you've encountered.
Staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is vastly different from a traditional hotel. Sitting in a robe on a tatami mat and eating raw fish and vegetables is unlike your home dining experience at home or even in a trendy sushi bar anywhere in the world, and soaking butt naked in anonsen( hot spring) with a bunch of strangers is something you would never imagine doing. Japan is an eye opener. It's fascinating and edgy and at the same time calmly but deeply rooted in its own traditions.
There is much to see that is typically Japanese. First stop is Tokyo with its neon drenched urban contemporary culture. There are lots of bars, karaoke bars, restaurants and shops that line the streets of Tokyo but along with this liveliness, there is another side with many temples and shrines all over the city. Tokyo is home to Japanese pop culture and the rapidly evolving fashion scene, and at the same time home to the Imperial Family. One of the most popular things to do is take a day trip via their exclusive Japanese bullet train and visit Japan's iconic Mt Fuji and enjoy the Japanese landscape. If you do visit Tokyo one of the things you must experience before leaving is a traditional Japanese Sumo Wrestling match. The ideal place to catch a match is at Kokugikanwhich is a sumo amphitheatre along with many other wrestling fans.
If you want to spot a Geisha in all her glory, the city of Kyoto is where you should be. To watch a Geisha in the Gion entertainment district of Kyoto is pure magic. It's a mixed feeling of bizarre and wonder when you encounter a geisha other than what you've seen on the silver screen or read in a book. If you want to experience more than just a fleeting glance of them in the streets a night of Geisha entertainment is more suited. This would constitute of an exquisite Kaiseki ( Japanese Haute Cuisine) during which the geisha would chat with guests, pour tea or drinks, light cigarettes etc. After dinner the Geisha performs a traditional dance to music and would also indulge patrons in a variety of drinking games which is their forte, so much so that almost all patrons are relatively sloshed by the end of the night.
Tokyo and Kyoto are only two of the many Japanese cities to explore but we suggest you soak up the best both these have to offer before you go further into the heart of Japan. The Land of the rising sun has much to offer and it is no wonder than for most people when they first visit Japan, fall in love and almost always keep coming back to explore more.
Photo Credits -
Picture 1- Marufish Flickr
Picture 2& 3- lexlexie Flickr
By - Roxanne Bamboat
Roxanne is a pint sized girl who enjoys reading, movies, travel and is obsessed with food. She expresses her love for all things edible in her food blog - www.thetinytaster.com A freelancer in her profession, she is able to spend most of her time sampling the city's food offerings and reviews them as well as shares a few of her favourite recipes. More often known as The Tiny Taster, she's decided to take the world by storm - one plate a a time!
Twitter - @roxannebamboat