Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Japan Posted May 25, 2018
At its heart, travel is about new experiences. Sure, it’s great to take a weeklong beach vacation consisting of nothing but reading, tanning, and napping, but those kinds of trips are for recharging the batteries. The best journeys, the ones where you return with indelible memories, are those where you get off the beaten path and truly immerse yourself in a different culture. On our small-group tours we make it a point to seek out these kinds of cultural experiences. The small size of our groups allows us access to a variety of classes, shop visits, and home-hosted meals that simply wouldn’t be possible with larger groups. The tour that perhaps best exemplifies this spirit of cultural adventure is one of our most popular: Insider’s Japan where we enjoy a variety of what guest Judy Jacobsen calls “personal and participatory experiences.”
Barely a day into our touring of Japan we visit the gallery of preeminent calligrapher Koshun Masunaga, where we learn about this ancient art of artistic writing and drawing, browse her collection, and take a calligraphy lesson from the master herself. It’s an art form that is highly respected in Japan, and this visit is our first glimpse into a lesser-known corner of Japanese culture.
While staying at an intimate, traditional ryokan in the town of Hakone, we have the opportunity to learn how to wrap and wear the Japanese kimono. These unique garments are worn on special occasions and represent a strong symbol of Japanese culture.
On Day 7 of our Japan adventure, while visiting the isolated mountain city of Takayama, we have the chance to try our hands at the art of traditional Japanese cooking. This hands-on experience takes us all the way through the preparation and cooking process: we gather fresh ingredients at the centuries-old Miyagawa Morning Market, then bring these with us to our cooking class, where we learn to make a variety of traditional Japanese specialties. Then comes the best part: enjoying the fruits of our labor for lunch!
Two days later, we visit the acclaimed Hakukokan Gold Leaf Center, a museum that celebrates the art and craft of gold leaf technology and houses a collection dating to the late 16th century. The museum is a center of gold leaf craft, and we are shown how to apply real gold leaf. After this demonstration, we can try our hands at decorating a plate with our own gold leaf patterns.
Another visit afforded to us by the nimble nature of our small group is to Unrakugama Pottery, a family-owned pottery house producing fine handmade ceramics and earthenware. We get an up-close view of how these master potters craft a variety of pieces using only their hands, clay, and the potter’s wheel. You may even have a chance to try it yourself!
If you’re the type of traveler who wants to truly immerse yourself in the local culture, then our Insider’s Japan trip is the perfect way to do it!