EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in best time to go to japan (2)

Wednesday
Nov072018

Japan's Best Cultural Experiences

 

The best way to experience Japan’s fascinating history and culture is to fully immerse yourself in cultural practices that you would never see or experience elsewhere. Take a tour behind the scenes of Tokyo’s sumo stables, indulge in a private dinner with a geisha, learn a chosen art form like sword-making with an expert craftsman, go back in time with a stay at a traditional ryokan. In Japan, luxury means more than just staying in immaculate five star hotels and eating at Michelin star restaurants, although those are important components of any dream trip to Japan! Rather, luxury here also means discovering Japan’s best kept secrets and hidden gems, many of which are hard to find without the insight and connections of a true inside, making them all that much more special.

For a dining experience unique to Japan, make arrangements for a private kaiseki dinner with geisha entertainers in Kyoto. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, meticulously prepared by a highly skilled chef. Just experiencing a kaiseki dinner is something many people have on their ultimate travel bucket list, as it may just be the best meal of your life. But we recommend going one step further and arranging for traditional geisha entertainers to join the dinner, which can take place at some of Japan’s best restaurants. In modern day Japan geisha entertainers are highly skilled, training for up to five years to be able to be recognized as geisha.The experience will include traditional music, dancing, and conversation with geisha.

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Tokyo’s world famous Sumo matches? Take an insider’s look at this ancient sport that is still practiced in modern day Japan with an early morning tour of the Sumo stables, which is where the athletes train year-round when they’re not competing. With special arrangements and connections you’ll take a private tour with a guide who is also an expert in the sport - sometimes even a former wrestler themselves - and can facilitate direct conversations with the wrestlers following their morning practice.

The art of samurai sword-making is a centuries old tradition that continues to this day, with sword smiths whose special techniques have been passed down for generations. To learn more about this ancient art form you can visit a workshop and learn how it’s done from a master craftsman, who will then help you forge a blade, also called a katana, of your own. An authentic samurai sword of your own is a souvenir unlike anything you could purchase in a store and will always remind you of your once-in a lifetime trip to Japan!

For an unusual and authentic hotel experience in Japan, opt to spend a night at a traditional Ryokan in addition to some time spent at Western-style luxury hotels. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, and they’re usually located near onsen, the Japanese name for a natural hot spring. Ryokans first came about in the 1600’s and most are characterized by their traditional design - old, wooden buildings with pointed roofs, surrounded by beautiful bamboo gardens. The atmosphere inside Ryokans is peaceful and serene, guest rooms are simple, and the level of hospitality is incredibly high.

Japan has a million hidden treasures, and with a little help from an expert you can uncover and experience this amazing country in a deeper way.

Friday
Oct162015

When to Visit Japan

If you're trying to decide when to travel to Japan, you should know first and foremost about a few major events. Golden Week runs from April 29-May 5, mid-July through August is school break season and New Year's Day is a national holiday. Millions of people travel within Japan during these times, which naturally drives up the costs of transportation and accommodation; nonetheless, many foreigners do consider the holidays to be the best time to go to Japan because the larger cities are mostly deserted. Additionally, with the exception of a few days around the New Year, most museums and attractions remain open during the holidays. 

Weather & Climate in Japan

Japan is about the size of the American east coast, and it covers roughly the same latitudes, so temperatures and weather patterns vary greatly by region during the year. Overall, summer is hot and rainy throughout most of Japan, while autumn is cooler and dryer. Winters in northern Japan are snowy and prone to ice storms, yet visitors of southern Japan can get by with just a warm jacket during the late and early parts of the year. Typhoon season runs from late August to late September, and although storms rarely venture inland, expect to get wet wherever you go during this time. 

The Best Time to See the Cherry Blossom Trees

The best time to see the cherry blossom trees is dependent on where you are staying. For example, the best time to see the cherry blossom trees in southern Kyushu is mid-March, but flowers in Hokkaido don't start blooming until the beginning of May. There are dozens of cherry blossom species, each possessing unique beauty, but blooms only last a few days, which is why many will travel across the entire country to see these spectacular flowers arrive in every region during the spring. You can further plan your trip around local attractions like the remains of castle Nangusuku on Okinawa Main Island where the Ryukyu-higan-zakura trees bloom as early as January. Mt. Yoshino is another sight to behold as it is home to 30,000 trees that flood the hills with cherry blossoms during the month of April. 

Japanese Culture & Festivals

Almost every Japanese shrine hosts an annual festival, drawing hundreds of people out into the streets for dancing, games and celebrations. Festival dates often change, so check with the Japan National Tourist Organization if you're planning your visit in accordance with a festival, or you can always ask us as well!

Food in Japan & Kaiseki Cuisine

Kaiseki cuisine combines the best of traditional Japanese hospitality, food and art. Enjoying a traditional Kaiseki means eating a multiple-course meal made only with fresh, local ingredients that are perfectly plated and garnished. You can experience Kaiseki cuisine in a restaurant or as part of your stay in one of Japan's luxury ryokans.

Accommodations & Luxury Japanese Ryokans

Luxury ryokans are traditional, often family-owned, Japanese inns featuring wooden corridors, soft lighting emanating from paper-covered lamps and decorative baskets of wild flowers throughout, and most will serve Kaiseki directly in the privacy of your own room. All rooms in Beniya Mukayu for example, a ryokan in spa town Yamashiro, feature private hot spring baths facing private traditional gardens. Many of these establishments, like the 300-year-old Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, have been hosting guests from all over the world for several centuries.

All in all, the best time to go to Japan really comes down to whenever you can. The weather is always great somewhere, so pick out the regions and attractions you want to visit, and let that guide you in deciding when to travel to Japan. To recap:

Spring (March-May) marks the height of the cherry blossom season, but it also marks one of the busiest travel seasons. Keep in mind that hotels are often booked out as far as 6 months in advance so make sure to contact us early on! 

Fall (September-November) is similarly a busy season but the autumn leaves in Japan are particularly vibrant and colorful and well worth a few crowds. 

Winter, as noted, can get cold and there's always a chance of rain or snow. That being said, crisp blue skies, delicious seafood and fewer crowds also make this a desirable season during which to visit Japan. 

*Our personal favorite time to visit Japan is from late Spring (mid-May to end-June) & late Summer (September to mid-October). The weather is great, the crowds are sparse, and if you're lucky you might just catch the end of the cherry blossom season!