EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in Japan travel (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.

Thursday
May102018

Travel to Kanazawa, Japan’s Best Hidden Secret

It would take a lifetime to discover the best of Japan’s hidden secrets, and many travelers with limited time will only see the highlights of major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Even still, it’s possible to maximize your time and see off the beaten path sites in Japan that will give you a more authentic and unique travel experience in this incredible Asian country with so much fascinating history and culture. History buffs should take a trip to beautiful and historic Kanazawa, just two hours by bullet train from Kyoto, where you’ll explore one of the best preserved castle town from the Edo period. Below are some of the best sites and experiences in Kanazawa.

Considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen Garden is a beautiful place to visit year-round. In the spring, the garden is decorated by colorful plum and cherry springs, flowers such as azaleas bloom in the summer, and fallen leaves of fiery colors make the garden glow in fall. In winter, the snowy garden has "yukizuri" or "snow hangings" built to protect the plants from heavy snowfall, which includes a conical array of ropes that hold up branches to prevent them from breaking. The name "Kenrokuen" means "having six factors," which were used to design the garden’s perfect landscape: expansiveness, peacefulness, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and fantastic views.

The Nagamachi Samurai District was where samurai families lived during the Edo period, and has some buildings that were spared during WW2 and are centuries old. Narrow pedestrian-only lanes, cobblestoned streets, and winding canals make the area very beautiful and photogenic. Some of the former samurai residences and gardens are even open to the public. A visit to this enchanting neighborhood is like going back in time and visiting a fascinating part of Japan’s history.

Kanazawa Castle’s history begins in the early 1546 when it was founded as a religious school for Kanazawa Mido. One of the most interesting features of Kanazawa Castle is the variety of stonewalls located on the castle park grounds. The castle park is sometimes referred to as a "stonewall museum" due the different eras the walls were constructed. Throughout its history the castle has seen a number of fires and a large fire in 1759 almost burned down the entire castle. In 1996, a project was started to rebuild Kanazawa Castle using original construction techniques.

Finally, the most unforgettable part of your trip to Kanazawa will be a visit to a local master sword maker who will show you how to forge your own blade. Planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming and is best done with the help of a true expert who can help you discover magical places and experiences you would never find otherwise.