Japan has always been a place we would love to travel to so imagine our excitement when we – as travel agents - were offered a trip to find out that Japan has so much more to offer, apart from the big cities like Tokyo, Yokahama, Kobe etc.
With my limited knowledge of Japan I did some reading up on the country before we left, but no-one could have prepared us for the wonderful cultural experience we were about to have! Though we did visit Yokahama and Kobe - both beautiful clean cities – the thrill was when we were taken deep in to the countryside to see how the locals live. Japan is well known for it’s hot springs, called ‘onsens’, and they are a ritual all on their own! It is compulsory to wear a ‘utaka’ (gown) and slippers, both provided, to go in to the onsen and then a particular washing procedure has to take place before you step in the water. We were amused at how the onsen outfit is worn everywhere all day – on the street outside, in the dining room, on the dance floor - wherever!
And then of course we had the hotel experience! On arrival in our room we were greeted by a little Japanese lady who sat us down (on the floor) while she made her special brew of Japanese tea. We then had to try on our utakas to check they were the right size! The room was sparsely furnished with just a low table and 2 seats with back rests. Where do we sleep was our first thought?! Never to worry as on our return after dinner our beds were made up – on the floor! Sleeping on the floor at night we found difficult but oh so cultural and fun!
The dining experience did not fail to disappoint either. Once again we were back on the floor with little Japanese ladies on their knees serving us – this did make us feel a tad uncomfortable but then we had to remind ourselves ‘it is their culture’. We have never been a lover of Japanese food but we have to admit that their food was so different, flavoursome and quite delicious and we tried everything!
Old Japan is shrines, temples, castles and gardens, all of which we loved as it was all so new to us. We were fascinated with so many things. The vending machines which can be found everywhere, are so interesting as you can buy just about anything you want from a vending machine. The washrooms were a constant fascination with the toilet having a side panel of buttons where you can even choose what music you would like to play while you are busy!! Everything is so little in Japan – the people, their houses, door frames, and even their cars.
The Japanese people are such an honest nation, so polite and welcoming. Whenever we left a place whether it be a hotel or restaurant and no matter what the weather, we were assured to have group of people waiting to wave goodbye to us. One of our fondest memories is when we arrived back in Vancouver airport and there was our Japanese pilot enthusiastically waving goodbye to us all with such a big smile on his face.
We returned from Japan with so many wonderful memories and we really hope we can visit that beautiful country again in the not too distant future.