What distinguishes a luxury vacation from other trips? Is it staying in five-star accommodations? Dining on Michelin-rated food? Hiring private transportation and using luggage services? Such conveniences make a difference, but at All Japan Tours, we believe it’s what you do that counts the most.
You might forget which hotel you stay in, or even the name of every restaurant. What you will remember are the memories you made immersing yourself in Japanese culture. To make the best of your travels in Japan, we suggest trying some, or perhaps all, of these activities.
You might know the Tsukiji Fish Market from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Due to wear and tear, the famous tuna auctions moved to the nearby Toyosu Market in 2018. At the wholesale area of the Toyosu Market, you can enjoy a comfortable and unobstructed view of the operations. You can also watch fish filleting, the time-honored tradition of sushi making, and dine on a nutritious and tasty lunch.
In both lifestyle shops and museums, you can see Japan’s high-quality and intricate ceramics. However, nothing can compare to trying your hand at it. During a pottery class, you can enrich your appreciation of this traditional Japanese art under the guidance of a master. Craft villages across the country specialize in local styles, and you can learn about their specific aesthetics in regions like Seto, Kaga, or Akita.
Although Japan is a modern country, Japanese people still observe ancient practices in their everyday lives. As you traverse the streets, especially near temples and shrines, you’ll come across shops where you can rent a kimono for the day. Wearing a kimono while you take part in one of these following activities will make your experience much more memorable.
Calligraphy is a timeless art that has as many styles and techniques as any other form. Through penmanship, we can feel the artist’s emotions and draw meaning from each stroke. When you take a calligraphy class, you’ll learn the history and principles surrounding this craft. Not to mention, you’ll also get the chance to study a little bit of the Japanese language.
The exact origins of the Japanese art of flower arrangement aren’t clear, but many believe it began when worshipers would leave bouquets as offerings to Buddha. Specific schools have variations in their teachings. In general, Ikebana recreates how the blossoms and plants look in their natural states. During a class, a master will give a lecture on the elements and history of Ikebana, and you’ll try your hand at trimming and sculpting petals.
A tea ceremony is much more than sampling cakes and sipping matcha. It’s an immersive education in Japanese hospitality. The quiet ritual draws influences from Zen Buddhism and takes years to master. Every graceful flick of your host’s wrist holds significant meaning and purpose to create a refined cup of tea.
Meditation is a central practice in Zen Buddhism and one of the best ways to unwind from a busy tour. When you take a session, a priest will show you how to calm your mind and body to seek enlightenment. You’ll also hear how Zen teachings have influenced Japan’s history and culture.
Geisha are the keepers of traditional Japanese arts. To become a geisha, young women must endure a years-long apprenticeship called maiko training. In Kyoto, a maiko entertains guests with stories, songs, and games during dinner parties. As you dine on Kyoto’s famed haute cuisine, she’ll converse and drink with you, and finish the evening with a musical performance.
There’s no better way to travel through Japan’s scenic countryside than boarding the bullet train. Riding at speeds up to 300 km/hr, sights of Mount Fuji and rural towns will fly by your window. In ordinary cars, you might not be able to find a place to sit and feel crowded in with busy workers making their commutes. The luxurious Green Car, however, is quiet and has comfortable and reservable seats with plenty of legroom.
The GEAR Theatre in Kyoto puts on a show like no other in Japan. The innovative non-verbal performance employs a range of techniques, from those used in Kabuki to cutting-edge special effects. The production aims to stimulate all of your senses and tells the dramatic story of four robots and a doll discovering what it means to be human. GEAR provides you the opportunity to experience Japanese theater without the need to study the Japanese language.
During your travels, you can have an immersive cultural experience even while you sleep. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that will redefine your image of hospitality. Most of these hotels are in the countryside so that weary travelers can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. At a ryokan, your only job is to relax, and the staff will go to great lengths to ensure your satisfaction.
Upon entry, a private butler (Nakai-san) will lead you to your accommodations and help you change into a cozy cotton yukata kimono. Before dinner, take a walk through your private garden and bathe in your in-room hot spring. Depending on your reservation, you may be able to eat a full course meal in your quarters. In a Japanese-style room, you can also experience sleeping on a traditional futon mattress.