When one thinks of Japan images of sushi, cherry blossoms, and kimonos come to mind. While Japan is popular and well known for these things, there is so much more to this beautiful country and its people. The Japanese culture is built on the foundation of rituals and traditions that have been passed on from generation to generation. Respect and dedication can be seen all around you as you wander the small towns and big cities of Japan. From food to temples, I was fortunate enough to immerse myself into this wonderful culture for an entire week.
Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival is probably on everybody’s buck list and if it isn’t, add it to your list right now. I visited Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo on my trip and each city had one thing in common: picnics. Yes, you read that correctly, picnics. Not just normal wicker baskets and plaid blanket picnics, these picnics were like a family reunion mixed with a summer concert all happening underneath the blooming cherry blossom. If there was a patch of grass underneath a budding cherry blossom tree, there was almost always a group of friends or family drinking sake, listening to music, or savoring sushi underneath it. It is almost impossible to leave Japan in Spring without having your own picnic or joining someone else’s underneath the light pink and white blossoms.
After getting your picnic and cherry blossom fix, head to Kyoto to get transported back in time to a world full of color and peace. The city is full of temples, shrines, and Geishas walking to and from work. You can pay to dress up like a Geisha for the day or you can spend the day attempting to distinguish the tourists dressed up like Geishas from the real ones. If you chose to do the latter, remember that real Geishas are either walking to or from work, they are most likely in a hurry, and will not stop to pose for pictures. It is easy to see why Geisha’s have captivated so many peoples’ attention throughout history. Their attire is beautiful and full of intricate details, each one standing for something special. They carry themselves with so much grace… oh I could write for days about these amazing women and their craft. If in Kyoto, go see a Geisha show and discover the beauty and artistic talent these women possess for yourself.
Lastly, sign up for a cooking class with a local in Osaka. Osaka is known for its food. The markets are full of fresh fruit and vegetables in Spring. It is also a great way to see how people really live, shop, and cook in Japan. My cooking teacher, Tuki, taught me how to make several seasonal dishes in her quaint kitchen. Throughout the lesson, I noticed that in order to cook Japanese food you need three staple ingredients: sake, soy sauce, and miso. If you have these things in your pantry, you can cook almost any Japanese dish. After making tempura, miso soup, and bamboo rice, Tuki pulled out her Sake collection and proceeded to give me travel tips and suggestions for the remainder of my trip.
So if you plan on visiting Japan, go in Spring. Have a picnic under the magnificent cherry blossoms. Visit Kyoto and soak up the ancient history and traditions surrounding you. Cook up a storm with a local. Most of all get caught up in natural beauty and the serene atmosphere that encompasses Japan.