PHOTO: The Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine (Photo via Flickr/Balazs Szanto)
TravelBound has the scoop on Japan.
From hot springs to castles, and picturesque landscapes, Japan is a timeless country that fuses ancient traditions with the excitements of modern life.
We’ve put together the top 5 “must dos” for travel to Japan.
1. Visit the Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
Fushimi Inari is considered to be the most important shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and is supplemented by the countless fox statues found throughout the shrine. Enjoy the trails during the day for a delightful stroll, or dare to go for an otherworldly walk early in the morning or later at night.
The hike to the mountain’s summit usually takes about two to three hours, making it the perfect distance for a midday experience. Any participant will get a true experience learning why shrines are such an important part of Japanese culture, as visitors constantly arrive to pay respect to the kami, the Shinto “gods”, and to pray for a good life.
2. Take a Haru Cooking Class
When we visit new destinations, we deep dive into new cultures and immediately get a feel for how local citizens live their everyday lives. There is no better way for us to experience Japanese gastronomy than to go through the entire preparation and cooking process ourselves. Taro Saeki leads each Haru Cooking Class in Kyoto, and has received rave reviews from almost every participant. We learn simple Japanese-style cooking techniques, such as how Kobe beef is cooked in its own fat as opposed to butter, like in traditional French cuisine. Taro has lived in Japan and the United States, so communication isn’t an issue. The best part? Classes are limited to six people, so we can receive personalized attention and maximize said attention.
3. Walk through history at Peace Memorial Park
Peace Memorial Park is a beautiful memorial located in Hiroshima, the world’s first city to suffer a nuclear attack. Today the area is filled with museums, monuments, and memorials to commemorate the lives of those who were lost that day. One of the most iconic monuments within the park is the Peace Flame, whose flame has burned continuously since it was originally lit in 1964, and will continue to remain lit until all nuclear bombs on earth have been destroyed. The park serves to advocate for world peace by showcasing the destruction caused by the horrific attacks. As a show of respect, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony takes place on August 6 every year; the lives of those who were lost are honored with almost never-ending prayers for world peace.
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4. Samurai/Ninja Special Experience in Osaka
During the Edo period when samurai dominated Japan, ninjas played the all-important role of spy. Their main tasks were to hide their presence while simultaneously collecting information to maintain peace, which explains the emphasis put on their spirits. Travelers get a first-hand experience of the actual skills and techniques used by ninjas from those with a longstanding family history of it. Additionally, instructors will provide proper attire and showcase proper samurai techniques, such as how to hold a katana (sword).
5. Experience a true Sumo Practice at Sumo Stable
Sumo is a Japanese national sport, believed to originate during the mythical age. Clients get the thrill of a lifetime hearing the behind-the-scenes stories of sumo from retired wrestlers. After playing sumo and interacting with the wrestlers, clients will also get to try chankonabe, a sumo classic for lunch. Chankonabe is a traditional one-pot dish eaten by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight-gain diet, consisting mainly of readily-available proteins like chicken, fish and tofu.
Learn more about Japan by going to the Japan National Tourism Organization website and by booking Japan at booktravelbound.com if you’re a travel agent, for exclusive rates and competitive commission.