|Japan Experience (Women only tour)
Japan 9 days Tokyo to Osaka
Bring along your mother, daughter, sister of best girlfriend for this 11 day exploration of Japanese culture. indulge in a shiatsu massage,
learn the secrets of Japanese cooking from a Japanese lady, watch a kabuki drama, learn ikebana and tea ceremony, take part in guided
meditation and have a private party with one of Kyoto's famed geisha.
|Day 1 Arrive Tokyo
Arrive in this bustling city and transfer to your hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure but leave
some time for a complimentary shiatsu massage in your hotel room. Shiatsu is a traditional
Japanese therapy that uses finger pressure to stimulate internal energy meridians and is perfect to
get you up and ready to go after your international flight.
Day 2 Cooking class, Harajuku and Meiji Shrine, “Lost in Translation” tour
Japan is, justifiably, famous for its amazing food and we spend the morning with a woman’s
association who teach us some of the secrets of cooking up a Japanese feast that is sure to
impress your friends when you recreate it at home. We learn the secrets of their healthy cooking and
see how it helps them live so long! Japan has the longest life expectancy among women in the world
and not only that but they have a high quality of life due to their healthy diet.
On a Sunday afternoon Harajuku is the place to be if you want to check out the youth fashion that
Tokyo is world famous for. The area was first developed in 1915 when Meiji Shrine was built to
commemorate the late Meiji emperor and his wife. The road leading to it was widened and now
contains many designer shops selling international brands at reasonable prices. In 1964 the
Olympics came to Tokyo and many of the facilities were built near Harajuku, further developing the
area as a youth hangout. In a never ending cycle, more youth brought more shops which brought
more youth wanting to buy the latest fashions. Spend some time window shopping and people
watching before contrasting all the crazy costumes and shopping frenzy with a visit to Tokyo’s most
important Shinto shrine, Meiji shrine. This quiet oasis is surrounded by trees and you will completely
forget that you are in the heart of one of the world’s largest cities. People come to make offerings and
pray to the Shinto gods, and on a Sunday you may be lucky enough to witness a traditional Shinto
wedding ceremony. The bride wears a white kimono and sake is exchanged between the bride and
groom and between close relatives in exquisite red and gold lacquered cups to symbolize their union
through the wedding.
In the evening we take a tour of Tokyo to some of the places visited by Scarlett Johansson and Bill
Murray in the classic movie “Lost in Translation”. Released in 2003 the movie follows two characters
travelling to Tokyo who meet in their hotel, strike up a friendship and explore parts of Tokyo together.
Take a wander across the Shibuya intersection which Charlotte goes in the rain and explore the neon
and glitz of Shinjuku at night before a meal of Shabu Shabu at the restaurant they ate (vegetarian
options available) and an optional evening of Karaoke.
Day 3 Tsukiji fish market, Kabuki drama, Takayama walking tour
The largest fish market in the world by weight and costs, Tsukiji fish market is a must see while in
Tokyo. With its origins in the market that was located outside the Shogun’s castle in the 17th century,
Tsukiji fish market now has over 1,700 wholesale stores selling around 450 different types of
seafood at any one time. See the amazing variety of fish, shellfish and other sea creatures on sale
before eating some of the freshest seafood you are ever likely to get at one of the many restaurants
surrounding the market.
After the fish market we walk to Ginza, one of the upmarket shopping areas of Tokyo to see a short
performance of Kabuki drama. Though originally founded by a shrine maiden who went to Kyoto to
perform religious dances it is now performed by only men, male actors specializing in female roles
are called Onnagata. Kabuki stories are often historical dramas though the stories are stylized to fit
the dramatic and visual emphasis of this style of theatre.
In the afternoon we travel by bullet train to Takayama (4.5 hours), a city nestled amongst the
Japanese Alps. We take a walking tour of the old part of town, a quaint area of quiet streets lined with
traditional wooden buildings full of amazing local crafts and fantastic shopping.
Day 4 Takayama
We start the day at the Hida Folk Village, a charming collection of traditional houses that have been
transferred here to preserve the architecture of the area. Walk into and explore these stylish old
fashioned buildings and learn more about how people in this area used to live. The tall and steep
thatched roves are known as “hands in prayer” architecture and were designed to stop a build up of
snow in the long winter season. In some of the houses there are craftspeople using traditional
methods to make local handicrafts and in the afternoon we make our own “saru bobo”, a lucky charm
in the shape of a doll which is from this area.
Saru bobo were traditionally handed down from mother to daughter and served as a good luck
charm, especially for young children. It was believed that if a saru bobo was put next to a young child
it would protect the child but nowadays it is used as a good luck charm for people of any age. Learn
more about this folk tradition and take home a hand made reminder of your time here in Takayama.
In the afternoon you have some free time to explore the many optional activities in Takayama. Head to
the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to see some of the lavish floats used in the twice annual festival,
explore a rich merchants house, pop into a sake brewery to taste some of the famous local brew or
spend some time browsing the shops in the old part of town.
Days 5-6 Kyoto
Leaving Takayama we travel to Kyoto (approx 3 hours) which was the imperial capital for over 1,000
years. With over 2,000 temples and shrines, each with their own immaculate gardens there are
plenty of hidden treasures to explore. Today we join a local women’s group to learn more about two
uniquely Japanese arts – ikebana and tea ceremony. More than simply flower arranging, Ikebana
uses all parts of the plant to create an arrangement that is stylishly minimalist. Learn about the
spiritual aspect of the ancient art as the women teach you to take quiet time out from your busy lives
to appreciate nature and the beauty in every part of the plant.
Ikebana creations are often used in the alcoves of tea ceremony rooms and we learn more about this
culturally important art too. Based on the idea of “ichi go ichi e” (one time, one meeting), the tea
ceremony teaches us to appreciate every moment as it will never happen again. As the great tea
master Sen no Rikyu said, even if the same people meet in the same room and drink from the same
cups it will be completely different. Learn about when tea came to Japan, how powdered green tea is
made, how to mix the frothy tea and the etiquette of the tea ceremony itself.
In the evening you can wander the backstreets of Gion where geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha)
live and work. Subject of many misconceptions in the west, geisha are in fact employed to play
music, dance and entertain on a purely platonic level and historically were some of the first women in
Japan to be able to work, earn incomes and support themselves before more modern attitudes to
equality became widespread. We spend more time learning about these elusive women in the
evening of day 7.
In the morning of day 7 we go to two of Kyotos most famous temples – Kinkakuji (the golden pavilion)
and Ryoanji zen rock garden. The beautiful golden pavilion and surrounding gardens was a lord’s
retreat over 600 years ago and was converted to a temple after his death. With the glistening building
reflected in the still pond you get a wonderful sense of the lavish lifestyle that the upper classes in
Kyoto at the time had. Nearby the raked pebble rock garden at Ryoanji illustrates the ultimate in Zen
garden design and minimalist style. Contemplate the meaning of its mysterious design as you enjoy
a moment of calm in our action packed schedule. The afternoon is free for optional activities before
we meet again to take part in our geisha experience.
Taking a walk through the backstreets of Gion with our guide we learn about the lifestyle of the
geisha who live here as we walk past the houses that they live and the venues where they entertain
guests. Most events are strictly invitation only but we have organized a private event where you will
see a maiko or geisha perform her specialty (usually a musical instrument and a dance) before she
entertains you as her personal guests. Take this amazing opportunity to interact with a real life
geisha as you ask her questions through our translator and come to understand these complex
Days 7-8 Osaka
After our exciting night last night we wake to a morning of Zen meditation. Learn how to sit, how to
breathe and what to think about (or not think about). The art of calming your mind and sitting in
silence does wonders for calming yourself down and is a lesson we should all learn to take back to
our busy lives back home.
In the afternoon we travel to Osaka, Japan’s 3rd largest city and home to a population who love their
food. One of the local specialties is takoyaki which is an octopus filled ball of batter and we learn to
make it from one of the local experts. Later take a walk down a street dedicated to restaurant
supplies where you can buy everything you could possibly need for your kitchen, all at bargain
basement prices! In the evening wander along Dotonbori, the food-lovers centre of town with its
flashing neon and multitudes of eateries jostling for space. Try some to die for crab at the most
famous crab restaurant in Japan, nibble on fugu (pufferfish) if you dare or try some of the local style
okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake or Japanese omlette).
There may be a chance to see bunraku (traditional Japanese puppet theatre) or attend a baseball
game but other options in Osaka include getting a bird’s eye view from the Sky Garden, people
watching in Amerika Mura, seeing the whale shark at massive Osaka Aquarium or indulging your
inner child at Universal Studios Japan.
In the evening of day 9 we say a sad farewell to our travel companions and celebrate the fantastic
time we've spent together at our final night dinner.
This trip is guaranteed to depart on
July 3rd, 2010
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