SpiceRoads goes to the far east again in 2020 with a brand new tour in Japan!
This year, with the advent of the Tokyo Olympics, the land of the rising sun will be showcasing its ancient traditions and rich culture to the entire world.
Our new Japan Heritage tour brings you to the epicenter of this fascinating culture: the Kansai region and Kyoto, Japan’s former capital from 794 to 1869. Check out these 5 extraordinary Japanese experiences you can discover on our new Japanese Heritage tour!
1. Unravel Japanese culinary heritage
If something in the whole of Japan speaks about its heritage, it has to be the food. Japanese cuisine encompasses the purest expressions of this land’s particular cultural traits.
The patience that Ramen-ya chefs have to simmer Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) broth for over 14 hours, the beautifully proportioned arrangement of the miniature food portions that can be found inside a Bento lunch box, the elegance, rhythm, and predetermined sequence that must be followed when eating in a modern Sushi joint… throughout this journey, you will embrace all these little nuances while indulging in Kyoto’s best treats.
2. Participate in an authentic Tea Ceremony
We’ll pedal through the Wazuka region, where the famous Uji Matcha tea is grown, and we won’t miss the opportunity to take part in one of Japan’s oldest rituals.
The tea ceremony was originally intended to show hospitality towards guests but is also an escape from the fast pace of daily life. That’s the reason why it’s held in an austere Tatami floored room typically surrounded by the peacefulness of a Zen garden. Guests must kneel in the Seiza position and bow prior to the brewing of the tea. Then they’ll eat a Japanese sweet before starting to slowly and contemplatively sip the hot beverage… Oishi!
3. Stay like a local in a Ryokan
In today’s hyper-developed Japanese society, the popularity of this type of traditional inn known as Ryokan is something remarkable. Aside from a place to sleep, these establishments offer the chance to experience the true Japanese lifestyle from centuries ago, with traditional-style Tatami rooms, futon beds, and public baths or Onsen.
Guests are required to dress a comfortable Yukata (light cotton robe) in the common areas, which some locals even wear outside the Ryokan premises. The experience is enhanced with the degustation of a Kaiseki Ryori dinner (traditional haute cuisine) served in your room by the Ryokan’s staff wearing Kimonos. For those looking to truly live like a local and immerse in Japanese culture, a stay at a Ryokan is just what you need!
4. Relax your body in an Onsen
Although it is usually part of the same complex within a Ryokan, the Onsen or Japanese public bath is an experience that can and must be tried even if you aren’t staying overnight.
There are more than 27,000 natural hot springs spread across Japan and the Japanese have been enjoying them for ages. Testament of this is that the oldest running business in the world is Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, which opened its doors back in the year 705! These interesting locales have a defined set of traditional rules which can be shocking for many foreigners, especially that to be able to enjoy the relaxing warm waters being completely naked is mandatory. Not to worry, most Onsens are gender-segregated.
5. Purify your soul at a Shinto Shrine
Many Japanese worship the Kami or the Shinto “gods” and visit Shrines in order to pay respect to the Kami or to pray for good fortune. Interestingly, you aren’t supposed to visit a shrine if you are ill, wounded or mourning as these conditions are considered impure.
The main entrance to the Shrine is marked by the Torii, a wooden arch painted in orange that represents the limit between the everyday and the sacred world. Upon entry, you may engage in a purification ritual at a fountain. First, you should rinse your hands with a ladle and then pour some fresh water into your hand to rinse your mouth. Finish by spitting the water at the side of the fountain.
Once inside, you’ll notice hundreds of tiny wooden plaques with writing on them hanging at various places. These are known as Ema and contain prayers or wishes that the Kami are believed to receive. Most Japanese people wish for health, love and wealth!
Upon reaching the main altar of the temple you can throw a small coin and ring the bell to greet and respect the Kami. After that, bow and clap your hands two times. Then you may say a prayer with both hands together and bow one last time.
What to know more? Experience real Japan with our curated selection of tours: