Saturday, April 13, 2019

Sakura - Cherriful Japan 2019

Cherriful Japan 2019
This spring during Sakura (Cherry Blossom Time) VM Travel offered up Japan as a new destination. A close friend and relative, Mieko orchestrated our intimate visit to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Tokyo. The weather was a little colder than expected – brrrr! even the blossoms were shivering!
We started our tour in the old capital Kyoto – home to Temples, Shrines and Geishas!  We rode through the Bamboo Forest in Rickshaws commandeered by muscular, young Japanese with smiles on their faces – happy to be in this “fitness camp”! In the Tea Farms of Wazuka we hopped on electric bikes and meandered through the mountainous region covered with hedges of tea. A couple of mishaps resulted bruises for those who had not ridden a bike since the age of 13!  A tea guru instructed us on to prepare green tea using various temperatures of water and then to the final consumption – eating the leaves! It was likened to a wine taste – lots of tannins!  In Nara, the oldest capital of Japan we visited the giant Buddah.  Apparently if you are small enough to crawl through a hole the size of his nostril you are blessed with eternal life! NO – none of us tried that!!! 

From Kyoto the bullet train or Shinkansen whisked us off to Hiroshima where we visited the Peace Museum and Gardens a somber visit for all of us.  Just off the coast of Hiroshima is the beautiful Island of Miyajima where we stayed in a Ryokan or Lodge with Japanese style foutons and meals! An authentic experience!  We spent a day enjoying the cherry blossoms, visiting the Shrine and hiking on Mt Misen. One of our troopers, Nancy along with guide Mieko hiked to the very top rather than taking the ropeway. Brava! 

Back on the bullet train, we experienced a cultural homestay at the Hattori’s 100 year old Japanese Home in Yokkaichi! We were introduced to Soba making and Sushi rolling and had instructive sessions in the Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy, Ikebana (flower arranging) and Kimono dressing, all offered over 2 days by the Hattori family and friends. This was a very special cultural experience and welcome from this Japanese family! Argiato!

Our last two days were spent in Tokyo. One might think it crowded but it was so well organized and disciplined we could have been walking the streets of Saskatoon!  Except on our last day when we decided to leave for the station at rush hour! “The Sea of People “ parted and let us through! So polite and respectful! No pushing or shoving! A delight!  Not a drop of rubbish on the street – ultimate cleanliness! Impressive!
Despite the cool weather we enjoyed a cruise along the Sumida River lined with Cherry Trees, a visit to the Hokusai -Sumida Museum and a city tour around the Imperial Palace.  After a farewell luncheon on a roof top near the station we took the Narita Express to the airport for our flight back to Canada.
 Our fit bit indicated that we had walked over 80 Km in the 10 days we were in Japan – not for the faint of heart!
Comments from our guests to describe the Japanese culture:
The first word to come to mind is “disciplined”. But also I think they were very accommodating to tourists, happy to share and explain.  Chandra – Landis, SK
Very clean … not many garbage cans around but less garbage around than you see in North America. Pride in their environment.  Nancy, Saskatoon, SK
Gracious is the word I was thinking of . Clean too, yes Nancy. I did see more than one person stoop to pick litter off the street or floor of a train – and it was not only Glenys stooping to pick up a 1 yen coin (worth .01 of a cent). She spent it right away!  Leona  Saskatoon. SK
All of it in Japan was wonderful, how you and Mieko got us through all the Bus  and train connections  was just amazing,  especially Tokyo, a  city with 37. mill people, was so easy to go through, so clean, so many very polite people everywhere, no matter how busy the market streets were !!!! The hotels we stayed in were small but so comfortable and the homestay with the Hattori family was a very much appreciated highlight to see how Japanese families live , the beautiful home and the fabulous meals they provided for us and kept us busy with cultures of their country.
A tour I would recommend to anyone who has been to Japan, (like me) or there for the first time.
Linda Socher

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