Activity Holidays Exploring Japanese Culture
Fushimi Inari, Kyoto. Taken by imp98
Japan is a fascinating and exotic country to visit with its mix of peacefully ancient and bustling ultra modern culture. There is so much to experience; visitors may have trouble taking it all in.
Ginzan Onsen, Yamagata. Taken by benoist
The culture of Japan is one built on respect and it is important to remember some responsible travel tips if there is a trip planned to this country for activity holidays or any other reason. Although Japan is a very modern country its people are always very formal and address each other by their last names unless they are very close, such as family. Japanese people also bow to each other in greeting as it shows respect. Japanese, especially older people also believe in respecting the body, which means not changing it, by getting a tattoo for example. Therefore anyone with tattoos visiting say a hot spring would be advised to cover them somehow.
The hot springs are a necessary visit for anyone travelling to Japan and there are plenty to choose from. To get a glimpse at Japanese culture and tradition visitors should stay at a country inn. There are also tea ceremony and other cultural demonstrations to see. Kyoto is one of Japan’s most ancient cities and has many buildings and areas of historical importance. The former capital, it is more peaceful and spiritual than busy Tokyo.
Fashion in Japan can be esoteric, to say the least. One of the biggest fashion crazes to become popular in the West is the ‘Lolita’ or ‘Gothic Lolita’ look. The Harajuku district of Tokyo is the best place to find shops with these clothes as well as other alternative fashions. For those interested in more mainstream fashion there are plenty of shops catering to that too, in the districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Of course for traditional Japanese fashion there is always the kimono. It is possible to go into a shop and be fitted for a new kimono and there are many shops that will do this in Tokyo and other Japanese cities, however this can be very expensive. It is possible to find second hand kimono and the elements worn with it such as the belt and under layers in antique shops that deal in clothing or specialised second hand kimono shops. These can be found in Tokyo and the other larger cities, in various districts.
Japanese crafts are beautiful and can be exquisitely made, whether it is an origami crane or a samurai sword. In fact, many ancient swords are considered works of art and national treasures in Japan. Good kimonos are made of hand painted silk with delicate patterns, some of which can be rare. The Japanese pottery and porcelain making techniques are one of the country’s oldest art forms and date back to the Neolithic period. Japanese porcelain and pottery can be intricately painted with minute details on small surfaces, such as Japanese tea services. And of course there are Japanese paintings and calligraphy, another art form unique to countries in the East, which was practised mainly by monks and warriors in ancient times and was believed to help reach tranquillity. Origami, the art of folding paper into shapes, is an ancient craft that visitors can learn fairly easily for themselves.
Japan is a fascinating country of contradictions: ancient and modern, tranquil and busy, formal and fun. Visitors will find so much to explore in Japan that one trip may not be enough.
Author: Kay Rose
Kay Rose regularly contributes to various websites and blogs. Some of the things she writes on are activity holidays
and responsible travel tips.