The notoriously changeable Auckland weather will never rival the vast changes the seasons bring to Japan. The allure of the cherry blossoms of spring and the stunning colours of autumn foliage present a completely different Japan to each traveller.
Springtime cherry blossoms carry huge cultural significance for the Japanese. It is a time for festivals, celebration and communal drinking of sake under the trees by a people usually known for their reserve. Masses of pink and white tissue paper-like flowers provide beautiful backdrops to ancient temples and exquisite gardens. A great time to travel, it may be a littler cooler than summer, but the more southern parts of the country are still very pleasant.
Tokyo offers a striking bend of traditional culture with uber-modern architecture and technology. Truly a 24-hour city, you can still take time to immerse yourself in some culture — I highly recommend a visit to Tsukiji to see the world’s largest fish market. Here you can try your hand at making sushi and nigiri from a sushi master. You’ll find it a taste sensation compared to the standard offering here!
Too much Tokyo is easily remedied by a trip out to the countryside, where ancient towns such as Takayama and Shirakawago, with their centuries old farm houses, will show you an entirely different side to this fascinating country. Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style thatched houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms.
Further south is Kyoto, the centre of artistic and cultural history, with breath-taking temples and gardens, castles and palaces. Make sure to visit the Sagano Bamboo Grove where you can stand among thick green bamboo stalks that seem to go on forever.
The memorial monuments of Hiroshima offer a poignant contrast to what is now a vibrant, modern city, and a journey aboard a bullet train is an absolute must.
While in Japan, sampling the local cuisine is an absolute highlight, and this also changes with the seasons. Dive in and sample all the regional variations, all washed down with an excellent Japanese beer or sake.
World Journeys have created two distinctly different small group escorted journeys, each timed to one of our favourite seasons. Whichever season captures your heart, you will inevitably discover a unique and incredibly scenic country with an enchanting culture and gracious people.
Words: Brett Barclay, World Journeys Director
Image: Kiyomizudera Temple, World Journeys