Thursday, 3 November 2011

Turning Japanese


Where do you think the best holiday destination would be for someone who is phobic (in varying degrees) about the following..

High rise buildings

You guessed correctly we are off to Japan for a few weeks.

After last years disappointing cancellation of our planned trip to South Africa, we decided to keep that holiday plan on hold for a year and go for somewhere more alien and culturally different to us.  My ME precludes a lot of the more exotic holiday destinations as I can't have various vaccinations or take malaria pills so Japan seemed like a good choice. The Bedsock has always been interested in the culinary aspects of Japan with its interesting food and amazing markets and I'm sold on the onsens (hot springs) and gardens.  The more I researched a visit to Japan the more excited I became, so two weeks before the earthquake earlier this year I booked the flights.  It has to be said that after the earthquake I would probably have steered clear of this destination for a while - I once spent an entire holiday in Sicily avoiding sitting under balconies with plant pots on them.. just in case.. But the Bedsock was adamant we should go and  approaches the idea of an earthquake (Japan is prone to small tremors at the best of times) with the kind of chivvying faux jollity OldMaSock exuded when I started my very first period. "How exciting" she cooed, having read in Woman's Own that this sensitive situation should be approached in said manner. "How dreadful!" I thought, with a premonition of a life times monthly pain, mood swings and inconvenience flashing in front of me.

So the Bedsock thinks it is all very exciting and I shall remind him of this when we are jetlagged, high up in a highrise hotel swaying slightly from side to side. However, if I let all my various fears and phobias take control I would never leave the house, so with home/cat sitter arranged, garden wrapped up for the winter, and an array of clothing packed for every climatic eventuality, we are off on Saturday.

I love organising holidays, particularly now so much information can be accessed and hotels booked on the internet etc.  but this time I relinquished control to a travel company Inside Japan Tours whose website and brochures inspired me to plan this visit.  I came up with a rough travel itinerary and they advised on the best ways to do it and booked everything for us, their local knowledge and expertise proving invaluable particularly for some of the garden tours which needed to be booked in advance.  Our tour starts with three nights in Tokyo, car hire for a week taking in the temples at Nikko, castle at Matsumoto, old town of Takayama, gardens at Kanazawa, and the scenic Noto peninsula. Then bullet train to Kyoto for a week of markets, gardens, temples, tea ceremonies and an evening with a Geisha, before returning to Tokyo stopping off at a fabulous ryokan on the way.  We have tried to ensure a mix of Western-style accomodation and beautiful traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) where we will sleep on tatami mattresses and bathe in their private onsen.   Our visit is timed for the autumn leaves which (touch wood) should be in their full glory.

One of the things I have found since reading up on Japan is their predilection for themed parks.  This is really not our kind of thing. I tried to find a 'genuine' ninja demonstration for the Bedsock (who used to do Ninja martial arts classes when we first met) but could only come up with a themed Ninja castle with multiple trap-doors and the possibility of fluorescent coloured lycra clad Ninja jumping out on us! Not really what we had in mind although, on reflection, it sounds quite fun. Nevertheless one of our stays is by a beautiful lake which has themed 'pirate' ships on it and I think we must embrace this aspect as we would embrace the more traditional parts of Japanese culture.


VP said...

I hope you've watched Lost in translation? I feel it might be essential preparation for your holiday...

... joking aside, I'm deeply envious. It all sounds wonderful, including the earthquakes.

Looking forward to hearing all your traveller's tales :)

WV says infer...

Paddy Tobin said...

This sounds like a wonderful holiday and an exciting experience. I don't see any mention of gardens in your plans. Surely, you will get to visit some.

Best wishes. Have a lovely time.


Helle (Helen) said...

Oh lucky you, Japan is a country I have wanted to visit for quite some time now - especially to stay at ryokans. Have a great time.

Thursday said...

I did a business trip to Tokyo some years ago and, I have to say, aside from the sushi bar I was taken to, I disliked the food immensely. There was something really very odd about the smell which often emanated from restaurants, to the point of turning my stomach. I did however spend a very happy afternoon off wandering round a stationery shop, all five floors of it. Itoya in Ginza (if that's the sort of thing that floats your boat). Have a good time.