Forward-thinking and technologically advanced, it’s Japan’s traditional underbelly and rich cultural landscape that sets it apart on the world stage.
But it’s easy to miss this traditional character whilst exploring the neon-lit streets of Tokyo and Osaka or riding on a speedy bullet train. Even in Kyoto, it can be hard finding serenity and authentic Japanese experiences amongst the crowds…
But fret not, because authentic Japanese experiences are everywhere in Japan, and all you need to do to find a slice of Japan relatively untouched by the hand of time is take the tiniest step outside the urban sprawl of the cities.
Here are three authentic Japanese experiences that will give you a taste of the real Japan…
Spend the night at a Buddhist temple
Stay the night at a Buddhist temple in Japan and spend your days contemplating the meaning of life surrounded by Zen rock gardens and sharing the grounds with real monks who have forsaken a life in pursuit of money and prestige for one of spiritual fulfilment.
Japanese temple stays are called shukubo and they’ll imbue your spirit with a sense of calm and peace that you just won’t find anywhere else. Staying at a shukubo will have you eating vegetarian shojin-ryori meals with the resident monks and joining in the daily activities, such as meditation and morning chanting.
Head to Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture south of Osaka for a magical temple stay on this sacred mountain.
Soak in a traditional Japanese onsen or hot spring
Soothe your weary bones and muscles from the face-paced nature of Japan’s bustling cities and hectic spirit and soak the time away in a relaxing onsen, or hot spring.
As a volcanic archipelago, Japan is blessed with thousands of natural hot springs which are often incorporated into onsen resorts complete with traditional Japanese inns, or ryokans. There’s some etiquette you’ll need to learn before sliding into the therapeutic thermal water, such as washing yourself and rinsing before entering and not wearing a swimsuit, but it’s totally worth it.
Beppu, in Oita Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu is celebrated as the home of the onsen and an excellent place to experience this quintessential Japanese tradition.
Stay at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn)
Fitted with tatami mats and sliding shoji screens and furnished with futon bedding and low tables, your room inside a traditional Japanese inn, known as a ryokan, is the image of Japanese hospitality you’ve most probably seen on the big screen or on the tele.
Staying here isn’t just about having a place to sleep though, as it’s also a cultural experience. You’ll be served dinner and breakfast during your stay (often directly in your room whilst sitting on tatami mats), and may even be entertained with traditional Japanese music.
Many ryokans also include a thermal onsen where you can experience this other Japanese tradition. If you can, stay at least a couple of nights to truly relax and enjoy yourself.
To discover more authentic ways to experience Japan visit the website here.
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