Japan is flying high for Wendy Wu Tours and agents should make sure they’re selling a fascinating land with incredible culture, scenery and cuisine, says the operator’s business development manager Mark Harris
We have seen a huge increase in bookings to Japan, so I was really pleased to join one of our fully-escorted Jewels of Japan tours to find out what all the excitement is about.
We began our journey in vibrant Tokyo, where, despite its modern and futuristic atmosphere, we were able to embrace the more traditional side of Japan. We wandered amongst the famous cherry blossoms, in full bloom, in the Imperial Palace Gardens, before visiting the Meiji Shrine which offers a fascinating insight into the timeless nature of Japanese culture.
Leaving the bright lights of Tokyo behind, we set off to explore rural Japan – first stop, Mt Fuji! There was a huge sense of anticipation as we waited for this national icon to appear before us. I will never forget the moment our coach rounded a bend and there she was in all her snow-capped magnificence.
We continued to a hidden spot, somewhere you’d never find by yourself, where two friendly ladies showed us how to make our own soba noodles. There was laughter aplenty as we mastered the fine hand-chopping of the noodles and our efforts were soon rewarded when our two new friends took our freshly-made noodles away and returned with a thoroughly delicious lunch, the result of our handiwork. It was a fantastic experience to cook using traditional techniques and one that we may have missed if we had not been on an escorted tour.
Our lodgings for two nights were a hot spring resort right on the shore of spectacular Kawaguchi-ko, one of the Fuji Five Lakes. Known as onsen, hot springs have been enjoyed by the Japanese for centuries for their health benefits and as a place to socialise. Everyone felt reinvigorated after soaking in the ancient and therapeutic geothermal waters.
We found even more traditional Japan in Kyoto, enjoying lunch with a genuine Maiko (apprentice Geisha), called Fukuya. She entertained us with a traditional Japanese dance and then sat with us, answering our questions on anything and everything about life as a Maiko.
That same afternoon, the group tried their hand at the age-old art of origami. With the help of a fantastic teacher, before we knew it we were creating origami frogs and paper boxes! The traditional tea ceremony that followed, with all its ritual and flourishes, was fascinating to behold.
The temples of Kyoto perfectly symbolise old Japanese. The beautiful Ryoan-Ji Temple is a lush and tranquil escape – a beautiful, Zen rock garden is the centre piece. Kiyomizu-dera, a 16th century Buddhist temple offers spectacular woodland vistas – it is said that if you drink the pure water here you’ll enjoy good health and long life. Spending any time in Kyoto leaves you with a sense of inner-peace, calmness and an insight into ancient Japanese culture.
The local knowledge of our Wendy Wu Tours guide was hugely beneficial – she knew the secret spots and when to go where and could even predict the weather! We missed nothing, all thanks to her expertise
Read Mark’s full blog here.