57 images Created 24 May 2019

Opting for an eclectic mix of Japan’s traditional culture & natural beauty, we decided to leave the modernism & madness of Tokyo for the end of our trip and shipped out on the morning’s first Shinkansen bullet train south to explore Kyoto, Nara & Kanazawa. Filled to the brim with a fascinating combination of culinary & artistic traditions, this area was a delightful introduction to Japan before we headed into the more rural & relatively untouched Japan Alps.

A springtime visit to Kyoto comes with the world-famous pink & purple blossom gently floating around on every corner. Impressive temples & shrines line a maze of fascinating little roads with a sprinkle of immaculately kept Zen gardens to match. Fascinating street life with a mélange of eateries & markets, this clean and beautifully kept cultural hub proved to be a far cry from the chaos and social unease one sadly tends to see in many parts of Europe. The Geisha district especially with its canals, eclectic facades, hidden sake bars and traditional street life was especially appealing, especially as their is a seemingly endless sense of respect and appreciation oozing into local living which ever way you turn…

A relatively short train ride away from Kyoto and Nara (bearing in mind how amazingly efficient travel can be in Japan travelling light with a rail pass under your arm), took us to Kanazawa, the drawcard of the Horuriku region. A sprawling fishing town boasting ‘Kenroku-en’, a peaceful and enchanting strolling garden on the edge of Kanazawa Castle park where one can literally lose themselves for hours…followed by a pitstop at a rotary sushi bar in the heart of the Ômi-chô bustling fish market…

Japan at first glance can often appear quite modern, but heading towards the ‘Japan Alps’, we were soon rewarded with some priceless opportunities of traditional culture and absorb some fresh mountain air. First stop was Takayama, arriving just in time for the elaborate Spring Matsuri festival before heading into the heart of the Central Honshû region as far as Kamikōchi, where amongst the stunning alpine scenery and snow-capped mountains, one sees a slower paced lifestyle away from the crowds, a place where the locals of these charming rural hamlets seem to appreciate & respect every little unfolding detail that make up their working day. From the whisking etiquette of their morning matcha to the meticulous preparation of our ryokan’s onsen each evening

And then, before we knew it, the Shinkansen had delivered us back to Tokyo. The megalopolis that continually reaches to the future with its huge urban areas covered with a mix of technology, crackling neon signs & skyscrapers. Its recent ‘rebirth’ as a pop-culture & culinary mecca, means that no traveller experience is complete without trying some quirky new look in the Harajuku district before a final round of delicately prepared sashimi in a little sushi bar hidden on the edge the atmospheric Chinzanso Gardens – Arigatō Japan!
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