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Wanderlusting for Japan
If this is your first time wandering with me, welcome. And if you’re a frequent wanderer, welcome back! I’m Portia and I love to travel so it’s only fitting that we start thinking about where we’re going in 2021, 2022, 2023…
I like to say that I have a lot of hobbies but I’m starting to think that my actual hobby is learning. Learning new things, trying new crafts and new foods, and most of all, going to new places. The main ingredient in everything I’ve ventured into was learning how to do it. I’m always intrigued by the how’s. Working on the answer to how gives you a better understanding of the world around you and gets you closer to living your dreams.
Japan has been on my bucket list for a long time, but it has now moved up to #1 International Priority Trip. How to do it has been a big question on my mind lately, including what to see and do, how long would be a good enough stay, and what should I not miss. At the same time, I’m not sure that I can travel there at all in 2021 but I can satisfy my wanderlust at home while learning about Japanese culture and history.
One of the best places to start a journey of Japanese art and culture might be the story of Rediscovering the Lost Crafts of Japan. Here you’ll see the recovery of a distinctive ink-marbling dyeing technique that disappeared after the last master of the traditional art passed away in 1990. Another lost craft, this one is from Okinawa, was Basho-fu in which textiles were woven from the fibers of a type of wild banana tree. Ryukyu hariko is even rebounding as young artists create new styles of these papier-mache figurines. If you make it to the end of this story, I guarantee you will feel a deep respect and love for these arts and the artisans that are dedicated to them. Not only are the videos captivating but you also get a prized badge from Google for your Bookworm efforts. Did you know that you can get badges for your learning achievements on Google Arts & Culture?
Just a Reminder…
You’ll find a lot of links to various resources on this site, some of these links are affiliate links that pay me a commission at no extra cost to you. If you make a purchase through these companies, this supports the photos and tips that are provided to inspire you in your own travels.
- Furoshiki – wrapping square shaped cloths. Modern use is for gifts and treats. Traditional use was for wrapping household items like furniture. More gift wrapping ideas.
- “Ningyogami” – Japanese Paper Dolls.
- Japanese Paper Lanterns – shoji style pattern to use with a cutting machine.
- Japanese Flower Hair Comb – tutorial for using satin ribbons to create a floral hair comb.
- Take the kids on a virtual trip packed full of activities just for them.
- DIY Japanese printed bowls – easily transform white porcelain bowls with ceramic paints.
- Ikebana inspired centerpiece – a beautiful centerpiece from foraged materials.
- Upcycle outdated coasters with Japanese inspiration using origami or washi papers.
- Japanese paper fan ornaments – I’m already thinking maybe next year’s Christmas theme will come from Japanese inspiration.
- Sumi-E painting – a simple guide to Japanese Ink Painting. For more information on Japanese blank ink painting visit the Sumi-E Society of America which answers “What is Sumi-E?”
- Great video showing how to make mochi. Nami has a very informative site filled with cultural insights and Japanese recipes from easy to intricate.
- I definitely want to try her Green Beans with Yuzu Vinaigrette (which can be substituted with any citrus juice).
- Creamy Japanese Cheesecake from I Am a Food Blog.
- I love vegetable tempura.
- Makombu-Squash Soup by Saveur.
Bring home these items found on Amazon to create your own Japanese immersion moments.
Try these 3 highly recommended virtual tours:
MIMARU TOKYO AKASAKA – Apartment style hotel with both Japanese and Western style rooms near transportation.
teamLab Borderless – gallery of free form artworks that create a borderless world.
Akihabara – the main shopping center for electronics, anime, and manga in a fascinating spotlight of tech and neon.
Ueno Park – beautiful park that holds the Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Zoo, and the National Museum of Western Art. (although the area is not recommended for families outside of the park or after 9 p.m.)
Hama Rikyu Gardens – beautiful, popular gardens.
Chidorigafuchi – see hundreds of different cherry blossom trees along the riverside.
Six amazing experiences waiting for you in Tokyo:
CROSS HOTEL KYOTO – In the ancient capital of Japan, this hotel is near train stations and has heritage sites within walking distance.
MIMARU KYOTO NISHINOTOIN TAKATSUJI – Affordable apartment style hotel.
Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine – a very important shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto God of rice. Walk along the Torii gate covered hiking trails. Free admission and always open.
Nijo Castle – built in 1603 for the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603 – 1867). An UNESCO World Heritage site.
Arashiyama – small town on the Oi River with one of the most scenic walking areas to explore. Check out this insider’s alternative walking tour of the Bamboo Grove in order to avoid some of the crowds.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple – one of the most celebrated temples with sweeping views of the wooded hills. An UNESCO World Heritage site.
Musubi Kyoto – Giftshop specializing in kimonos, yukatas, and accessories. Kimono – because of the specificity of how one is worn culturally, it is recommended that you rent one with a “kitsuke” professional that puts it on you correctly. Kimono is formal with undergarments – Yukata is casual wear without undergarments. Learn more about the differences.
Philosopher’s Path (Walk) – scenic path down a cherry-tree lined canal.
Private tours and secrets in Kyoto await you:
6 things I’d want to try in Japan:
- Japanese Onsen Bath – better brush up on my manners first with this list of 7 things to know.
- Stay at a Ryokan – traditional Japanese inn.
- Bring home some dango – sweet Japanese rice dumplings.
- Feed my daughter Poteto (French fries) so she won’t starve because that’s her favorite thing to eat anyway.
- Be on the lookout for some Ramune (lemon-lime drink in an interesting glass bottle sealed with a marble.) Also sold as a look-alike candy.
- Learn some basic Japanese, it always helps to know a little of the language wherever you go, especially in non-English speaking countries.
- If you go to an onsen bath, nudity is generally required.
- How to spot Ring wing activists – demonstrations with black military style trucks or buses. Do not engage, especially do not take pictures.
- Noodle slurping is perfectly acceptable.
- Tattoos are taboo – you may not be allowed in an Onsen bath or swimming pool if you have tattoos.
- Expect crowds.
- You must take your shoes off a lot.
- Don’t blow your nose in public (IMO, you shouldn’t do that anyway, go to the restroom, please.)
- Areas in Tokyo to avoid for families: Kabukicho, Shibuya, Roppongi, Gotanda, Ikebukuro, Shin Okubo, Ueno.
- 10 Golden Rules for Chopsticks manners – eating with chopsticks is serious business, better start practicing.
- It’s rude to have loud public conversations on your mobile phone (another rule I could really appreciate everywhere).
- Watch for snakes – lots of poisonous ones.