Monday, May 12, 2014

Looking forward to the warmer weather in Japan

May in Japan: azaleas, strawberries and shinryoku (try to say it!)

It's getting cooler each day here in Sydney, but it's getting warmer each day in Japan. Mid-May to mid-June is one of my favourite times to visit Japan. Why?

  • The days are longer, so you have more time for sightseeing.
  • It's not too cold and not too hot, so you don’t have to pack heavy clothes.
  • The azaleas are in full bloom.
  • Strawberries are in season and you can’t get enough.
  • Shinryoku - new green: who can resist walking under new green foliage!!
So I'm really looking forward to guiding nine fellow travellers from next Saturday on my City Lights & Alpine Trails Tour. This itinerary is very unique, including a special viewing of the Kamogawa Odori, which is one of the most traditional dance performances by Maiko and Geiko in Kyoto's Pontocho Alley. We're also spending several days in the alpine region of central Japan - visiting, Gero Onsen, Kamikochi and Tsumago, where we get to stay in traditional inns and take hot spring baths. I can't wait! After this tour, some of us will be continuing on North to Kamui Mintara. Follow me on Facebook for updates.

2014 sakura tours report

We were blessed to have had great weather and happy memories on both the “Classic Sakura” and “Sakura Highland” tours. We saw so many cherry blossoms across Japan. On the first tour, we enjoyed a snow shower on Mt Misen above the floating red gate, followed by brilliant blue skies. On the second tour, we could enjoy hanami at our secret spot near Matsumoto. Here are some comments from my fellow travellers:
  • Riki is a relaxed guide always reassuring, caring and reliable. (Ms Mar)
  • We have seen & experienced life in Japan in a way we would never have achieved on our own. (Mrs Robertson)
  • Riki treated all of us as part of his family. (Mr Kannangara)
  • Personal + historical knowledge of Japan, terrific consideration of our well-being. (Mrs Collins)
  • I’ve been on a few guided tours. Usually the tour leader goes away at the end of day, but Riki was always available to take us somewhere interesting for dinners. (Mr Collins)
Thank you for all your kind comments. It was wonderful travelling with you and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Mr Kimura the Hiroshima taxi driver

My personal highlight in April was meeting with Mr Kimura in Hiroshima again. It was pure coincidence. I took his taxi last year in May, and I happened to take his taxi again this year too with my fellow travellers.  He is an 83 year old taxi driver who experienced the atomic bomb when he was 13 years old. He lost his father and three sisters at the time. He still drives his taxi three times a week and often talks about his experiences with visitors. He doesn’t blame anyone for what happened, he says sensou wa sensou (war is war). Click here for a video of him talking with us.


Hands on experience: indigo dyeing

Are you interested in doing something more than sightseeing?  During my "Classic Sakura" tour, I shared Japanese indigo dyeing experience in Tokyo with my fellow travellers, and it turned out really well. Tade Ai (Polygonum or Knotweed) is the plant which creates the beautiful dark blue colour, which you've probably seen on traditional Japanese fabrics. The plant is native to Japan, and many can still be found growing wild in Shikoku. Its green colour changes when it touches the air.

The year ahead

I'm starting to plan for next years' tours. I will probably change the "Classic Sakura" tour a little by including stays at Mt Fuji and Himeji Castle, which is Japan's best. It's been under wraps for renovation since 2010, so it will be great to see it again. Also, don't miss out. It's not too late to book yourself on one my Autumn Tours this November.