Eternal Land of the Rising Sun
Historically a land of sublime art, rich traditions, and unsurpassed natural beauty, Japan is also known for its dizzying modernity. Experience fascinating aspects of Japanese culture, from a traditional tea ceremony to staying in a ryokan, as you travel through this land of captivating contrasts on a journey through electrifying Tokyo to ancient Kyoto. Meditate in a Zen temple, ride the bullet train and delight in the natural beauty of Japan's gardens, the majesty of Mt. Fuji and a relaxing cruise on scenic Ashi Lake.
What the Media Says About Us
Japan: For 2015, It's a Bucket List Destination
For Many Women, Japan Is Atop 2015'S Bucket List
In 2014, Japan’s Tourism officials were pleased to report a big surge in visitors from the US traveling to their country. While among the most insular of modern countries, especially when it comes to foreign languages, Japan remains an exotic bucket list destination to many Americans. In 2014, more than 881,000 U.S. citizens visited Japan, and overall the country had 13 million overseas visitors in 2014, a record number. Why is Japan such an up and coming destination? We asked several women who visited Japan with Sights and Soul Travels about what they were hoping to experience on the trip and what it was like going there with Sights and Soul Travels.
Tea has been consumed in Japan by all levels of society since the 16th century. A tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea is a ritualized form of making tea practiced in the East Asian cultural sphere. The Japanese tea ceremony is better known, and was influenced by the Chinese tea ceremony during ancient and medieval times. The brewing and consumption of tea has made tea into more than just a drink but an art, to foster harmony in humanity, promote harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the purity of enlightenment, the art of tea becomes teaism.
Traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance and games are called Geisha, Geiko or Geigi. The very first geishas were men, entertaining customers waiting to see the most popular and gifted courtesans. The first woman to call herself a geisha was a Fukagawa prostitute, in about 1750. She was a skilled singer and shamisen-player named Kikuya who was an immediate success, making female geisha extremely popular in 1750s Fukagawa.
The Kimono is a Japanese traditional garment worn by men, women and children. Today, the kimono is most often worn by women, and usually only on special occasions, however some older men and women still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Men wear the kimono most often at weddings, tea ceremonies and other very special or very formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers are often seen in the kimono because they are required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public. The Kimono is wrapped around the body, always with the left side over the right, except when dressing the dead for burial.
Ryokan is more than just a place to sleep. It is a place to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality. There are many different types of Ryokan, and they can vary greatly in size, cost and style. Ryokan may appear intimidating to the first timer and those unfamiliar, however, staying at one is a relaxing experience that everyone should try. Ryokan is a type of Japanese inn, which began in the Edo period. Modern Ryokan are more typically located in scenic areas, by the mountains or by the sea. A typical Ryokan has a large entrance hall, along with couches and chairs.
The Japanese art of flower arrangement is known as Ikebana. Derived from the Japanese Ikeru (“keep alive, arrange living”) and hana (“flower”), Ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Ikebana often emphasizes the stems and leaves and draws emphasis toward shape, line, form. The artists intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece’s color combinations. Ikebana is thought to have arrived in Japan with the migration of Buddhism in the 6th century. The offering of flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha was part of worship from which Ikebana evolved and transformed into offerings to the spirits of the dead.
Bonsai is a Japanese art form which involves miniature trees grown in containers. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity. Unlike other plant cultivation which primarily focuses on a production of food or medicine or creating a garden or a landscape, bonsai focuses on long term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. A Bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. A bansai can be any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning.
Tokyo is a marvelous mix of modern living and old-fashioned manners, slick high-tech gadgets and cutesy cartoon mascots. It's terribly crowded, yet can be strangely quiet. It's home to the understated, and the wacky, and you often find them right next to each other on the sidewalk. That's the beauty of this not-so-pretty city — that, and the fabulous food and unparalleled mass transit system. There are shrines and stone lanterns and other traces of old Japan scattered among the skyscrapers, swanky shopping malls and hole-in-the-wall noodle shops.
The astonishing number of temples, shrines, and palaces that adorn the city make Kyoto's architecture its most famous feature abroad. Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto was the center not only for politics, but religion, philosophy, art, culture, and cuisine. Every one of Japan's refined cultural arts blossomed from seeds that were planted here, including the tea ceremony, Kabuki theater, Zen, and Tantric Buddhism. Kyoto served as Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until 1868. It is now the country's seventh largest city with a population of 1.4 million people and a modern face.
10 Days / 9 Nights
This tour starts in Kyoto and ends in Tokyo