At a first glance, Japan may seem contemporary and although it is a well-developed and modern nation, upon closer inspection you will find cultural nuances appearing around each ornate corner. Marginal outside influences, with a history of isolation, has created an array of distinct traditions. Japan offers an abundance of eccentric pursuits and a unique exploration experience.
As a visitor to Japan, it is polite to try to take note of Japanese etiquette rules, although grace will always be extended to you! Japanese people typically greet each other by bowing, but as a person from another country, a limp handshake with little eye contact will suffice. In many traditional establishments and homes, it is courteous to remove your shoes and leave them in the entranceway before entering. You should also try to keep a soft tone when commuting on the quiet Japanese trains. The last piece of advice regards the eating utensils renowned in Japan – chopsticks. Try to avoid rubbing your chopsticks together and leaving them crossed on your bowel is ill-advised.
Geisha and Geiko
If you pay a visit to Kamishichiken, you will find an authentic and well-preserved portion of the city as well as a myriad of beautiful geishas or geikos. Known for their high-class services, which come in the form of dance performances, games, and conversation, the professional female entertainers dazzle those who can afford their talents. Successfully run by women, the artform celebrates female autonomy and prowess. There is another group of women working in the red light district of Japan, known as Oiran, who also paint their faces white and are not to be mistaken for geikos. This has often been the case, with the more inexperienced travelers and has given rise to a number of stubborn and unflattering stereotypes.
When traveling in Japan, it is imperative to partake in the age-old tea ceremony. Typically performed by Geishas, the elegant ceremony has evolved throughout history. The former Zen monk, Murata Shuko is known as the godfather of the modern Japanese ritual. He labeled the practice Wabi-Cha, a modification of the ethereal Japanese philosophy Wabi-Sabi, denoting the art of finding beauty in imperfections, simplicities and the fleeting nature of life. The cups and bowls used to hold the tea are made from unique and imperfect organic earthenware – a truly stunning concept.
Nihonshu or Sake, Japan’s national beverage, is made from fermented rice and is traditionally served at special ceremonies, events and on holidays. The alcoholic drink has origins that predate written history and will certainly enhance your overall experience of Japan.
Japanese cuisine varies dependent on the season and region of each dish. Expect unusual recipes and cooking methods as you travel across the country. Sushi originated in Japan and in the 1960s, after being introduced in the US, became a firm-favorite worldwide. Another popular dish, labeled by some as infamous, is Kuro Tamago or black eggs, which are hardboiled in the Hakone hot springs close to Mt.Fuji. The iron and sulfur in the water cause a chemical reaction that turns the eggs black. It is said to improve both your luck and health, however, it is cautioned that not more than 3 are consumed!
Art in Voyage has a carefully curated journey that is on the horizon in which you will have the opportunity to experience more reasons why Japan is beautifully unique!