Experience Japan’s cultural highlights
It is no overstatement to say that Japan has one of the most richly defined and perfectly preserved cultures in the world. Although the country opened up to the West more than 150 years ago, and has long since embraced burgers and baseball, its unique cultural identity has remained. You will see it each day in the simple politeness of strangers, the faultless time-keeping and the fact that lost wallets more often than not are found. For a slice of the Japan’s past and present, we can arrange authentic experiences that let clients get to grips with its many cultural identities.
SUMO STABLE VISIT
One of the most exclusive experiences in Japan is the rare chance to visit a traditional Sumo ‘stable’ (‘beya‘) accompanied by one of the sport’s top experts. As you watch the weighty wrestlers in their morning training session, you’ll have the chance to hear about the exceptionally disciplined life of a sumo wrestler from an ex-wrestler turned journalist, who now does English commentary on Japanese television. Sitting right next to the training ring, you will see the unique sport up close, and with a professional photographer on hand, it will be even more of an unforgettable experience. This extremely special day must be arranged far in advance, as it is not often that they open their doors to visitors.
TEA CEREMONY + KIMONO DRESSING
The Japanese tea ceremony is perhaps the most enigmatic of the traditional arts. Rather than the more familiar daily brew of steeped green tea, tea for the ceremony is made from bright-green powdered matcha, and served with the utmost care during an elaborate but subdued and perfectly choreographed ceremony. Everything is meticulously planned, from the precise and delicate movements of the host to the instruments used to serve the tea, as well as to the ikebana flowers and shodÅ calligraphy displayed in the tea room. These rules and procedures are still much as they were when established in the late 1500s by the Zen monk and tea master Rikuyu, which means it is a fascinating window into Japan’s past.
Clients can experience the full elegance of the ritual by attending an exclusive ceremony at the private home of a tea master, while dressed in exquisite traditional kimonos. Destination Expert Penny says this has proved particularly popular with honeymoon couples, perhaps due to its intimate and spiritual nature.
TEMPLE STAY IN KYOTO
For one of the most culturally immersive experiences you can have in Japan, our experts can organise a night’s stay at a private temple in the former Imperial capital of Kyoto, where you will live like a monk for the night. A client who recently returned from Japan says, “We were initially hesitant about the idea, having grown accustomed to the luxury and seamlessness of our other hotels but couldn’t have been more wrong. It was truly the most authentic and enjoyable part of our visit to Japan. The accommodation was basic and Spartan but we had everything we needed and the food was out of this world. Even my husband, a die-hard carnivore, was converted to the wonders of shojin ryori! Waking up in the morning and joining the monks for meditative prayers was a magical experience and we left for Kyoto in a complete state of zen.”
WEIRD + WONDERFUL TOKYO
Cat cafes, kitsch-themed restaurants and rows of shops selling strange beauty contraptions that seem to have no obvious purpose – Tokyo offers no shortage of fodder for amusement, puzzlement and adventure. Experience for yourself the wonderfully weird side of the city on an expert-led private tour centred around the Shibuya district, the centre of exciting and dynamic youth culture in the capital. We only work with the most inspiring guides in each destination we represent, as we know they are our clients’ gateway into a new world and one of the most crucial elements for a successful trip. The quirky side of Tokyo can be particularly enthralling for children and we can arrange for trips to Hello Kitty Land or Kidzania Tokyo, a mini city.
Renowned worldwide as masters of stealth combat, ninjas are a staple of martial arts movies and comics, but they are also a very real part of Japanese history. Although there is no doubt that they trained and practised as covert warriors, in feudal Japan, ninjas also fulfilled other important roles as spies, inspectors and advisors. cazenove+loyd clients have the opportunity to learn a wealth of secrets from members of a genuine ninja clan. This is certainly an adults-only experience as you will be practising with sharp swords, but many people have come away more taken with the spirituality and discipline of the ninja warriors.