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Roxana Lewis, CTC

Beverly Hills, California Travel Agent

The Adventure and Zen of Japan

Japan amazes people with its vast span of history and unique culture. Japan is home to the oldest hotel in the world. According to the Guinness World Records, the hotel, located near Mount Fuji, dates back to 705 A.D. and has been in the same family for 52 generations!  

As a Sansei, a third-generation Japanese-American, I have a strong connection to Japanese culture and have been to Japan more times than I can count. I love connecting people with artisans and other cultural experiences.  

One of my favorite experiences is in Kanazawa, nicknamed “Little Kyoto” for its authentic lifestyle and preserved ancient Edo and Samurai areas. It has one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens, Kenroku-en Garden, and wonderful crafts. While there, you can take a workshop with an artisan and make a lacquered box with gold leaf as a souvenir. And with a new bullet train connection, it is just two hours from Tokyo.

I can also arrange crafts activities at other locales throughout Japan. You might throw a pot in one of the country’s six great ceramic centers, perhaps under the tutelage of an official “living national treasure.” This honorary term is bestowed on recognized artisans who have worked at their trade for 50 years or more.   

Adventurous travelers often want to climb Mount Fuji, and I can arrange a guide who will take you at your pace. It is important to be relatively fit though, as it is typically an 11-hour hike, roundtrip.  

Japanese food is more varied than most Americans realize. A great way to experience it is with a chef, who will walk you thru Tsukiji Food Market in Tokyo. Or you can take a street food tour in Kyoto, the ancient capital. Viewed as the cultural soul of the country, Kyoto’s cuisine dates back 1,000 years and it is known for its unique regional produce and specialties. Kyoto is also known for its high quality of green tea, especially in the Uji neighborhood, as you can learn on tea tour. 

For full immersion, you can’t beat staying at one of Japan’s traditional temples, which can date back five centuries or more. It is a full-on Zen experience that can be as luxurious as a stay at a Four Seasons hotel, or quite rustic. Increasingly, temples are offering rooms with Western-style beds; the traditional rooms have a futon-style bed that is comfortable but lays out like a mattress on the floor (something older travelers’ knees often don’t appreciate).  

Most temples are set are on huge grounds with lovely, ancient gardens. The typical one-day stay starts with a 3 p.m. check-in and then a garden stroll followed by a deep-soaking Onsen bath. Dinner, vegan cuisine, is usually served at 6 p.m., leaving time for an evening stroll. Go to bed early, because, at 6 a.m., you’ll want to join the monks and experience the chanting. After a wonderful vegan breakfast, some temples offer calligraphy, flower-arranging or other classes where you experience the meditative and artistic life of a Zen monk.  

From sumo wrestling training camp to tea ceremonies, I can arrange authentic ways for you to experience the traditions and contemporary life of Japan. 

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