I typically don’t live life with regrets, though if I was pushed to name one regret, it would be not being able to speak a foreign language.
Especially since I used to be able to.
And to be honest it’s quite embarrassing. Being in a foreign country where the locals are making all the effort to speak in English and I can’t string a sentence together in theirs.
Telling people that yes, I did learn Japanese in High school, but now it’s all but disappeared.
So on my most recent trip to Japan I decided that enough was enough. I was done with feeling ashamed and guilty that I hadn’t put the effort into retaining Japanese as a second language, and I wanted to replace that with a feeling of pride at being able to thrive in real world conversations.
I told myself I wasn’t going to travel with a portable translator, and a couple of months before I left I downloaded Rosetta Stone on my desktop and phone.
If you’ve ever heard of the Silk Road, this refers to an ancient network of Eurasian trade routes that once connected the East to the West. These were routes that emerged across both land and sea, along which silk and many other goods were imported and exported.
For many years, this was the primary source of cultural crossover between Europe and Asia. And while the Silk Road stretched all across Europe and the Middle East, it is the Asian stops of the Silk Road that are most worth the trip today.
This is where the Silk Road originated, when China opened up to trade in the first and second centuries B.C. But while goods were obviously traded, imported, and exported in and out of Asia, it has a much greater cultural significance. The constant movement and mixing of populations also brought about the transmission of knowledge, ideas, cultures and beliefs, which had a profound impact on the history and civilizations of the Eurasian peoples.
For those with an interest in history and cultural heritage, the Silk Road is a great path to follow when travelling in China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries. Here are 3 must-see destinations you shouldn’t miss.
Japan could easily be considered to be among the world’s most desired destinations. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of watching the sun set over a tori gate, visit the thousands of shrines in Kyoto, or witness dawn from the top of Mt. Fuji?
And in terms of getting around, the country has one of the safest, cleanest, fastest, most efficient, punctual and convenient public transportation networks in the world. But while you might be tempted by the city subways, bullet trains, or even by catching a flight, we opted for an entirely different way of seeing Japan: by bike.
With considerate drivers, great infrastructure, and a well connected network of roads, Japan is a perfect destination for bicycle touring first-timers. We spent 3 months on our bikes exploring Kyushu, Shikoku, and Southern Honsu, but you still can easily cover a wide cross section of Japan in 7 – 10 days.
If you could only ever explore one region of Japan, Kansai would be a good choice. The cultural heartland of the country, which includes the cities of Osaka, Sakai, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto, no other region offers as much cultural and historic significance into such a compact size.
This has been the cultural center of Japan for centuries, having given birth to traditional Japanese theatre styles, Japanese Buddhism, the tea ceremony, and hosted many Japanese capitols throughout time. It is a patchwork of intense urban life mixed with traditional sites; exciting modern architecture sits next to a diverse legacy of beautiful castles and temples from ancient times.
It is a hub of Japanese experiences in food, religion, and ancient tradition, and is the perfect region to sample Japan’s diversity. No other region of Japan offers as much variety as Kansai.
In this increasingly divided world, there are still a few things which remain that unites us all. And one of those is that we all love a good old snooze. However, just as the language we speak and the food we eat differ depending on the country we live in, so too does how we sleep.
Unsurprisingly, our bedtime routines reflect the differences in everything from our environment, to our lifestyles and cultural values. Below are just some of the countless ways in which the world gets its rest on.
One of the most colorful seasons in Japan is Hanami; a season where the country’s famous cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show, a show cherished by tourists and locals alike. Groups gather in city parks to bathe in the pink atmosphere of the flowering cherry and plum trees, and spring parties are thrown which can last well into the night.
The Hanami season begins in March and lasts until late May, and fortunately, some of Japan’s most iconic cities are also the best places to witness the flowering spectacle. But the cherry blossoms are fleeting, and most cities only offer a short window of 2-3 weeks (you can check online flower forecasts to find peak viewing times across the country).
We therefore decided it was best to head on an organized tour. And the great thing for anyone wishing to catch the cherry blossoms in 2018, is that Luxury Escapes is offering 40% off the tour we chose.
Getting to see a volcano up close is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Whether they’re dormant or active, standing on the crater fills you with wonder (and sometimes dread) as you gaze into the maw of these colossi.
For the purposes of this article, we’ve chosen five different countries with live volcanoes. Though some of these have more than one volcano currently active, so keep an eye out for that, too.
Japan is a wonderful country known for it’s blend of traditional culture and modern dynamic cities. And while the buzz is all about it’s pop culture, neon-lit streetscapes and architectural wonders that redefine what a city should be, there is also an incredible outdoors and nature scene.
Over two-thirds of Japan is made up of mountains, perfect for hiking, and there are majestic volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and vast forests inhabited by monkeys, bears, deer, cranes and other wildlife. The tropical beaches of the south are popular for sunning, snorkelling, diving and surfing, and in fact, Japan’s coastline is one of the longest and most impressive in the world.
So to inspire you to make your visit to Japan a little different from the standard Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima itinerary, let me introduce you to 5 beautiful places you shouldn’t miss. Because Japan is much more than one large, densely populated megacity!
To much of the developed world, especially in recent years, tattoos are seen as beautiful/trendy additions to one’s personality, with many tattoos succeeding in telling interesting stories about a person’s past.
But in some countries, tattoos are still seen as extremely taboo. Exposed tattoos in such countries can commonly result in arrests, and where a traveler is concerned, sometimes deportation.
So the following is a list of countries where you should be extra careful about flaunting your ink – otherwise you may end up in more trouble than previously thought!
Osaka is a darling city, offering tourists plenty of attractions without the stressful crowds like that of its larger city counterparts. And while it may prove difficult to pull yourself away from its charms, beyond Osaka itself are some lovely places to experience Japan’s culture and natural beauty.
The following are two great cities for exploring more of Japan, both under an hour away from Osaka, making each perfect for a day trip during your stay.
Whilst Tokyo is the popular big city for tourists, Osaka is the darling sister, holding a charm that can’t be denied. It has all the culture, attractions and delicious food you can expect from a Japanese city, though with the bonus of less crowds and congested streets.
Perfect for families, or those who prefer a slightly quieter, but still fulfilling, Japanese holiday, Osaka is the place to visit. Here is our list of highlights and attractions you shouldn’t miss!
Business or leisure? Why not both? For those lucky enough to travel for business, we suggests turning business trips into mini vacations, or what some call “bleisure” trips.
The cities below are known for their economic prowess as well as their entertainment dexterity, making them perfect for bleisure. With stunning skylines, rich cultural sites, wilderness centers and upbeat night scenes, these cities are the ideal places to blend business with more than just a dash of pleasure.
Japan is a truly unique destination in that each month has something fantastic to offer, and there is genuinely no bad time to go.
Seasons play a huge role in Japanese culture, so visiting at different times of the year will offer different experiences. Many plan their trip around spring to witness the cherry blossoms bloom, though a strong argument could be made that Autumn is the most beautiful time of year! And Kyoto has some of the most stunning fall foliage in the country.
Leaves start changing from mid October and last until mid-December. Hit up the following spots in mid November to see Autumn colors in Kyoto at their best.
Famous throughout the world, Japan’s cherry blossoms put on a spectacular show every spring with visitors coming from far and wide to view the incredible sight.
Japanese call it “Hana – mi” which literally translates to “viewing of cherry blossoms”; the cherry flowers referred to as “Sakura” in Japanese. So when did this tradition originate and how did it become a popular activity among locals and tourists alike?
Tokyo is a dazzling destination, one popular among travelers for its ability to keep traditional Japanese culture while embracing a passion for everything new. When to visit is a difficult question to answer. Each month has something fantastic to offer, and as seasons play a huge role in Japanese culture, visiting at different times of the year will offer different experiences.
The following are reasons to visit Tokyo during each season. The decision of when to visit is then up to you!
Steeped in culture and fiercely protective of its heritage, festivals are incredibly important in Japan with many people travelling from all corners of the country to attend the most important events and celebrations.
Though hundreds of small festivals and events take place across the country throughout the year, there are a few that are more important than the rest. If you happen to be staying in Japan during one of these festivals or celebrations, taking part will give you a fantastic insight into Japanese culture and an experience you’ll never forget.
For backpacking travelers like me, luxury hotels are a dream. Egyptian cotton, silk pillows, and the finest Italian Frette. It would be amazing to rest my head in luxury everywhere I go.
For right now these spectacular hotels remain active on my bucket-list, though who knows, sometimes dreams do come true! Here are 4 of the most luxurious accommodations around the world of which I would love to organize a stay if money was no object!