What are the key activities not to be missed in Japan?

Japan has in a sense always been a country a little apart from the rest of the world. Beyond the fact that it opened its borders to international trade in 1868, it has a real cultural wealth of its own that it has built up over the centuries. Now accessible to all, it never ceases to fascinate historians, ethnologists and especially tourists from all four corners of the world.

In recent years, the Land of the Rising Sun has indeed experienced a resurgence of interest and each year more and more visitors go there to discover this unique Zen culture in the world. But to be able to enjoy this Japanese and ancestral culture which makes up a large part of the national identity, you still need to know where to look. 

Today’s Tokyo and Shinto shrines, for example, have little in common from an architectural or even cultural point of view. That’s why today we propose to list some of the cultural sites, the unmissable activities that you should know if you want to learn more about this Japanese culture.

Visit the Katana Museum in Osafune, Okayama Prefecture

One of these peculiarities is certainly linked to what was for centuries the most powerful weapon available to the samurai, the  katana  , which I was able to learn more about by visiting the  Katana Museum in Osafune , in Okayama  Prefecture   .

As you travel across the island of  Honshu  , from  Izumo  in   Shimane Prefecture  to  the former  Bizen Prefecture  , now known as  Okayama  , you can find several places of interest. Some are scenic stops to enjoy the scenery, while others are cultural and educational stops that allow you to deepen your knowledge of ancient Japanese culture.

The  Katana Museum  where to find a good Katana?   is one of these, built in the complex that is part of a historical company that transmits the processing technique from the raw material, allows to obtain the best katanas in the world.

The tea ceremony

Also called  chanoyu,  the tea ceremony is a very old tradition that dates back to the time of the samurai even before the Edo period (1603-1868). It is still very present on Japanese territory where  you will find tea houses spread out everywhere which makes them very accessible .

If you are a tea lover and more specifically a matcha lover, this is an unmissable activity that will allow you to dive into the heart of Zen culture and discover several different arts and crafts. Among them, textiles with the tea master’s kimono,  traditional teapots  with the cast iron kettles in which the tea is heated, but also ikebana (  Japanese floral art) which is often represented on the  tokonoma  (area dedicated to the exhibition of arts) of the tea house.

Visiting the castles of the feudal era

The Japanese medieval period is highly publicized for its warriors with an unwavering sense of honor: the samurai. Unfortunately, since the Meiji Restoration in 1868, none of them have been part of Japanese society. However, this is not the case for the twelve traditional wooden castles that come straight out of the feudal era.

Although some have been renovated,  all have kept the architecture and authenticity that characterizes them . If you had to do only one, we recommend visiting the one in Osaka, which perfectly reflects why these castles continue to fascinate so much today. It has a very large size as well as remarkable architecture and the view that you will have once you reach the seventh floor over its moats and the entire territory is simply magnificent. Finally, you will find within it many period objects to immerse yourself as closely as possible in the life of the samurai, such as some of their weapons or armor.

Zen gardens

The Japanese have always had a very intimate relationship with nature. Whether in their native religion Shintoism but also in their traditional arts such as ikebana with  floral arrangements and bonsai, suisekis (figurative natural stones) but also in their own living space. In their home of course but especially in their garden.

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