When I was envisioning my trip to Japan, I could picture all of the iconic sites and experiences that I wanted to see and do - from ancient temples to towering mountains. Looking back now, the rivers and coasts weren't among my initial 'must-dos', but they became some of my favourite moments.
A picturesque walking tour took us along the Genbe River. It was a gentle 1.5 kilometres so I could really appreciate the beauty of it all without too much excursion. The meandering river begins in Rakujen Park, a quiet area just south of Mishima Station where stepping stones let you hop from one side to the other. As we followed the river it led us to hidden shrines amongst the thriving tree line.
The Jogaski Coast Walking Tour was a bit tougher than the river, taking us two hours, but the views and insights from our tour guide were well worth it! The walk gave us great views of the dramatic coastal rock formations and Sagami Bay.
Our guide told us all about the local wildlife that you could find there, and how the Sagami area was the centre of legendary Japanese shogunate. The Kadowaki Suspension Bridge was an impressive end to the tour, stretching across a deep channel flowing into the sea. This is the perfect place for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.
One of the more unique places I visited was the incredible Shiraito Falls which consisted of dozens of waterfalls. Fed by the waters of Mount Fuji, the water cascades over the rocks in thin streams, which gave way to its name Shiraito Falls which means 'white threads'. It's an enchanting sight, and considered among the most beautiful waterfalls in the country!
My trip featured a whole host of experiences that I could include here, from Sefa Utaki which is a historic sacred space in Okinawa where even the rocks and stones are considered sacred objects, to visiting bamboo forests close by to Shuzenji Temple. But there were a couple of excursions that really took centre stage for this element.
We were fortunate enough to have a guided tour through the fascinating Wasabi fields of Shizuoka. Lush patches of Wasabi sat on terraces that followed the river downstream, and we learnt how flowing water was a vital necessity of wasabi cultivation. This crop has grown in Japan for thousands of years, and it was incredible to get such a close insight.
Another experience we went on was the Ai Kaze Indigo Dyeing experience in Nago, where we used a centuries-old technique to dye our fabric into lovely shades of blue. This plant-based dye has long been part of the local culture, and the workshop we visited is one of the few natural?indigo dyeing?workshops that remain.
You cannot miss venturing out to Japan's mountains - the awe-inspiring views really make it feel like you're watching from the clouds. And if hiking isn't really 'your thing', you don't have to miss out.
The Mount Fuji World Heritage Centre was a really unique experience that imitates the climb of the mountain. You walk up to the top following a large corkscrew, with large screens lining the staircase to simulate walking up the well-renowned mountain.
There were points along the way where you can stop and learn more about the mountain, all leading up to the open-air observation area at the top which looks out to the mountain. This was one of my favourite experiences on this trip and definitely one to add to your list.
A short 20-minute train ride from Atami took me to the spectacular Mount Komuro. The chair lift to the summit was similar to a ski lift, and took me over the seasonal flower fields below. The views were incredible!
Once at the top, I was able to roam around the summit along wooden boardwalks, which afforded 360-degree panoramic views. We could see Mount Fuji to the north, Sagami Bay to the east and the Boso Peninsula to the south. It was surreal to taking it all in with the fresh mountain air.
I had the pleasure of visiting the largest handmade glass workshop in Okinawa, located in Itoman City. It was fascinating watching the glass blowers of the Ryukyu Glass Village skilfully mould the red-hot molten glass into fragile artworks. There were also pieces of the beautiful hand-crafted glassware available to purchase, which was the perfect souvenir to take home.
We also managed to fit in a quick visit to the historic Shuri Castle, a late 1300s building which played an integral role in the history of the island. Unfortunately, multiple wars and fires have destroyed this ancient ruin over the years, but present reconstruction is raising this old phoenix from the ashes. What remains still holds beauty within its striking scarlet brick roof tiles and walls painted with bright red lacquer. Intricately crafted dragons featured heavily on walls, pillars and rooftops to symbolise the king.
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