The real Japan is easy to find if you're willing to look beneath the shiny city's surface. Japan's high-tech and traditional ways co-exist; its aesthetic and art is highly valued. Learn to cook traditional Japanese fare and the correct way to wear a kimono with style and grace, experience a tea ceremony, and see a Kabuki performance. Visit a hot spring and stay overnight in a traditional Japanese inn.
Here are our top five authentic Japanese experiences.
Experience the ancient art of the traditional, all-male Japanese Kabuki theatre, which originated in the Edo period, a time that signalled 250 years of stability in Japan during the 16oo's to 1800's. Kabuki performances incorporate several theatrical elements, including opera, dance, drama, music, costume and makeup. Drums, flutes and strings accompany stylised storytelling, about moral conflicts and romance. In traditional Kabuki theatre, the actor-audience relationship is paramount and the actor will often address the audience directly. Contemporary "Super Kabuki" challenges the purists by incorporating spectacular audio-visual effects.
Wearing a kitsuko, or kimono, is a quintessential Japanese experience. Adorn yourself in a stunning kimono or an elegant furisode, a long-sleeved kimono worn for formal occasions and have a souvenir photo taken. Arrange a tour of old Tokyo, during which you are welcome to wear a kimono and visit Asaksuka, the city's oldest Geisha district and home to Sensoji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo.
Fall Foliage and Onsen
Japan is awash with great foliage spots. Fall colours can be enjoyed in most cities from late September to early December. Mountainsides are adorned with intense red and yellow colours. Japan's cherry blossoms are famous all round, but the country's fall foliage is even more stunning. To complete your authentic Japanese trip, head to an Onsen, or hot spring. Stay in a hot spring ryoken for the ultimate overnight experience in Japan.
Home Cooking Course
In Kyoto, get a glimpse of local culture when you hire a bicycle and tour the city at your leisure. Or why not book a guided tour and learn about the culture and history of the region from a local as you travel. Join your host at the local markets and experience home cooking in a traditional Japanese house. Learn to prepare tempura, sushi and other healthy home-cooked meals. Learn about common Japanese ingredients and take home the recipes in English so you can impress the friends and family with authentic Japanese cuisine at home.
Experience the deceptively simple art of a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, or "Chanoyu" in Japanese. An intimate, choreographed ritual, an authentic Tea Ceremony is conducted by a host or a Tea Master, who serves Japanese green tea called Matcha and traditional sweets to balance the tea's bitterness. The essence of a tea ceremony is to prepare and serve a bowl of tea with a pure heart. The principles of Wa (harmony), Kei (respect), Sei (purity) and Jaku (tranquillity) are integrated into Japanese tea ceremonies and Japanese daily life.