Seeking Out-of-the-Ordinary Experiences In Japan?

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Japan has been in the news lately, with its plans to ease restrictions on tourism. It’s also a destination that many travellers seek out, especially in autumn. But if you were looking for something unusual and perhaps a tad adventurous, we may just have the thing for you.

G Adventures — a small-group adventure travel operator offering more than 750 trips in 100 countries — is reintroducing 12 tours from next month. Some of the tours offer travellers an opportunity to explore Japan in a unique manner.

Intrigued? Here are the five experiences from G Adventures that give holidaymakers something exceptional and extraordinary in Japan.

Call a traditional monastery your home

Beautiful green foliage, and traditional Japanese architecture and you can see the Japanese gardens, a lake and blue coloured blooms in this photograph
Discover Japan in a unique and immersive way

How about heading to Koyasan, the centre of Buddhism in Japan, and spending the night in a working monastery? Mount Koya Temple, founded in 816 by the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi is perfect for that. Located 800 meters atop Mt Koya, you can reach the monastery by taking a train ride up the mountain. The train ride is a treat in itself as it is a very scenic one. Once at the monastery, you will be spending time with the monks as they go about their daily life.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this – as you get to observe the monks in their daily prayer. Plus you will have the idyllic monastery grounds, the Oku-no-in cemetery to explore.

Spend time with elders in Hagi

You see a woman in a kimono and a fan standing outside - the background is a beautifully kept together Japanese garden. The woman is smiling and has sliver short hair.
Spending time with the elderly residents at the Hagi Homestay is a truly unique experience

This is a truly rare and unusual way to take in Japan. The Hagi Homestay and its 150 elderly residents open up their homes for travellers. This way, tourists can share meals, learn about the traditional way of life and go off the beaten track.

Visitors will also be able to sleep on traditional shikibuton beds and try their hands at cooking meals with their hosts. They can take a bike tour of the area — there’s samurai era architecture and coastal paths along the sea. But that’s not all. The region is known for its rural farming and fishing community and is tucked among rice fields, forests and pristine beaches. Since there are no direct train routes, Hagi has not been inundated with travellers and so, it is able to offer a deeply enriching and immersive experience.

Learn from the Kembu Masters

Two samurais in traditional black robes are kneeling down and you can see their swords, though not their faces
How about getting a lesson or two from Kembu masters?

Have you heard about Kembu? It is an ancient art which honours the culture of the Japanese warrior class, the samurai. This tour provides holidaymakers in Kyoto a chance to meet the Kembu masters. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn about their code of ethics. You will also be able to get lessons on how to wield a sword, try some basic moves and learn more about the culture and life of samurais. Wouldn’t this be an extraordinary experience that you would love to swap stories about?

Taking in a traditional folk village

You can see a room with large windows, chairs, what looks like a dining table with seating arrangements which has pillow-like things instead of chairs
A temple accommodation in Mt Koya Temple

A lot of villages in Japan have managed to retain their conventional way of life and customs. Take for instance, Takayama. It has always been very popular with travellers. Before the pandemic, it may have also suffered from overcrowding. But now is the perfect time to visit it, and take a deep dive in what makes it so unique and interesting. Holidaymakers can also visit the nearby Hida No Sato folk village. It will charm you with its quaint streets, sake breweries and craft shops.

Keep your camera handy for there are buildings that date back to the 1600s and plenty of thatched roofed farmhouses. You are certainly going to come back with tons of photographs for your Instagram feed!

Enjoy autumn colours at a temple in Kyoto

You can see the structure of a traditional temple like architecture found in Japan, and red foliage in the front framing it
Take in the gorgeous colours of autumn at Kyoto’s many temples and gardens

Kyoto should be the best place to take in the many moods of Japan’s autumnal season. It has over 2000 temples, and travellers can explore the tranquil gardens around them.

The gardens are abundant with coloured trees and teahouses. There is the opportunity to visit the Fushimi Irani shrine (it’s just outside Kyoto). For those who have seen the film Memoirs of a Geisha, you will recognise the torii gates – they were featured in the movie.

From staying in a monastery, to being part of an elders community – these rather unusual and quirky experiences give you an insider view of Japan. One that may escape many tourists.

If you have ever availed of such experiences, do let us know. It doesn’t have to be in Japan – whether you have stayed with nuns in a monastic settlement in Italy or been a part of a farming community in Nepal, we are interested in knowing more.

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