Hands-on Japan

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWhen you think of Japan , many different images may arise: sushi, anime, manga, Zen, etc. When you visit Japan, however, don’t just see these things, experience them! Over the past decade, Japan has become much more hands-on, offering visitors a much truer Japanese experience. You can now learn Zazen meditation at a Zen temple in Kyoto, as well as learn the secrets to Japanese flower arrangement, tea ceremony and calligraphy writing. And, you can do them in their natural environment. Learn the Japanese arts not in a school, but in a temple in Kyoto that is part of the Myoshinji Zen Temple complex among one of Kyoto’s World Heritage Sites.

Why buy Japanese souvenirs in a gift shop, when you can make them yourself? Learn Japanese crafts such as woodworking, indigo dying and traditional weaving in an artist’s retreat in the mountains of rural Okayama Prefecture. The “Arts and Crafts Village” is set in an old wooden school house is the perfect place to spend a few days experiencing Japanese craft-making straight from the Japanese masters themselves.

Experience Japanese anime and manga first-hand from Akibanana’s otaku guides. Patrick Galbarith, a professional otaku gives walking tours of Tokyo’s Akihabara district, including the Tokyo Anime Center, French maid cafes and vintage stores selling blow-up dolls.

If you love Japanese food, you might be interested in learning how to cook Japanese food and even how to shop for the ingredients in the markets. Elizabeth Andoh, author and local Japanese food expert gives tours and classes. Make up your own tour and decide the date, how many hours and what you’d like to learn. Email Elizabeth Andoh for more information at andoh@tasteofculture.com


Myoshinji Temple Complex

This walled-in complex is the home of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect and encompasses approximately 38 temples within, many of which offer temple accommodation and courses.

Zen meditation, Ikebana, tea ceremony and calligraphy courses:

1. Torin-in Temple in Myoshinji complex

Experience Zen vegetarian cuisine: every Tuesday and Friday, or more in-depth courses on Buddhist vegetarian cuisine June 15th to July 5th; and January 12th to 31st.

2. Taizo-in Temple in Myoshinji complex

Offers a one-day “Living in Zen” course for 7,000 yen that includes Zen meditation, flower arrangement, calligraphy and tea ceremony.

Arts and Crafts Village” in rural Okayama Prefecture.

Taste of Culture” Culinary School with courses and tours in Tokyo and Osaka.

Amy Chavez is author of Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won’t tell you” She is a columnist for The Japan Times, co-hosts the Planet Japan podcast. Visit her website at www.amychavez.com