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Secrets of Japan 2018 (CJA the alternative tour)

Thursday, May 31, 2018 | Paul Kustermann | Pacific / Asia

Himeji Castle...! A landmark example of japanese mideaval defense architecture. Astonishing in it's dimensions, aesthetic, und mixture of functionality and form.

Welcome to Japan. An astonishing blend of precision, dilligence, aesthetics, old-world charm and ultra modern technology, exhuberant cultural diversity, impelling historical significance, and contrasts so confounding, that one is perpetually forced to stop in one's tracks and re-consider what is essential and what is unique to this marvelous country.

I had the special privelege to be part of the CJA-2018a tour as a driver for a special client, and in this way we had some freedom to explore alternatives to the standard route. Vicky from the office rode with us as well for many of the days, and here are some impression of what we experienced....

Have a nice browse and please leave a comment if the impressions have moved you!
Paul, Mary and Vicky 

Friends we made...

Off-road or on, always rarin' to go...
Three buddies going at it again. Our last tours together were Norway Riding Center and up to the Cape.
What would a photo-reportage on Japan be without Mt. Fuji-san?
The stunning beauty of this place impires, time and again, reflection and intraspection.
Here a very friendly toll-guard on one of the several sky-way drives we did...
Catching up with the group...
Here with the whole group together...
Happy guides, happy vibes...!
Discovering one of Japan's favorite past-times...
Where we love to be... on the bike!
"Onsen" is the magical word for japanese hot springs, a spa and bath experience that is as old and loved as nature itself.
Here the idea we had started catching on...
Dinners were a special event! As a sign of class and etiquette, the hotels even provided us with the proper atire!
Most of the gang from the CJA1801a.
The inside circle: our driver, the one and only Mary, our guide and the marvelous Vicky Madonna... (don't ask me who the merry onlooker is... he just jumped into the picture to be part of the fun)... Oh no! Excuse me. That's Chris.

Food and Accomodations

Our first night in Kawazu on the Izu-Hanto peninsula...
Morning stroll on the beach was very refressing...
Stunning views were a matter of course...
And a typical Ryokan style room was a welcomed embrace of traditional Japanese hospitaltiy and frugality.
Occasionally we had an evening out and had to fend for ourselves to get a dinner. If you couldn't read the japanese menue, you could always rely on the maticulously sculpted wax food displays to wet your appetite and orientate your choice of meal.
Hier a typical Tempenyaki bar in the down-town district of Kyoto.
Here a rustic café, owned by a merchant with a special love of american memorabilie.
But when all is said and done, the meals that awaited us at the end of each day were extravagant, exquisite displays of the finest japanese cuisine. A stunning variety of meats, vegitables, roots, sea weeds and urchines and a not too small number of things we couldn't identify - all providing for an ongoing culinary adventure.
Here the central square of the famous spa town of Kuatsu. Genuine hot springs fill the central square with a steaming, bubbling caldrin of luminous mineral water - the elixia of Japans "Onsen" culture.
In one hotel we each had our own private Onsen in the room...
It may be considered bad taste to include a toilet in a blog on food.... but come on! They are inseperable, and the toilets in Japan are the non-plus-ultra in technical advancement. They sense when you enter the stall and lower their seat for you automatically, They self-disinfect, rinse when you leave, and come standard with a built in bidet catering to both male and female anatomies!!! On top of that you can select accustical runnig water to help you get in the mood. Since R2D2 the biggest thing that ever happened to water. My goodness are the Japanese advanced when it comes to creature comforts.
Here's the counterpart, the way they were before the modern age arrived, Its a simple place to squat and do your deeds, but even these are spotlessly clean (and very heathy by the way).
For the bidet, warmed seat and various music functions there is even a control pannel with instructions on opperation. It's almost more difficult getting a boat licence than learning to handle these amazing toilets.
To cap off the weeks of exotic fare, I couldn't resist a good ole hamburger at the race track café of Twin Ring Motegi.

Landscapes...

The mystical water falls just west of Mt. Fuji.
Forests with a canopy so dense, the hills appear to be carpeted.
Vistas so enthrawling, that they seem to draw you into infinity...
Magical intimate moments in the bamboo forests of Kyoto...
Riding the beaches of Chirihama Nagisa Driveway on the west coast of Nanao peninsula.
Pondering the distant treasures...
Riding hidden roads...
Pondering each fork in the road...
Enjoying the respite of a placid lake...
... or a firey Japanese Maple.
There are moments you can hardly seperate yourself from, and the glance back is even more enchanting than you realized it was while approaching.
And omnipresent, the fields of rice..., a consistend element of every landscape.

Special Points of Interest...

A happy biker poster at the beginning of the mystical pilgramage area around Koya-san.
The famous red gates of the shrine Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto being visited by a river of guests.
Playing Geisha in rented robes... This is a popular custom among young women wanting to conjur up the glory and grace of this unique fashion and prestigeous profession.
Here a glimps of the less polished side, just beyound the well traveled paths the tourist follow.
We payed homage to the ancient Shinto spirits... first ring the bell, then say a prayer, clap two times and bow. That will gain you graces in their behalf.
A buddha garden just before a cemetary tells of the unique relegious mix of anhimistic spritualism and buddhist beliefs that exemplify Japanese spiritual life.
The golden temple of Kyoto.
Here again depicted in cartoon-like colors and childish fantasy. Very typical Japanese.
Entering the great zen garden complex created by a famous Samurai actor as his personal residence called Okchi Sanso Garden.
The famed Himeji Castle.
The sacred temple and buddhist monestary complex at Eiheijie.
A giant buddha just popping up out out of nowhere, commanding the panorama surrounding the little town of Obama.
The historic villiages of Gokayama and Shirakawago where one can see a mountain town as it was 300 years ago. The steep thached roofs are typical and server the cause of shedding heavy snows in winter.
The famous Monkey Park where macaques come in winter to the hot springs to bathe and warm themselves in the soothing healing waters. We caught them in a playful springtime mood.
The island shrine of Akagi.
The famous three monkeys of the Temple of Nikko: "Hear no evil, , speak no evil, see no evil."

Video: Watch a tourguide flip out dancing

After a week of japanese lullaby music droning us into natto-bean heaven everywhere we went, finally we found a café that grooved, and I just had to dance. Thanks to our much ammused bystanders, this blissful moment was caught on video. Enjoy...
This is what greeted us when we arrived in Tokio on April 30th.... an Oktoberfest !!! Can you believe it? With an authentic tyrolean band playing Rosi der Gemütlichkeit and 99 Luftbaloons. And the Japanese loved it.
Here is a little taste of a great Okonomiyaki reataurant we found right near the Chuden-mai tram station in Hiroshima. Fun and tasty.... a real delight for all the senses!

Discover the wonders and secrets of Japan with us....

Join us the next time we venture into the Pacific and the land of the rising Sun!
To see the official blogs of the 2018 tours, just enter JAPAN in the key-word search.

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Add a comment Rate this post
Susanne Berg
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 18:31

Informativ, unterhaltsam, leidenschaftlich, sprachlich excellent... besser kann man einen Blog nicht schreiben! Ein echtes Reiseerlebnis auch für uns Daheimgebliebene. Danke dafür, lieber Paul!
Paul Kustermann
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 22:49

Danke dir für das Interesse und die Wertschätzung liebe Susanne.

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