The eyes of the world will be on Japan this August, as the country marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most momentous events of the 20th century: the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Japan has changed immeasurably since that terrible day, and more and more visitors are discovering the unique history, traditions and natural beauty of this remarkable island nation. Titan’s Essence of Japan tour offers the ideal introduction to this fascinating country, and below Titan product manager Ben Davis recalls his own experiences of travelling in Japan. Ben, who has managed all of Titan’s long-haul destinations over the past 20 years, says the ‘culture shock’ of his first visit to Japan was one of the most interesting aspects of his trip; Ben’s motto is ‘try anything once!’
“Japan is the ideal escorted touring destination, and Titan has it covered. Let your UK tour manager and local guide take the strain as we take you around Japan’s top highlights.
When it comes to big cities, nothing comes close to Tokyo: over 36 million live in the wider metropolitan Tokyo area. Kyoto, while similar to Tokyo by name (just swap the syllables around, essentially they both mean ‘city of the east’) by contrast is much smaller, with some wonderful temples. The Golden Pavilion is a site to behold: to me it is perfection!
What many people do not realise until they visit Japan is that the main cities are mainly located on the coast or at low altitude, and the central inland of Honcho is actually a vast mountainous area. You cannot get any further removed from the hustle of Tokyo and the preserved way of life at the UNESCO listed Shirakawago village, located in the Japanese alps.
Japan can be congested when travelling by road, which is why we take so many journeys by train, and where possible on the Shinkansen ‘Bullet Trains’. This is something that really has to be experienced to be believed. It is not just a mode of transport, it is a highlight of the holiday!
Hiroshima, where we spend two nights, is of course infamous as the site of the first of two atomic attacks by the USA in WWII. This event marked an obvious turning point, not just in terms of ending the war, but in the outlook of the entire population and their new focus on peace. The peace memorial in Hiroshima showcases all of this, and its significance has been justifiably recognised by UNESCO. You will learn a lot here, but the war and the atomic attacks were such large and traumatic events, you may still find some Japanese people uncomfortable about discussing it, even though the 70th anniversary of this event takes place in August this year.
If Japanese food is your thing or not, there will always be the choice so you can partake in the local cuisine as much or as little as you like. Personally I will try anything once, including deep fried crickets in Matsumoto, which were very tasty! and quite frankly half the time I didn’t know what I was eating, but isn’t that half the fun!
The sometimes quirky (to us!) culture is also something to really enjoy. Where else can you vend a chilled cola or a hot coffee with milk and sugar, both from the same machine and both in a ring pull can! I won’t mention the techy toilets other than to say that the advice I received was to not try and work out what the buttons do in advance, just try them and see what happens!
While Japan is definitely not a ‘cheap’ destination, as goods and services such as hotel and transportation are relatively expensive, but what you will get with Titan is great value for money and an incomparable itinerary. We include so many attractions and entrances you won’t find any optional excursions!
Japan has been and continues to be a ‘hot’ destination, so don’t delay in booking as space can be limited. March and April will always be the most popular times to travel due to the Cherry Blossom season, but don’t overlook September and October, which area also great times to travel. The big secret is November where you can travel during the Japanese Koyo season to witness the Autumn colours.”