My First Time in Japan
Most first-time visitors to Japan will most likely visit some combination of the following: Tokyo, Kyoto, and the Hakone and Mt. Fuji area. My first visit to Japan did not include any of the above, as it was based in the Setouchi region, which surrounds the Seto Inland Sea, the body of water that separates three of the four main islands of Japan.
Now, I still experienced and saw many amazing things, such as: visiting Himeji Castle, Japan’s first declared UNESCO World Heritage Site; Korakuen Garden, considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens since the Edo Period; and the Bizen Osafune Japanese Sword Museum, a museum not only dedicated to the samurai sword but is still a functional workshop and testing area for potential “master” samurai sword-makers.
Whatever you may do, you must stay in a ryokan for at least one night. On my trip, I had the tremendous honor to stay at two separate ryokans for one night each.
Yet despite the experiences mentioned above, staying in an authentic Japanese ryokan (twice) was quite the treat. The first ryokan was less than a block away from the popular hot spring, Dogo Onsen, in Matsuyama City. It was a lot of fun wearing my “yukata,” a casual version of a kimono to dinner, followed by karaoke.
The second ryokan was on the island of Miyajima, famous for its large Torii gate near the entrance to the ferry terminal. Iwaso ryokan did not disappoint. Once again, the attire for dinner was the yukata, however the Iwaso’s setting is quite special. If you are looking for seclusion, yet surrounded by the beauty of nature, stay a few nights at Iwaso.
The locals there could not have treated me with more kindness and respect. I admire many things about Japan and can’t wait to go back!
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