JA­PAN’S BEAU­TI­FUL TRA­DI­TIONS

Tokyo and Ni­igata are united on a cul­tural con­tin­uum. A trip to this fas­ci­nat­ing coun­try should im­merse you in the high­lights of both, tak­ing you on a jour­ney from past to present and back again.

Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia - - CRUISE -

JA­PAN IS A COUN­TRY steeped in his­tory, and the best way to un­der­stand that is by join­ing two mil­le­nium-old tra­di­tions in one in­spir­ing trip. From the 1,000-yearold bon­sai at the Shunkaen Bon­sai Mu­seum in Tokyo to the 1,000 years of cul­ti­vat­ing life in the Mat­su­dai area of Ni­igata, the past be­guiles the present. Be­gin your trip with a mind­ful med­i­ta­tion at the Shunkaen Bon­sai Mu­seum, where bon­sai mas­ter Ku­nio Kobayashi has won the Prime Min­is­ter’s Award four times. This spe­cial place ex­em­pli­fies the longevity and aus­ter­ity of na­ture. You’ll find it a fas­ci­nat­ing con­trast with trendy Shibuya, home of the fa­mous in­ter­sec­tion and the ori­gin of youth cul­ture. Af­ter you’ve got­ten a good dose of hip in the shops and cafés, take a breather with a stroll along the tree­lined streets of Daikanyama, and have an up­scale din­ner in a cos­mopoli­tan set­ting. The Shinkansen bul­let train ride from Tokyo Sta­tion to Ni­igata Sta­tion is only ap­prox­i­mately two hours, but trans­ports you to a time­less land. To im­merse your­self in its won­ders, head to Mat­su­dai No­hbu­tai, a field mu­seum that fuses art with the tra­di­tional satoyama moun­tain liv­ing. It is mes­mer­iz­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence how peo­ple in this snow coun­try have co­ex­isted with na­ture over the cen­turies. Sam­ple a de­li­cious facet of snow coun­try in Uon­uma no Sato, where the tra­di­tional sake pro­duc­ers at Hakkaisan Yukimuro use moun­tain snow to chill their ware­house year-round. Ni­igata vegeta­bles are also said to taste es­pe­cially sweet af­ter a month in this nat­u­ral re­frig­er­a­tor, and you can en­joy such lo­cal pro­duce at nearby restau­rants. Be­fore say­ing good­bye, walk off your im­mer­sive drink­ing and din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with for­est bathing in the peace­ful sur­round­ing na­ture. An­other ex­em­plar of Ni­igata’s cul­ture can be found in Mu­rakami, the north­ern­most tea-grow­ing dis­trict in Ja­pan. The con­nec­tion to mother earth cour­ses through the rivers that flow through the city—par­tic­u­larly in the form of the sal­mon for which they are fa­mous. Top off your im­mer­sive hol­i­day with a Go­tokuya Jube pho­to­shoot, where you can dress up like a Geisha in lux­u­ri­ous ki­monos. It’ll be an en­chant­ing mem­ory to take with you on the train back to Tokyo... and home.

A Yayoi Kusama sculp­ture “Tsumari in Bloom” at Mat­su­dai No­hbu­tai, Ni­igata.

Shunkaen Bon­sai Mu­seum, Tokyo.

Vil­lage of Uon­uma.

Mu­rakami City.

Shibuya cross­ing.

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