Alex's love for Japan began almost nine years ago when he volunteered for a small community centre called the Kobokan, located in the heart of downtown Tokyo. During this time he was able to fully immerse himself in an authentic Japanese environment where he was able to learn more about Japan's language, culture and traditional customs. A few years later Alex went back to Japan, this time to study the language and take part in a small scale anthropological study - this of course provided him with the ideal opportunity to further build upon his knowledge. In early 2011 Alex was presented with the opportunity to carry out extensive research trips to both China and Taiwan, two counties he has long had a passion for. This gave him the opportunity to further explore some of the more remote regions, and learn more about the facsinating minority cultures. Alex's interests include photography, hiking and playing the Sanshin (a traditional three stringed Okinawan instrument).
My Most Memorable Experience
"One of my most memorable travel experiences in China was during my one night stopover in the ancient village of Shaxi. After successfully mingling with a small group of off-duty school teachers in the local bar, I was invited by the headmaster to take part in the school's morning assembly the following day.
On arrival I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes, part of which involved the children carrying out a traditional dance in their colourfully designed garments. After observing this magnificent performance, I was then asked if I would mind teaching the first grade's art class (I may have mentioned that I had an interest in art the night before). Before I knew it, I was standing up in front of 35-40 children, drawing a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog (a well-known cartoon hero from my youth). After a seemingly successful lesson, I was then asked to join the governess of Shaxi for what can only be described as a banquet in my honour. "
My Favourite Destination
"Okinawa is a small island located a few hundred kilometres south of mainland Japan. Whilst still considered to be part of Japan, Okinawa boasts its own language, culture and mouth watering cuisine. I guess you could think of it as a more tropical version of Wales!
I love to spend my time here relaxing on the white sand beaches, eating Okinawan style yakisoba (fried noodles), all whilst singing along to upbeat folk songs with the locals."
My Favourite Accommodation
"For one of the most authentic Japanese experiences, I would recommend a stay in the Souji-in shukubo (temple lodgings) in Mount Koya. Located next to the areas main monastic complex, the Souji-in is the grandest of all the Japanese accommodations I have had the chance to see, which explains why it attracts guests such as the imperial family, and celebrities such as Asashoryu, the current Sumo Grand Champion.
If it is available, I would suggest staying in the 'sakura no ma' or 'cherry blossom space' room. Not only will you enjoy the luxury of ensuite facilities (a rarity in such accomodation), but it also boasts amazing views of the shukubo's beautifully manicured traditional garden."