Dick Gilpin travelled to Japan with Audley in October 2010. Here, he shares some of his favourite photos from his trip and talks about why the Land of the Rising Sun has left a lasting impression.
"Most special of all are the people — not at all as expected, a little hesitant and even withdrawn. They were very welcoming."
How different it is to wake from sleep and see those rice paper sliding doors. Through them is the first glimpse of the morning light and a beautiful garden. It is Japan. It is the other side of the world. It is a new adventure.
The expectation is of ultra modernity and trains and people rushing about all over the place. The discovery is quite different. There are new words to learn: ‘komorebi’ to describe the light filtering through the acer leaves, and ‘san’ to denote respect when attached to a person’s name or the name of a favourite or sacred place like Fuji-san and Koya-san. Efficiency is another word you cannot avoid in Japan. The trains run to time and there has clearly been the investment in the public transport system that seems to be so much needed in the UK. The buses even to the smallest village actually link up with the arrival and departure of the trains. What a strange phenomenon that is for us to comprehend.
The food is very different, but from the simple okonomi in Hiroshima to the elegant multi-course meals of Kyoto and the ryokan where we stayed, all the meals were good to eat and a wonder to behold. Most special of all are the people — not at all as expected, a little hesitant and even withdrawn. They were very welcoming and whether the language sharing was easy or more difficult being in Japan was an enlightening experience. From the initial welcome at Narita airport to Tomuka who taught us some basic cookery skills and Sayaka who guided us through our first ryokan evening meal, they are all amazing.