Skip to content

Dick Gilpin traveled to Japan with Audley in October 2010. Here, he shares some of his favorite photos from his trip and talks about why the Land of the Rising Sun has left a lasting impression.

Mr and Mrs Gilpin
Mr and Mrs Gilpin enjoying their private sushi making lesson.
"Most special of all are the people — not at all as expected, a little hesitant and even withdrawn.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 favorite 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 Most special of all are the people — not at all as expected, a little hesitant and even withdrawn.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.

The castle in Matsumoto is nicknamed ‘Crow Castle’ [Karasu-jo] because of its construction in contrasting black and white. Dating from the end of the 16th century (about 1595) it is one of the few in Japan that is not a reconstruction after the original fortress was destroyed in World War II or other conflicts.
The Great Buddha
Just along the quaint private Enoden train line that links Kamakura with Enoshima and a few minutes' walk from Hase station is this vast bronze Buddha constructed in 1252. At 11.4 meters and possibly inspired by the massive Buddha at Nara it once stood in a huge hall that was washed away in the tsunami of 1495.
The Torii Gate in Miyajima Island
The Torii or Gate is the most recognizable icon of the Shinto Shrine and therefore also of Japan. The vermillion-painted structures are the entrance to the sacred precincts of a shrine and perhaps the most famous is the Torii that guards the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima near Hiroshima. For travelers on the ferry from the mainland this Torii introduces them to the island. At high tide the gate stands above the shallow waters that surround the shrine and at low tide it is possible to walk out to the huge, towering gateway.
Mount Fuji
At 3,776 meters Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak by a long way, but Fuji-san is much more than that. It is a special and sacred mountain. It features in the famous Hokusai and Hiroshige woodcut prints – ‘The Thirty six views of Mount Fuji’ – and for the traveller on the train passing by and anyone who is fortunate enough to see it without mist or cloud shrouding its flanks Mount Fuji is Japan
Beside the road and high up above sea level in the small community of Koya-san there is a bench for the weary. It is the chance to sit and watch the world go by. The passengers in cars and tourist buses miss this delightful figure as they speed along to visit the more well-known sights.
Omikuji: The Future Predicted
At the Senso-ji in Asakusa, Tokyo the procedure for telling the future is laid out in some interesting detail. Crowds flock to wave their hands and waft the smoke from incense over them and to shake the tin with sticks that indicate what might lie ahead in their own personal lives.

Was this useful?