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I have always loved to travel but Japan had long held a special fascination for me as its culture was something completely different to anything I had known. I first went to Japan to do the typical first-time route through Kyoto and Tokyo, comparing old and new, ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology. Somehow Japan effortlessly integrates a history of warlords and ageless temples with the weirdness of hospitality robots and hamburgers in vending machines. I left promising myself I would return.

Four years later I made it back and pushed myself in a different direction. I wanted to see the small, rural villages that featured in the animated films I saw as a child. Villages that pay homage to trickster gods and forest spirits, although they sit mere miles from cities that produce lifesaving microchips. Japan is all about duality, integrating nature and progress seamlessly and unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

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Audley Travel specialist Jo

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I'll never forget when…

With many residents living in apartments where pets are not allowed, cat cafes have become very popular in Japan. The idea is that you go in, have a coffee and play with the cats. Some Japanese cat cafes feature specific breeds or whimsical decor but none of that made an impression on me on my first visit. Instead, a cat launched itself over my lap to get a toy and hit me in the face. I will go back to a cat cafe some day despite being accidentally attacked, and highly recommend it to anyone who misses their pets. If nothing else it will make a great story.

Photos of Jo

Jo at the Momiji Leaf Corridor in Kawaguchiko, Japan Jo at the Momiji Leaf Corridor in Kawaguchiko, Japan
Jo feeding the Koi carp in Furukawa Old Town, near Takayama, Japan Jo feeding the Koi carp in Furukawa Old Town, near Takayama, Japan
Jo in Shirakawago, Japan Jo in Shirakawago, Japan
Jo participating in the Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, Japan Jo participating in the Tea Ceremony in Kyoto, Japan

Photos taken by Jo

Osaka in the morning Osaka in the morning
Mt. Fuji in November Mt. Fuji in November
Momiji Leaf Corridor in Kawaguchiko Momiji Leaf Corridor in Kawaguchiko
Leaves in the rain on Mt. Koya Leaves in the rain on Mt. Koya
Little Prince Museum in Hakone Little Prince Museum in Hakone
Tokyo skyline at sunset Tokyo skyline at sunset
All you can eat sushi All you can eat sushi
A-bomb Dome on the water in Hiroshima A-bomb Dome on the water in Hiroshima
Mt. Fuji at sunset Mt. Fuji at sunset
Tea ceremony in kimono , Kyoto Tea ceremony in kimono , Kyoto
Private home experience - Tea ceremony in kimono , Kyoto Private home experience - Tea ceremony in kimono , Kyoto
Walk along the Nakasendo Highway , Magome Walk along the Nakasendo Highway , Magome