Thursday, October 04, 2012

Visiting Japan again - I don't need to be convinced!

I get quite a few invitations to various tourism-related events and I'm busy enough that I ignore nearly all of them. But when a friend passed on an invite to a Japan National Tourist Organisation (JNTO) evening here in Perth, I put it straight into my diary. I knew that it would be different: not just information being bombarded at me, not just a hard sell, but the right combination of polite, humble, sweet and fun. Turns out I was exactly right!

Sumo wrestlers on screen at the JNTO event
The evening included a series of presentations from various tourism organisations and a couple of speeches from people like the local Consul General, and I spent most of the evening being reminded of particular traits of the Japanese that I learned about and loved while living in Osaka. They're optimistic - both of the first two speakers mentioned an upturn in tourist numbers in 2012 compared to the sad times of 2011, and hoped that we could encourage more tourists to visit Japan to "lift the spirits of the Japanese people". They're precise - the schedule for the evening showed speakers due to come on at times like 8.06pm to speak for 8 minutes ... unfortunately (no doubt due to us less-than-punctual Aussies) the evening began late, but I'm quite certain that each speaker spoke for exactly their allocated minutes.

And they're fun. Considering my very last blog post was about the fear of getting undressed in Japan, it seemed very timely that a number of the speakers mentioned onsen, or hot springs. They seemed to have some idea that we Aussies might feel a bit daunted by the process - the Consul General had this to say:
Meet the local people and have a chat ... it is the Japanese custom to get into a hot spring in your birth suit. Don't be afraid to "get your gear off" and get into a hot spring!
But I still don't think any of them really understood just how far removed this experience is from our (somewhat prudish) culture - as someone who's been there, their numerous pictures of onsen experiences did look beautiful but I could just feel nearly everyone around me looking at the complicated pre-bath wash stands and the men with folded flannels on their head and wondering why on earth anyone would ever visit an onsen!

Preaching to the converted: Enticing things for me to do in Japan!
There was a lot of talk about Japanese ski resorts, because that's been a recent boom here - lots of Aussies are heading to Japan for ski trips (including numerous friends of mine), especially from here in Perth since you have to travel a long way to ski anyway, so it might as well be somewhere interesting like Japan. I did try to learn to ski in Japan but I really think me and snow are just not meant to connect in that way. (Which is to say, we did a lot of connecting when I continually fell over ... and I didn't like it.)

One of the last speakers was from Okinawa. I thought everybody knew about Okinawa, but most of the room claimed to never have heard of it (have you?). I had a ball on Okinawa - it's such a fun combination of Japan and not-Japan (and you can probably only understand that once you've been there!) - although the most memorable part for me was the fact that I booked the trip with a travel agent in Osaka using only my dodgy Japanese language skills, so I was pretty impressed that we actually got there and had a car and hotel waiting.

I came home with my head full of Japanese memories. I'd spent a lot of time before and after the presentations chatting with some lovely Japanese people and reminiscing about the various parts of Japan I'd visited (if you want a quick summary: check my 25 things to do in Japan post). I was a bit shocked to realise that it's almost ten years since I left Japan, which surely makes it about time to go back again. It sounds to me like it hasn't changed too much - I hope it never does. A very unique land full of very special people.

JNTO didn't ask me to write this ... apart from a couple of drinks and nibbles, I haven't been compensated in any way for this post. It's all true! Japan is awesome!!

7 comments:

  1. I just got back from my first trip to Japan, and I agree- Japan is SO awesome. I am now very jealous that you lived there :)

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    1. Glad to hear you agree ;-) and yes living there was a truly fabulous experience!!

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  2. I have gone to Japan once and it was a wonderful experience for my life. Japanese people are really kind and I love their customs and traditions. I hope so to visit Japan again in future.

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    1. Great to hear about your good experiences too, Ruby. Agree 100%!

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  3. Hi Amanda, Yuki here. A small nihonjin you met at this seminar :) Very good to know that you had a good time there. It was very nice meeting you. And I must say - I love your blog! Can't wait for your next post!

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    1. Hi Yuki, lovely to hear from you! It was really nice to talk to you. And thanks so much for your compliments ;-) Keep in touch!

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  4. Japan has been a wonderful place with a proud history and a a lovely heritage. From the people to the food offered by this magnificent country is just to die for. This will be my next holiday destination and i cannot wait.

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