Hurry Up and Slow Down

Hurry Up and Slow Down

We’re often presented with a dilemma when people ask us to prepare trips to Japan where they can experience the essence of Japan and its culture and yet they also give us a long laundry list of all the things they want to do/include.  Most people don’t realize just how large a country Japan is and how long it can take to get from place to place.   So the result is a trip where you spend all your time on trains, going to and fro, and wind up with an experience of the frenzied side of Japan.   It may be great if you’re twenty three and want to spend all your time in Tokyo with the hip and happening.  But if you’re looking for Traditional Japan, one of the most important things will be to focus your trip in such a way that you can slow down.

There are so many fabulous places to see in Japan, that it’s easy for the first time traveler to start with a laundry list of places.  I’ve seen lists that include everything from Hokkaido in the north to Mt. Aso in the south with 15 places (including Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, Kurashiki, Takayama, Kamakura, Okinawa and even Sato Island) in between, all on a 12 day trip!   All you’re going to experience on a trip like that is the inside of a train station, a taxi taking you past interesting places en route to your hotel and food grabbed from a convenience store.

Strolling slowly through the Moss Garden (Saiho-ji), sitting reflectively at the dry garden Ryoan-ji, taking in the lifetime of lessons from a temple abbott, experiencing the chanting monks and fire ceremony in the chill morning air, and experiencing the precise ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony are all examples of opportunities for the traveler to slow down and take in the elements that are quintessentially Japanese.

Planning for these types of experiences isn’t easy.  It takes ruthless resolve in cutting out the elements of your trip that aren’t essential to your experience of Japan and trusting that by giving things up more of the essence will come through.  It’s a very zen approach to planning travel – and perfect practice for stepping into the Japanese mindset of dedicated discipline towards mastery of an artform.   Look upon your planning and your trip as an opportunity to minimize the fluff in service to the substantive.  And learn to hurry up and slow down.

Reflecting on a Japanese Garden

Reflecting on a Japanese Garden

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>