Around the world I am seeing an increase in countries embracing far right politics and a spike in nationalism that brings about a feeling of an uneasiness for people like myself who travel extensively, but I can always count on my travels to Japan to give me a sense of peace, hope and inspire me in ways that no other country does.
So what about Japan do I love exactly? Let me count the ways…
It’s no secret that Japanese minimalism inspires me to no end, so much so that my latest collection of uncomplicated silhouettes is an ode to this delicate but subdued way of design. The Japanese have a dignified way of creating beauty with simplicity, of sparsely completing what is seemingly incomplete.
While many Japanese homes and furnishings encapsulate minimalist concepts, street fashion in Japan couldn’t be further from minimalism if it tried. The need to forge a unique identity through clothing pushes extremes in self expression so that the Japanese truly are avant-garde in their fashion choices. The mix-match of different styles and genres, prints and textures makes for a colourful travel experience. Street fashion here is unrestricted by rules and it’s precisely this that makes people watching an endlessly enjoyable and fascinating activity.
Each time I travel to Japan I am met with friendly faces and warm smiles. The people are wonderfully polite, always willing to help, to stop and show me directions, to be patient with me as I try to explain myself in English. The Japanese are genuinely nice and sweet-natured which is why it’s so hard for me to believe that there is animosity and hostility being experienced in other parts of the world. The Japanese culture exudes so much of what is positive about human society and I really love the humility of its people and the beautiful Japanese friends I’ve made there.
With such a friendly and good-natured society, it is only natural that Japanese customer service by far exceeds what we experience in the West. Going above and beyond to help seems almost a Japanese custom. No matter whether you are in a restaurant ordering a meal, entering a retail store to browse for clothes, or just lost and in desperate need of directions, the Japanese people always extend a genuine willingness to help and are extremely courteous. I’ve noticed that often they say “sorry” at the start of a sentence when trying to break some bad news or try to explain something that they feel might be hurtful to you. With such genuine compassion and empathy, I rate the Japanese a 10 out of 10 for customer service.
Food & Drink
From sushi and ramen noodles through to drinking traditional saki, the culinary experience in Japan is a foodie’s delight. Fresh produce and seafood is carefully selected, meals are created with much care and thought. The flavours, the textures and the quality of the produce all make for a dining experience that needs to be experienced to be believed, particularly if you've only eaten Japanese food outside of Japan. So whether you are enjoying a meal at a zakaya or relishing a Kaiseki at a Michelin-star establishment, Japanese food and drink is something I reminisce about again and again.
The culture embodies peace and tranquility. These qualities seem to permeate the soul of the Japanese people but it can also be found in its environment, and particularly in the temples and Zen gardens, known as karensansui. These places encourage quiet contemplation and inner reflection as you walking around the beautifully arranged rock gardens and the distinctive form of the garden landscape filled with stone, water, sand, bridges and plants such as bamboo. The Japanese Zen garden are the perfect antidote to the stresses of our hyperconnected, busy modern lives.
Japan is an innovative country, quickly adopting technologies whilst still cherishing its traditions. It’s what makes the people and the society so well-balanced and it’s precisely why when I reflect on my Japanese travels, that I find myself wishing more and more that countries around the world take a leaf out of their book. We could all benefit from spending some time in Japan, or at the very least, adopting some of their more humble and reflective traits. I am fortunate that my work allows me to travel to Japan frequently and I look forward to my next trip back.
Have you ever visited Japan? What do you love about the country? Feel free to share your stories and experiences in the comments below.