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Japan Newsletter – April-2023

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ICICI Bank introduces VACATIONS – your monthly travel newsletter!

This Month’s Theme: Seasonal Rhythm of Life

Our travel experience can be greatly enhanced if we learn how to align with the seasonal rhythm of our planet. Natural phenomena add diversity and uniqueness to different destinations, making each one stand out and providing us with a chance to witness the interplay of nature and culture.

Even if we have visited a destination once, visiting it during another time of the year makes the place look familiar and yet new. For instance, the snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes of destinations such as Switzerland or Iceland look different if you visit them in winter and totally different in summers. Similarly while the Mediterranean is a popular spot in summers, it has a different quiet charm in winters.

Additionally seasonal changes in flora and fauna can provide travellers with an opportunity to witness unique natural phenomena. The fall foliage in New England, USA or the blooming of cherry blossoms in Japan are natural events that attract travellers from around the world.

The seasonal festivals and celebrations also provide a glimpse into the cultural traditions and history of a destination. The Carnival in Brazil or the Oktoberfest in Germany are popular cultural events that attract visitors from all over the world and showcase the unique cultural identity of the host country.

The seasonal changes all over the planet enhance the travel experience by providing travellers with a unique perspective on the natural and cultural aspects of a place. So whenever you are thinking of your new destination, check which unique natural and cultural phenomenon can you witness in that season.

Soul Trip: Appreciating the Transience

Travelling to Japan to watch the cherry blossoms is becoming as big a ritual for worldwide travellers as it is to local Japanese people. In watching and appreciating the fleeting cherry blossoms there is a deeply ingrained life philosophy. As travellers if we just click photos, then we miss out on a deeper aspect of the tradition. So it is important to understand the finer nuances of the Hanami activities which happen all over Japan in a period of those 15 – 30 days every year.

Hanami is the act of enjoying the transient beauty of cherry blossoms that bloom for only a brief period every spring. This practice has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries and represents the beauty of temporary things in life. The cherry blossoms remind us that everything in life is temporary and we should cherish every moment while we can. Life is full of changes, just like the changing seasons and it's important to embrace and appreciate them for what they are.

This philosophy of appreciating change can be applied to every aspect of life. It reminds us to live in the present and to appreciate what we have, whether it's a beautiful cherry blossom tree or a loved one in our lives. It's a reminder to seize every opportunity and to make the most of every moment. As you watch the cherry blossom petals fall gently to the ground, don’t forget to say a little prayer of gratitude for the beauty, love and largesse in your life.

Discover Your World

If it’s spring, it must be Japan

By now every world-travel aficionado knows that just like witnessing the Northern Lights, watching the cherry blossoms in Japan is a must-do activity at least once in a lifetime. However, even viewing the same cherry blossom has different dimensions. Watching it in a bustling metropolis like Tokyo or Osaka is a very different experience than watching it in smaller, off-beat towns of Japan. Here the pace of life is quieter and the experience deeper.

The spring in Japan is truly magical. Wisteria blossoms, plum blossoms, poppy blossoms, all kinds of flowers are blooming all over Japan and given the Japanese aesthetics, you can expect that the Japanese people have done more than full justice to the beauty of these seasonal extravaganzas of nature. Unfortunately, not many people outside Japan know about these magical spots so in this edition of Vacations, we bring you lesser-known spring destinations in Japan:

1) Isumi Railway : This is a 26.8 km railway line situated in the east of Boso peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. Since its opening in 1988, it connects Ohara Station to Kazusa- Nakano Station, crossing the beautiful countryside landscape. Even though it doesn’t receive a large number of passengers like major railway lines in big cities, many people go there to enjoy the sight of rapeseed blossoms (also known as Nano Hana in Japanese), beautiful yellow flowers which start to bloom from mid-March to early April. From late March, you can also enjoy the incredible contrast between them and the cherry blossoms!

2) Mt. Yoshino : This is widely known as an amazing cherry blossom viewing spot that is situated in Nara Prefecture. The mountain is covered by thousands of cherry trees, creating a stunning scenery. Nara is home to world-famous historical sites like Todai-ji Temple and the popular free-roaming deer that attract a lot of visitors. However, during the spring season, the city of Nara is packed with tourists who flock there to catch a glimpse of the iconic mountain range covered in beautiful cherry blossoms. When you have the chance to go, you will understand what the craze is about with thousands of cherry blossoms that spread from mountain to mountain!

3) Kawachi Wisteria Garden : If you want to enjoy spring flowers other than cherry blossoms, we recommend visiting the Kawachi Wisteria Garden in Fukuoka Prefecture. The garden welcomes visitors with majestic scenery created by thousands of Wisteria flowers. They come in a range of colours which include purple, white and pink creating an incredibly beautiful contrast along with the nature around. Walking through the 100 m long Wisteria tunnel takes you to a mystical world where you can take memorable pictures with the beautiful flowers. In fall, the garden also attracts numerous visitors as a perfect spot to enjoy the autumn colours!

4) Hirosaki Park : Located in Aomori Prefecture, Hirosaki Park is widely known as one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in the Tohoku region. From mid-April through early May the entire park is packed with visitors from all around Japan, who want to witness the breath-taking scenery created by the beautiful cherry blossoms and Hirosaki Castle. Hirosaki Castle is officially designated as one of the 12 original castles which were built in the Edo period (1603-1868) or earlier. Going on a popular boat cruise in the moat around the castle offers you a fun experience. Enjoy viewing the pink flowers dancing in the air or floating on the water gracefully.

5) Hitachi Seaside Park : Recognised as a national park in Japan, Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture is famous for having 7 areas that are filled with different types of flowers almost every season. It is said that the best time of year to go to the park is in the spring from mid-April to early May when there are thousands of nemophilia flowers that blanket the park with a beautiful light blue colour. There are also other fun outdoor activities you can enjoy such as cycling on the local trails, golfing or having a nice BBQ. This park is only 2 hours from Tokyo and can make for a nice day trip.

6) Ashikaga Flower Park : Chosen as one of the top 10 dream destinations in the world by CNN in 2014, Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochiji Prefecture is a magical place to visit in the spring. Bringing in about 1.5 million people annually, it is famous for its 350 wisteria trees that turn various shades of purple and are in bloom between mid-April to mid-May. This fantasy like setting looks like something you would see in a movie and is definitely worth checking out. There is an 80 m long wisteria tunnel that is very picturesque and is a popular spot to take some good pictures. The famous Great Wisteria Festival takes place here every year from mid-April. Ashikaga Flower Park is also home to many other flowers including cherry trees that are usually in bloom in April.

7) Poppy Happy Square : Held annually from mid to late May in Saitama Prefecture, the Poppy Festival is only about an hour away from Tokyo. Known as Japan’s largest poppy field, Poppy Happy Square spans over 125,000 square meters and has more than 30 million poppy flowers! There are various different kinds of poppies that include California poppies as well as the common variety that tend to be red. If you are lucky enough to join the festival on a sunny day, you will have a great view of Mt. Fuji as you stroll through the vibrant poppy fields.

Travel Smart

Dressing for the trip

When traveling, dressing appropriately can make your journey more comfortable and enjoyable. Earlier people dressed for air-travel as if they were going for a celebration and that’s because it was a rare event. In today’s day and age, the new wave of performance-clothing or athleisure wear has made travel a lot more comfortable. Here are some tips on how to dress for maximum ease during travel :

• Choose comfortable clothing: Wear clothing made of soft and stretchy materials that allow you to move freely. Avoid tight or restrictive clothing.

• Dress in layers: Layering allows you to easily adjust your clothing according to changes in the environment. Bring a light jacket, scarf or cardigan for the flight.

• Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off: Choose footwear that can be taken off and put on easily when going through security or during long flights. Avoid sandals or open-toed shoes as your feet can get cold on a plane. Ladies, avoid heels.

• Dress modestly: Depending on your destination it may be best to dress modestly. Research the culture and customs of your destination to determine what is appropriate.

• Avoid clothes and shoes with metal: Clothing with metal such as zippers or buttons can set off metal detectors in airports. Choose metal free clothes and shoes.

• Choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics: Choose clothes that are made of wrinkle-resistant fabrics to avoid having to iron them when you arrive at your destination.

• Dress appropriately for the weather: Check the weather forecast for your destination and dress accordingly. Bring a raincoat or umbrella if necessary.

• Don't wear jewellery or accessories that are valuable: Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or accessories that may attract unwanted attention or get lost during travel.

 Sustainable Travel Tip of the Month

“To get a sample itinerary for Japan, "Click here

Let’s all be responsible travellers

Clear up the litter behind you

Recently when the Qatar World Cup 2022 football matches were taking place, the whole world was impressed to see that the Japanese spectators always cleaned up behind them when they left the audience galleries after a football match. What is the lesson there for everyone, especially as travellers?

Being a responsible traveller involves taking care of the environment and leaving a positive impact on the places we visit. One of the most important ways we can do this is by not littering. Littering not only ruins the natural beauty of a place, but it also harms the ecosystem and wildlife.

To be a better traveller, we should always carry a small bag or container with us to collect our trash, rather than leaving it behind. This is especially important when visiting natural areas such as parks, beaches or forests. We should also dispose our trash properly by using designated bins or taking it with us until we find a suitable place to dispose it.

Moreover we can reduce our waste by using reusable water bottles, food containers and bags. This not only helps to minimise the amount of trash we generate but also reduces our environmental footprint.

By not littering we can contribute to the preservation of the environment and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same natural beauty we have. Being a responsible traveller means being mindful of our actions and making a positive impact on the places we visit.

‘Vacations’ is powered by OneShoe Trust for Responsible & Mindful Travels – a social enterprise that promotes travelling as a means to raise awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Incubated at IIM Bangalore, OneShoe is the source of most authentic travel experiences around the world.

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