In mid February, 5 teachers from WA school and our agency representative were invited to the Hokkaido familiarisation tour. This 6 day tour was designed to experience what the region offers for learning and enjoying Japanese culture.

We visited Tokachi-gawa Onsen region, the centre of Tokachi Plains, which produces an abundance of agricultural products and ancient hot springs. We also visited Noboribetsu Onsen – the most famous and popular onsen town in Hokkaido where nature and culture experiences are offered, Lake Toya – a part of Shikotsu-Toya national park offering picturesque views and many activities, and Sapporo – the capital city of Hokkaido and the Japan’s fifth largest city.

Apart from the many natural & cultural experiences and beautiful food we had, the people we met through the journey were so friendly and open which was one of the highlights of the trip. As you know, Japanese hospitality is very well regarded wherever you go, but it seems that Hokkaido people are more relaxed and open to share what they have.

We learned a lot about the Japanese indigenous people Ainu as Hokkaido is due to open the national museum dedicated to Ainu culture and history. The history of Hokkaido reminded me of Australia. Perhaps that’s another reason that Hokkaido is popular for Aussies? Hope more people will travel far and wide to find out what the region offers. It shouldn’t be limited to snow season either!

We are here to help if you want to explore Hokkaido either for snow sports, education tours, camping, hot spring retreat, food experience, cycling, driving or meet wild nature.

This year, cherry blossom season started much earlier than usual due to the much warmer weather. Unfortunately many cherry blossom viewing events (“Hanami“) have been cancelled due to the outbreak of coronavirus but the flowers won’t stop blooming beautifully!

With less tourists seen at parks and gardens, the sight of the beautiful pink colours of Cherry Blossoms (“Sakura“) against spring’s blue sky would be hopefully giving locals peace and hope.

Do you know why “Sakura” is so special for Japanese people? It is a very important part of Japanese culture and traditions. Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. Sakura’s life is very short – it usually peaks around two weeks only. Originally used to divine the year’s harvest, Sakura came to embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy and the shinto ideals of impermanence. Apart from these meanings, Sakura is simply beautiful and many people enjoy its radiant and delicate beauty.

People excitedly wait for the news of the first blossom and plan for hanami – flower viewing. Hanami is usually enjoyed under cherry blossom trees eating, drinking and chatting with friends, colleagues and family. Parties are held either on weekends or evenings to enjoy “yozakura” (evening cherry blossom) as popular parks are beautifully lit. The tradition can be traced back at least a thousand years.

Blossoms starts from late March to early May throughout Japan. You don’t need to go to major destinations to enjoy the flowers as trees are planted throughout the country.

Let’s hope that the world will become a safer place to travel for the next Sakuraseason!
We are here to help to plan for your cherry blossom viewing trip.

Did you know that every year on the 21st of March we have Harmony Day in Australia to celebrate our cultural diversity? Since 1999, the day has been celebrated by a number of community, school and commercial events across the nation.

Australia is, as you know, a vibrant and multicultural country. Nearly half of Australians were born overseas or have a least one parent who was. We have more than 300 ancestries.

As the nation enters lockdown and racism is being reported related to the coronavirus, and although many events have been cancelled this year, we can – as individuals or families – reflect on the values of our cultural diversity and how it makes Australia a better place to live.

Rugby World Cup was a huge success for Japan. Feedback content was teeming with admiration for logistical delivery, like trains on time, accommodation, friendliness… Anyone who’s been to Japan knows what we’re talking about! In addition to some very exciting games, people travelled far and wide. We have helped many travellers planning their additional itineraries from Hokkaido to Kyushu and are very pleased to hear that they had wonderful time.
“…We are having an amazing time and all your reservations and recommendations have been excellent!..”

Our annual December holiday homestay program has finished and the students went back to Tokyo with lots of memories. A group of 12 students from Japan spent 4 nights with host families and enjoyed cultural experiences, Australian nature and a fun time at Rottnest with their buddies. Thanks again to the wonderful host families who truly contributed to the success of the program.

Happy New Year!

Thank you for your support in the past year and we wish you a great 2020 and a wonderful time ahead.  In Japan New Year’s Day greeting cards “nengajo” are exchanged to wish the prosperous year and this is our nengajo to you!

New Year’s Day is the most important date of the year in Japan and the celebration of New Year’s Day “oshogatsu” follows many traditions such as Osechi (special food for oshogatsu), Hatsumoude (first worship of the year), Otoshidama(money children receive from parents and relatives), Hatsuhinode (first sunrise of the year)… the list goes on!
On New Year’s Day, it is believed that the New Year’s God visits each house to bring good luck and happiness, so people decorate their house with Shimekazari (decoration made with a sacred rice straw rope, pine and a mandarin) and Kadomatsu (a pair of three cut pieces of bamboo and pine with some ornaments) to welcome the God.
Like Christmas here in Australia, people in Japan spend oshogatsu with family eating and drinking and visiting relatives.

If you are going to Japan around New Year’s Day next year, we hope you will get a chance to experience these authentic traditions.

The blooming of a seasonal flower is a time for celebration and viewing in Japan and late spring is the time you can see magnificent arrays of Hydrangea, called ajisai in Japanese.  Given the Japanese appreciation for nature it is not surprising that flowers have a special significance.  The ancient custom of hanakotoba (literally meaning flower-words) describes the practice of assigning meanings to flowers (and their colours) and using them to convey an emotional message to the recipient.  The arrangement of the flowers also became as meaningful as the flower itself.  In Japan Hydrangeas generally signify pride but they can also be used to represent love and good health.  The hanakotobafor Hydrangea are – pink flowers for good health, blue for everlasting feelings, and white for generosity (making them a perfect flower for mother’s day in the northern hemisphere).  The hanakotobafor Hydrangea however can also be fickleness and affairs based on the petals changing colour as the seasons progress.

On the first of May, Prince Naruhito became the 126th Emperor of Japan after his father Emperor Akihito abdicated the throne and ended the Heisei era which had lasted for 31 years.  The new “Reiwa” era marks the accession of Prince Naruhito and it is the 248th era of the Japanese Imperial Calendar.  The name “Reiwa” means “beautiful harmony”.  It was taken from the 1200 year old “Manyoshu” anthology of poems and it is the first name of an era originating from a Japanese native source rather than from traditional Chinese literature.

Japan is the only country that uses the own imperial calendar (gengo) as well as the Gregorian calendar. The first gengois “Taika” which started in 645.  In ancient times gengowas changed when there was an auspicious event or a disaster like a major earthquake. In the modern Japanese history gengochanged at the time of an imperial succession.  The longest era was “Showa”, the era prior to “Heisei”, which lasted for 62 years and 14 days. The shortest gengowas “Rekijin” lasting only 2 months and 14 days in 1238.
The Gregorian calendar has been widely used in Japan and it’s more common these days. The use was promoted along with the campaign of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

On 7 February, the Japan Weather Association published the first official cherry blossom forecast for 2019.  The season is expected to start earlier than usual in most places.

Blossoms are expected in Fukuoka and Kumamoto prefectures in Kyushu around 19 March and then blossoms will gradually start opening as the season moves to the north.  Tokyo is expected to see the first flowering around 22 March and full bloom around 26 March.  Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya will have similar timing.  The northern area of Tohoku will have full blooms between mid to late April and the cherry blossom season will reach Hokkaido in early May.