It was a dainty dawn when our group of 12 delegates landed at the Narita airport. We whisked through immigration, and headed to a ‘surreally comfortable’ heated WC seat in the restroom, with features customised to the nth detail.
All this reminded us that we’ve landed in the Little Giant Land of Design — Japan, for the training programme on operation of a design award for India. We headed to the Yokohama Kenshu Centre, where we were informed that it being Sunday, we would need to search for dinner.
An enthusiastic band, almost in freeze mode, strutted out on foot with ambiguous instructions towards a market centre, where the group split between the familiarity of a Pizzeria and a Seven Eleven.
Next morning, it was back to clock-work business, with lectures by leading Japanese industry design heads and visits to the impressive Panasonic Center and Nissan Gallery Global headquarters in Tokyo. The experience was extremely enriching.
Christmas cheer in the air
The evenings were occasionally spent experiencing cheerful Christmas in the air in a tasteful, infectious tenor at the tube stations on the streets, around the bustling Yokohama Station, at the buzzing departmental store area and on the shoreline. Even the instrumental music at the tube stations was reminiscent of the weightless, cheery snowflakes.
We enjoyed our visit to Japan’s leading, brandless fashion store, Muji. The opinion that Parisian women led the world in fashion style, came to a grinding revision after we saw the regular Japanese women gentry on the streets, who presented a visual treat, and looked like they had stepped straight out of a supremely refined avatar of Vogue.
Of sushi and sake
Entry to a few Japanese restaurants was restricted to Japanese only. For those of us wanting to experience authentic Japan cuisine, there was on offer a
specialisation in sushi or tempura and several variations. What was also quite fascinating and helpful was the realistic looking plastic models of plated menus displayed in restaurant windows, with respective prices and, on occasion, even the number of calories it contained.
Your guide to the land of the rising sun
Best time to go: To see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, go in April and May. To see Japan turn into a winter dreamland, catch the Sapporo Snow Festival in the second week of February.
How to go: Airlines including Air India, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines operate flights from India to Tokyo, Narita.
Tickets start from R30,000 upwards.
What to see: The Yamashita Park by the harbour in Yokohama is beautiful. For those seeking the traditional cultural tenors of Japan, a day-long trip to Kamakura with its temples and shrines, natural beauty and home to some of the country’s historic monuments, traditional arts and crafts is a must.
For those, with lesser time on hand, a shorter trip to Asakusa offers an concise cultural overview of Japan.