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Japan’s cherry blossoms were a major highlight of our wonderful tour in Japan. With a very short window, the blossoms are highly revered as there is only 5-7 days viewing time each spring, known as Hanami. We were made to wait as Tokyo had experienced a very cool start to spring and we could see small pink buds on the Sakura trees yet to blossom. All good things come to those who wait they say.

After 4 exhilarating days in Tokyo, we headed to the onsen region of Hakone, next to Mt. Fuji, which is usually topped by clouds but on this day, she fully revealed herself. This is rare and special and moved us deeply as we drove around in our private coach, viewing Mt. Fuji from many angles.  The natural hots springs provided us bathing opportunities in many forms. Most of the women were delighted to bathe on their balconies in the hot springs resort while others ventured into the communal baths for women. Once needed for those without their own bathrooms at home, onsen are an important ritual of Japanese culture with specific ways of entering the baths. Often assisted by Japanese women there, the sisters learnt and experienced welcoming kindness of the locals.

Visiting temples, castles, shrines, and ancient Japanese gardens, it was in Kanazawa where we first celebrated the cherry blossoms. Sakura were in bloom everywhere! It was a most wonderful sight, and the locals were out in the spring weather picnicking under the blossom trees. It was very festive, and we felt the joy of celebrating nature.

A special feature of our tour is exploring many cultural hands-on activities all designed to quieten the mind and develop one’s skills. We enjoyed our fun sushi class in Tokyo, the mindful practice of ikebana flower arranging and a washi paper making workshop in the mountains. In Kyoto, the home of traditional arts and craft, we did a furoshiki cloth dyeing class, had a kimono dress up day wandering through the bamboo groves in Arashiyama and learnt the Buddhist culture of tea ceremony, practicing the rituals handed down over many generations.

The sisters enjoyed each other’s company, all having come in the spirit of fun and friendship. Sharing stories from the day and all sorts of other travel experiences, we dined together indulging in the unique Japanese cuisine with sushi, tempura, okonomiyaki, udon and soba noodles and various kaiseki meals. Umeshu plum wine was a favorite Japanese drop and we tried shochu and warm sake. So many new experiences, this country is like no other place on earth, holding tightly onto its culture after being closed for so long to the rest of the world. 

Kaarie Stephens - Sisterhood Hostess

Hayley Morris's avatar

About the Author: Hayley Morris

The founder of Sisterhood Womens Travel and owner of an award winning travel agency - “I’ve been in travel for over 17 years and identified the need for a touring company to provide fully inclusive, interesting tours just for women". One of the things I love about travelling with a group of inspiring women is that we are all brought together to share a passion for travel and to see our amazing world in the company of friends, what better way to travel!

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