Lots of moments every day, but here's just a few:
The Manga Museum in Kyoto, located in a former school, giving an in-depth insight into the long history of comic book graphic art of Japan and how it has influenced western art and film-making.
The traditional theatre and puppet show in Kyoto, although a very “touristy” experience, it offered an interesting snippet of what these arts are all about. I found the scene from the puppet theatre amazingly moving and the comedy sketch genuinely funny. (All explanations given in a good English language leaflet.)
Miyajima Island temples – watching 100-day baby-naming ceremony, showing the temples being used today as they should be and not simply there as a relic of a past age. Then trying to find enlightenment in the pitch black tunnel of the 33 (or was it 36) goddesses underneath the temple.
Walking through the Hiroshima Memorial Museum, watching the varied reactions of the Japanese school parties and then looking at an exhibit – a child’s rusted tricycle salvaged from the day the bomb dropped. The beautiful tone of the peace-bell rung by us and school children in the park.
Staying in the traditional guesthouses, (ryokans), wearing the yukata, trying to remember the fine detail of slipper etiquette, meeting the families who ran them, and watching the owner's archery demo – definitely “Zen and the art of archery” personified.
The guided tour of Tokyo which managed to include the full range of the varied experiences on offer in the capital. If you only had 1 day to spend here, this tour would cover it.
Tokyo National Museum – a visual feast of art, costumes and samurai armour, with a free, illustrated, 8-page booklet in English to take away.
Eating tempura vegetables especially the pumpkin - delicious.
At the local markets: seeing very expensive boxes of mushrooms, at £100 a small crate, next to the largest apples on earth for 50p, definitely needing two hands to eat and a meal in themselves.
A very versatile guide, both socially and intellectually, able to relate to everyone on their own terms and talk about any aspect of Japan you might be interested in, whether it's baseball, haiku poetry, history of the Edo period, varieties of saki, the Japanese apartment rental system, recent Japanese films, music or the Japanese alphabets. He knew Japan very well and was able to show us any aspect of the country we wished to see, from peaceful forests with stands of bamboo, hilltop viewpoints and busy markets to local people playing croquet by the river, at the pochinko and gambling halls, or in Tokyo counter-culture bars. As a tourist in an unfamiliar country, it was reassuring to know that we were with a very capable guide, who would be able to deal with any eventuality or emergency, and I had complete confidence in his abilities.
A very rewarding country to visit. Why not make this trip an 18 day-er or even a 3 week-er, there's plenty to see and do to justify it.
Or now that the flight times back to the UK have been changed to a late evening departure on the Friday night, that gives 4 whole days in Tokyo, which was welcome, given how much there was to see, but that also gives an opportunity to allow an extra day in the mountains. Felt the brief aquaintance with Matsomoto was far too fleeting and would have liked an extra day there, but then could say that about all the places we visited. A evening in Miyajima watching the sun going down and staying in a ryokan there too would have been great!