Japanese kokeshi dolls

5 things we learned from Travel Geeks – Made In Japan

On Tuesday 23 June, National Geographic Traveller teamed up with Japan House to host Made in Japan, an online Travel Geeks session focusing on Japanese crafts and travel. The panel of four experts included ceramicist Hitomi Hosono; Matt Joslin, marketing and communications manager at the Japanese National Tourism Organisation; Simon Wright, director of programming at Japan House; and internationally acclaimed author and travel writer Pico Iyer. They were able to share their experiences and give the audience at home inspiration to plan culture-focused trips to Japan.

The Travel Geeks Japan panel
The Travel Geeks – Made in Japan panel. Clockwise from top left: Hitomi Hosono, Pico Iyer, Simon Wright, Matt Joslin, moderator Jo Fletcher-Cross

Kyoto, Koyasan and Naoshima

For those who want to experience a wide variety of Japanese crafts, Pico Iyer recommended heading to Kyoto, where it’s possible to steep yourself in crafts dating back to the eighth century. Then head to Koyasan, a mountain filled with temples; and Naoshima, for cutting-edge museums and installations.

Take the Tadami Line and explore Aizu

This region, in the Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo, has lots of villages, each with an incredible craft heritage. Matt Joslin suggested taking its beautiful scenic railway, the Tadami Line

Ceramics

Japan’s use of ceramics is different to anywhere else in the world, according to Hitomi Hosono. While almost every country has its own unique ceramic heritage, in Japan ceramics can be found absolutely everywhere and it’s not uncommon for households to make their own. “People love the idea of actually using the things that they create,” Hitomi commented.

Craft culture

Pico Iyer suggested that culture is at the heart of Japanese identity, citing his own experience learning to love the films of Yasujiro Ozu. “I’ve learned that most of life takes place between the big skyscraper dramas and Japan is more attuned to this small print and this invisible ink — more so than any culture I know. It’s this idea that informs every craft you’ll encounter.”

Experiential travel

Japan is an ideal destination for those who’d like to get really hands-on. Matt Joslin spoke about how experiential travel is big in Japan, enabling people to visit many craft-making businesses. He explained that there’s a great visitation infrastructure in place to support these industries.

Watch the full discussion

If your destination or company would be interested in partnering on a future online Travel Geeks event, we’d love to discuss any ideas you might have, or help you come up with the best ways to work with us. Contact [email protected] or call 020 7253 9909.