Get ready for 6 immersive experiences in Japan

Spend the night with adorable Akita Dogs at Enishi homestay. PHOTO: JNTO

SINGAPORE - Picture yourself somewhere in Japan for a moment, picking juicy persimmons off a tree in a green, leafy orchard.

In the distance is the cute farmhouse where you will soon be having a convivial farm-to-table dinner prepared by your host family.

The pandemic has pretty much killed hit-and-run tourism. These days, it is all about experiencing a locale like a local. Through immersive travel, you linger longer and learn not just about other cultures, but also about yourself in the process.

With its timeless landscapes and Zen philosophy, Japan is the perfect place to do this.

From a stay in a restored sake chamber to a language school, here are six of the best offerings from the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) Singapore's first virtual Japan Fair, which is on till March 13.

1. Enishi (Kakunodate town)

Great for: Animal lovers

Nothing beats being welcomed by a pair of fluffy Akita-Inus. These dogs, which are well-known, thanks to Hachiko - which is honoured in Japan through books and films for his extraordinary loyalty to his owner - will be accompanying you at this minpaku (homestay) with two standard rooms and two tatami-style rooms.

Owner Yoshimi Azusa will tell you all about these dogs, including the laborious process in acquiring one (all Akita-Inu owners need to take a mandatory course).

Interact with the dogs by following Ms Azusa on one of her dog walks to explore the town and the riverside.

Info: Enishi's website

2. Farm Inn Sakekoshimai (Odate city)

Great for: Farmstay fanatics

Experience rural Japan by staying at a farmhouse in Akita. PHOTO: JNTO

Agrotourism is booming in Odate city, which is located in a region filled with bucolic farmlands and villages. Visitors can experience life on a farm in one of the area's many family-style accommodations.

This farm is one of the more well-known homestays in the area. Whether it is helping out with farm chores, taking up Japanese calligraphy lessons, playing chef (learn to make a traditional rice skewer called a tanpo) or going for long walks in the countryside, there are plenty of activities for visitors.

They can also chill with some post-dinner entertainment before calling it a night in one of the traditional tatami-style rooms.

Info: This website

3. Oriyamake (Kita-akita city)

Great for: Nature lovers


Experience the life of the Matagi hunter-gatherer tribe by staying in a 70-year-old Japanese structure called a kominka. PHOTO: JNTO

The Matagi are an indigenous tribe of hunter-gatherers from the mountains of north Japan who have been around for 1,000 years. Their sustainable way of living is swiftly disappearing, however, and there are few practising Matagis left today.

Nestled within the foothills of Mount Moriyoshi, Oriyamake, is the home of Mr Oriyama, a proud descendant of the Matagi.

Apart from staying in a 70-year-old Japanese structure called a kominka, guests can experience life as a Matagi - by going canoeing, trekking, fishing or foraging.

While spring is good for nature-based excursions, winter is the best time to visit as the Matagi are winter hunters. Hunt for wild rabbits, make butter mochi and cosy up by the irori, a sunken hearth found only in the most traditional of Japanese homes.

Info: Oriyamake's website

4. Akita Inaka School (Kosaka town)

Great for: Those who want to pick up a new language

Learn Japanese at a countryside school in Akita. PHOTO: JNTO

Located in a small town of about 5,000 people, this school is a language centre as well as a place for Japanophiles to immerse themselves in local culture.

Each course takes about four weeks to complete.

When you are not learning practical conversational Japanese in class, you will be participating in an activity or excursion. This includes enjoying a meal of nagashi somen - a summertime tradition, attending a class on Japanese manners or taking part in one of the many festivals in the region.

Students will live in a sharehouse, a term for communal quarters with its own kitchen, lounge and bathrooms. Expect takoyaki parties and cookouts in the evenings.

Info: Akita Inaka School's website

5. Bed and Craft (Inami town)

Great for: Craft enthusiasts

Get crafty at workshops with local artisans at Bed & Craft in Toyama. PHOTO: JNTO

With more than 200 artisans lining its main street and the smell of camphor wood in the air, the little town of Inami in Central Japan has been called the country's best woodcarving destination.

There are six traditional dwellings owned by Bed And Craft, all of which have been restored by local artisans. Stay in a former home of a door carpenter or a sericulturist, a silkworm breeder and manufacturer of raw silk.

Visitors can attend programmes by master craftsmen, delve into Japanese Urushi or the art of lacquer-making, or join a bike tour to discover the sights - including the Zuisen-ji Temple, a huge, intricately wood-carved temple.

Info: Bed and Craft's website

6. Kurabito Stay (Saku City)

Great for: Sake fans

Try your hand at sake brewing and stay overnight in a restored hiroshiki at Kurabito Stay. PHOTO: KURABITO STAY, INC

Saku is home to 13 sake breweries that are all open to visitors, including one you can actually stay in.

Kurabito Stay is located within the Kitsukura Shuzo Sake Brewery, an establishment more than 300 years old.

Here, visitors can play sake maker, or kurabito. Over three days and two nights, they can try their hand at producing sake - from steaming to pulling the rice into the koji room to preparing it for fermentation. Of course, this includes tasting sessions.

The programme includes workshops led by experts and plenty of opportunities for imbibing.

Guests will also be treated to a sake-pairing dinner and sleep in a hiroshiki, a large room where the kurabito would live during the winter. Say kanpai!

Info: Kurabito Stay's website

The virtual Japan Fair is on till March 13. For free access to virtual tours and immersive events, go to this website.

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