5 more ways to connect to Japan when getting there NOW isn’t possible

street scene, Kyoto

I love this empty street in Kyoto. Skinny bits and pieces of building squished together and somehow still standing. This is typical Japan for me.

If you are desperate to get back to Japan or have never been and can’t scramble the funds or time to get there, it’s okay! It’s possible to connect to Japan from afar.

Part 1 covered movies, food and websites. This post adds five more ways from consulates to gardens.

Japanese Consulates and Embassies

While some embassies seem like (or are) fortresses and consulates are reminiscent of a visit to the principal’s office, I’ve been surprised at how accessible government offices can be. If you are lucky to be reasonably close to one, you don’t necessarily have to have an official reason to visit.

Consulates and embassies can be a superb resource for events, activities, and materials. The best free publication at the consulate in our region is niponica, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The magazine highlights points of Japanese culture with interesting articles and fantastic photographs in both English and Japanese. If you find older issues, I still recommend checking them out. As an aside, a regional Japanese association carries more current and back issues.

Japanese cultural magazines

niponica and Japan Echo from the local consulate

Another enjoyable read is the journal, Japan Echo. The translated articles are technical and lengthy but worth a look if you enjoy critical discourse.

Consulates sponsor film festivals, photo contests, sake tasting, summer festivals, and art shows. They also offer information on studying Japanese in Japan and other scholarships. I’m not eligible but perhaps you can get to Japan on the government’s tab!

Japanese Speech Contests

If you are learning Japanese or would like to hear it live, Japanese speech contests take place around Canada every March. Winners of local contests compete their way up for a chance to show off their skills at the national level. It is impressive to hear the public speaking, presentation and Japanese skills of the student contestants! While my Japanese was not good enough to understand much of the content when I attended last, I could appreciate the effort to communicate in another language.

Japanese Associations

Associations can be a fantastic place to meet people who are interested in or connected to Japan. Those in our region have clubs including flower arranging, drumming, martial arts, painting and papermaking, bonsai, and calligraphy. While Hitoshi and I haven’t joined a club due to scheduling conflicts, the ikebana class and taiko practice we attended showed how committed club members are to their passions.

ikebana class in Japan

Maybe you can do this in your town! This was one of my creations from ikebana class in Akita, Japan

Associations also sponsor or participate in events such as tea ceremonies, education programs for students, summer festivals, cooking classes, and history projects. The local summer festivals have been a lot of fun! We have been impressed with how closely they resemble festivals we’ve attended in Japan.

Kanto Museum, Akita

My new skill! Akita City is famous for the Kanto Festival held every August. It takes great skill to hold up and balance the heavy pole and candle-lit lanterns without help. 😀

If you are interested in learning Japanese, the local association may offer a language exchange, private lessons or formal classes. My parents have been taking classes through the local association since Hitoshi and I got engaged. The classes are reasonably priced and cheaper than through local education associations or colleges/universities.

Local associations may have lending libraries and newsletters to keep you informed of what is happening in your community. To become more involved, there may be opportunities to join the executive and/or board of an association.

Japanese Cultural Centres

Along with associations, cultural centres and museums are another way to get to know Japanese culture better. While there are none that we know of yet in our neck of the woods, I recently found out about the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia. Hopefully we can visit in the next year but until then, their podcast on Japanese Canadian history caught my attention. We will offer our thoughts once we listen to a few more podcasts of Sounds Japanese Canadian to Me. If you have been to a centre in your area, please comment!

women kneeling in kimono

I took this photo at the New Year’s Party for the ikebana class I belonged to in Akita City. This was during the ceremony and awards presentation before dinner. I thought this woman’s kimono was striking.

Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens are varied and unique, especially those created outside Japan using indigenous materials and following geographic features of a particular zone. Gardens in our region host events for Children’s Day, hold tea ceremonies and maintain a secluded bonsai nook, which is my favorite feature. Gardens are also a peaceful place to spend an afternoon planning your trip to Japan!

Japanese Garden in Canada

We visited this gorgeous Japanese Garden in Canada on a day hot enough to rival Japan.

What do you do to stay connected to Japan in your community? How do you make Japanese connections if you have never been to Japan but want to go?

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2 thoughts on “5 more ways to connect to Japan when getting there NOW isn’t possible

  1. I love these lists because it’s a great way to see the “real” Japan (not necessarily the Anime/pop culture/weirdness that a lot of people expect to find in Japan when they first visit).

    I think going to a speech contest would make me feel so inadequate about my own language ability, though. Hah. Oh well. Good for them 🙂

    • Thanks, Grace! I agree. I couldn’t talk about any of the wacky stuff anyway since it’s not me. In fact, when we were in Kyoto, I insisted on visiting the manga museum because it’s housed in an old school. There I was, stepping over young and old with noses buried in manga, peering down hallways, up back staircases, and into rooms looking for mouldings, light fixtures, exposed pipes, interesting tiles and any other evidence of oldness. And yes, the speech contest made giving up seem very worthwhile. 😀

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