1. ESCAPE WITH AN ANIME
Studio Ghibli’s anime films have captivated audiences since 1986 and if you haven’t yet delved into the richly storied archives, now’s your chance to enjoy sheer escapism and stunning artistry. For a great selection, take a look at Netflix, which has the rights to a number of Ghibli films. On our radar: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, The Wind Rises, and Princess Mononoke. Another one to look out for (not a Ghibli film though) is Violet Evergarden, an award-winning Japanese light novel series.
2. GET YOUR SUSHI MAT OUT
You may like eating it, but do you enjoy making it? Why not start learning or perfecting your sushi-making skills at home? There are a number of great sushi-making courses — online or in the kitchen. Take a look at Udemy or Miya’s Kitchen or ask at your local sushi hangout as many of them offer courses or can steer you in the right direction. Don’t forget to fill your pantry with everything you need, from miso paste and yuzu sauce to sushi-making kits and rice, as well as Japanese-style handcrafted tableware. If you want to try your hand right now, take a look at this free sushi recipe tutorial.
3. CONQUER CALLIGRAPHY
With its intricate scripts and fluid brushstrokes, calligraphy (or shodō) is beloved throughout Japan. It’s rooted in meditation and mindfulness, but the practical element is totally immersive, so if you’re struggling to calm your thoughts, a YouTube tutorial could be just the ticket, or join a workshop or sign up for a course. Look for origami and blockpainting videos too. You might not have all the required materials, but with a bit of initiative (using styrofoam packaging instead of printing blocks, for example), you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve.
4. ENJOY HANAMI (CHERRY BLOSSOM VIEWING)
The Japanese tradition of hanami (flower viewing) might be tricky if you’re on a travel budget but you can have your own cherry blossom picnic at home. In Japan, people celebrate the flowering of cherry blossoms by holding hanami picnics under the trees, with beer, sake, and even karaoke sets. While the typical cherry trees are not common in SA cities, there are many orchards and gardens that have cherry trees (try Ficksburg, Ceres or the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens), which bloom in September and October.
5. LOSE YOURSELF IN A BOOK
Weaving poignant anecdotes and folklore with meticulously researched history and sumptuous prose, Alex Kerr is Britain’s foremost writer on all things Japan. His books and articles, such as Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons bring to life his childhood in Yokohama, and reveal the rich customs and culture of his adopted homeland. Also look at Pure Invention by at Matt Alt, a dedicated researcher of Japanese culture. And of course, there’s the beautiful Memoirs of a Geisha, a historical novel by Arthur Golden.
6. SIP ON A CALMING BREW
Stock up on soothing Japanese sencha green tea, like Pukka’s Organic Supreme bags (available from Faithful to Nature, Wellness Warehouse and some supermarkets). Drinking green tea has been interwoven into Japanese culture for centuries. Almost every meal in Japan is accompanied by a freshly brewed pot of green tea, which is known for its health and restorative properties.
7. WELCOME THE INFLUENCE OF OMOTENASHI
Omotenashi (for which there is no equivalent English word) is the Japanese spirit of hospitality. In Japan it is extremely important to make guests feel welcome. The spirit of omotenashi is a key part of the Lexus ethos as the brand is all about the way they make a customer feel, with the aim of “treating each customer as we would a guest in our home”. Make this the month that you spread the spirit of omotenashi, both in your home and in your dealings with others and you’ll also “experience amazing”!
8. STRETCH FOR HEALTH
For nearly 70 years, millions of people across Japan have started the day by tuning into rajio taisō (radio calisthenics) on TV and NHK radio — a three-minute routine of low-impact stretching, bending and jumping. Many people believe it’s the key to their longevity. We think it’s a great way to activate the entire body. Give it a go via YouTube.