Travel Diary: WAZA in Japan

WORDS AND IMAGES Botha and Hilda Kruger


Any visitor to Japan will experience omotenashi – a selfless and aware form of hospitality that the country is famous for. Japan is also renowned for its efficient passenger rail system, so this time around, we decided to do something different and explore the country by car.

Over 18 days in April, we completed a 4 500 km road trip from Fukuoka to Tokyo and back. It was during chirihajime, when the cherry blossom trees start to shed their flowers. The swirling sakura, having once again displayed their fleeting beauty, provided a poignant backdrop to our trip. What remained unwavering was the omotenashi we experienced in the smallest nooks and crannies of Japan, even when shop owners did not expect two Capetonians to arrive at their doorstep by car.

WAZA with 5th generation blacksmith, Shunsuke Manaka

A self-drive tour gave us the freedom to visit small factories, galleries, ateliers and coffee shops, hidden from the major tourist routes. It gave us a sense of rural life in Japan, and reminded us why we love the quality of the products we source, and the care taken with making and displaying them. We stayed in a combination of minshuku (guest houses where the host prepares meals) and minpaku (self-catering apartments and houses). Everywhere we went, the hosts, artisans, makers and craftsmen we met were generous with their time and courteous to their visitors.

Browse the gallery above to get an inside look into Botha and Hilda Kruger’s trip through Japan. The couple run WAZA, a local online store specialising in quality Japanese goods, which we originally featured here