Just recently, I made a wonderful experience. I visited the “Shiba Park Hotel 151” which is located close to the Tokyo Tower and has just opened its doors in August this year. It’s the perfect starting point for discovering the city. But actually, you don’t even have to leave the hotel to experience Japanese culture. How? Just keep on reading!
At the hotel, they have the so-called “Japanese Culture Experience Salon SAKURA” where hotel guests can take culture classes and learn something about traditional Japanese crafts.
The salon opens its doors every day and I was really surprised about the big number of different lessons you can take there:
Origami, calligraphy, tea ceremony, painting lucky cats (“manekineko”), cooking classes (okonomiyaki, takoyaki, sushi), rice wine tasting…and more! They even do “rajio taiso” – Japanese stretching and warming up gymnastics every morning! The program is perfect for anyone who wants to experience something that is unique to Japan.
There are classes where you have to pay the materials but there are free classes (also in English!!), too, for which you don’t have to make a reservation.
So I visited salon “SAKURA”. Just let me say something first: the interior of the new hotel is really pretty! All carpets have been made especially for this hotel by a Japanese company. Your Japanese experience starts the moment you step into the hotel!
OK, back to salon “SAKURA”. The salon is a Japanese style room with tatami (rice straw) mats on the floor. It is decorated with lucky cats, teapots and other cute items – quite comfortable! They even have a small kitchen and tables where you can easily change the height to fit the needs of the diverse program.
I was very lucky to take two classes: the “origami lesson” and the “furoshiki lesson”. All of the teachers are hotel staff, so you’ might meet your teachers somewhere in the hotel or at the front desk. I think this is really nice because you’ll feel more connected to your hotel and get the chance to chat with the locals.
So, what is a furoshiki? A furoshiki is a big rectangular cloth that Japanese people have been using for hundreds of years to wrap and carry different things. At my furoshiki lesson my teacher told me several ways to wrap things. A melon, 2 beers, a wine bottle…each wrapping looked really beautiful.
Wrapping things is not that difficult. Just copy every step your teacher does. And, within a blink of an eye, the beautiful and sturdy wrap is done! Wow!
From a German’s point of view, this reusable cloth is perfect because it’s friendly to the environment. For example: when you give your friend a wine bottle as a present and you wrap it into a furoshiki it doesn’t just look very special and beautiful, your friend will also be able to use the furoshiki later on.
The furoshiki culture is not widely known in Europe and America, but it’s a Japanese tradition that is worth being spread.
The second lesson was an origami lesson. Other than the furoshiki, origami is well known outside Japan. At salon SAKURA you’ll find many English books on origami so you can pick your favorite one. I decided to go with an origami classic: the crane. Here in Japan, every child knows how to fold it or has at least done it once.
But, actually, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to fold for origami beginners at all. When you try it for the first time looking at a written instruction you might get really confused… In the end, it’s much nicer to have a teacher who can help you out.
The culture experience program was great. I also enjoyed chatting with the hotel staff. (There is one staff who even speaks fluent German!) And last but not least, the interior of the salon was nice. It felt like being on another planet: a Japanese planet.
Next time, a friend or family visit Japan I will recommend this hotel and the “Japanese Culture Experience Salon SAKURA” to them.
How about you? Wouldn’t it be great to experience unique Japanese culture? …and after returning home, you can surprise all of your friends with the things you learned! They’ll be surprised!
SHIBA PARK HOTEL 151 (Homepage)