Japan is a familiar place, whether we as Americans recognize it or not. Think of a foreign culture with more instantly recognizable symbols. Samurai, geisha, castles, cherry blossoms, anime cartoons. Despite this, between the language and the private nature of its people, Japanese culture can be a tough nut to crack. Global Basecamps' cultural Japan tours aim to change this, by making it as easy as possible to experience old and new Japan. In an effort to pierce the veil just a bit before your trip, we will do our best to outline what to expect in a common day at a sumo wrestling tournament.
Where to See Sumo
Japan’s most popular tournaments are held in a rotation throughout the year in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. These cities all have international airports and are easily accessible by other means, but foreigners tend to attend Tokyo and Osaka tournaments in greater numbers. Of these, the most popular venue by far is Tokyo’s Kokugikan, which hosts the January, May and September tournaments and seats 13,000 people.
You get an idea of why Titilaka is so special as you land at nearby Juliaca airport. As excited as any traveler is to see stunning Lake Titicaca, the cities of neighboring Juliaca and lake-side Puno are… not a good introduction. There is poverty in Puno, there is an indigenous culture forgotten by modern civilization, there are incomplete brick buildings, there is a growing urban haze. And bad news for most travelers: most of the hotels on Lake Titicaca are within view of all of this.
But then your private driver keeps driving, and driving, and driving. Almost blissfully, the city gets left in the rear view mirror. City sounds and sights give way to family farms and the families that work them. Long views of the lake compliment the wide open sky that feels closer at this high elevation. And thirty minutes later, you arrive at your country estate.
Titilaka truly feels like your weekend home on the lake. Titilaka feels like it waits for you, like nothing happens when you’re not there, like somehow you’ve earned this level of service and comfort. Upon arrival, attendants host an almost ceremonial “welcome bonfire” on the shore, where a first sunset is enjoyed with tea and tapas. An attendant is available in your living room at all times. Chefs prepare world-class meals in your kitchen. Your guide knows your name and is ready to take you on any excursion around the lake. Titilaka, in some way, says “welcome home” every time you return, even if you were just gone for the morning.
You’ve been told for years that you need to get there. That there’s nothing like it. That it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The mystery. The history. My goodness, the beauty. Any traveler worth their salt wants to get there, period.
After years of dreaming, months of planning, and days of hiking, you finally turn the corner and see it. Machu Picchu.
This is the first question that our Colombia travel specialists often get when planning travel there. Americans in particular have concerns about traveling to a country so recently known for its centrality to the drug trade, and the violence that was born of it. I’m going to be honest with you. There’s part of us here at Global Basecamps that wants to lie to you. Part of us wants to say “wait 10 more years for things to settle down,” or “the security is not quite there yet.” There seems to be an exclusive club of travelers these days, a secret cabal of people in the know. They know Colombia has been safe for years. They know its beaches are top notch. They know it is absolutely one of the best countries to travel in almost because so few people go there.
Really, this is no secret if you’ve been paying attention. In 2008, The New York Times officially declared Cartagena a foodie destination. Travel + Leisure called Cartagena a Hidden Retreat in the same year. Last year, the Times seemed to still be on the Colombia-train, moving onto the great eats in Bogota and its tourist revival. It’s a common topic of conversation in our office. How do we get the message across that Colombia is safe, when the New York Times can’t seem to do it? Consider us stumped. The best we can do is describe the perfect vacation setting as best we can, and travelers can make up their own minds.
Global Basecamps is incredibly proud to have been named a finalist for TravelAge West's Trendsetter Award for Upward Bound, Rockstar Agent Under 40. Our Travel Specialist Andres Zuleta, has been a part of the Global Basecamps family since 2009 and specializes in customizing travel to Japan and South America.
A large factor in TravelAge West’s decision to nominate Andres was Global Basecamp’s commitment as a whole to bring you a new, (and we think better!) way to see Japan. From one-on-one experiences with geisha, to staying in traditional Japanese ryokan, Global Basecamps strives to truly connect you to Japan's ancient culture. We will not let you leave Japan without at least a few truly cultural experiences, and this sets us apart in a way that TravelAge West recognized.