One of the greatest, most enriching things in life is to experience a culture first-hand. And that is not just traveling to a destination. Or, having scouted out the most off-the-beaten-path things to do to get a better feel for the country. It’s meeting people and learning about their culture, from actual locals. This allows me to learn about a place in a deeper, most authentic way.

Meeting Saori

A little while back, my wife and I met Saori, a young woman from Tokyo, Japan. We first got in contact at a language school in Santa Monica. This is certainly a hub for people coming together from all kinds of countries. I greatly enjoy that. More so, it is fascinating how each one of those personalities have their own story to tell.

At some point, we began chatting with Saori. Our conversations became more open and we shared details about each other’s individual lives. One day she graciously offered that we visit her parents in Tokyo. “It would be a great honor for them to welcome you”, she said.

Suddenly, we had a personal invitation to Tokyo. This time, not as tourists, but as guests of a native family. This openness and hospitality was mind-boggling already.

An Insight into Japanese Culture

Colorful, vibrant, yet traditional Tokyo was calling.

Welcoming us into their home showed us just how much tolerance towards other nations, warm-heartedness, and specifically trust, Saori and her parents, who I bowed before for the very first time as the gesture of welcoming and appreciation, possess. Not only did they receive us with the most respect and friendliness imaginable into their country. They made us feel utterly special, and part of the family. It was delightful and a wonderful experience.

Japanese Beauty

Japanese classic headshot – Tokyo, Japan

Of course, it helped that Saori’s family is well-off. Her father is a very preoccupied business man in a leading position. We felt all the more special when we realized that he took a full three days off work. Just to show my wife and I around. This is certainly not an easy, or expected, or a given thing, since vacation time in Japan is even more limited than in the U.S. Now we were the ones to feel honored.

Great acts are made up of small deeds. – Lao Tzu

We received an amazingly authentic insight into Japanese lifestyle and cultural habits. One of the many memorable moments was when Saori’s father took us to an upscale restaurant in Tokyo. Here, glamour, hospitality, as well as Japanese traditions merged to one unforgettable experience.

Coming of Age – A Tradition

During our time in the “Land of the Rising Sun”, we had the incredible opportunity to be part of Saori’s so-called “Coming of Age” celebration. I was honored to take her headshots in a beautiful Japanese Garden, as shown above. Seijin no Hin is an annual holiday held on the second Monday of January. During that day, young twenty-year old Japanese women dressed up in their kimonos are celebrated for having reached their legal age.

Coming of Age Party

Everybody is showing off their beautiful Kimonos – Tokyo, Japan

The celebration consists of food, speeches and a lot of congratulatory gestures. It took place at a large hotel. In addition, there are photo sessions, and a bunch of laughter. Having officially reached the age of majority, these young women are now considered real adults. It was a proud moment for Saori’s parents.

I came back to Los Angeles with a number of great impressions, and new friends. Furthermore, I now have incredible photo material from a country that is so absolutely welcoming. Knowing people from different backgrounds and ways of life, world views, and nationalities that I consider friends is priceless. It is one of the greatest ways to constantly learn and expand my horizons. Above all, this makes for unforgettable memories.