Making and strengthening family bonds is especially important, and can be especially challenging, for grandparents and their grandchildren. This has become even more of a top-of-the-list priority since so many of us lost precious time with our loved ones over the past years of restricted travel. One way to bridge the distance, whether physical or conversational, is to engage in a shared interest. Have you considered a “grand” book club with your grandchildren? What an amazing opportunity to open up discussions and learn together!
Choosing and reading a book together with your grandchildren also can be a wonderful jumping-off point for another shared experience – “skip-gen” (skip-a-generation) travel. We can help you create an itinerary based on the location, culture, or historical features in your chosen book, and then you can travel together with your grandchild to that destination.
To inspire you, we’ve put together an example of a skip-gen travel experience based on an intergenerational shared reading. We’ve chosen to focus on Japan, which has just recently re-opened to tourist travel, and have suggested some destinations and activities that can make your shared reading come alive.
With your middle school-age grandkids, you could read Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus or The Last Paper Crane by Kerri Drewery.
Heart of a Samurai is a 2010 young adult historical novel which is closely based on the true story of Manjiro Nakahama (1827–1898) and is illustrated by his drawings. The book is about a Japanese boy who is shipwrecked in 1841, rescued by an American sea captain, and taken to the United States. He lives in New England and San Francisco and eventually returns to Japan, where he faces additional challenges.
The Last Paper Crane is told from the points of view of a Japanese teenager and her grandfather. Mizuki’s grandfather tells her about his experience as a teenager in Hiroshima in 1945. This is a searing account of the blinding flash of the nuclear bombing of the city, the harrowing search for family and the devastation both human and physical. Despite its harrowing subject matter, this novel has hope at its heart.
For high school-age and older grandkids, Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie would be a powerful choice.
Fifty Words for Rain is set mostly in Kyoto, Japan. Beginning in 1948, the novel follows eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza, the child of a married Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover. When her mother abandons her, Nori’s grandparents take her in. But they conceal and mistreat her, fearful of a stain on the royal pedigree that they are desperate to uphold in a changing Japan. Nori forms a powerful bond with her older half-brother, Akira — a bond their formidable grandparents cannot allow and that will irrevocably change the lives they were always meant to lead.
After sharing one of these books with your grandchild(ren), wouldn’t it be wonderful to visit the sites you’ve read about and immerse yourselves in the culture? Here are just a few examples of grandparent/grandchild experiences that would allow you to discover the world as you discover each other:
Highly skilled, elegant and wearing the most beautiful traditional dress, it’s no surprise Japan’s most famous entertainers are in demand. In times gone by, only the wealthy and influential were entertained by Geisha and Maiko at Kyoto’s ocha-ya (teahouses). These days it’s easier and more accessible to enjoy ‘teahouse play’ consisting of song, dance and games.
Hozugawa River Crossing
Traverse the scenic Hozugawa River from Kameoka to Kyoto on an exhilarating 2-hour river boat ride that covers nearly 10 miles of beautiful seasonal scenery that includes exciting rapids, stunning rock formations and gorgeous flowers and trees.
Learn the history of the popular Itsukushima Shinto shrine from a local expert who will take you on a tour of the shrine and a nearby Buddhist temple.
Visit this memorial park in the center of Hiroshima, which is dedicated to the memories of the victims of the atomic bomb that was dropped on August 6, 1945. The museum houses many exhibits and information, plus substantial memorabilia and images from the bombing.
This activity is tied to Hiroshima through 10-year-old Sadako Sasaki and an ancient legend that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. To this day, visitors to the museum, as well as people around the world, continue to fold origami cranes and add them to the collection at the statue created in Sadako’s memory.
Sumo Wrestling Museum and Demonstration
Learn about the history of the traditional Japanese sport of Sumo wrestling at this fun and informative museum where you’ll not only discover a fascinating exhibit of the sport’s ancient beginnings, but you’ll step into the museum’s dohyo, a sand-filled ring, where you will see a live Sumo demonstration.
Historic Village of Shirakawa-go
Step back hundreds of years in time at Shirakawa-go, a fascinating village cut off from the world due to its isolated mountain location. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the village has Gassho-style housing with steep-pitched thatched roofs which are the only examples of their kind in Japan.
Private Manga and Anime Tour
Many people love anime because of the very real plots, storylines full of emotions, drama, and in some cases great exaggeration of the actions that are performed by the characters. Japanese anime can be easily recognized by the drawing style where characters have large eyes, outrageous haircuts, and humanized bodies. You can take a private, family-friendly tour in Tokyo focused on anime. Anyone who is a devout anime fan will love this tour, but it is also a great tour to do for people who want to be introduced to Japanese subcultures and youth culture.
TeamLab Borderless Digital Museum
Want to see something jaw-dropping and surreal in Japan’s capital? With extraordinary and spectacular displays, the digital museum in the MORI building lets you immerse into a surreal dimension full of vibrant colors and stunning structures. Vivid artworks are projected across visitors, floors, walls and sometimes one another. MORI’s enthralling creations will vanish, change and appear right before your eyes in response to your mere physical presence, touch or movement.
This Japan itinerary is by no means exhaustive, and it’s just one of an infinite number of options for skip-gen travel! Many of our travel partners specialize in family travel of many different types – heritage exploration trips, safaris, city stays and historical journeys, small-ship expeditions to Alaska or the Galapagos Islands, or even European river cruises that have a younger “vibe.” We’re sure you can see how this type of trip can help strengthen bonds with your grandchildren while building a legacy of lifelong learning and exploration for the ones you love. Get in touch with us today so we can start planning the skip-gen travel experience of your dreams!
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