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Review: Joanna Lumley's Japan

Joanna Lumley (picture credit:

We are sure, like us, many of you really enjoyed the first of ITV’s new series, Joanna Lumley’s Japan. If you missed it or were otherwise engaged – put that right.

Occasionally a travel programme is put together and presented so well it brings to life a place that fascinates and creates the desire to want to experience it for ourselves. This was definitely one of those.

We have always found Japan an inspirational destination and one perhaps best enjoyed as part of an organised tour. That's why we partner with our friends at the brilliant Wendy Wu Tours to offer such a tour as part of our new Inspire Me feature, Jewels of Japan.

Wendy Wu £99 Business Class upgrade with Abbotts Travel

There has never been a better time to book an introduction to Japan tour. In conjunction with Wendy Wu we can currently offer an amazing upgrade to business class for just £99 with their airline partner Cathay Pacific for tours booked before the end of October.

Contact us for more details and options. We will be going into more depth in our forthcoming Destination Of The Month.

In the meantime we can share (courtesy of some background on the series and an interview with the woman herself.

Joanna Lumley’s Japan is a brand new three-part series, that follows her as she travels to the far reaches of Japan, from the icy Siberian seas of the north to the subtropical islands of the south. With her natural curiosity and engaging storytelling, Joanna takes viewers on an adventure exploring some of the most uncharted corners of Japan’s 6,800 mystical islands.


Q: Has your journey through Japan left a lasting impact on you?

A: Yes, huge. It comes back to me all the time. It was all so unexpected. I had been to Japan before, I had done some shooting in Tokyo for a programme I did on cats, but I hadn't taken Japan on board or really understood it. I knew where it was, I could recognise its shape on a map but I knew nothing really about it. It was just awesome, it was a real eye opener the whole trip.

Q: How long were you on the road for?

A: Six weeks. We broke it into two chunks, we wanted to do Hokkaido, the very north island, in the peak snow because it has the most magnificent powder snow and this immense winter season which has the Sapporo snow festival and all these ice buildings and the great red crested cranes dancing in the icy rivers. All of that had to be done in snowfall. Then we went back again to catch the cherry blossom in Kyoto. We filmed it this year.

Q: One of the most amazing moments in the series was when you saw the rare red cranes...

A: My heart was beating so much. With all wild animals you have been hoping to see, you think, 'will we see one today?' and the same with the red cranes. It was sensational, the light came up and there they were preening, calling and dancing with each other. We were unbelievably lucky. It was very thrilling. The birds themselves are beyond fabulous. To see a whole mass of them, it was just magic.

Joanna Lumley's Japan (Picture credit:

Q: On the flipside of that, you weren't so lucky when you went to Mount Fuji and it was covered in mist...

A: It was terribly funny going there. Just like a thousand million people in the world who have gone to see something and it isn't there, to get to Fuji and see nothing at all of it was very funny.

Q: Did you have real trouble getting about not speaking Japanese?

A: We had a great translator but without that I would have been stuck because you can't read any of the signs but people are so desperate to help. It is a country with the greatest courtesy. But out in the countryside you haven't got a hope. Most people didn't stare as their courtesy prevented them from doing so, even little children, but babies would look at you with a slight frown as if to say, 'you look wrong!’

Q: The whole world will get to see Japan when the Olympics are in Tokyo in 2020...

A: And I hope they will do them brilliantly, there is no doubt they will. I hope people will break away and see the rest of the country and its 4,000 islands. I just hope people will think, 'what else is out there?' The big cities are big and full of people but the countryside is just sparse. It was fabulous.

Joanna Lumley's Japan continues on Friday nights, ITV1.

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