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Japan in Israel by: Yaffa Raziel,

Japanese culture has long fascinated Israelis; however a trip to The Land of the Rising Sun is somewhat costly.

The solution, therefore, lies in a true Japanese experience closer to home. Nehama and Yoav Talmi from Moshav Ein Habsor in the Negev did precisely that: After months of in-depth research they set up two Japanese style guest houses called Rakoya, or in English the "House of Peace and Joy."

Guests are welcomed by red Japanese Koy fish symbolizing good luck, and any self respecting Japanese will keep such Koy fish in his home or garden. Their price often reaches thousands of US dollars. At the Talmi's, the fish swim around freely in a lovely pool surrounded by rockery and rich foliage.

The paper and cherry wood lampshades emit a soft light, and a calligraphic work by artist Tirza Sela hangs prominently on the wall. The cabinets are covered in rice paper and the bed is close to the floor. Bathroom walls are covered in slate and the Jacuzzi is located near the bathroom, and not in the center of the room, as is usually the case in Israel.

The bed sheets at Rakoya are decorated with Japanese calligraphy and resemble artistic paintings. Alongside the white pebbles lies a painted kimono. Talmi spared no effort on the smallest details such as flower arrangements and kitchen utensils that include Japanese bowls and chopsticks. Breakfast tea is poured from a painted Japanese teapot in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Talmi has brought the Orient to the Negev, but notes that the culture is much more than objects and interior decoration, therefore she insists that Japanese music play in the background; it is sounded by bamboo flutes and string musical instruments.

Those who take a closer look at the guest house brochure will find a fascinating explanation on the musical style. Words to the songs are written in English letters.

There's no need to leave the room to get a good meal. The mandatory sushi experience is provided by Hadar Alfasi. A full sushi meal including three courses with exciting salads (such as mango and salmon or Japanese crÍpes filled with bananas and nuts) costs NIS 120 per person. A Sushi workshop is also provided on the premises for NIS 150 per couple. Tel: 08-9924970
To complete the experience, Gili Ahituv provides guests with professional shiatsu treatments. The cost: NIS 160 for 50 minutes. Tel: 054-7916530.

Nehama Talmi holds Tai Chi workshops for NIS 180 per couple, and if this Japanese invasion is not enough, Yaffa Nathan holds Ikebana workshops (Japanese flower arrangement) for NIS 250 per couple including accessories. Tel: 08-9982656

Rakoya, Moshav Ein Habsor. Open for adults only. Rates per couple per night during the middle of the week: NIS 500-580; weekends NIS 650-700. Subject to minimum two nights. Includes breakfast. Tel: 08-9982198, 054-7919858

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