I was first wowed by Japan’s major highlights, Tokyo and Kyoto, over four years ago. My long-awaited return this time had been planned - with friend and fellow Japanophile in tow - to focus on the more rustic flavours of the country, as far and wide as possible. Then the earthquake struck. Suddenly, our friends and family expressed concern verging on incredulity as our departure neared. I struggled to reconcile my excitement with the vague unease the British media seemed to delight in evoking.