Discovering Japanese Culture In Scotland On An Electrifying Trip With Lexus
Scotland and Japan couldn’t be more different, yet there are some surprising similarities to be found between both cultures. When visiting Edinburgh for Lexus’ latest car launch, the ultimate luxury experiences awaited, the highlight being chauffeured around the city in the new UX 300e model. During this trip, Scottish charm was interlaced with Japanese hospitality. There was a visit to a traditional Scottish castle, dinner and a bagpipe procession. There was also an introduction to the art of Sashiko embroidery which is used to stitch the seats of this luxury car. To boot, we were treated to a delicious lunch of Scottish seafood set against the stunning backdrop of the Three Bridges and the Firth of Forth, not to mention a fabulous light painting experience of a vehicle.
Making luxury personal
Lexus prides itself on personal luxury and omotenashi – a concept that combines the best traditions of hospitality, treating customers with respect and courtesy. In the context of its vehicles, this defines the way Lexus designs features which
is a perfect representation of the brand’s values, which are about being refined, authentic, engaging and imaginative. These are the foundation of Lexus’ vision to make “luxury personal”. During the trip, we were to experience these values over and over. Refined is expressed in the luxurious cabin that is finished with high-quality materials, applied with expert craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail. Authenticity is evident in how Lexus luxury extends to every element of the new UX, while “engaging” shows how the brand pushes the boundaries. Lastly, an imaginative spirit inspires Lexus’ innovation and desire for progress, helping deliver technologies designed to be effortless.
Exploring the city
Edinburgh is an exuberant city, ideal for a 24-hour round trip. It is possible to fly from Birmingham to the Scottish capital in just under 40 minutes. Upon arrival, we were met by representatives from the company and then transported in a Lexus to the boutique Virgin Hotels on Victoria Street. Each of the Virgin Hotels is unique. This one, in the historic India Buildings, marries Victorian architecture with distinctive, contemporary design. Step inside the 19th Century building and enjoy modern creature comforts and luxurious surroundings. The key card is designed like a playing card. As soon as you open your room you’ll find a modern space with a giant bed and a built-in chaise longue, as well as an impressive mini bar and a walk-in shower.
As you look out the window, you can glimpse a bird’s eye view of Victoria Street, one of the most ordinary photographed streets in the city. Just after checking in, I stepped out into this vibrant cobbled street to admire its multicoloured shops curving upwards and said to be the inspiration for JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley. Harry Potter fans will adore Museum Context, a shop officially licensed to sell official merchandise with dusty boxes in nooks and crannies. Furthermore, the Virgin Hotels is a stone’s throw from the Golden Mile and all the top tourist attractions such as Edinburgh Castle; indeed, the whole city is at your feet.
Scotland’s capital has been home to many inventors, artists and writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sean Connery and JK Rowling herself. It has a mountain in the middle of the city, Holyrood Park, offering breathtaking views, while modern festivals such as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival present world- renowned cultural highlights. Just a short walk from the castle are breathtaking architectural and historic landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, the Three Bridges and the Royal Mile. And Edinburgh’s unique pub culture, with traditional inns and modern clubs, guarantees a good night out. After a quick exploration of the area and lunch in Eve restaurant downstairs, I enjoyed some wonderful food and a chilled-out afternoon enjoying the DJ’s set.
Whisked away to a grand castle
Several cocktails later, it was time to change for dinner. Our drivers transported us in the new Lexus UX 300e to the 19th-century ivy-clad Carlowrie Castle on the outskirts of the city. Here, Scottish heritage combined with sleek Japanese technology as we learned all about the latest offering from Lexus. The latest model was driven towards us to the fanfare of bagpipes before our three-course meal and whisky tasting. It was quite a spectacle.
Cooked by Richard Heller, the meal was exquisite. The first course was scallops paired with wonderful white wine, and then a beef steak topped with truffle and matched with red wine. Finally came the whisky pairing with a series of puddings. Each dram came with tasting notes and recommendations on the pairing with the individual puddings. I began to appreciate the malted drink in a whole new light.
The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast at Eve, we collected the keys to the new electric Lexus UX 300e and took the car for a spin around the city and out into the suburbs to discover art and culture. Lexus models maintain the reliability of Toyota vehicles while demonstrating true luxury like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and other luxury auto brands.
The UX’s perforated leather upholstery has a new Kagome pleating effect, inspired by traditional Japanese basket weaving, and a new stitchwork pattern, inspired by the traditional Japanese Sashiko quilting technique, which we discovered during our trip with a stopover at Jupiter Artland, a wonderful art café in the biggest art park in Edinburgh, about an hour and an half’s drive into the countryside. In a workshop run by Ali Webster, we learned all about the ancient Japanese art form.
Sashiko translates into English as little stitches, a reference to the simple running stitch used to repeat or interlace traditional Japanese geometric patterns, offering a vast creative canvas.
The typical Sashiko thread is very different from ordinary embroidery thread; given a slight twist at the time of use to increase its strength. With up to 10 stitches per inch, it works brilliantly on traditional Japanese martial arts clothing – or in the seats of Lexus vehicles such as the upgraded UX 300e. Later we drove around the park and got up close to the exciting sculptures and then drove on through the countryside back to the river where we enjoyed a splendid lunch at Scotts, in South Queensferry’s Port Edgar Marina.
The views of the Firth of Forth and the Three Bridges were breathtaking and the seafood was sublime, comprising fresh salmon and scallops followed by local catch and a plate full of cheese and sweet desserts. Then, we were in for a treat with a demonstration on how to make Japanese miso from the maestro Robin Sheriff. He discovered his passion for fermentation when he travelled to Japan as part of his studies to compare Japanese and Scotch whiskies. Back in Scotland, he decided to become a miso influencer to share his knowledge. We learned how to electrify our own taste buds with our own natural miso master class and made creations from scratch.
Finally, we drove a scenic route to our destination, to Blue Parrot Productions an art studio where we were to take part in light painting of the latest model. There is a certain magic to this, while you can create the effects with software, there is something different about doing it with your own hands and painting or writing what you want by torchlight. It was led by David Gilliver, an award- winning light painting artist from Scotland. What makes these paintings so special is that they are all created using a very long exposure time in the dark. This allows you to walk into the shot as it is being taken. You can move around a torch to create the colours and shapes etched onto each image.
Driving in the Lexus UX 300e
Throughout the 24 hours with Lexus, we enjoyed the full comfort of the Lexus UX 300e which got us from point A to point B in style. This is an update of Lexus’ all-electric compact urban crossover and is perfect for urban environments. But getting out of the city helped us to see how these wide- ranging upgrades have strengthened the appeal of the Lexus UX 300e. This was launched three years ago as Lexus’ first all-electric model, but these revisions enable the UX 300e to be a “Creative Urban Explorer” – to go further between charges and enhance the cabin’s aesthetic appeal, comfort and convenience. It also makes the car even more enjoyable to drive. They have a new battery system that increases the driving range by more than
40 per cent to up to 450 km (280 miles).
The “Lexus Electrified” driving experience was enhanced by detailed alterations to the UX 300e’s suspension, body and chassis which improved its responsiveness. Inside the car, the most evident improvement is the revised multimedia system. This has greater connectivity, faster and easier operation, cloud-based navigation and bigger 8-and 12.3-inch touchscreens to make driving around the city seamless. And for when you get lost a new voice recognition system and “Hey Lexus” on-board assistant are on hand to guide you to your destination. It responds to voice commands and is possible to connect to phone calls, operate audio and climate controls and search the internet. Upgrades have also been made to the UX’s Lexus Safety System +, which constantly monitors the road for potential danger. As for comfort, the car features the latest generation nanoeTM X air purification technology.
This exhilarating 24-hour visit to Scotland’s capital was indeed electrifying and certainly recharged my batteries ready for my next adventure. I saw the city in a whole new light and can’t wait to return soon.