Visiting a far-off country that's been on your bucket list for longer than you can remember should be one of the best experiences of your life, but what if it doesn't quite live up to the heady expectations you've set?

This was my fear ahead of a recent trip to Japan. After months of planning and preparing, what if my experience fell short of the 'once in a lifetime' standards I had set.

Whilst in Kyoto, I was putting on a traditional robe - taking extra care to place the left hand side over the right hand side and avoid causing offence. It was here that I had a real 'pinch me' moment, thinking how incredibly lucky I was to be experiencing this.

I was staying in a Ryokan, which is essentially a traditional Japanese inn. My partner and I had been provided with Yukata's to wear: casual garments made of lightweight cotton worn by both men and women in Japan, though also used to dress the dead when the order of robe wrapping is reversed. Now you can appreciate the extra care.

There is a timeless elegance to Yukata's, slipping one on feeling like a treat as a fabric belt is wrapped around to hold the robe in place.

As far as traditions go, so far I'm impressed - I can't remember ever feeling anything remotely resembling 'fancy' when wearing a dressing gown back home.

The smell of burning incense floats upstairs. Our modest yet somehow luxurious room is typical of a Ryokan, lined with tatami mats, a bed on the floor and sliding doors. We feel the need to whisper throughout our stay. There's a desire not to upset the peace of the house, and it provides a sense of calm that's hard to find in daily life.

Our host carries out an official tea ceremony for us, a cultural activity involving the preparation and presentation of Matcha green tea. There's something strangely hypnotic as we watch her peacefully prepare it, all the while kneeling on mats in robes. From the ceramic bowl you select to drink from to the weather outside, every tea ceremony is unique to the people experiencing it, we're informed by our host.

The following morning a breakfast greets us when we head downstairs. Great care and attention has been paid to the presentation of our food, and I'm amazed how quickly I adjust to the shift from my usual rushed Special K and tea.

A feast of miso soup, grilled fish, sticky rice, pickled vegetables and fruit, washed down with brown rice tea has been prepared. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit my first thought was how Instagram-ready it all looked laid out to perfection.

The Ryokan two-day stay was just one highlight of a three week trip flitting from calming inns to mad attacks of the senses in Tokyo brightly lit streets.

It turns out I needn't have worried about the trip living up to my great expectations, it surpassed them on all fronts.