Japan: A Must Visit!
Its been a little while since I was in Japan but the thrill lives on. I can say, having traveled a little, this is a must place to visit.
Despite friends, colleagues and family visiting the Land of the Rising Sun and raving about how good it was, it took me some time to make it over there. Strangely enough I am not even sure why it took so long, especially after buzzing into Asian on many occasions. I guess things happen at the right time and as they say better late than never.
On this occasion I was lucky enough to travel with my lovely partner for her 30th birthday and by default I had a seasoned guide who had spent multiple trips in this mystical and marvelous country.
Where does one start when describing this beautiful country and all it has to offer? Perhaps at the beginning.
The first thing I noticed when touching down in Tokyo, is how polite and respectful the Japanese are. The country (well Tokyo to start with...) is busy and packed full with all sorts of people from the well dressed business folk to the radically and colorfully dressed bohemian artists. You could forgive them for being abrupt and annoyed with the "plague" of tourists and international travelers. Our experience whether it be with the folks on the street or the customer service officers was one of kindness, patience and care.
I could cite many other experiences around the world where you felt unwelcome and brushed off but in the spirit of being upbeat I will leave that off for now except to say it was a stark contrast to previous trips in other places... When you are venturing into new places it is always such a relief to get guidance and sound advice so you don't spend your adventures feeling stressed and anxious especially with deadlines to meet.
One of the highlights was heading into a bar in the business direct (superbly named Mr Goodbar) and having such good companionship with the owner and the staff who were polite and interested in a couple of Aussies abroad. We talked about all things with great humour and interest that time just flew and we had to come back for a return visit.
I could bang on about the wonderful Japanese, as there are plenty of examples to cite however in brief; the hotel staff were always excellent and were a lesson in service and humility, the folk handling the logistics were always kind and patient and finally the service at restaurants was just unreal.
I'm no foodie, far from it. But even just thinking about the food back in Japan makes my stomach go up a gear and mouth water. Having had Japanese before and being mildly pleased, this was a culinary shock. My beloved, who has a black belt in all things food, took me to some places that has set me up for life for a diet of Japanese food, whether it be the Sushimi, the Pork, Ramen, Sushi and so much more.
There hasn't been a week go past, where I don't (with a mouthful of sushi) remember fondly all the places, the flavors and the feeling of eating healthy. A huge change from the ho-hum task of sustaining one's self a few times a day!
Note - let me not get into the discussion of Plum Wine, Asahi Black or the Sultry Whiskeys. I may be still here tomorrow typing away.
Granted we didn't have a huge amount of time to visit all the different islands and places in Japan (we are saving that up for 18,19 and beyond); Tokyo, Kyoto and surrounds were incredible. Even the inclement weather did nothing to stop the appreciation and enjoyment of the sights to see, the feelings to be had and the sheer harmony of civilization co-joined with nature.
From the serenity of shrines, to the bustle of business. From the madness of manga, to the killer karaoke houses. The contrast was incredible but the joy palatable. There is simply something for everyone, a moment for every mood and a destination for every day. I still shake my head in wonder when I think about what we got up to in such a short time. There is enough content in less than a week to make for a great novel or movie. (If you get a chance watch Lost in Translation featuring the excellent Bill Murray... or watch it again)
One must do thing in Japan is the Onsen. Wow. After days of traipsing around on little sleep, a "few drinks", a lot of eating; this is the perfect place to recharge and spend time in meditation and reflection. We disappeared for half a day but returned (on the delightful train service called the "Romance Car") recharged and feeling like 10 years had peeled off our backs. #mustdo
Now I cant go in to detail here because I feel like A) I know nothing B) I scratched just a little of the surface C) So many others have a great grip on it....
But I can confess this; there is a wonderful culture of respect and harmony in Japan. Now don't get me wrong all cultures come with downsides and their critics but from my view I loved the harmony between business and living, spirit and nature, respect and fun, male and female, honor and duty. Respectfully I recognize I only saw the naive angle from a traveler visiting for such a short time but it really resonated with me.
From Bushido to the Shinto and much more I felt a great spirit within the lands. I can't quite put my finger on what seems wonderful magical and mystical except to say go and visit. Sit amongst the leafy trees in Kyoto and reflect on where architecture intersects with nature. There is something that reaches out and touches you in this digital age. There is a feeling that somehow there is a great connection with mother earth and the art form of mankind.
All I can say is I can't wait to go back. I'll sit on a wooden stool with my chopsticks awaiting, I'll lay in the hot mineral waters pondering, I'll laugh at the color in Shinjuku and rest in the comfort of the bullet trains. Japan is not just for the Japanese, it is for humanity.
- Robot Restaurant - visit it once, its a great laugh and loads of fun.
- Maisen - track it down - best pork ever!
- Script - if you can, spend some time admiring the Japanese characters...
- Bullet Trains - fast, comfortable and economic with the rail pass.
- Kyoto - terrific place to visit for the shrines and temples.
- Ask Around - You will get great local knowledge on Sushi, entertainment and sightseeing
- Owl Cafes - Yup, brilliant!
- Wander - don't be afraid to leave a few days blank and wander around - the train network in Toyko is brilliant.
(Next trip has to be soon; so much more to see! :)