Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why I fell in love with Japan

I had high expectations and I was prepared to be hugely amazed while in Japan, because we heard so many superlatives about the Land of the Rising Sun! I must admit, every day during our time there, the country did not fail to impress me. Daily encounters and beautiful travelling both inspired and enriched me. At the same time, for no other travel adventure have I prepared so much. I read and read, and in the end I had the impression I will travel through a country I will definitely not understand due to its unique culture and latest technology.


There is so much to discover that even after two full and long weeks of travelling around we had the feeling we leave much too soon. And I was definitely wrong on one aspect: travel in Japan is very easy. I do not understand why there is so much fuss about the complicated subway and train system. Indeed, only a few Japanese speak English but there are clear English signs in the stations and you find English maps everywhere. And if you meet a local whose English is poor she or he will do the utmost to help you. Hand signs and Google translation, we experienced both. And the Shinkansen is for sure an experience you will never forget.

Shinkansen arriving in the Japan Railways station

The best time to travel is spring. True, I did not experience the other seasons, but for me the Japanese spring with the delicate buds and colourful flowers should not be missed. I was impressed by the countless types of spring flowers planted in the parks and around the houses, and by the clear streams teeming with carp. This time of the year is a period of celebration for the Japanese. They go out to admire the cherry blossoms, have the famous picnics under cherry trees, the so-called hanami, hold festivals to welcome the spring and flower exhibitions. 

Hanami under the Sakura, Tokyo
Wedding procession - Meiji Shrine, Tokyo
The people of the country will, in the end, influence the way you perceive a country. 

The Japanese love their country, their city, their neighbourhood, their street, their house and their garden. We noticed on every corner the care and attention to detail.

The Japanese respect their family, countrymen, colleagues, guests and strangers. We saw this everywhere, starting in the plane and metro, full of videos and signs to teach you how to respect the privacy of others. We felt that in the guesthouses the care we were shown came from a genuine wish to make us feel comfortable.


The Japanese love their job, no matter what profession they have. Serious and concentrated businessmen in suits rush in the morning to their job, the professional policemen pay attention to the traffic and help lost tourists, the train attendants bow to the passengers when entering or exiting a carriage, the shop attendant carefully observes you and while you try something on she will bring matching clothes and at the end she will carry your bag for you until you exit the shop's perimeter.


The Japanese follow the rules and this is not restricting their freedom. Quite on the contrary, their organised way of life permits them to easily manage their daily routines. The Shinjuku station, the world's most busiest transport hub, is a perfect example of the Japanese philosophy. The hive of people walk and rush to perfection when everyone respects the rules. The trains arrive and leave on time. Everybody is happy.


There is so much going on in the largest metropolitan area in the world Tokyo. Your eyes will rush from the expensive speed cars and skyscrapers to the fancy and quirkily dressed youngsters to the temples, museums and beautiful parks. You will visit the famous Akihabara shopping district for video games, electronic equipment and stores selling manga. The bright and huge anime images displayed on the shop fronts are best seen during the day while in the night you head for Shinjuku district and its famous lit skyscrapers.   

Shinjuku district - neon lit skyscrapers

Shibuya crossing

Japan is a culinary paradise with everything prepared to perfection. The fish, seafood and caviar is as fresh as the one that can be found on a fishing boat. The renowned Wagyu beef will melt in your mouth. The fruits and vegetables are expensive but I never before have eaten such delicious strawberries.

Basashi: raw horse meet. Yes, we eat it!

Kaiseki dinner - delicious ingredients, cooked to perfection, new textures and amazing presentation

Japan most iconic mountain, Mount Fuji, will delight your eyes if you are lucky enough to have a clear day. Most of the days its top is hidden by thick clouds. From lake Kawaguchiko you have the perfect view strolling around the lake while also admiring the Sakura, the cherry blossoms.  In the evening, you enjoy the thermal waters in an onsen situated in your chosen ryokan. 


Japan is not only Tokyo and Kyoto.

Kyoto - Golden Pavilion

You need to go in the mountains or hills for some trekking in nature. Why not discover Japan's beaches which are not at all well known? Because it is spring we chose to hike in the Kiso Valley at an altitude of around 800 metres from Tsumago to Magome, two old postal villages which were used during the Edo period to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo. What a beautiful traditional architecture, fresh pine-scented breeze and pleasant landscape.


Japan is so much more and we can just imagine the beauty we did not have the chance to see this time.  Japan is indeed the country I fell in love every day.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful post and beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely tour.

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  2. Thank you, Linda! I'm happy you enjoyed it!

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