When I was alerted to the possibility of a discounted flight ticket to Japan recently – I didn’t hold back at all.
After a quick research on the best dates, I booked my tickets right away (oh the perks of being single and free ;)).
And a few days later, I landed in the Land of Rising Sun, a country that had fascinated me since middle school.
1. First Impression
Everybody looked the same
Almost 99% of people I passed by were either Japanese or looked like Japanese (Koreans etc) to my undiscerning eye.
2. Heavenly Beauty of Cherry Blossoms
I had especially booked my tickets to coincide with the peak of cherry blossom season. And boy was I glad I did!
3. Super-helpful and Friendly Japanese People
It’s super-easy to explore Japan without knowing anything more than ‘konnichiwa’. I lost count of the number of times the locals helped me despite their lack of comfort with English. One incident that I might never forget is when I was stranded due to difficulty in spotting my Airbnb address. Two teenagers noticed my situation, and enquired about it. They then spoke to more people across the street before getting back to me with the right guidance. Right that moment, I fell in love with the Japanese hospitality.
4. Food to Die For
Of the 10 days I stayed in Japan, every meal was different – from mode of cooking to ingredients, from presentation to flavour. There’s SIMPLY NO END to the scrumptious food here.
5. Picnic Lovers Galore
I noted hordes of students coming to the park in the wee hours of the morning, braving the occasional drizzle, in order to ensure the best spots for their groups. That was some dedication.
6. Street-food or Not, High Standards of Quality, Guaranteed
I tried food from different places across different budget range and was happy to note that the cleanliness levels and food quality standards remained the same.
7. The Tiny But Neat Living Accommodations
I watched with fascinated delight the cute Japanese houses in Tokyo and Kyoto. By staying in a Ryokans, a traditional, small-spaced, Japanese-style inn, I realized that while the size of the room maybe small, but you never ‘feel’ the lack of spaciousness. And that’s probably because the Japanese don’t keep unnecessary junk anywhere.
8. The Fascinating Practice of Hanami
Hanami, which is a more than a 1000-year-old traditional Japanese practice of flower viewing – typically the cherry or plum blossoms, was one of the most fascinating aspects of my trip. Oh and I did do some of my own Hanami.
9. Childlike Enthusiasm of Japanese People
From little kids to college students, from adults to senior citizens, everybody seemed so joyful and full of life.
10. Checking out the Famous Kobe Beef
Cows that drink beer, listen to Mozart and are given expensive massages? Oh yes, those are the cows that are reared for the famous Japanese Kobe beef which is quite a delicacy here. Well, talk about having fun while you’re still alive 😉
11. Living in the Capsule-inn
I stayed in the famous capsule-inns in Tokyo. It looked like a coffin with double the height! However, it was interesting to see a mini TV, radio and alarm clock in that tiny space. I felt like I was shooting for a sci-fi movie. 😀 I would certainly recommend my fellow travelers to experience this once!
12. Kick-ass Toilets
The heated seat is only the beginning. The Japanese toilets have amazing options to customize the sensation you want to experience! How do you want the water on your ass – Spray or Bidet? Do you want the sound of your biological movements to be muffled by the recorded sound of water flush? Yes, even that is possible!
13. Nature at its Best
The gorgeous greenery and the scenic lakes are enchanting enough for you to forget everything else.
My personal favourite was the Arashiyama Bamboo grove in Kyoto – the serenity, majesty and mystique of which transported my mind to a different world.
14. Of Temples and Castles
More love to feel
The unmistakable uniqueness of the Japanese castles and wooden temples is hard to miss and easy to fall in love with.
15. Sandbathing in Ibusuki
On the advice of a fellow traveler, I visited Ibusuki, a sleepy little town famous for sandbaths. Oh, my god, that was quite a fantastic experience, the hot sand on my ass notwithstanding! Moreover, where else does one get to sleep between three hot Japanese women, without clothes and covered in dirty mud? 😛
16. Not So Easy to Navigate Around
The one puzzling fact about the Japanese navigation is their naming convention. The streets don’t have a name here. Instead, the blocks are named and the streets are just called-out by the blocks bordering them!
If your interest is piqued, you can watch this video by Derek Sivers.
18. Tacky Restaurant Imagery
The giant crab installations outside several popular restaurants in Osaka were, TBH, ‘mesmerizing’ for sure.
18. Technological Advancements Compared to India – Not So Impressed
I wasn’t quite amazed at any tech device or phenomenon I saw in Japan.
Then I realized that while cities in Japan may have possibly stagnated in this sphere over the last 20 years or so, several other Indian cities – including Delhi, Bombay, and Bangalore – have caught up and hence to my eyes in 2016, Tokyo didn’t seem extraordinary in this sense.
19. Pachinko – The Japanese Casino Obsession
Pachinko, a casino style game based on pin-ball, is a big deal in Japan. Pachinko parlours are abundant and easy to spot. The parlour is blindingly colourful, and deafeningly loud. To me, the game looked stupid, but it is much more complicated and addictive than a slot machine.
20. And yeah…Who Can Forget The Videogames?
The Japanese love their video games and I found a generous mix of perversion contained therein.
A classic example I noted was in the busy gaming area, Akihabara in Tokyo where a game called “Dead or Alive: Extreme- v3” had a trailer with just two bikini clad girls playing beach volleyball!
21. Safe And Secure at Any Time of The Day
One night, I was staying at a hostel which was 2-3 km further away from the last metro station. I asked the hostel manager, a Scandinavian girl in her late 20s, if it was safe to walk back along this unlit street after midnight. She smiled and told me she walked alone past midnight several times here after partying and finds it ridiculously safe, even more than her home town. Trust me; I experienced the truth in her statement over the entire duration of my stay in Japan!
At the end of my trip, what captured my heart the most was the friendliness and exuberance of the Japanese. So uplifting and powerful their cheerfulness was that I wondered to myself “Ah! How delightful life would be if I get married to a Japanese girl and settle in Japan. :D”
However, one thing’s for sure, I’m certainly coming back for more such magical trips to Japan 🙂