Japan is a country many dream of going, which is why it is only fitting that I start my blog talking about a place that - in my opinion - truly captures the heart and spirit of beauty.
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect besides the fact that I was excited to see the country that gave the world outstanding anime and a glimpse into the future. You see, what makes Japan different is the fact that this small island is able to transport you back and forth in time depending on your location.
I started my journey in the nations’ kitchen Osaka. As it’s nickname implies, the city is famous for its authentic and delicious cuisine that doesn’t cost much. The food here is nothing short of exquisite. And considering I am a big foodie, you know I couldn’t help myself but go through their selection of Ramen (You can thank Naruto for that!). Ichiran Ramen at Dotonbori is by far the best Ramen meal I have had in my life and you need to make sure you get it with the red sauce (you’re welcome). The people in Osaka are not shy, which unfortunately is a common thing in other cities. I stayed in Osaka for two nights and if you want a place with cheap clothes and delicious cuisine - this is where you should be.
I left Osaka from Yodoybashi station using the Sakura Shinkansen bullet train (must-try). You can get your Japan Rail passes through https://www.japan-rail-pass.com and use them across the country. It’ll make your life much easier.
It took 2 hours and 30 minutes to get to Hiroshima. Even though I looked forward to seeing this place, I was astonished just how much of an impact it would have on me. I guess I had forgotten how many stories a city can hold and tell. Hiroshima was different, good different; in fact no other city has fascinated me as much as this place. Sure, there Oysters are great and the attractions are limitless, but it’s the will that you see in the people and the buildings that truly make this place one of a kind. More than 75% of Hiroshima’s buildings as well as 120,000 people were victim to the atomic bomb of 1945. Yet you see nothing but the will of survival in every corner and individual in this city, especially at the Hiroshima Dome building which stands decayed and firm amongst the new structures. It is living proof that even after going through the darkest moments of history, the will of the people persevered and created a beautiful city that embodies the spirit and pride of Japan.
The next stop was Kyoto, the soul of Japan! I was truly speechless when I first arrived here. Walking through the narrow alleys of this city reminded me of the scenery in “The Last Samurai”. It is exactly as you would imagine the true heritage of Japan to be if not better. Almost every color on the spectrum lives amongst the nature of this place. Expect to walk a lot, this city is made for that. You will never feel tired or even close to seeing enough of this place, truly. The Geisha and Gion districts have an abundance of low wooden houses also known as “Uchi”. This place is Japan’s historical architecture on steroids. The old and the new flow magically in this city. We stayed at the Kyoto Guesthouse Lantern, an Uchi that provides a true authentic experience of what it’s like to live in historical Japan. The guesthouse is located in Higashiyama and is nearby the famous Yasaka Pagoda shrine (must be checked during sunrise!). It is worth mentioning that by 7PM the streets become completely deserted. There are just so many things to check near this city such as: the Kinkaku-Ji temple, the beautiful Arashiyama forest and Fushimi Inari. A word of advice: please wake up as early as you can (say 4:30 am) and start your day. Walk around and take photos. This place is magical!
Before heading to Tokyo, I had to stop for a night in a town called Kawaguchiko, where your eyesight rests over the serenity of the meadows and Mount Fuji! To be honest, the only reason I visited this place was to watch the Sunrise over Mount Fuji from Chureito Pagoda. But man oh man, this was a sunrise like no other! I suggest you try the grilled squids at Tetsuyaki restaurant and don’t forget to check out the lakes during sunset to enjoy another magical view of Mount Fuji.
My very last stop was Tokyo, the city of the future. Even though modernity doesn’t shy away from the previous places, Tokyo stands as an example of what a 21st century city truly looks like. If Dubai has a lot of cars on its roads, Tokyo has a lot of people in its streets. A concrete jungle where nothing stops moving! One of the very first things I noticed here is that almost every citizen is on their phone. Seriously. Whether you are in a mall, metro, or restaurant, everyone has their heads lowered and eyes glazed onto their screens. There is also a rule for almost everything, the city doesn’t shy away from signs like: Make sure the sound isn’t leaking off your headphones! Don’t fall asleep in the metro or you’ll get robbed! Don’t cough and throw up on passengers!
People here have a great sense of style and are friendly but really shy. Most importantly though, you get great food for really cheap. Regarding hotels, we stayed at the Shibuya Granbell which is a fairly good price for being in Tokyo. Remember to only takes metros and trains around. I took one taxi ride in Japan and it was the most expensive cab ride of my life! Make sure to check out the Shibuya crossing (busiest crossing in the world) which is perfect for a timelapse video. Go to the Ginza district for shopping and fine dining, and Yurakucho’s yakitori for bar hopping (the neighborhood is too narrow and the bars are so tight and can hardly fit 10 people but it’s a great local spot for Sake and Beer). The Akihabara area is famous for Anime and manga enthusiasts. It’s a colorful neighborhood with many Otaku’s and anime freaks! Sensoji/Asakusa (Tokyo’s oldest temple) is the place to experience the city’s oldest and most modern architecture simultaneously.
Harajuku district is best known for it’s variety of different clothing styles. You come here to stand out and be whoever you want to be, literally! Omoide Yokocho is a popular area amongst the locals. They come here for drinks after working hours so be prepared to see many suits.
Lastly, I went to a maid’s cafe. Yes, a cafe where the waitresses are dressed in a maid’s outfit and they refer to men as “master” (you can’t touch them though). While I believe this is sexist, it is worth mentioning that it is considered normal in Japan and is not viewed that way.
I truly believe Japan is a place for all people. If you want a juggernaut of a city life, Tokyo and Osaka are the places for you. If you’re into walking and you need a taste of history, Kyoto is where you should be. Japan is the very definition of a Hybrid, you will find everything your soul craves. The greatest thing about this place is that underneath all the modernity is an authentic soul that truly defines Japan from any other country. You can see the heritage and history of this country no matter where you are, and that is what makes Japan unique. Stay tuned for another ishutterup journey.