Japan trip report

 

Japan



"Japan is the only place in the world where you don't need drugs to be amazed" a British guy once told me. He was 100% right.

 

Osaka

Osaka is a mix between highly sophisticated westernisation and traditional values. It's also Japan's gourmet food capital so there's tons of quirky restaurants. But you will need a PHD to be able to use the metro, which is far from straightforward.


 

A cool experience to try is the Onsen which is a natural hot spring with bathing facilities. Men and women have seperate sections, and once inside you have to be completely naked. Japanese men might be shy, but in the onsen they sure were not, brazenly striking all kinds of poses in the nude.


 

Kyoto

Kyoto is the anagram lover's Tokyo. Kyoto is the quintessential Japanese experience, known for aesthetic gardens, and the city's notable shrines, and potential for encounters with Geisha. A geisha is a dolled up girl in a kimono offering companionship services, although the tradition is dying down. Once the imperial capital, Kyoto is the historical epicentre of Japan, having survived the WWII bombings from the americans intact. There are over 2,000 temples and shrines across the city, it may be difficult to choose which to visit, I initially was going to visit 3 temples but I got bored after the 2nd one, so I instead made a beeline for the TOEI animation park, where you can learn about the history of the Power Rangers, see an Edo era village, watch live samurai fight shows and undergo ninja training. The ninja costume was really fun to wear, they also gave me a ninja certificate at the end of the training, though I doubt it's carte blanche for me to start jumping from roof to roof at night.


 

In Japan, toilets are very elaborate. There's no flush nor toilet paper. Instead there's a built-in remote control on the side, and each button has a function: seat warming, perfume sprinkling, washing, and all kinds of "privacy violations". The first moment of contact was terrifying. There are so many buttons, so many unknown symbols and open-to interpretation figures. So in the end, I had no choice but to try every single button, and without going into too much details, I can confidently say I will only use plain and featureless western toilets from now on.


 

Tokyo

Polite people, clean streets, trains on time. Tokyo is a megalopolis that must be seen to be believed. It mixes the ultramodern and the traditional, from neon-lit skyscrapers to historic temples. For me, the highlight was by far the beya in the Ryogoku area, which is where sumo wrestlers live and train. Every morning, sumo wrestlers grapple with each other in the ring right in front of you - close enough for you to smell their sweat. My Japanese friend knew one of the wrestler so I challenged him whether I can last 10 seconds - and whilst most guys would be happy with 10 seconds, I was quickly defeated. The most amazing thing about the sumos is that their big bellies are as hard as rock.


 

Tokyo was bustling with activity. Anywhere you go, there are thousands of people on their way somewhere. Train stations are ant hills of activity. And yet despite the urgency with which people move, everyone was so incredibly polite and civilized.
I was recommended Kawaii Monster cafe to sample the zany kawaii vibe in Japan. Goofy get ups, wild colored decor, unusual food combination (I had chicken with chocolate) and a very flamboyant show, it did not disappoint.


 

Yamanashi

Just hours from Tokyo, Yamanashi is good for a day trip to see the famous Mount Fuji and experience the "inaka" (rural) Japan.


 

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