Japan - when can I go back?
So i've been back in the UK now for a week since spending 2 weeks in Japan and i'm already wanting to go back. There was much hype in my head before going and i'm happy to say it did not disappoint. We wanted to try and cover as much as possible in 2 weeks by visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka and Nara, although this did not scratch the surface of Japan, this perfect excuse to go back.
First up was Tokyo, Shinjuku district to be exact. This was everything you would expect from Tokyo, loud, bright and in your face and busy. If Tokyo was a person it would be shouting at you all the time, attacking your senses... in a good way though. As designer you just had to forget what you thought was right or wrong as Tokyo just threw the rule book out and did it their way when it came to advertising. It very much about 'hey there's a gap on this wall, lets stick an advert there", "let's also put a speaker with it, and some lights... oh maybe some smoke"
What I wasn't prepared for was how much of a '3D' city Tokyo is. If you walk down a busy main street like Oxford Street in this country then you will walk past lots of shops/restaurants and that will be it. In Tokyo you have this but there there are about 6 - 10 other shops/restaurants stacked on top, most of these accessed by randomly walking through a clothes shop and into an unassuming lift in the corner. This is why I feel we didn't scratch the surface of Japan, there was so much going on above our heads that we just did not know about.
The efficiency for Tokyo was amazing, especially when it comes to food. Where else in the world can you walk into a food place, order your food from a vending machine which dispenses tickets, that you then hand to the staff for your food to be cooked. One thing we did notice was that we weren't efficient enough for Japan when it came for food. More than once were we eating only to have about 3 Japanese people come and go next to us as we weren't as quick as them eating. Hanging around to finish your drink after you finish your meal was not done either, the bill came with the last course and you just had to pay and leave. This I enjoyed, I hate trying to get the staffs attention when you want the bill.
Next up was Kyoto, traveling by the Shinkansen (Bullet train), bento box in hand of course, you realise how green Japan is out of it's cities, rolling hills of green trees for miles. In a bit of a contrast to Tokyo, Kyoto felt a little less in your face and shouty, also a bit more modern over all. Kyoto was great base that allowed us to travel to Hiroshima, Osaka and Nara, again with the super quick Shinkansen. Kyoto had beautiful traditional places to visit, such as Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Temple) - a gold leaf coated zen temple, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and the Fushimi Inari Shrine gates.
We were lucky to have one night in a traditional Ryokan in Kyoto, sitting and sleeping on the floor and enjoying a Kaiseki meal, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner of about 8 - 9 courses. This had to be a highlight of Japan, especially after Tokyo, being able to sit by the garden and relaxing while traditional a Japanese server brought us green tea.
One quick mention has to go to Kyoto train station, it was small city in itself with a couple of (massive) shopping centres, an amphitheater, many many restaurants and of course many trains. This was 15 floors of things to do, in fact most of Japans train station were like this. They were small underground/overground cities that reached wide under the city streets. You can battle for about 20 minutes to get out of some.
Hiroshima wasn't quite what I was expecting, especially from the Peace Park. There was no sense anger about what happened and no feeling sorry for themselves. It was all about promoting peace and commemorating those who lost their lives. Spent a few hours here walking around trying to avoid the school trips who wanted to practice their English on us! Not to far is Miyajima, a small island off the main line that is home to the famous giant torii gate and friendly deer that roam around.
Nara and Osaka were crammed into one day as they are quite close. Nara was a beautiful peaceful place with a giant park that you can wonder through and meet all the deer before visiting one of the largest wooden structures in the world and it's giant Buddha. Osaka at night was just crazy, especially if you visit Dōtonbori, the main street that runs down the canal. This was similar to places in Tokyo but just felt even more vibrant with it's mix of shops and food places. One thing that has to be done there is have a food in a sushi belt restaurant as Oaska is the home of them. Sorry, Yo Sushi, but you have nothing on these places, such good food! Osaka is also the home of Takoyaki (octopus balls) much nicer than they sound!
Much food and many drinks were had in Japan, this was a major part of it for us and nothing disappointed, from market food to a michelin star meal. everything was delicious. To have sashimi from the fish market when it's only a few hours old can't be beaten. As mentioned above, buying tickets from a vending machine to exchange for ramen was always going to be fun, even more so when the ramen is pushed through a little slot into your one person booth. I could go on for a long time about the food and drink we had but I think the website might crash.
To sum up, it was perfect, but i'm now left with the feeling of where we can go to top it... I know... back to Japan.