My trip to Japan was filled with new experiences and plenty of inspiration. Being forced to deal with new environments open your senses to everything around you. Coming away from this trip, I have heaps of ideas for new stories, but also new perspectives of old.
As a travelling experiences though, here are some of my highlights:
Climbing Mount Fuji.
Even now I still can’t quite believe we did it, and made it both up and down. My impression of the task beforehand was that it would be a fairly decent hike, nothing too strenuous. I mean, I’ve heard so many accounts of people doing it. The reality was much more difficult. At some parts of the trail, it was easier doing proper climbing using hands and feet than walk. The thinning air, was also a new experience. You still felt quite strong in your legs, but at the same time, you had no quite the power to bring that out. Living on a flat land and never climbed anything higher than a tree before, my body was not prepared for that experience. Even though it was all cloudy when we got to the top, the feeling of accomplishment was enormous.
Eating, ordering, food etiquette etc. Luckily none of us suffer from any allergies or are particularly picky with our food and we both like to eat. Most places had pictures on the menus and it was just to point at something that looked delicious. However, one evening we went to a small bar in the Kyoto neighborhood where we lived, where they only had a Japanese menu and no pictures. The waitress with very limited English (neither my sister nor I speak Japanese) did her very best to explain the menu to us and we ended up having some of the best food of the whole trip. Prepared behind the bar for us, the most incredible moist, fresh, tasty chicken wings, among much else that evening. We also developed a love affair with the sixth floor restaurants. Quite common, at least in the larger cities in Japan is for a building to have a different restaurant on each floor and you can’t always see what kind of place it is, you just have to get into the elevator and see where you end up. The first time we did this, we followed a group of Japanese girls to the sixth floor (when in doubt follow the locals) and ended up at a really nice restaurant. After this, whenever we couldn’t make up or mind for what food we wanted, we would end up on the sixth floor. It was very rarely we were disappointed with the food. The great thing as well is that most food is served in small portions to share, which is perfect when you want to try everything on the menu and if there is something you don’t like, you’ll try something else.
Friendly, polite and despite obvious language and culture barriers I’ve never felt so safe in a foreign country before. The mentality of the people compared to westerns is so different. Walking home late one night back to our hotel after we missed the last train, we walked past a group of Japanese (quite drunk) young men, who simply bowed towards us and let us pass without a word, whereas a bit further down the road we were accosted by two Americans who were blatantly rude and obnoxious shouting after us. It is simply a different mentality and I’ve never felt so welcome in a country where I absolutely understood nothing and often felt like a helpless child.