Japan was amazing. I can safely say it was one of the best experiences of my life so far. One month on and it’s hard to put all the amazing experiences into words. Coupled with that is the acute knowledge that I am not the first person to go to Japan and I should probably write something a little different.
So without further ado, here’s a list-icle of shit I didn’t expect in Japan!
- Lack of Street Lighting
I live in Portsmouth and the city is jam packed with lighting. The streets, alleyways, underpasses; everywhere you go is almost completely bathed in a protective glow of light. Not that light protects you from assault or other crimes mind, but in the UK darkness = dangerous.
So I was most surprised when I hit the neon streets of Japan and discovered that large areas have gloomy corners. Off the main streets there is a comforting amount of light that allows you to see but doesn’t quite bathe you in the same glow as the UK. Weirdly this actual seemed quite pleasant, instead of being completely smothered in artificial light. the streets were ambient and kind of cozy – words that I wouldn’t not normally associate with the concrete jungles surrounding Tokyo and Kyoto.
- Lack of litter bins
I had heard that Japan does not have litter bins all over the place like the UK but the reality was even more jarring. Apart from outside 7-Elevens and Lawson stores the only really option is to take your litter home with you – which makes sense. I fucking hate litter as much as I hate dog mess. Both are things that nobody likes but is everywhere in the UK. There was barely any litter on the streets in Japan. In tourist spots you might spot the odd bit but largely the streets were spotless. This is a truly lovely thing.
I wasn’t surprised that there was homelessness in Japan but I was surprised about how it looked. The homeless that I saw in Tokyo and Kyoto were almost universally elderly and they looked impoverished but not through addiction or alcohol and they largely seemed cleaner than in the UK. Before you think I’m trying to say that Japan has a better looking group of homeless I’m honestly not. I was just surprised at how they looked in comparison to the UK.
Top Tip: If there is an escalator or a lift, use it. By the end of our first three nights in Tokyo I was properly tired from ‘being healthy and using the stairs’. You will do enough walking in Japan to compensate, trust me. One thing I was impressed by was the variety of accessibility options with the big cities largely well thought out for the disabled and those with mobility problems. This isn’t the case everywhere and, if you are of a larger build, you may struggle in some areas of Japan. I’m looking at you Akihabara.
- My desire for beige food at the end of two weeks
I loved the food in Japan. It was healthy, filling and could be exceptionally cheap. But by the end of the holiday I was totally craving carbs and British veg. I had a Sunday Roast on my return and it was bloody magnificent. There likely are other restaurants out in Japan that cater for other food tastes but I didn’t find any (neither was I particularly looking). We did start having a lot of french pasties from the various little bakeries that dotted the stations or side streets and that helped a bit. Rice and fish is delicious but not for two weeks straight.
- How perfect the rest of it was.
I cannot stress this enough; going to Japan was an exceptional experience. If you even have the most remote desire to go you totally should. One word of advice if you can afford it – do not compromise on what you want to do. Our total costs for the entire trip was about £5500. Roughly half of that was travel costs for the flights, transfers, unlimited rail pass and wifi. Another £1000 was for two nights at a luxury ryoken. You can certainly do Japan on a tighter budget but I didn’t want to compromise with longer flights, or a more basic Ryoken. I hate things that are overpriced but the whole trip was worth every ruddy penny.