It’s has been almost a year since Lucy and I travelled to Japan. I promised to write up about my experiences out there but I never got round to it except for a token blog about what surprised me about the experience.
Part of the challenge was my desire to write something different. To capture an aspect of Japan that someone hadn’t touched on or reveal something completely new. In all honesty this was a silly assumption and one that I can finally accept was almost an impossibility for a tourist who has been to Japan for just two weeks.
What I can say with confidence is that the country is every bit as magical as the reputation. As I stated last year – even if you have the tiniest desire to see Japan then you will be totally satisfied by a visit. So to help push you to the land of the rising sun I’ll give you a few comforting, if well known, points to start with.
There isn’t a language barrier that cannot be beaten with a simple smile:
The Japanese really do want to help. After day one we we’re suffering a from a few nasty mosquito bites and we found a pharmacy which helped us with what we wanted – despite both sides being unable to communicate clearly. Google translate helped a bit but showing a bug bite worked better. The pharmacist and the assistant were so helpful and the whole process was carried out with minimal embarrassment. Largely though you will not struggle to communicate with anyone – especially in the major cities.
Get Pocket Wifi for your trip.
By far the greatest asset for your journey. Pick it up at the airport – let the internet make your life a thousand times easier. Don’t even question it.
Stay in a Ryoken and a Minshuku.
The best one you can afford and in the nicest location you can find but stay in the minshuku first – that’s the budget version and you don’t want to compare the other way around! Trip adviser will help you pick but obviously go with your preferential tastes. Singing songs around a fire in a Minshuku and being greeted like a humble king by staff at a luxury Ryoken are two of the best experiences of my life; and that’s just the start of the joy.
Don’t feel crap if you get bored with Temples.
Japan is stuffed with temples and shrines. Go to the famous (and/or free) ones as a priority but don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like dropping into all the temples that catch your eye. They’re largely similar in my opinion – beautiful, architecturally fascinating and often serene – but in many ways once you’ve seen one you kind of have seen them all. There’s a ton of the country to explore and fitting a decent spectrum of activities in will be hard unless you have a month out there.
Embrace the utter convenience of the nation.
In Kyoto one of the greatest place I went to was the Aeon Mall – it sounds awful doesn’t it. However we’d been travelling for over ten days and to step inside somewhere where Lucy could buy some much needed summer clothes and we could order food in a familiar fashion to home was a much needed pleasure. Japan is the nation renowned for vending machines and that convenience extends across the whole nation. Enjoy it and use it when you need it.
I’ll leave it there for now but I will return with part two soon. Thanks for having a read.