Hi all! Welcome to the second part of my blog on Japan. As stated in part one it is a real challenge trying to reveal new details of a country that is visited and written about by hundreds of amateur bloggers like myself every year. But I still think it’s important for the people that still stumble upon this blog to get some extra reassurance that they need to visit one of the greatest countries in the world.
Japan is by no means perfect. Its gender equality record is awful. Indeed it was only a few months ago the nation was rocked by news that the Tokyo medical school made marking criteria for women harder than men. Japan is also struggling with an ageing population that will be hard to support without opening their borders to immigrants; something that is still particularly difficult to achieve when the Japanese can sometimes be as discriminatory to immigrants as they are to their own women.
But every nation has it’s issues. Whether it’s due to a blustering fool in America, a tortured robotic woman in the UK or a guy that’s happy to allow journalists to be butchered in an embassy; every country has its flaws. Japan still remains the most incredibly welcoming country that I have ever been to and I struggle to imagine it will be beaten.
And to be honest it’s the child in me that finds Japan so utterly enthralling. Forgetting all the things that make being an adult so crappy, Japan is a bit of a playground for childlike fun. And not in the style of these ‘classic’ Japanese bedsheets.
Japan was the country that gave me Nintendo, sushi, Mecha, Ghibli and dozens of other influences on my life. I love living in the countryside of the UK but the memory of Tokyo’s neon lit streets still makes my soul soar. On day one of our adventure Lucy and I strolled down Harajuku and in our jet lagged haze we just embraced this incandescent tribute to capitalism. I remember how we stood next to a vending machine, cradling some energy drink to help with the jet lag and we were just grinning like kids. The crowds around us were filled with impeccably dressed citizens thronging their way through the streets, only sullied by the tourists like us who had thrown on our creased suitcase clothes. Words actually fail me when I try and describe Tokyo because you cannot sum up a city that has a population of over 38 million people. It’s part of the reason I am only now, over a year on since I went there, trying to write about it – it’s almost impossible to encapsulate in words quite how great Japan is as a place to visit.
Tokyo alone is worth going to Japan for. If you have to do one thing in Japan (which you won’t because you’ll want at least two weeks there) you need to go to Tokyo. It shouldn’t be as polite as it is. It shouldn’t be as quiet and calm as it is. It is a metropolis filled with structures that soar into the sky and burrow deep into the ground. I’ve eaten the most delicious food from a shop that is at least 5 stories underground. I’ve smiled at the tiny window box gardens that sit outside equally tiny apartments and sat agog at the scale of the infrastructure that is layered on top of each other like spaghetti in a bowl.
But the real beauty of Tokyo (and Japan in general) is that it is so vast that you simply will not be able to have the exact same experience of other travellers. You likely will never get to meet Louis and Toshi in their beautiful house in Nerima. You might not get to the hedgehog cafe in Roppongi. You won’t experience the joyful look on our hosts face when we gave our little thank you gifts from Portsmouth.
There is so much more that I want to do and explore in Japan. Both Lucy and I have been talking about getting a camper van next time we head out. There are few rules regarding camping out by the road side and it’s not like we’d starve with the wealth of convenience stores out there. And if we want to shower? Well there’s nothing better than an Onsen.
I hope that you too get the chance to explore Japan. It’s cheaper than you think, more accessible than most countries I’ve been to and by far the friendliest and cleanest place I’ve seen. Get out there!