Japan. The land of the rising sun and such a peaceful place of immense beauty……..
Japan has a rich history and a culture which has formed over thousands of years yet the traditional and a modern Japan fit so elegantly together. This beautiful land has a tranquil air of mystery to it and it appears to be a place where you could find yourself as a respectful outsider looking in on such loveliness.
The people of Japan are hardworking yet delightfully courteous. They have odd little mannerisms, they are welcoming and at times a little quirky, they have a quiet sense of composed beauty and their genteel politeness is utterly charming. It seems too that good manners are paramount and these manners are taught at a very young age. It makes for sweet yet respectfully dear children and who doesn’t appreciate that.
Traditional to hipster, this is modern Japan…….
Throughout Japan, and due much in part to Shintoism and the adopted Buddhism, there are thousands of beautiful public shrines and temples which you can respectfully wander through. It is a very peaceful experience and at one temple midweek, we were so fortunate to witness the beauty of a hushed Shinto wedding ceremony.
Japan has a troubled war history and due in part to this, they have denounced all military aggression for which I salute them. As most reader know, I struggle with war. Those bitter, unbearable and horrific conflicts where no one ever wins! Japan was decimated after WWII – see previous post of Pearl Harbour – yet somehow, it rose from atomic ash to become one of the biggest economies in the world and one of the most beautiful places on earth.
There is war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t…………Leonard Cohen
This is also the country of 6 million vending machines offering anything from ice cream, hamburgers, floral arrangements, hot ‘frozen dinners’, deep fried hot chips……how do they do it! to fresh eggs and hot coffee in a can. Ubiquitously Japanese, your can of coffee will come out steaming hot and tasting of caffeine and your ice-cream will be frozen to perfection. You can buy almost anything out of these machines including undies and they are incredibly convenient as they are situated everywhere. I am in no doubt to the world having vending machine envy.
Somehow, I think one could very happily live in Japan, if only for a year, yet barely scratch the surface of this enchanting land.
The rail system in Japan is brilliant. It really is a great way to get around and in itself, it is a tourist attraction. Think the ‘Mag-Lev High Speed Bullet Train’ which has a maximum operating speed of 320 km/h and which reached 603 km/h in testing.
Image courtesy – indulgy.com
The commuter rail system is slick, fast and very clean. It can be slightly complex to navigate at first, which is half the fun, but there is always someone willing to help you out. In our case, an elderly gentleman helped navigated us through the underground network of tunnels and twist and turns to walk us right to our platform. Not only was he delightful company for this brief encounter, but his gesture was also very kind.
And the trains are punctual! I would recommend purchasing the unlimited rail card as train travel really is, apart from walking, one of the best way to get around.
You will eat well in Japan and often only for a few yen at noodle bars or Yakitori’s. And who doesn’t love a noodle bar. We tended toward the smaller bars with their dark spaces and narrow benches which faced the kitchen to look upon the huge steaming pots of broth and noodles. And do slurp your noodles as it will not only enhance their delicate flavor but in Japan, this is also the correct and most polite way to eat them.
Another food tradition are the Bento boxes. You can travel like a Ninja as these boxes were initially designed to eat whilst in a nomadic state. It is quite an appealing way to eat although I suspect if travelling on the bullet train, you may not have much time to truly savor one.
Something quite lovely to try while in Japan are Rakugan. These are sweets, not too sweet, that have been hand shaped into animals and flowers and objects of beauty. Some of them really are works of art and I often found them just too lovely to eat. Naturally, they come beautifully packaged – as is everything in Japan – and they are often served at traditional tea ceremonies. The thing with the Japanese is that it is all about the aesthetically pleasing aspect of presentation. The attention to detail, the precision and the art of giving with love and joy appear paramount from the presentation of a simple tiny Rakugan to the most expensive and elaborate of gifts.
‘The Princess and the Pee!’……. aka, my fascination with Japanese toilets! What can I say. The lav’s in Japan are everything I had heard and dreamed them to be. Elaborate, modern, high tech, sophisticated, sensory, heated seats, melodic – they really do play music to camouflage any ‘noise’ – and they make for very happy travellers. Give me a futon and a Japanese toilet and I’m a happy girl…….. 🙂
Japan Part II coming soon………..xx