Japan: what I will miss

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After being in Japan for 3 week, there are things that I will miss and wish we had in England.

1. Japanese Western Toilets – some toilet lids automatically lift up, some seats are warm when you sit on them, some play music, some have a dryer in the toilet, most have a control that squirts water and makes flushing noises. They are just more hygienic.

2. Convenience stores – they give you straws and cutlery with your purchases, they warm up your food if you want, they all have toilets in.

3. Japanese are extremely friendly and helpful people even if they can’t speak English.

4. There are random wi-fi spots everywhere.

5. Petrol station, where an assistant fills up your car and wipes your windows (you literally just sit in the car and they do everything).

6. Beautiful mountainous views everywhere.

7. Vendor machines on the streets.

8. Splendid, pretty, relaxing Japanese gardens.

9. Taking your shoes and being bare foot in restaurants and other places.

10. Masses amount of different fish in restaurants for a cheap price.

11. Fruit flavoured strong cans (I have no idea what alcohol they are).

12. Japanese food: udon, fresh fish, takoyaki,

13. People walking around in kimonos.

14. Neon lights.

15. Tall skyscrapers.

What you may want to be aware of if you travel around Japan:

1. If you are driving, there are load, I mean LOADS of traffic lights.

2. The soap in the toilets is like thin, watery soap.

3. They just don’t have proper English cheese.

4. If you are a vegetarian, it hard to find a meal in a restaurant unless you eat fish.

5. Mosquitos.

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Tokyo: Fish market, Pokemon, Yoyogi park, Shinjuku and the Skytree

What a packed day! We got up early so that we could compact our day. It was our last full day in Japan. Our last day!

4 travellers! 3 weeks! 1 country! Can’t believe I was leaving the next day.

First to do was go to the Tsukiji fish market as we it was closed the day before. As we were departing the subway, we were struggling to walk along the street with so many people heading towards the market. When we arrived there, they were already starting to pack up. It was only 11. We managed to wander around the fish market, seeing mountains of fresh fish. Some I recognised; others I did not. There were some strange looking fish. In the market, we nearly got run over several time by small motorised carriers. The guys on these were going as fast as they could backwards and forward, but they were very skilful driving.

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Next stop was Tokyo tower. It kind of looks like the Eiffel Tower but red and white. We decided not to go up the tower as we were going to find city views from other buildings.

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We travelled by subway to Roppongi Hills, which is a centre of culture and shopping. The top of the Mori Tower was incredible. This was one thing on our list, we wanted to do. On the 52nd floor observation deck, it offered a 360 degree panorama of the city as well as loads of Pokemon features.

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It had several drawings and comic strips represented on the wall, a movie theatre, cardboard cut-outs as well as a dark room with Pok-a-balls in. When you press these, holograms appeared in front of you of different Pokemon.

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Also, there is a Pokemon cafe, which presented food as Pikachu or balls. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat there as the queue was literally a mile long just to eat there. The food, however, looked incredible.

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There was also an Art gallery, which was a little strange but interesting too. In the gallery, they had asked children what they thought was going on the the different art, which was then recorded underneath. Some of the things, the children came up with, did make me giggle.
There were these amazing art, where there were lots of photographs merged together but in a sort of realistic way.

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Next, we headed to Yoyogi park, which was a huge green park with fountains and trees. It is meant to be one of the liveliest, trendiest and demographically youngest quarters of the city with street food, body paint, in your face fashion and photo ops. There were some but not as many as I thought especially as it was a sunny Saturday afternoon. We did see one group of girls in high fashion but they wouldn’t let us take photos. Managed it get one though.

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There was also a guy that was doing some art while dancing and DJing. It was a bit strange but the picture was incredible. First, he cut out a template then used spray paint.

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Adjacent to the park is the Meiji-jingu; the entrance is marked by two huge torii gates.

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After quickly grabbing some food, we went on an expedition to find the Metropolitan Government building, where there is an observation deck of the city with a view of Mt Fuji but it’s free to go up. Recommended if your on a budget. It was quite a mission to get to and nearly got lost due to unclear signs.

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Nearby, there should have been an Alice and Wonderland Cafe but unfortunately, we couldn’t find it so we wandered to Central Shinjuku. We visited Takashimaya Times Square, which is full of shops mainly, and looked around the streets as the sun was setting. Just before leaving, we found the neon robot restaurant, where there are girls dressed up as robots and preform a show.

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To end the evening, we travelled to across town to the Skytree, which is the tallest structure in Japan, to observe the city at night.

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On the way back to our hostel, we got lost, extremely lost. I wasn’t feeling 100% and my normally good sense of direction was not in order. My head was spinning so I was very confused. We came out a completely different entrance and there were barriers so we couldn’t find the one we went in. We did ask a few people but they didn’t know. Eventually, we found a train station. A 15 minute walk back to the hostel took an hour and a half journey. So an adventurous last evening in Japan.

The time in Japan seems both long and short: we saw loads of amazing sights and places but once I got back to England, it felt that everything was the same, as per usual.

Japan is one of the most amazing countries I have visited and I will be returning some point in the future to experience more of the people, places and culture.

Tokyo: Ginza, imperial palace and Shibuya

After a long drive, finding our hostel and dropping off the car, we were free to explore Tokyo. As we didn’t have much time, we travelled around on the subway, which was easy to navigate and pretty cheap (¥700 for a day travel card).

We got the metro to Tsukiji station, where we tried to find the fish market. Unfortunately, it was too late so it wasn’t open. Next, we thought it would be interesting to visit the advertising museum as Japan is a hi-tech country and I have studied it in the past. But again, it was shut due to having special guests there. Slight disappointment.

Strolling through Ginza, feeling slightly over-whelmed with the tall building, busy traffic and thousands of tourists, we experienced the shopping. Ginza has loads of high-end, luxury stores such as Chanel, Armani and Burberry as well as affordable brands and tourist shops.

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We went in a four-storey toy shop, which was literally full of different games, cuddly toys and lots of Frozen merchandise.

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While heading to the Imperial Palace, we got a drift of freshly cooked waffles so we gave into temptation and brought one. I got one with chocolate cream – it was good but not as good as the small.

As we approached the Imperial Palace, we entered the lovely grounds of the east garden which surrounded the palace. There were ponds and little waterfalls edged with pines and plum trees. Again, the palace was closed as it was early evening. At the entrance was the picturesque Nijubashi Bridge and the Seimon Gate.

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Just behind was Japan’s modern government buildings, the National diet (Japan’s parliament) and the Supreme Court, which was an unusual looking building. Along the side walk, there were a few protestors and camera people, which looked like they were waiting for someone.

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After, we got the metro to Shibuya, a congested part of town, full of tourists and business people. As it was approaching sunset, the neon lights bounced around the town with drivers and commuters crossed the famous Shibuya crossing.

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Being mesmerised by our surrounding, we wandered the narrow streets, with popular shops and restaurants. There were many waiters on the roads convincing tourist to eat at their restaurants.

As we were trying to find somewhere to fill out stomach, we were approached by two girls, who wanted to interview us for their Facebook group ‘Portraits of Tokyo’. They asked us about what we have done in Japan, how it was different from where we came from and what we think of when we think of home. Crazy! Not sure if we are famous or not.

Eventually, we found a place to eat, which seemed to be full of locals and no tourists. I ate fried shrimp. I’ve had it before but this time it was different. I look around and the man next to me had the same. He ate the whole shrimp including the head and eyes and tail. I tried to do what I normally do and peel off the shell but it wasn’t easy. I just munched on the whole shrimp except the head but then I felt a bit silly and not embracing the culture so I just ate all of it. Yes the head, eyes and tail. It actually tasted all the same and delicious.

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Nikko: Kegon waterfall, Lake Chuzenji and Toshogu

One day was all we had here, which I initially thought would not be enough. However, it was. When researching Japan, I found that Nikko was a must see place but I was slightly disappointed. Not sure whether this was influenced by the fog or rain or lack of sleep.

In the morning, I drove up the extremely windy, hilly path up to Lake Chuzenji and Kegon waterfall. If you get travel sick, I wouldn’t recommend it. I love a challenge when driving, the hair pin bends were fun.

The waterfall is one of the countries most famous. There was a lift that took visitors down to the gorge below, but we decided to see the magnificent waterfall from the observation deck at the top. It was breath-taking even though it wasn’t too clear as the mountain was full of fog (this was one of the reason why we decided not to go down to the gorge).

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After, we wandered to Lake Chuzenji, which is the highest lake in Japan. Sitting with my feet in the lake (there were these tiny fish swimming around), watching the boats being rowed across the lake was a peaceful, awe-striking feeling. Walking to the end of a port was fun as it was like a huge float wobbling side to side.

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As we were driving back to our hostel, we stopped off at a beautiful, shallow waterfall with large rocks engulfing it.

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In the afternoon, we wandered around the main town of Nikko, which is basically one long avenue from the station to the Toshogu Shrine. On the way is the red-lacquer Shinkyo (Sacred Bridge),which spans over the beautiful Daiya River.

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From here is a sleep flight of stone steps to the Rinnoji, which is the entrance to shrine complex. In the complex are three temples to visit but we just scouted around the main one at the top. As they are old buildings, one of the temples was covered in scaffolding with a picture of the temple on the front (bit strange and surreal).

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Inside the Toshogu, on the left, is a five storey pagoda of the shrine, decorated with the 12 signs of the Asian Zodiac and the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family.

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The gate here are guarded by two fierce red-painted Deva king.

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In the courtyard is a stable, which houses the shrine’s sacred white horse; the carved panel above the door is the famous group of three monkeys – ‘Hear no evil, see no hear, speak no evil!’

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Soon we came to the ‘Gate of the sleeping cat’, where the cat was on top of an entrance and a lot smaller than I thought.

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Through here were 207 stone steps up to Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb. I can tell you, I was not expecting this many steps and my legs hurt as I was climbing up. At the top, there was a great view, interesting trees and a cool, rushing stream. The tomb, however, was nothing special.

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The main temple was beautifully designed with intricate details and vibrant colours. Inside, we took off our shoes, watched a monk bless others and speak to us. Then we walked around, where a guy was describing all the parts of the inside of a temple. He also hit part of a statue, which vibrated around the room. All the tourists seemed to be amazed by this, wowing and ohhhing. It was pretty amusing.

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The shrine was interesting but I’m not sure it was worth coming all the way to Nikko. However, it was probably the most detailed temple I had seen on the whole trip.

After, we tried to find a restaurant down the main avenue but wasn’t successful so we had to drive to the next town to get food.

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By the end of the day, I was knackered after the long drive the night before and lack of sleep but unfortunately I had an interesting night sleep in the hostel.

Kyoto: manga, Nanzeji and one long drive

I forgot that we were checking out, which meant we had to be out by 11. That doesn’t seem early. It’s not. But when you got into bed at 6.30, that is not much sleep.

Jumping out of bed, I quickly sorted myself out and fling out the room. We decided to have a take it easy day. First, we staggered to the international manga museum, which is the only one in Japan so we were in for a treat. However, I was slightly disappointed. I suppose I didn’t know what to expect. Basically, majority of the museum consisted of shelves of manga book aimed for different reader with a cosy space to read them. This was fine but unexpected and difficult for me to read as I can’t read Japanese.

There was one exhibition room, which looked incredible. The whole room was covered in manga sheets with a clear protector over the top. This exhibition was about one guys work. It showed different drawings and sketches. I think what I was looking for in this museum was more about the history, different styles of manga, more sketches, influences and artist’s work.

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After we wandered to the river, where we had a lie down in the sun, listening to the sound of a waterfall and watching long necked birds sipping the water.

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Once we had had a short nap, we strolled passed the zoo and passed several temples to Nanzenji, which we decided not to go in.

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Nearby there was a bridge, which was picturesque.


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Trying to find the philosophy’s path, which was described as a beautiful walkway in my tourist guide, we failed.

Heading back to the hotel, along the way, we staggered in several shops and grabbed some food.

Early evening, we bundled into the car to get ready for a long drive a head of us. Luckily, I was on the 4am shift, which meant I could snuggle in the back with my sleeping bag to snooze. However, I didn’t get much shut eye so was tired by the time I was behind the wheel.

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