Japan – Far east in the land of rising sun
May – the month with the most public holidays – seems to be the perfect month traveling and saving holidays at the same time. But where to go to? Looking on map – thinking about where it is easy to fly to – Japan popped up and started screaming to me: “Come and visit me”. After two or three days thinking and reading a bit about the sights in Tokyo I made my decision. A decision which soon included staying for a couple of days in Kyoto and a flight back from there.
9 million inhabitants in the city itself and 37 million in the metropolitan area is a number which is hard to imagine for me. I had no idea how and if I can handle this and the fact that english is not a very common language but why not jump in a plane and give it a try. One and a half week later I found myself sitting in that plane heading toward Tokyo Haneda. Four nights in Tokyo and three nights in Kyoto expected me and my small luggage I was traveling with.
The first Japanese curiosities were not waiting very long to cross my way but this will be a good story for another blog post. Japan appears to be 10 years ahead but at the other hand also a lot of old traditional and cultural things can be found at every corner.
It did not long to realize that Japanese people are working very hard and as well that they love to spend their free time with entertaining activities like shopping, karaoke singing, gambling, eating and drinking.
The fact that I had no expectations and only the time to book more the flight and the places where I slept let me end in Japan during the Golden Week. This period includes four public holidays in a period of one week. Many Japanese nationals take paid time off and several companies are closed down completely. Good for me because it was not that crowded everywhere and bad at the same time because I had not expected that some sights will be closed and other overrun by Japanese people.
Nevertheless I started exploring Tokyo – without any existing plan in my mind -. But I was ready for long sightseeing days seeing amazing temples, skyscraper, beautiful parks and a couple of days later I got the chance to admire the majestic Mt. Fuji – the highest mountain in Japan and as well the mountain every Japanese has to climb once in a life time -. After I finished sightseeing in the megacity in the evenings I met other travelers for dinner / drinks and listening stories about life.
I could not believe how time was flying and after some days I had to make a decision. It was not the WHERE to go to next but HOW to go to my second destination in Japan. Everybody told me earlier I had to take the Shinkansen – also call the Bullet Train and tested as the fastest train in the world – but somehow I was not sure if it is worth that amount of money for a train ride. Finally I took a plane over to Osaka – Itami Airport and I could not believe what a beautiful view I could enjoy while flying along the coastline.
After another hour by bus I reached the bus station of Kyoto and I already knew that will be a different place and experience. A city without skyscraper but full of temples and gardens surrounded by other interesting places to explore and my feet got challenged again because plenty of things could be reached from my hostel in walking distance. The advantage of staying in a hostel and waking up very early were long days of sightseeing, meeting up new people and trying more of the mostly delicious Japanese food. I also spent one long night out ,having cocktails in a bar with a very interesting decoration, a toilet hidden behind a big bookshelf and as well as very unique bartenders.
After three days I felt a bit sad that I already had to leave Kyoto and Japan as well. To explore Kyoto and its surrounding it deserves more time to spend. This one week was just like an appetizer to make more appetite to all the sights, curiosities, the different food – hidden in a country of an unexpected amount of contrasts – . I don’t know how but I never had been lost, I always had great food, made it eating everything with chopsticks, found drinkable beer, ate green chocolate as well as sushi and met all these interesting people. Japan, you seems to be a country which is worth to put on the bucket list for a second trip – with more time to spend -.