As we ended our time in Japan, like with everywhere, we reflected on how we found the place. We both agreed that we hadn’t been anywhere like it before and that we probably wouldn’t be anywhere like it again! The architecture is beautiful in Kyoto and Osaka with amazing temples, shrines and castles entwined into the everyday existence of the city. Office blocks will be next to a thousand year old statue of a deity and people will use their lunch breaks to come and wish for good fortune for the day.
The Japanese are some of the most disciplined people I’ve ever met from waiting until the very last credit in the cinema to queuing for a spot on the train – they make us Brits look like amateurs in the queuing game! Wherever we went people were only ever kind to us and we often had people ask us if we needed help when we look lost or confused which is something we haven’t really had in many other places. Despite the language barrier often being an issue, the Japanese people we encountered were always thoughtful and helpful and would do what they can to understand and help you – we couldn’t have asked for more hospitable people.
My biggest issue was finding a variety of food to eat with being a vegetarian but I also think that was also an issue due to our very tight budget. I have read blogs on eating in Japan so I know that, regardless of your holiday budget, it’s harder for a vegetarian particularly if you don’t eat fish as dashi (fish flakes) are put on a lot of their meals. Ramen will be particularly hard for you to find as this is made with a meat broth but there are other vegetable noodle soups to try so not having a ramen wasn’t the end of the world. Saying that, I prefer the noodle soups I had in Malaysia as they pack more veg into it but I still enjoyed the meals I had in Japan, particularly the tempura. Whilst we were in Tokyo we met up with Niall’s friend Andy and his girlfriend Alex who were also travelling around Japan. We went to a Japanese curry house called CoCo’s which emphasised how difficult it can be to be a vegetarian in Japan as the advertised vegetable curry ended up having small pieces of meat in it – I was able to pick it out but it was unexpected and not an ideal last meal for our time in Japan.
The contrast between Kyoto and Tokyo was enormous and is probably the biggest contrast between cities we’ve had in any country we have visited. Kyoto doesn’t really seem that modern and could be viewed as a more traditional city whereas Tokyo is full of skyscrapers and technology everywhere you look and the pace of the place is tripled. Saying that though, we were surprised that the trains in Tokyo aren’t 24 hours and stop at midnight, not starting again until around 5am. Taxis aren’t cheap and so our option for our 6am flight to Hong Kong had us getting the last train to the airport (around an hours journey) at 10:30pm and then spending our night in the airport before we could check in and board our flight. I didn’t really sleep at all but Niall was able to get a few hours in there and, judging by the number of people also sleeping in the airport, this was obviously something a lot of people had to do. One thing I don’t understand is that if the airport offered a shuttle service from your accommodation to the airport for when the train wasn’t running they would make a fortune! I guess they’re happy to have the lodgers for the night instead!
The biggest thing to note about Japan though is how safe it is. I don’t know the crime statistics in Japan but they must be very small judging by how people act regarding their belongings. Falling asleep on trains is commonplace – the Japanese work very hard after all – and we saw countless times where someone would be asleep and their phone would be casually hanging out of there hand of have even fallen on the floor at their feet. In another country their phone we have been taken before they could even open their eyes but not in Japan. We saw people leave handbags, wallets and phones as a way of saving a seat when they would queue for food or when they went to the toilet without any consideration for whether it would be there when it got back. And, of course, it always was! I have never seen anything like it and it definitely makes you feel very safe (although we still didn’t leave our money and phones unattended just to be on the safe side!)
We really enjoyed our time in Japan and I definitely think we’ll go back there one day, hopefully during the Cherry Blossom season when it is even more beautiful and a lot warmer! There are also other areas of Japan we would like to visit and we would get the JR pass that allows you to ride all the bullet trains (it’s like a discounted travel card) which would mean we could visit more places in the time we had there.
Our next stop was to Hong Kong where we would be spending Christmas and New Year. Because of the flights we would be spending a long time here so it gave us some time to take things a little slower and relax a bit more, especially as we would be staying in Air b’n’b’s during our time here.
Until next time, Japan…
Sending Love x