Our calender at school worked out quite well this past weekend: with Buddah’s birthday on Tuesday, I was given Monday off and got to enjoy a 4 day weekend.
After a quick look online later last week, I found a decently priced flight over to Japan. Without thinking much about it, I purchased a flight across the pond.
If I can summarize Japan in just a sentence, I would say this: What an incredible country.
Straight after I booked it, I got a few comments from friends (particularly Tim, seen here.) saying “It will be crazy, you won’t even be able to find water, everything is going to be expensive and you’ll get radiation poisoning and turn into Godzilla. And you will die in an earthquake”. At least, he said something like that.
I flew into Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan, and let me say this: I did not see a single side effect or anything changed because of the earth quake and nuclear disaster – nothing. There was no shortages of water or anything to that extent, and as far as I could tell life was absolutely normal there. The people I did talk to say they were not affected in any way from the tsunami.
The hostel I stayed at, Hostel 64 in Osaka (which is a great place) said at one point they had 80 people booked in for the weekend. Post-tsunami it was down to a total of 6 people there, including myself. That’s a big change.
So, why was this country so incredible?
For those in Korea who haven’t been there, imagine it like this: It’s sort of like Korea, except they took a huge, expensive rag and polished it up with more money and nicer things. It is kind of like a more developed, efficient and affluent Korea.
For those living back home (or wherever you are), after being in Asia for well over a year this is the best I’ve seen from the continent. It has the oldest buildings, most efficient transportation and well developed economy. It’s a beautiful place.
Getting around the country was easy enough using the super efficient train services. While Korea only has subways in the large cities, Japan has them in every city and has them connecting each city together. I also had the pleasure of taking their “Shinkansen”, or the Japanese Bullet Train. What was just over an hour trip on the regular train in one direction turned out to be 11 or 12 minutes coming back. My iPhone told me my speed was 254 km/hr.
I only paid about $20 and it gave me unlimited data on my phone over in Japan. It was very, very nice to always have access to Google and Google Maps, and made traveling a breeze. Japan’s tourism website gave me everything I needed about where to go and how to get there.
From the city of Osaka I went to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe – all of which have beautiful sites to see.
Lastly, and maybe the best part about this country: the food. The food!!! Monday night, I had Kobe beef. I will write a follow up post about this meal, but here’s a spoiler: It was the best meal of my life. In general, the food there was incredible. Everything was skillfully prepared – from tempura items to the soups and the coffee. It was all amazing, and it lacked the insane amounts of sugar Korea seems to put in everything they prepare. Also, the beer Asahi Dry on tap was some of the best I’ve ever had. Coming from Hite and Cass in Korea, it was able to make me appreciate life. I would go back to the country for the food alone.
My suggestion: If you ever have the chance to go, go. It’s a spectacular place.
I’m not a huge picture guy, but here’s a few I took:
Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
Nijō Castle – Kyoto
This place impressed me for two reasons: It was built in the 1600’s, and they built a huge moat around it. What was the moat for? Keeping out ninja’s, of course. Secondly, every floorboard inside the castle squeaked a lot. As it turned out, it was so you could hear people coming. It was so you could hear ninja’s coming to kill you.
Tōdai-ji – Nara
This is the biggest wooden building in the world.
Also, Nara had deer just walking around the town everywhere. You can read about them here.
Here’s the brilliant sign they had:
I particularly like the knock down part.
Shinkansen – The Japanese Bullet Train
You can see how fast it was going: