Why I Didn’t Connect With Japan
First off I do have to say, that I went to Japan in October 2015 toying with the idea of maybe starting a travel blog in the near future. (And here I am!!) I may not have viewed Japan in a bloggers point of view, however I do always make the most of each and every country I visit and put myself out there to embrace the adventure. Ive always wanted to roam Japan and eat as much sushi as I can possibly fit in my belly, see some out there Japanese culture and look at the history surrounding this country.
I went about my travels to Japan as I would any other country I visit with a list of must do experiences I just have to try and things I must not miss seeing. When the plane landed I was off running into the Land of the Rising Sun. I was brimming with excitement and craving some seriously good cuisine. I had 10 days here, much shorter than most of my other travels. It was more like a vacay than anything! With my travel journal that contained my must do’s tucked under my arm I made my way towards my hostel.
Through out my little stopover in Japan I started in Tokyo, made my through Kyoto, Nagano, Matsumoto and ended my stay in Mt Fuji. I did most of the things on my list and a few unplanned adventures which are always the best memories. I walked through the bonsai trees sipping green tea in a traditional tea garden, went and saw snow monkeys lazily bathing in a hot spring, fed some cats in a cat cafe, (yes crazy cat lady right here!) ran my hands over the Fushimi Inari Shrine, trekked through the rain to The Imperial Palace, navigated my way through the tiny bars at the Golden Gai, hiked through Kiso Valley, marvelled at the beautiful Mt. Fuji were among just a few things I squeezed into my 10 day trip.
When my stay in Japan came to an end I couldn’t help to feel well, a little underwhelmed. The whole time I was in Japan I couldn’t fight the feeling of boredom. Like I said at the beginning of this post I always put myself out there when I travel. I embrace any place I go too, take risks, get lost and journey into the unknown. But, that feeling of boredom was always in the back of my mind. It wasn’t like anything I ever felt for a country before. When I travel and land brimming with excitement to an unknown world I feel a mix of emotions I could never explain to anyone. Love, excitement, awe, nervousness, empowerment and freedom all rolled into one but never boredom. It’s not to say I didn’t like Japan, I did! It just didn’t make my Top 10 Favourite Destinations list. It didn’t even make my Top 20 list.
It was hard to stick to a smaller budget:
You can budget on any travel adventure around the world if you do things right. There are however countries that are harder at doing this than others and Japan is one of them. Transport around the country is expensive. I highly recommend getting your Japan Rail pass before you get there it will save you a lot of dollars. You can buy it online at japan-rail-pass.com. Prices range from $250 upwards depending how long you are there for. It may seem expensive to fork out that type of money on transport before you get there, but it is the best value for money. Keep in mind the Japan Rail line doesn’t go every where and you may have to pay for tickets to places that are off the J.R line. They do go most places so this will depend what your destinations are through Japan. When you hop off the plane head straight for a J.R office in the airport and get your tickets validated. Its simple and fuss free, although there might be a bit of a wait.
The food was a whole lot more expensive than what I was expecting. A plate of sashimi in an ordinary restaurant was going for ¥30. ($30.) It wasn’t a big plate either! I love researching and pinning budget friendly tips to every country I go to and I had read ways to make Japan a cheaper visit. I really just didn’t expect the food to be that expensive. Later by going by the advise from what I read, I went on my way to 7-11 and local grocery stores to pick up pre-made sushi. A much much cheaper option. Other alternatives on food was to stop at any markets you come across, bakeries, ask your hostel or hotel where the best Raman houses are and find a sushi train or cheap buffet restaurant. These are all cheaper alternatives to sushi houses. And they were nice, it was just a little disheartening not to have experienced a beautiful plate of freshly made sushi at one of the traditional sushi houses.
It wasn’t everything I imagined:
I know, that no place is ever as you can possibly imagine. I felt kinda duped after my visit though. What you see, hear and read is different than what I experienced. I was expecting weird and wacky things every where I went, crazy colours, robots walking the streets, outrageous fashion and unbelievable food. I didn’t really see all of this and there was defiantly no robots walking the streets. The robots my have been an exaggeration! The whole time I was there I was expecting something, anything, to happen that would make me think “ahhhhh yes, this is the Japan I wanted to see.” It felt flat.
From what I think, I made the most of my adventures in Japan. Every little adventure just left me with that underwhelming feeling. Every time I finished my escapades, from viewing the Imperial Palace, hiking the Kiso Valley to walking down Harajuku Street, up came that feeling of being underwhelmed and a little disappointed. Was it me? Was I missing something here? Were all the crazy Japanese things I wanted to see and do hidden and I wasn’t doing all I could to see them? I can’t believe that. Maybe it’s because I have travelled through South East Asia for a long period of time and I have seen outrageous and crazy things there that were the same in Japan so nothing was surprising me. Nothing I did really left me in awe or excitement.
I absolutely cannot talk highly enough about the Japanese people. They are the most friendliest, welcoming and kindest people you will ever meet! As soon as you step off the plane they make you feel welcome. The way they keep their traditional culture and mannerisms is spectacular to see. The best part was the customer service. Oh my gosh the customer service all through Japan was out of this world! Everyone in the customer service industry around the world could be taught a thing or two from Japan.
The cleanliness and safety:
Ok, cleanliness and safety doesn’t really fit in the same sentence but I’ll make it work! Walking around Japan you notice how clean it is and how safe you feel. I have never been to a country so so clean. Not once did I ever see a scrap of rubbish on the ground anywhere. I thought it was surprising seeming that you’ll notice when you get there, that there are no trash bins on the street. In the Japanese culture they keep their rubbish on them until they can dispose of it when they get home. As for the safety, I never got the feeling of danger or discomfort once was I was there even when walking around late at night. Watching my back and being cautious is second nature when I travel. It felt good to let my guard down a little in Japan.
The history in Japan is something to be admired. Going to a country and immersing yourself into their history is one of my favourite things to do and this is one area Japan captured me in. They hold their history and traditional culture close to their heart.
It ended in a half/half connection with Japan. Im not crossing Japan off my list just yet, as there are other places that I still want to see in this country I didn’t quite feel the vibe in. One day I will go back and do a few things different, go to other places and maybe emerge into the culture a little more and stay in an Airbnb accommodation. For now though Japan just wasn’t my jam.
Where to Stay
K’s House Hostels are scattered throughout popular destinations in Japan. Each K’s House I stayed in while I was in Tokyo, Kyoto and Mt Fuji was one of the best experiences I have had with a hostel. They are clean, quiet and of the course the staff are very friendly. Each one is in a convenient location to downtown and not far away from anything you may need.