*Forewarning* I have written this over the space of a month so if anything seems disjointed or retarded-like I am sorry. I have tried to simply the whole trip down to experiences rather than a running diary of what I was doing. I started writing and it was beginning to get to the point where things were getting so long that even I wouldn't sit down to read it all.
Pictures will be uploaded once I have my internet next week (I can't believe I blew 60GB, I guess it must be all that uploading..) so this post will be forever evolving. My trip was mainly a family and touristy styled trip so many of the
photos you'll see are simply of me going "ooh, this looks
Photos - Click Here! (Opens a new window/tab). I'll be continuously adding more photos as I have a plethora of them!
Where do I start? I guess I'll start with my very first night in Japan. Arrived 9:30pm local time to a dreary but humid Tokyo, for even a Sunday night, it was incredibly busy in the airport. The public transport infrastructure is simply astounding, running like clock work no matter how busy it is. There is rarely a wait or delays for trains. Once we hopped onto the train into Tokyo from the airport it was pretty blurry (fast train!). I was very lucky to be living pretty close to the centre of Tokyo in Nippori and it was extremely convenient to have the hotel literally outside the train station! The humidity was welcoming as I was expecting it to be cold, windy and generally shitty (thank you Wellington for imprinting a lovely expectation of winter) but I was still wearing t-shirts and jeans like it was a warm summery day (lol Wellington summer, how can you be so disappointing at times!). Within 2 hours of arriving, I experienced my first Japanese cuisine and boy was it good. I never thought the Japanese could be great with barbequed meats (more on this later).
The one thing you really notice in Japan more than anything is the lack of space. The tightness; especially in lifts, escalators, walkways and even seating in restaurants. I guess the general population of Japan can safely be said to be smaller than the general population of the Western world, though. The wonders of living in a country/city where they take pride in their ability to be connected and at the bleeding edge of technology. Internet in every room via LAN and wi-fi! At super, super fast speeds (despite an apologetic note written in broken English laminated to the lobby of each floor saying that because the connection is shared in the building with all other tenants that you may experience slower than desired speeds! This was not the case at all!).
So quick itinerary of my trip - Tokyo - Nagoya - Nara - Kyoto - Tokyo (Hakone hot pools!)
It was really a crash course of Japan, we spent a week in Tokyo approximately all up then a week for the other places combined. Nagoya and Nara are small places, so 2 days were enough to see the gist of the place especially as a first time tourist. The cultural side of Japan is so vast that for me to even try to explain it all would look like amateur's work. Essentially, each region of Japan has it's own distinctions. The Kanto region (Tokyo being the largest city within the region) versus say the Kansai region will have major distinctions in food. I did notice the further south we went, the better the food got! Kyoto had some amazing dishes - in particular the tofu based dishes were simply stunning. I tried to get as many photos as I could of food, so so you'll see it in my album. When we returned to Tokyo, we had a bit more time to take it easy and go sight seeing locally. Including going up to the mountains of Hakone for hotpools, volcanic eggs and general awesomeness.
Food. Where do I start? Well, put in one word - wild. Boy,
the Japs really love their fish. If I hadn't had the convenience of a
western styled cafe for breakfast, I'd be eating sashimi and rice rolls
for breakfast! Not that I would complain because it is delicious. Sushi and sashimi are often the first things we think of when it comes
to Japanese food, and without a doubt they are the most common food
type you will find. I heard that many Japanese folk will eat raw fish
quite happily every meal simply because it is like rice, a staple food. Barbequed, grilled, seared and even raw red meats are highly prized.
Especially their wanyu beef
which translate literally into Japanese cow. The fat and meat
composition is very different to our cuts of meat; often finding
flurries of fat throughout the meat rather than having it as a thick
layer on top of the meat. This made the meat feel like it was melting in
your mouth (provided it was hot enough, otherwise it just tasted like a
fat slick). Pictures of these meats and other foods will be provided
rest assured. As mentioned above, tofu based dishes were popular as well as tempura battered fish. The tempura is similar to what we find here except they often batter whole pieces of seafood rather than prepared fillets. I did eat McDonalds whilst I was in Japan and much like in China, the portion sizes are definitely smaller. One would question why I ate McDonalds - it's because a long, long time ago I said to myself I'd eat at a McDonalds in every country (I think I have done 12 different countries now) possible.
Vending machines - I wish the ones that existed in Japan were everywhere in the world. HOT DRINKS. Yes, hot coffee from a can. Like a BOSS (if you have ever been to Japan or seen their coffee, you'll get this!). Dispensing beer and milk from the vending machine was epic! It wasn't just drinks on the menu, I saw some dispensing electrical gadgets i.e. one-time battery charger units, porn, soft toys. The best thing of them? You could find one pretty much on the corner of every street, side street, carpark, park, pool and even your hotel lobby! This is probably one of the biggest things I miss about Japan. The convenience of getting little things. I only actually visited one 7-11 and that was just like any other store we get here. Although, I did think Lawson's was a better convenience store because it sold some half decent prepacked food at ungodly hours.
Shopping - simply put if you're not skinny, you're gonna struggle. I'm not exactly big, but I was wearing XXL clothing. However, if you're looking to buy big brands - well you've come to the right place. It is the fashion central of the East after all.
Don't think I'll be forgetting about the main reason I was excited for Japan... CARS. The scene is simply alive with variety. You'll find VIP, bosozuku, shakotan, touge and everything in between beautifully co-existing in Japan. I did notice the plethora of European cars; something which I was taken aback by. I guess it's simply because people look at Japan (especially as car enthusiasts, lovers, dreamers and what not) and think "oh my god, JDM cars everywhere!" and assume that every single car that touches the asphalt is Japanese made. The Japanese definitely recognise quality and luxury where they see it, you only have to look as far as the amount of BMW M3s that were seen. Or Porsche (Rauh-Welt's influence in the recent years has become a factor) and even Audi has begun to creep into the upper end market. I found the sheer number of exotic cars astounding too, many a quick silhouette passing through downtown traffic, and merely heard before disappearing into the masses. My visit to Auto-Bacs confirmed my dreams; they sell everything. Of course, it's not the cheapest place to go (did find some other places) but it was definitely one of the more convenient for tourist/foreigner. The range of in-car sprucing was simply unbelievable - I think I found every scent under the sun available (reminds me of Willy Wonka for some reason) for purchase in your favourite shaped glass bottle. You want giant shifters? No worries, just grab one off the shelf and they come in sizes from 160mm-350mm from what I saw. I also saw illuminated car badges. Neons certainly haven't died out in Japan either. Although, definitely bit more classy than fluro green as so famously promoted in the Fast and the Furious. Without pictures, I am lost without words. It needs to be seen to be believed. The Japanese tend to either go subtle or go OTT. Not a lot sits in between - an example is of a nice RX7 FD I saw. I think it's the only factory rotary I've ever heard and seen in my life actually now I think about it. NZ is simply "rotang mad" with ported rotaries left, right and centre. RX8s are a different breed of rotaries, though and they did not seem to be very common in Japan. Boso bikes were really something, I didn't actually think they would have the audacity to roll through the city in the throng of bikes buzzing away like an angry nest of wasps. It is truly an awe-inspiring sound, instantly striking fear and intimidation in my heart once heard.
The general environment of Japan - stunning. It is so beautiful and clean for such a bustling city with overpopulation problems. Social responsibility is definitely highly valued by the people and it really shows. The pictures really say it all; there's no need to describe how civil and peaceful the country is.
Again, I apologise for the delay, 3 months delay really isn't on. The trip was simply beyond anything I could
have imagined and I wish to go back. I've been looking at cheap seats every single day, in hope of catching one. So I can make my way back there to live it up all over again.
I will be updating this post lots because there's so much more to add! I hope it's been worth the wait...