For someone who has never been to Japan, here is the first and only word to describe it: AWESOME!!!
Yes, it is indeed awesome to experience Japan for the first time, especially if you love the history, find the people and their culture interesting and fascinating and especially enjoy their overwhelming creations, such as anime, manga and the entire universe built around it.
For those who know us, we are crazy anime and manga fans, especially if you keep in mind that our entire house is decorated with anime toys, I mean figures and other posters and accessoires. Even our wardrobe consists almost entirely of our favorite anime characters and scenes. That is why we decided to do our dream trip to Japan.
After eleven hours flight and staying awake for more than 30 hours, we arrived at Haneda Airport on a Friday at roughly 7 in the morning. Keep in mind that those who know even a tiny bit about Tokyo and its people, are aware of the rush hour. We also read something about it but we never thought that we would experience it ourselves. We took the metro in order to reach our first hotel and had to pass through the busy area of Shinjuku. As you can see in this picture, I was literally glued to the window.
I have never experienced so many people in one metro and if anyone thinks that there is not enough space to fit that many people in there, you have never been part of the Tokyo Rush-Hour Metro. We originally come from small villages and to experience first-hand the biggest metropole in the world with approximately 38 million was a cultural shock indeed.
The first day in Japan was amazing. We had so many lessons learnt, such as: NEVER take the metro on a working day between 7 and 9 am and never stop walking while in crowded places. This city is so busy and if you don’t rush you either get pushed from every side or get lost. We stayed at a traditional japanese inn with paper doors, original tatami matresses and no heater. It was also shocking and new to sleep on a fouton, so close to the floor and use a tiny electrical heater. Eventhough it was spring, it was still quite chilly during the night. But what we really enjoyed were the thick and fluffly blankets filled with feathers. They kept us warm and cozy :).
Instead of sleeping when arriving at the hotel, we decided to stay awake for another 10 hours, in order to keep up with the time difference of 8 hours. So we started hiking through the city and discovered an adorable cat cafe. Japan is famous for their animal cafes, be it cats, dogs, bunnies, hedgehogs, snakes or other creatures. This cat cafe was great. You get to pay for one hour and enjoy being surrounded by cats. You can pet them, play with them and watch them beeing feed. For the money spent there you can also get free drinks, so it is definitely worth the price. There were about 20 cats in this place and it is great to see how the Japanes themselves enjoy these places and like to spend time with cats. The cat lady takes good care of her furry little friends and we enjoyed our one hour there.
We also visited a bunny cafe where you can pet and feed adorable bunnies, including huge ones:
It was also very interesting to see other curious installments throughout Tokyo such as the vending machines which you can find, at literally every corner in the city. The colours are so intense and you cannot miss them. Especially the great variety of drinks made us so happy. We have never tasted Cola Peach flavour, or Fanta berries, or Japanes brands of litchi water, apple juice, water with peach flavour, grape soda with real grape bits in it – or at least….we hope that they were real grapes :). What shocked us the most on our first day were the slides with not one, two but three flumes. Crazy, isn’t it? At least for us it is.
Another shocking moment was to experience the Japanes Game Casinos. Loud, colourful, with games that you have never seen before. You can definitely spend a vast amount of time and money in a game building with more than nine floors dedicated entirely to colourful anime and other games, karaoke, VR ego shooter experience and more crazy stuff. It is truly fascinating to watch and be a part of it.
Not only the first day but every other day in Tokyo is made up of huge skyscrapers and high buildings with so many colourful commercials on them, including gigantic screens where you can watch more commercials, shows and even anime scenes. If you only pay attention to these while crossing the street, you may want to be more careful 🙂
On our second day we spend even more time hiking through the different areas of Tokyo and discovering many shinto shrines and buddhist temples. We even got to see a traditional japanese wedding in front of a shrine. If you do not know a lot about the religions in Japans, here are some pictures which depict the shinto shrine and the buddhist temples. Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan and has its roots in believing that everything that surrounds you consists of a god.
This goes back to the time in Japan where it was told that every ruler of the country, such as the emperor is resided by a god. The shrines are characterized by the famous torii, the door to the shrine, before which one has to bow to enter the shrine. Sometimes there are also some stairs which you have to walk up in order to reach the shrine.
On your way to the shrine you have a small well, where you wash your hands and mouth before entering the shrine. In front of the ceremonial hall people can express their prayers to the gods with the help of the bell which is attached to a large rope.
You throw a small amount of yen into a wooden box, ring the bell, clap your hands twice to raise awareness of the god and then say your prayers silently or in your head. We have visited so many shrines, including the famous meiji-shrine and even the famous shrines where you can find the tomb of Tokugawa Yeiasu, he who united Japan and transferred the original capital of Japan, which was at that time Osaka, to Edo, now Tokyo.
His tomb and the shrine with the famous UNESCO world heritage bridge can be visited in Nikko. It takes round about two hours to get there by train and it is a spectacular view in comparison to the big city of Tokyo.
In Nikko you have wonderful forests and hills, which depict the beautiful nature of Japan. We enjoyed our stay there and even hiked through the forest to discover pretty waterfalls. It was nice to enjoy the quiet time in nature with absolutely no people surrounding you.
Next to the high number of Shrines in Japan, there are also many buddhist temples with wonderful statues.
You can choose subject which one you want to read 🙂
Japan is truly amazing. What we really enjoyed was the dense city of Tokyo and its shiny and colourful presentation, by day and by night. We love the fact that the biggest metropole in the world is also the cleanest one. Garbage is rarely to be seen, clean public toilets everywhere, clean trains and metros with not even the smallest trace of garbage to be seen.
How can this work in such a big city? This is what we asked ourselves, especially when no garbage bins are to be found throughout the city. You have to walk for at least two or three kilometers to find a garbage bin at a metro station or a shopping Mall. This is truly unbelievable when it comes to the culture and the mentality of the people in Tokyo. We enjoyed their friendliness towards tourists, eventhough the people are very shy when it comes to interacting with foreigners.
We learned even more about their history and culture and we got to love how crazy they are about their own anime and manga creations. What is truly remarkable, is the fact that the people in Tokyo and in Japan are very well-organized, neat, abide by the law and keep to themselves on the one hand but enjoy the colourful and piercing lifestyle with their games casinos, commercials everywhere, anime and manga supplies on the other hand.
Maybe they created the anime world to escape from their own and to build a world where everyone can exist in, at least, fictional. But that is definitely why we love the country and its people. For the beautiful nature, the wonderful traditions and culture and the anime world they have developed.