Falling in love with Japan
I wake up to the sound of my alarm, but this time it doesn't bother me. I barely had any sleep last night, after a very late flight and a day of long stop overs, but I wake up feeling full of energy. I feel like a child on Christmas morning; you know a great day is in store, but at the same time you want to savour each moment so that it doesn't pass too quickly, as you burst with excitement inside.
I had woken up in Japan. J-A-P-A-N.
Ever since I can remember, Japan had always seemed like a dream destination. Reading Memoirs of a Geisha as a younger teen I remember trying to visualise what the streets would be like in Gion, what it would feel like to experience Japanese traditions, to hear the language daily, view the temples, taste soba noodles and other local delicacies, wander the city streets of Tokyo, and of course live out my photographers dream. Pictures of Japan always awakened my inner travel bug and I simply couldn’t wait any longer to explore what it had to offer. The time had finally come - I was here.
Planning Japan was met with overwhelming difficulty. Not because it was hard to plan, but because of my overwhelming desire to want to see and do everything, which made it very hard for me to make decisions (something I am already renowned to be terrible at doing) while realistically needing to jam pack it all into a 16 day window.
With several procrastination and intense research, we finally opted for Tokyo, Nagano, Kyoto, Nara and Osaka.
Japan is a dream for photographers, food lovers, history buffs - actually - it has something for everyone. Japan is outwardly disorderly in many ways, but underneath is anything but. There are rules both hidden and written, that we soon realised we had broken as soon as we arrived. As a first time traveller we were very quick to learn the Japanese etiquette and hidden rules after a few stares from passers by; it is handy to know these right from the start.
Though we were expecting Japan to take a massive hit to our wallet, we found ways to get by just fine and even come in a little under budget. Yes Japan is expensive, and yes it certainly can take a bite on your pocket but there are ways to enjoy it on a tighter budget and the good news is that there are a lot of sites that are actually free to visit too. Don’t let this deter you from visiting.
One minute you are strolling the streets of Tokyo surrounded by high rise buildings the next just a few hours away you can witness snow monkeys in the wildlife in their onsen (hot bath) while being in the beautiful natural forest. Kyoto will leave you breathless with the number of historic treasures, and beautiful gardens dotted around the city.
I loved Japan for so many reasons, and I went there with really high expectations which is always a danger. It lived up to every single one of them, and if not surpassed them. I even spotted a geisha which added the cherry on top.
From the beautiful cherry blossoms, to the sky rise buildings, the temples and history, the geisha spotting, the culture, the food, the people and their warm kindness and politeness, their high tech toilets (probably the best in the world) the shopping malls, the entertainment and their beautiful nature….the list goes on and on.
It is probably one of my most favourite places in the world, there I’ve said it.
Japan, you did not disappoint, not one ounce.
I will be back - and i’m sure my list will get longer and longer.