What’s it Like to Travel in Japan (Part 2)

When I started writing about my recent Japan trip, I realized it was impossible to fit everything into one blog post. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, check it out for some wacky and weird Tokyo moments.

Now, onto Part 2!

Japan is Innovative and Technologically Advanced

Let’s start with the toilets. Going to the toilet is serious business in Japan. It’s an experience in itself! Toilets are futuristic, complete with a seat warmer, a built in bidet, options for water pressure, temperature, and even music. I’m not going to lie, I got freaked out a few times because I didn’t know the toilets self-cleaned between flushes.

An example of a public bathroom. It was quite confusing to figure out where to wash your hands…

When in Japan, vending machines are impossible to miss. You can find them around almost every street corner; apparently there’s even one at the top of Mt. Fuji! (I bet the drinks are very expensive.) But the vending machines in Japan offer more than just soft drinks. You can buy vending machine alcohol, fruits and umbrellas to name a few. My favourite vending machines were the ramen ones though!

Did you know Japan built the first high-speed train in 1964? Did you also know that the average delay time of the Shinkansen (bullet train) is less than a minute? Very impressive! Our first Shinkansen ride was from Tokyo to Kyoto. At almost 400km/hr, it’s impossible for you to look outside without getting dizzy. My ears even popped several times during the ride.

Traditional Culture in Kyoto

Japan has no shortage of spectacular temples and shrines. This is especially true in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan – There are over 1600 temples in Kyoto alone! Although Marc and I went ‘temple hopping’, we really only scratched the surface. Each temple or shrine is strikingly designed and unique in its own way.

Yakasa shrine, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Aside from the beauty of the architecture, it’s the spiritual aspect that makes visiting them an experience. From using a bamboo ladle to wash your hands and mouth to purify your spirits before entering a shrine, to summoning the kami (god) before praying, we got a glimpse of the spiritual aspect of the Japanese life.

Drawing a Omikuji (fortunte telling paper) at a temple
The cleansing ritual that purifies the body

Kyoto is also considered the birthplace of geisha culture. Geisha are professional entertainers who are highly skilled in the art of music, dance and conversations (they are not prostitutes, contrary to popular belief in the West). Seeing a geisha is quite rare but the Gion district in Kyoto is a great place to try your luck.

Many tourists dress up in kimonos, so don’t be fooled!

Spotting geisha was a one of a kind experience. We saw two on separate occasions. Both moments were extremely brief and fleeting. I only got a glimpse of their bold coloured kimono and immaculate hair before they elegantly and quickly disappeared into the crowds. It’s impressive how fast they walked in their getas (wooden clogs).

Nature and Parks

While many people associate Japan with pop culture and neon-lit streetscapes, there is also an incredible nature scene.

Climbing Mt Fuji would’ve been an amazing experience but it wasn’t feasible with baby Peanut, so we opted for Fuji-Spotting from the foothills of Kawaguchiko lake. The snow-capped mountain was a magnificent sight!

Then there’s the Nara deer park, located just 45 minutes from Kyoto, you will find over 1,000 semi-wild deers bowing at you for deer biscuits. Interacting with so many wild life at close range was a fun experience for me, albeit a little scary when they became aggressive with food. Poor Peanut was having a restful nap and woke up surrounded by a herd – her cries did not deter the hungry deers!

Tip: Avoid feeding the deers early morning when they are hungry. They can get very aggressive and will chase or even bite you to get fed. You’ve been warned!

Arashiyama has some beautiful sceneries, including the chance to surround yourself in a bamboo forest.

The walk was so peaceful, Peanut fell asleep.

Then there are countless number of parks, strolling gardens and zen gardens that will make you want to slow down time and meditate.

Tenryuji, Arashiyama
Ryoan-ji Temple, Kyoto. Only 14 of the 15 rocks can be seen from every angle. It’s true, I counted.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Tokyo

Hope you’ve enjoyed my Japan posts friends! I can’t wait to go back some day and explore other parts of this beautiful country.

Thanks for reading et à la prochaine!

xo

Mary

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