Looking back at life a few years ago, I wouldn’t have fancied this trip to Japan.
Since there never any reason to travel internationally, I never thought of ever doing it. A few months of working side by side with Chinese coworkers changed my mind rather quickly. Of that group, one person opened my eyes for the better, and he highly recommended visiting Japan for my first Asian culture experience. I owe “my brother from another mother” a huge thank you!
If you have an international traveling bucket list, I encourage you to add Japan to this list, especially if you want to experience one of the most traditional and extreme Asian cultures this world offers. Japan has a combination of grounded traditions with modern aspects of technology and the “big city livin’” engulfing today’s world.
Between Japan’s memorable temples, shrines, colorful gardens, and homemade food, you’ll fall in love with this country, I guarantee it. In this week’s blog post, I’ll go over my pros, cons, and overall take away of this unforgettable trip!
The list of pros vastly out numbers the cons, so I decided to focus on the four most highlighted pros from my trip!
You WILL have a culture shock once you get off the plane and try to get everything together. It’ll get even worse when you make your first attempt to navigate the intricate subway/train systems in Japan……………but don’t worry.
Also, majority of people in Japan don’t speak English, which surprised me, but still………….don’t worry.
“Well then, how did you get around?”
Google Maps. Google Maps is your best friend, your life saver, your Northern Star while in Japan. Google Maps was our most used app, and honestly, the only app you need for this trip.
A few outings using Japan’s subways, trains, and buses led by Google Maps quickly gets you familiar with how the Japanese get around every day. There is no need or use of a car in Japan, not even Uber. By far your cheapest methods of travel are the ones mentioned above.
Look forward to getting lost, because you will. And when you do, don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help. The Japanese people are so friendly. They’ll stop what they’re doing to help 100% of the time, even if they don’t speak a word of English!
According to Business Insider, Japan is ranked as the 9th safest country in the world. After being there, I really don’t know how it could get any safer.
You can walk the streets and alley ways late at night, not having to worry about a thing. I constantly caught myself checking over my shoulder as we often have to do so here in the U.S, but there’s never a need to do so in Japan.
Funny enough, I rarely saw police officers and the few police stations we ran into were ghost towns, completely empty.
The only thing to watch out for, and you can check this out here on Reddit, were the Nigerians in Tokyo. I won’t go into detail as to how they are allowed to do what they do, but their main objective is to scam and rob foreigners who don’t know better. Just ignore them, be about your day, and you’ll be fine.
Who doesn’t like Japanese food?
Out of the seven days there, we only had one bad meal………one. Everything else was delicious and beat any “Japanese” food I’ve had here in the U.S.
What surprised me the most was how tough it was to find sushi, specifically, affordable sushi. You’d think sushi would be everywhere, but it wasn’t.
Lots of authentic “maw and paw” restaurants are located all over neighborhoods in Japan. The trick is finding them. Most of these places aren’t in Yelp, Google Maps, or have big, noticeable restaurant signs. If they would, they’d be bombarded with tourists 24/7! Typically, we’d get hungry and start scoping out places to eat nearby.
By far, my favorite place to find food the 7-eleven’s, Lawson’s, or any other Japanese convenient stores. They’re similar to gas stations here in the U.S., just without fuel, and way better food and drink selections. Fresh, homemade Japanese food were available all times during the day and night for a quick and cheap grab and go! I made sure to visit one at the end of every day for a nighttime treat!
Landscape and Architecture
Behind the landscape and architecture lies Japan’s history. Between its Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and gardens associated with them, one gets a clear visual understanding of how Japan came to be.
This, ladies and gents, is the core reason for my trip to Japan.
Asian culture is very traditional and deeply rooted, unlike the U.S., with Japan being no different.
The gardens, my favorite part, were absolutely gorgeous. With Japan in full fall season, there was a beautiful mixture of orange, yellow, and red leaves with bright green moss-covered rocks. Pictures didn’t do enough justice.
The temples and shrines were a complete work of art, even more so since most were built from wood and paper. A majority of these historical sites date back to 700-800 A.D, long before the U.S. was even thought of. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
I highly recommend researching these places before you visit. Knowing the who’s, what’s, why’s, and how’s behind everything will make your experience much more enjoyable!
You won’t like everything. Whenever you decide to embrace a culture completely unknown to you, there are bound to be a few things you aren’t a fan of.
The U.S. has roughly 325.7 million people living on 3.797 million square miles.
Japan as 126.8 million people living on 0.146 million square miles.
If you take a third of the U.S. population and shove it into the state of California, you have an accurate assumption of how many people live on the small island of Japan. That’s a lot of people with not a lot of room.
But the crowded cities really weren’t the biggest issue for me, it was the number of tourists. I know, how hypocritical of me.
Since it wasn’t Japan’s peak season, I figured it wouldn’t have been too packed.
Of course, I was wrong. There were lines and people everywhere. It took away some of “the awe” from beautiful gardens and peaceful temples and shrines. I found out that it’s really hard to appreciate your surroundings when other people are trying to take selfies near you 24/7.
In order to fit so many people into a Japanese city, their living quarters must be compact spaces.
Thus, square footage is a luxury in Japan. If you want some leg room, walking room, or any type of typical U.S. amounts of space, it’ll cost you a pretty penny.
Since I’m bigger, in general, than the average Japanese or Asian person, everything was too short, crammed, or tight. Now, a part of it could have been because I’m accustomed to the way things are here in the U.S., but I think my reasons were justifiable.
And it got old pretty quick. I had to duck my head constantly when walking indoors. I hit my head, knees, and elbows multiple times every day. By the end of the trip, I had a huge knot swelling up on the top of my head!
I seriously would hate to see how crowded Japan gets during its peak season in spring. If you’re looking for a getaway vacation, don’t like crowds, or claustrophobic, Japan is definitely not the trip for you!
I highly recommend going on this trip with a group of friends or a significant other. Not really a great family vacation in my personal opinion, unless your kids are older.
Also, I’d like to give a huge shout out to my “brochacho” that decided to tag along on this trip! Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to go on this trip of a lifetime.
Hope you all enjoyed this week’s blog post! If you have any questions regarding my trip to Japan, don’t hesitate to ask. If you’ve missed last week’s post on my first 10K experience, click here! As always, don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!
“The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.”
Book of the Month: “The Science of Getting Rich” by Wallace D Wattles