Japan Travel: Experience Tradition & Modernity

I want to be honest. Japan was not a country, which was on top of my travel wishlist. But sometimes things are different from what you think. And you almost get forced into happiness. If I had already known before about my trip, how wonderful Japan is, I would have traveled there earlier.

It is one of those countries where you cannot get out of the astonishment as it has so much to offer. It is more than I could ever have guessed and more than I could take in my 2 weeks there. Japan is a land of delicious food, beautiful nature, and the friendliest people.

After 15 hours flight to Japan, I swore to stay awake. But somehow I get so tired from fatigue that I fall asleep. I wake up without orientation, with a pounding headache. Below me shine the lights of Tokyo Bay.

A half-full backpack, 1 ticket for the Shinkansen and 1000 Yen, that's all I have beside my excitement. I've been waiting for 20 years.

I leaf through the Japan Experience travel guide on my table. And now I do not want to get out of the plane. What if things go wrong? What if my big dream is a bubble and I get back with a case full of disappointment?

With the stream of the other passengers, I let myself drift through the airport. As I walked out of the corridor, an airport employee bowed in a friendly fashion. 'Thank you for visiting Japan!' A canvas shows a kitschy Mount Fuji with cherry blossoms. I am a bit confused by the surreal level of friendliness offered to me at every corner.

The next morning, I wake up at 4 o'clock. The sun has not come out, although the Japanese country name actually means the "Land of the Rising Sun." I've been bothering my head for months of what I'll see in two weeks. I want to see everything! I would have to move at the speed of light. So I take the second quickest thing in this part of the earth, the Shinkansen.

With the high-speed train and almost 320 km/h, in the next few days, I travel from Tokyo to Osaka, and Kyoto to Hiroshima. Actually, I had to see both the South and the North and of course, the Holy Fuji. The North is now covered in deep snow. And in the south, I have underestimated the length of the route and the prices.

Mt. Fuji || Hi Fuji!


But that does not matter, I enjoy the Shinkansen. I also get a typical Japanese meal in a nice box, which you can buy at every station. I am most pleased with the presentation of the rice with a Umeboshi plum on top. The rice looks like the flag of Japan.

While I was passing large cities, villages, and mountains, I almost had the majestic view of Mount Fuji. The businessmen who are sitting with me on the train are already smiling at how I stick my nose to the glass. The Fuji disappears somewhere behind the facades. I saw the Fuji so close, but only for 2 minutes, but I was closer to it now than in Tokyo, the day before.

Osaka || When a potato turns into an octopus


On my program in Osaka is Kuromon Ichiba. It is a sheltered market that offers all sorts of tasty Japanese cuisine. Older ladies do their normal shopping here. While the tourists photograph the fish and seafood. I watch three dancing ball fish in an aquarium until I realize that these are "fugu". I move on to a stand to eat fried potatoes. I hope that I get the potatoes with cheese filling. When I bite, I taste cheese, but the potato, unfortunately, turns out to be in the form of pressed octopus.

I'm actually vegetarian, an octopus is not on my menu. And yet, the same mishap happened to me at a shack in front of Osaka Castle. Only this time it is octopus balls in sauce. It is fate that I have eaten Takoyaki. After all, Osaka is famous for its seafood specialties. The Osaka Castle is not only a perfect reproduction of the original. It is an important contrast to the modern high-rise buildings of the metropolis of Osaka.

Kyoto || Temples, snow, and myths


Also my next stop Kyoto combines modernity and history in a very typical style of Japan. In contrast to Tokyo, Kyoto is almost a small town. What I liked most about Kyoto is the variety of cultural attractions. The Fushimi Inari Taisha, the golden temple, and the bamboo forest are 3 places you cannot miss in Kyoto.

More than 14 shrines and temples in the old imperial city are UNESCO World Heritages. I can only visit 4 of them, as the main part is not in the center, but on the slopes of the mountains that surround the city. I have planned several days for Kyoto so as not to miss the best sights, but I could have spent my entire two weeks here.

It begins to snow as I arrive at the top of the temple complex of Kiyomizu-Dera. There are young women in kimono walking past me, and I shiver at the sight. The promised outlook over Kyoto is unfortunately blocked by the gray snow clouds. But the buildings from the year 1633 alone are worth the steep climb.

Many myths surround the temple. I am happy that my trip could not be any better and even surpassed my feverish expectations. I get back to the center of Kyoto. I find the food stalls on the way but I ignore after my double octopus debacle.

Hiroshima || Kissed by a holy deer


From my next station, Hiroshima, I take the regional train to Itsukushima. It is a small island that is one of the three greatest wonders of Japan under the name of Miyajima. I find the semi-wild deer roaming on the island.

The animals are already accustomed to visitors. In front of the Torii, three deer pose in a group photo as if they were also part of the tourist group. The deer, by the way, is a sacred animal here, since according to legend they are the messengers of the gods.

I console myself with the fact that the spit-spot of the pushy deer on my jacket might bring luck. At sunset, I drive again from the island. The sun glimmers violet through the mountains. The shrine of Itsukushima glitters one more time as a reflection in the water.



Japan, My Love


I would not like to go back to Tokyo tomorrow, but instead, go for a walk through Japan. My backpack is now filled with Japanese sweets, curry paste, clothes, and green tea. It also contains the best memories of a trip I've ever had.

As I sit in the plane, the airport staff waved in a row on the runway to farewell. Although the friendliness of the Japanese is famous, I am always touched again and again. Japan is something special, whether it is the sights, nature or the people. And I would at any time exchange 2 weeks vacation in Bali against 2 weeks in the winter through Japan.

2 weeks in Japan were not enough, but at least a beginning. Choosing a route was difficult because there is so much to see and there is so little time left. You should consider exactly what you want to see and what you want to save for a second visit (you always need a reason to come back!).

Japan is a country with a long tradition and culture. It has beautiful landscapes, quiet temples, beautiful ski resorts, and secluded islands. It is also home to one of the largest cities in the world. This mix of modernity and tradition is something you should experience.

Japan Travel: Experience Tradition & Modernity

  1. Japan is at the top of my list to travel. I think I'd need a month to do so though.

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  2. Japan definitely seems like interesting country to visit! Great post!

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  3. A perfect and detailed post.will certainly save this for my next trip.

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  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. The 15 hours on a plane is a long time so sleep is always good.

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  5. I loved reading your post and learning a bit about Japan! My brother and his family were there last year and had a wonderful experience. Sounds like such an amazing country to visit!

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  6. That sounds like an amazing trip! It's not at the top of my list either, but I would like to go eventually.

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  7. I would love to go to Japan. The thought of such a long flight is really off putting, but I doubt they will move it closer.

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  8. What a wonderful trip...Will definitely bookmark this site when am planning my trip

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  9. I would thoroughly enjoy a vacation to Japan. I've always wanted to visit the gardens there. And I'm sure I would enjoy the Japanese cuisine.

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  10. You ate the octopus! You are very brave. It sounds like a wonderful trip.

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  11. Amazing Itinerary! We're actually going to Japan very soon and we can't wait to discover such a beautiful country!

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  12. Well it IS on my list and your post made me want to check it out! I would have loved to see some pictures.

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  13. A 2 week trip to Japan would be a dream vacation. It is on my bucket list but not at the top. I'm not an experience foreign traveler so places in the UK and Europe will come before Japan. Richard B

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  14. When I will go to Japan I would love to visit Kyoto first. I have read some books that introduced me to the Kyoto of the 15th century, a fascinating world of geishas. I'd love to walk around the old town and try to spot a true geisha.

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  15. I've always been intrigued with Japan. The culture, the beautiful landscape....I'd love to visit!

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  16. Thank you for sharing your experience! It sounds like you had a great time. A lot of Japanese vacation on Oahu. Whenever I would visit I always admired how friendly and happy they were. I would love to have the chance to travel there.

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  17. Japan sounds amazing! I would love to be able to travel to Japan and experience all it has to offer first hand . . .

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  18. Japan is one place that I have never been but always wanted to. Now you have made that even more true!

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  19. I dont remember when is the start I became obsessed on studying Japan's culture and the people. And one thing I realized, I have lots of things that needs to know and learn, its a nonstop learning. And I never get tired of it.

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  20. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Japan twice but I still need to return as thee is so much to see. Like you I am a vegetarian and the first time in Japan I struggled so badly to get something to eat. It was better the second time luckily! Lovely review, I can’t wait to visit again.

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