Monday, 8 February 2016

What to Expect When in Japan: A Photo Diary

Photo diaries are one of my absolute favourite types of post to look at.  You essentially get to experience other people's travels through pure, unadulterated photographic pleasure, while conveniently bypassing all the stress of 'oh shit I lost my passport and all my cash and my cards' or the bewilderment of 'I haven't pooed in 9 days' (two phenomena I unfortunately suffered from, simultaneously, while away).  Photo diaries are also perfect for a Monday, when you need to ease yourself into the week and can't do with too many words on a page at any one time.  So my friends, feast your eyes upon the cream of the crop from my recent 2 week trip to Japan (read more about that by following this link)... Here's what to expect:

 Gates: These just seem to be the done thing.  Expect to find them pretty much everywhere, in all shapes and sizes.  

Water: For me, there was a surprising amount of the stuff.  Plenty of lakes, rivers and even beaches.  There's also quite a few opportunities to travel on boats, for example you could get the boat from Kurihama across to Kanaya to see the giant buddha at Mount Nokogiri, which provided a pleasant break from trains and buses.  

'The God of Happiness' (so cute)

Buddhas (and other carvings): Tons of these, too.  Check out the aforementioned Mt Nokogiri, or Kamakura for some of my favourites.  

 Kanji: These are some of the characters used to write in Japanese.  They're beautiful, completely incomprehensible to the unenlightened Westerner, and exist pretty much everywhere you look.  

Me looking rather smug next to a giant fish. 

Fiver for whoever can tell me all the ingredients in this... Even after eating it I had no idea.

Fish: There is a lot of fish in Japan.  From the tiny to the threateningly large, you don't have to look out for these bad boys because you'll see them wherever you go regardless.  Some fish more tempting than others, we managed to resist the 'fried pond smelt' for 200 yen.  Fish fanatics should definitely check out the Tsukiji fish market and surrounding area.  


Views: From bustling streets and city centres to breathtakingly tranquil countryside, you won't be short of views wherever you go.  One of the many things I especially loved about Japan was one minute being in the stiflingly hectic metropolis of Tokyo, before hopping on a train and within an hour being in the heart of absolutely nowhere, surrounded by mountains and moss and roots and greenery.  Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the ever majestic Mt Fuji, which was sprinkled with snow during our trip.


Shrines: (and temples, and more shrines).  Here I feel it's appropriate to introduce some new vocabulary which will become central to any tourist in Japan: the state of being, known as 'shrined out', is one I had never experienced until being in Japan.  Around the 3/4 day mark, you'll probably realise what I mean...  There are a lot of shrines.  Some of my favourites were definitely in Kyoto, which is well worth a visit just to see the mind-boggling golden temple (don't forget your sunglasses, because that gold is bright, I'm telling you). These shrines (etc.) also often involve many, many steps.  I'm going to sound like your mum now and tell you to take good walking shoes.


Capsule Hotels: These are a reasonably common accommodation option in Japan.  We stayed in one in Kyoto called Nine Hours and I have to say, if you get the chance it's definitely worth the experience.  For around £15 for the night (try and book online before for the best offers), you too can sleep in a pod that is ever so slightly reminiscent of the bunk bed I used to share with my sister, but with a whole lot more sophistication.  You even get pyjamas, toothbrush and toothpaste, all your toiletries and some little slippers, too.  

Bamboo/Gardens/Other General Nature Stuff: Japan is also a nature-lover's heaven.  I was a particular fan of the everlasting Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and it's definitely worth getting to a Zen Garden or two.  There's something almost eerily peaceful about the traditional Japanese gardens, which feature carpets of mossy ground, gnarled, ancient trees and cool, still water.  

There were also these last few photos which I really wanted to include but for some reason was struggling to categorise, except perhaps for under the title of 'The Unexpected'.  

The infamous 'McChoco Chips'

Err... this section on the same floor as the children's toys...

The most fetching headgear

Buddhas under construction

Instructions, in case you forget

Bus stops that look like games

An insy winsy person in a rather large costume

A salon for dogs

And the cutest of pooches

As always, arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) for reading, and don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin' if you likey.  For the record, I did manage to get my passport (and all the cash, and my debit cards) back, by some incredible stroke of luck.  Having unknowingly dropped a zipped purse containing those all-important items at a bus stop while travelling in Kyoto, I realised half an hour later whilst about to enter a temple that I consequently didn't have any money, any way of getting money, or the vital document I needed to get home at the end of our trip, and had lost it in the city we were going to be leaving that evening.  We spent half a day despondently searching for the lost items - filing police reports in Japanese, hopping on and off every number 12 bus we could see, attempting to communicate with bus companies about a 'lost passport' (they mainly thought we wanted to buy a bus ticket) and trying not to combust after taking what turned out to be a few too many laxatives (if you're confused, go back to the beginning of this post), we had pretty much given up.  

We resumed our original sightseeing itinerary for the day, the passport a distant memory...  as evening came and it was time to get the train home, we thought we'd ask one last time in the tourist office at the station.  Lo and behold, the purse had just been handed in!  We made a final desperate journey to the police box we had been directed to where we were informed that a Chinese tourist had handed it in, after finding it on the floor at the bus stop (the shameful carelessness of the whole affair, I know).  To my joy, all my cash, cards and passport were still intact, and the day ended with great relief for both me and Chiara, who remained ever-patient and calm throughout the whole ordeal (she's the best, really).  That's the great thing about Japan, which is so hard to put into words.  The whole time we were searching, people were so friendly and kind.  Everyone seems to be incredibly considerate and honest, and very willing to help without asking for anything in return.  Japan is host to a whole array of sensory treats; mouth-watering, buttery aromas, the boom of a city pulsing with movement, the salty flavour of the fresh sea breeze... but it would be nothing without its people, too, who are endlessly delightful, attentive, patient and kind.  I had the best two weeks of my life, and would recommend it to anyone in an instant.