Once I got back from our two-week trip to Japan, I looked at a stash of 2500+ pictures (not to mention another 1000+ cell phone shots documenting snippets of the crazy Japanese lifestyle). Where to start? While I still don’t know how to tackle this almost insurmountable task, I decided to share a few iconic shots with you that embody what for me was the essence of Japan’s craziness.
Before we left, we watched a youtube channel called #onlyinjapan, featuring all sorts of Japanese unique events and traditions, for example a Japan toilet guide, Takeshita street with its crazy youth fashion, Ramen Alley for their iconic soup bowls, how to enjoy your visit to a traditional Onsen, street food guides and so on. If you are planning a trip to Japan, I highly recommend these series as a source of preparation.
Upon arrival, the first contact with something “Japan unique” is the toilets – literally every toilet, even at train stations, airports, metro stations etc has those extra functions pictured above – the seat is heated and there are water spray functions for front and rear spraying and sometimes even an air dryer. But be aware, even if you get surprised by the splash, stay seated, otherwise you get unpleasantly wet – the orange button is always the stop sign!
Tourists – loads of them. The Japanese tourists traveling in their own country often dressed up in traditional clothing when visiting old temple areas like in Kyoto, adding a pop of color to the dark wood buildings. I really loved how colorful the kimonos were and how delicate the fabric and artwork. Every piece seemed to be made with love and dedication and the perfect make-up and hair-do that all Japanese ladies wear completed the picture. How do they do it, day in day out?
Tori madness – more than 3000 Tori lead the way up to Fushimi-Inari shrine. Inari is a warrantor for good business, so the business people of the region built up those tori to guarantee for their success.
Buying a train ticket feels like playing a video game. The machine is talking to you, the screen is flashing up in different colors, and the whole machine looks like a slot machine straight out of a casino.
The art of queing – there is a system to queue everywhere. Different for buses and trains. However, there are detailed plans on the floor to guide you where to stand in line.
A ferry wheel on top of a shopping mall – why not. The things you do when in Japan.
Shopping lane – the image only conveys the visual stimulation with all the flashing lights and ad signs. Now add all kinds off loud speakers blurting out music or advertisement slogans for the real deal. Crazy and exhausting.
Street food – a bowl of Udon noodles keeps you full for the whole day (literally). Best consumed boiling hot and slurping the noodles with the sticks with as much slurping sound as possible. Like the locals.
Takeshita street – crazy bold youth fashion and even more noise from all the ad speakers.
At some point we craved some fresh fruit – almost impossible to find in this country where all the food is processed and wrapped in at least three layers of plastic. But we found a fruit store. And bought a ginormous peach for 5 €. All the fruit and vegetable come in this size. Is this a post-atomic effect?
Pachinko – full of slot machines and games. Bursting the loudest music. With the flickering screen and the noise, you go nuts in there. Side note: I won the game!
Shibuya crossing – when thousands of people in this busy Tokyo suburb cross the street at every green phase. Pure craziness.
Hiking trail – when hiking on the hardest trail listed on the map. On concrete. Next to the highway. We didn’t quite grasp the Japanese concept of nature and their relation to it. There was almost no outdoor seating at cafés or restaurants, even at beautiful beaches everything was indoors. Once they turn to outdoor activities though, they show up in full mountain gear, to follow a concrete trail or little tartan path.
This trip was definitely a new level of craziness and it’s safe to say that I haven’t been laughing as much on any other trip I embarked on. Thank you, Japan, for welcoming us with open arms with your kind people. You never ceased to surprise us.