Last summer, I went to Japan for two weeks as my second quitting-my-job vacation. I went to the main cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, as well as Matsumoto in the “Japan Alps.” I also climbed Mt. Fuji. Japan to me, is a vastly fascinating nation, and beautiful too. I first visited it before my last year of university, over six years ago, but as part of a Taiwan tour group. We visited some nice rural attractions across the nation, but I felt I hadn’t really experienced Japan. So I decided after quitting my job last year to go for a solo journey. I was able to experience the history in Kyoto, the great scenery of Tateyama and Mt. Fuji, and the ultramodern and bustling cities of Tokyo and Osaka. The sights were interesting, the buildings were attractive and the streets were orderly, the temples were impressive, and the people, specifically service staff, were polite.
Despite this, Japan isn’t all shiny and great. I don’t support its geopolitical stances such as its purposefully ignorant attitude towards its WWII atrocities. I’m also aware of its serious social problems such as its sexual perversions, which carry over from private obsession to public behavior, teen bullying and a growing number of people who don’t work, play computer games all the time, or who spend all their money on buying clothes and other consumer goods. Materialism is very apparent, as are quirky stuff like maid cafes and places catering to all kinds of sexual behavior.
Most of all, I’d read a lot about how insular Japan is, especially or ironically despite its prosperity. People seem to ignore outside influences, news, and culture. People supposedly speak less English than in Taiwan or mainland China. Less Japanese study overseas now than decades ago, and having a Western degree can actually hinder Japanese in getting jobs in their country. Other Asians, especially Chinese, are looked down upon. I did get a vivid sense of this insularity and arrogance, having actually been pointed out at times when walking on the street or on the subway. In addition, while Japan is wealthy and developed, there’s also visible poverty such as rough neighborhoods in Osaka or homeless in a major Tokyo park.
I also had one of my worst travel experiences when my 2-hour train stopped at a station and did not move for almost 2 hours! That one stop doubled my journey, so I pulled into my stop almost 2 hours after the intended time. There was no English announcement or staff around, and the other Japanese passengers were so calm so I sat for those 2 hours unable to do anything. On the plus side, the staff at train stations, subways and diners wherever I went were very polite and helpful.
To be honest, Osaka was the most interesting city (I’ve already written about it for my papers) while Tokyo was a little disappointing. Kyoto was very decent, while Mt Fuji was spectacular. Tateyama, in the Japan Alps, was good, though bad weather prevented me from experiencing the full effect.
It’s definitely a place to visit if you’re in Asia or even halfway around the world.
I flew from Taipei to Osaka, spent a few days there, then went to Kyoto by train. I spent a few days there as well, then went to the holiday town of Matsumoto by train. I went to Tateyama for a daytrip, which was the main reason I’d gone to Matsumoto. I then went to Tokyo for the final leg of my trip, again by train. After one day in Tokyo, I went to Kawaguchiko, where I spent a day climbing Mt Fuji, and then returned to Tokyo for two days before departing back to Taipei.
-Osaka castle- despite being a reconstruction, it’s a handsome structure with a museum inside about one of Japan’s most famous “rulers” and the top provides a good 360-degree view of the park and surrounding area.
-Aquarium- full of cool sea life, the first time I’ve seen whale sharks.
-Temples and old houses- this needs no explanation.
-Nijo castle-despite being a one-story structure, it’s actually quite decent, and features the “nightingale” security floor, in which certain panels squeak as you walk on them, which served to deter intruders.
-National museum- I like museums and this one featured a lot of good stuff, including an entire building with Asian and Egyptian artifacts.
-Shittenoji temple-an impressive temple with a lively merchant pedestrian street leading up to the entrance.
-Shinjuku crossing- probably the most famous street intersection in the world due to the mass number of people who cross when the lights turn red.