Sunday, August 3, 2014

Japan... Trip of a Lifetime

Japan. I hardly know where to begin describing this incredible, deeply moving adventure. Fun, beautiful, unforgettable, scary, life-changing, and that's only skimming the surface. I traveled alone for 2 weeks for the first time ever. I crossed the country and stayed at hostels mainly, with a couple of nights in ryokans (traditional guest houses), a night in a manga cafe (oops) and another night in an actual hotel. Hee. ~embarrassed smile~ More on those further down.








I'm going to swipe an idea from the magnificent Trisha Leigh. Trisha took an amazing trip throughout Europe... you should snoop her Facebook page and see! She wrote up a list of her favorite things to sum up her journey. Here are mine:



Diana's Top Eight Most Favorite Things About 
Her Incredible Trip to Japan

1. Favorite food: Ebiyaki on a stick!

I don't remember what it was *exactly* called, but it's this super tasty kabob sort of thing with battered squid, onions, bacon, and deliciousness all fried on a stick! Crunch-crunch-yum!

 Runners up: All the sweets and cakes in Hakone! I love treats. Also, Tsukiji's sushi, Hiroshima's okonomiyaki, Fukuoka's raman, Osaka's appetizers, Maid Cafe ice cream sundaes... can everything be the runner up?! Everything except umeboshi :( :( #neveragain
 









2. Favorite natural sights: Hakone!
I loved relaxing in onsen, seeing Mt. Fuji, the forest, the lake, everything about this city was truly lovely. I would try very hard to make this a part of every future Japan trip.






Runners up: Nikko (serene, with gorgeous shrines), Miyajima Island (breathtaking views from the hilltop and an incredible temple), and Nara (so friendly! And sooo many deer roaming the streets!). 











3. Favorite part of Tokyo: Harajuku!
It's so unique, crazy, fun... I don't think I could have understood Harajuku without going there and experiencing it for myself. Lots of one-of-a-kind items, too!

Runners up: Akihabara (Sex store! Gaming! Maid Cafes!), Ikebukuro (Fashion! Girly shopping!), and Asakusa (Tourist shopping! Geisha district! Extremely cool vibe).


4. Favorite thing to do at night: All-Night Karaoke!
A private room with disco lights and a sound system with English and Japanese songs, it felt like my hostel-buddies and I rented our own private night club! With one flat-rate for all the alcohol, fountain drinks, ice cream, and french fries we wanted, and a hostess who delivered our goodies within minutes of pushing buttons on an iPad, this was a high-tech and uniquely Japanese experience. I would have done it more than once if I could have.










   

Runners up: Shibuya (so many bars!), izakayas (anywhere!), seeing Odaiba at night (Rainbow Bridge! The huge Ferris wheel! Fuji TV building all lit up and synched with music! The HUMONGOUS Gandam!). 

5. Favorite thing to do during the day: Sight-see and try new foods!
I could fill an entire blog-post series on either of these topics. Sufficed to say, I tried every new food I saw, and old favorites too. And I took every opportunity I could to see famous sights or little-known gems. Shrines, temples, museums, shopping districs, nature, city-life, there was more to see than I could have fit into two weeks. No wonder I'm already daydreaming about my next trip.

Runner up: Onsen... this is absolute bliss. I wondered if I would feel shy about the experience, but I loved it and I hope to work this experience into any future trips to Japan!

6. Favorite place to sight-see: Kyoto!
So many gorgeous buildings preserved for centuries, I loved seeing things as they once were in Japan, walking through the very places where emperors and samurai walked. Nijo-jo had floors that sang like nightingales, and Kinkaku-ji was covered in real gold.



 Very Close Runner up: Miyajima Island. I love this area so much. Both Itsukushima Shrine (sadly I didn't get to see it during high-tide when it's "floating", but impressive nonetheless!) and Daisho-in temple are magnificent. I love the small shops and restaurants, too.
 









7. Favorite uniquely Japan experience: 
Traditional Tea Ceremony, complete with kimono! 

I will never forget my friend Naoe. After a night and day together, I visited her at her home and her mother graciously offered to perform a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. She even dressed me in one of her own kimono. It was a genuine honor and it's a memory I cherish. <3


Runners up: Um... everything!!
Lawsons on every corner, train travel, vending machines *everywhere*, revolving sushi, the Ghibli Museum, maid cafes, a 7-story sex shop, highly specific escalator travel, McDonald's delivery scooters, funny signs, characters all over the place, strangers asking for pictures, sakura, kissatens, female-anatomy-shaped treats, and futuristic toilets that play soothing noises and leave a burst of pleasant fragrance as you leave, complete with warmed seats and bidet with strength/temperature controls... ~sigh~. I miss those toilets.





8. Favorite mistake: Missing my flight home and getting interviewed by Japanese TV!
WHAT.
Yes, yes, I missed my flight and was in tears at the airport, but it all turned out okay. Thanks to the extremely helpful agent at Singapore Air, who saw my sad attempts at sleeping at the airport and managed to reimburse me enough of my flight-change fee to cover a stay at a hotel--she even searched nearby hotels and booked one I would never have been able to afford on my own. THEN the next day after returning to the airport, I was randomly chosen by a small Fuji TV crew to be interviewed for their morning variety show! That wouldn't have happened if I had come home as planned the day before. Yay for happy accidents! ^_^


Runner up (...there were so many mistakes, how could I choose just one?): Getting back from the snow-monkey park TOO LATE and missing my train to Kyoto, which meant I had to wander the streets of Nagano in search of a bed... I ended up in an all-night manga cafe! It felt like I was having a private slumber party!

So there you have it! I loved this trip. <3

I would have made this a top-ten list, except I've already taken an hour to write this post, doh! If you have questions about my trip, traveling alone, best/worst things about my trip, etc etc etc, just ask away. :) You can contact me by commenting here, on Facebook or twitter, or emailing me at: email@dianapaz.com.

I hope you liked my Japan trip recap.
Thanks for reading! じゃね!

xo
Di