“the landscape from up above intrigued me and gave me immediately a sense of purpose. When the plane landed I was drawn in to the speech patterns I heard all around me and the sweet faces of the Japanese people. Their very controlled gestures were polite and very positive. As we rushed to the train to make our way to our hotel, I began to feel overwhelmed and my body became heavy from the long haul to Tokyo. Standing in the correct lineup waiting for our train I started to realize how immaculate everything was, and this was further confirmed when the train pulled in and a crew of cleaners appeared to thoroughly scrub the train and turn each of the revolving seats so that they would face the direction the train would be taking. I sunk into my seat and was battling desperately with my eyes shutting. I wanted to take it all in. The train ride was uneventful but what I did notice was that although there were numerous Japanese babies on board there was complete silence. Not one baby cried; they were all content being held tightly in their respective mother’s arms, and I can’t lie, so was I. It was around 9am that we finally arrive at our hotel, checked in and realized we had to wait for our room until 2pm so out we went to explore the surroundings. The weather – gently warm with a bit of a breeze – was just enough to keep me awake. It did not take very long for me to feel like a tiny ant among giant city skyscrapers uniquely shaped to fit a range of talented architects’ ideas of what the city should look like. It was impressive! I stood and watched as the Japanese people, cars, bikes, buses went about their business like these tall creatures did not exist. To me the city felt heavy and shady from these tall structures but I stood there admiring them. Walking up and down these streets I started to feel dizzy and being up for more than 24 hours straight did not help my mental state at all. Back at the hotel however, we were rewarded with a high up, albeit tiny, room with panoramic views even from the bathroom. After a long bath overlooking the city and a nap I was hungry. We wanted a local experience. Japanese soul food was what our hearts desired, so we walked into a restaurant that fit very much the local criteria. But: we were turned away, something about no tourists. Damn it. Our hunt led us into a very small restaurant with paper-thin windows and charming bamboo sliding doors. The chef cooking waved us in, an old woman took our coats hung them on the wall and proceeded to gesture for us to sit down at the only two seats that were available around the chef’s cooking area. We looked around and saw only locals and we soon started to realize no one spoke an ounce of English. We pointed at the dishes our neighbours were enjoying and received a nod. Minutes later a soup arrive with lots of umami and Japanese mushrooms, four different kinds of pickled (something), a beef skewer, and a warm sake. The soup was, well, AMAZING! The broth was delicious! The pickled somethings were perfectly matched to the taste of the grilled skewer and let’s just say the sake was the best I have had. Still, I couldn’t help feeling ripped off when I was handed my jacket, and walking out I thought, “huh, how could that cost €70?” I considered that meal to be our tourist fees into the country and left it at that. Rightfully so, because it would turn out that would be the most expensive meal in Tokyo.”
Ramen places are dime a dozen and honestly they are all amazing! You can’t go wrong with any of them. If you want a local experience look at the line up outside and if you see lots of locals then you are in the right place! We avoided places with plastic English menus in the window and it worked out perfectly for us. I will be posting at the end each post all the places we went to and my personal rating.
“Tokyo is a fast paced city that throws a lot of curve balls at you, like no one being able to speak proper English; learning how to operate the toilets, and knowing that at any point you could experience an earthquake. You leave all this behind and somehow you are drawn in. I was drawn in by their meticulous practices when it came to just about anything from cutting an apple to wrapping a present, their reasons for wearing surgical masks, their gesture preciseness, their perfectly manicured gardens, their love and now my love for matcha and so on.
…How can a culture carry such prestige while being so self-sustained and not depend on any other country for anything? I will answer this once I am finished reading my history book about Japan. I have a suspicion this book might provide me with answers.”
I will try very much to retell my Japan experience through a mixture of personal immediate thoughts I wrote down while I was there and my recollections looking back on the trip. I thought this would be appropriate because Japan has a lot to offer and I would not do it justice to talk about specific places I have been and provide a rough sketch. So here you find a mix of my emotions and at the same time I try to put puzzle piece together to answer questions that I personally had/have.
The style may not be linear but then again what is?
Stay classy world and tune in next week for more of my thoughts on Tokyo and leads on Kyoto.