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Hey there Happy Travelers! I recenlty got back from my second trip to Japan and am so thrilled to be able to share what I've learned the second time around.
I was lucky enough to get to try a few new things and I now have a few new Japan favorites. You can also check out my Top 5 sites and Japan travel tips from last year as well. Japan is such a diverse and beautiful place that there's no way that two weeks could give you enough to see and do it all. Now that I've been there twice, I can say that I'm completely in love with Japan. Let me count the ways...
Dear Japan, you keep surprising me...
When you visit Japan, you'll notice some things right away that will surprise you. Tokyo, a city with over 13 million people is ridiculously clean and quite. How they manage to keep things so quite and calm with so much happening, I have no idea. Part of it, is that people, in general, are more consciences of those around them. People don't talk on their cellphones in public, you won't hear music blasting, or see people eating on the train. All of this politeness, creates a very calm atmosphere. This gives you the impression that Japanese people tend to be reserved and quite and certainly not loud or boisterous. I knew that everyone in Japan couldn't possibly be calm and polite all the time. But, to be honest, I rarely saw anything to the contrary.
That was until I went to a baseball game.
Now, you might be saying " I don't like baseball, I don't even like sports". I'm convinced that it doesn't matter when watching it in Japan. I was with a group of people, some big baseball fans, and some who never watch it, and we all had a blast. While the essentials of the sport are the same as American baseball, the fan experience is not.
The fans cheer, not stop, the.whole.game. There is a set cheer for each player. Luckily, there was an elderly lady sitting behind us, who had her daughter print out all the cheers for her and she helped us learn what each of them were. She was the best! Here is a video of some of the cheering going on.
Note: This video only features about half of the food breaks I took. No, a baseball game isn't usually long enough to eat 4 times, but what can I say? Don't judge! The video quality is only so so, and to be honest, it only does a modest job of capturing the energy in the stadium. It was such a fun game!
If you find yourself at a game, you too will end up spending the whole game cheering, and laughing, and just having an amazing time. It's one of those stark contrasts that makes Japan so interesting. It's so easy to make vast generalizations about different parts of the world. This was one of those experiences where you see that people are people, and we are all a lot more complex and interesting than you could ever realized from a short visit, even if that realization comes over hot dogs and beer.
Japan is more than sprawling cities
You wouldn't be alone if your image of Japan was just sprawling city side. While there is plenty of that, there's also gorgeous country side, mountains other than Mt. Fuji, and plenty of quite parts of the country to spend some time recharging.
During this trip, I got got spend about 3 days in a region called Toyama. In Toyama, there's a mountain call Teteyama. There's an Alpine Route through the mountains, where you'll see the famous snow tunnel. I was there in June, and there was still a snow tunnel, although it wasn't as impressive as you'd see earlier in the season. You'll take a series of buses, trams, trains, and a suspended aerial gondola to reach the Kurobe Dam. The whole journey is gorgeous, and you'll experience so much along they way. We saw waterfalls, monkeys, and pristine blue rivers. The peak of Teteyama is 10,000 ft, so it's quite the journey.
Toyama is on the west coast of Japan and is famous for their fresh seafood, sake, and their hot pools. Long story short, there's a lot to do in Japan that isn't in the city.
How the old world and new world live together
I was wondering around Tokyo after dinner and stumbled upon this beautiful place nestled right between two skyscrapers. If you look closely, you can see the buildings rising up all around it. This isn't unusual. The Imperial Palace is right across the street from super modern high rise buildings.
Tokyo is a city where you'll feel incredibly safe. Which is perfect for wandering around and getting a little lost. You'll find subway stations all over the place which means, even if you do get lost, you can easily get back to where you were going. If you ever visit Tokyo, I'd really recommend veering off the path from time to time. I found temples that I had no idea were there, and wouldn't have even know to go looking for.
One night, I found this traditional yakitori restaurant, which was amazing. Yakitori is typically chicken grilled on skewers over a charcoal grill. This place grilled vegetables, clams, various meats, all sort of things. The cook, sat on the floor, on his knees, in front of a large charcoal grill built off the floor.
You'd order you food from the options in front of you, he'd then scoop it up with a large wooden spatula that was about 5 feet long. He'd grill it up, right in front of you, and then deliver it to you on the wooden spatula. It was one of the coolest dining experiences I had there. Unfortunately, they said I couldn't take any pictures inside. It seemed like one of those local spots that they didn't want the word getting out about. Lucky for them, I found it by wondering down a series of alleys, and couldn't tell you how to get there if I wanted to. But! My point is, when in Japan, you should schedule some time to just wonder around...and see where it takes you.
There's so much more to discover
Within just the realm of sweets, there's a universe of information that I couldn't tell you about Japan. You can find all sorts of interesting candies, cakes, dessert hot dogs, banana cakes that are all the rage, oh and the never ending list of Kit Kat flavors to try.
I foolishly didn't buy these. I spotted this during our trip to the top of Teteyama, and didn't think schlepping this with me the whole way was wise, only to find out that the sake flavor is extremely hard to find. ARH! Both times I've gone, I've made it mission to try more flavors. I don't think I'll ever get them all, but I'm gonna try!
Woah, sorry, I digressed. I was telling you that there's so much to discover, and it's true. My point being, that no matter what time of year you go, or how many times you've been, you'r going to discover something else fascinating about Japan and just maybe that you love it too.
I could have given you a list of my personal favorite restaurants, or shopping spots, or temples. But, from my experience, I keep finding something new and amazing around every corner, and giving you a list would be a disservice. Go, discover, and make your own list of things you love about Japan. It won't be hard to do.
Have you been to Japan? What do you love most?
No matter what you love most, or where you're going, don't forget to travel happy!
Hi there! I'm Skeeter. I grew up moving a lot and that makes me a bit restless for travel and exploration. I started this blog with my husband Pat when we decided to backpack New Zealand for a year. We are always looking for the next adventure and are loving life. We're just your average couple with two sassy dogs and a love for travel. We're sharing our travels and the tips we pick up along the way.
Hello! I'm Liz. Blogging is very new to me, but I'm so excited to finally write as much as I talk!
"Don't forget to travel happy"-Skeeter & Liz