Category Archives: Japan

Tokyo

This will by far be my shortest entry relating to Tokyo.  Anyone who knows me would quickly tell you I’m really not a big city person.  Yes, I love the energy of many large cities, but the sheer amount of people who live in large cities tends to put me off immediately.  I only spent 2 days in Tokyo, and most of my time honestly was spent trying to find a cheap last minute ticket to my next destination: Hawaii!

I will say that the hostel I stayed at, while quiet and affordable, left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  It was primarily because of the front desk attendant.  I’m not sure if he was the owner or not, but he was rather pushy in trying to get information out of me, which I considered to be personal.  He also constantly tried to get me to take a picture with him.  Maybe it was his excitement of having people from all over and he was trying to do some sort of collage with customers, but his approach to it all was just unsettling.  And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, as several others at the hostel voiced their concerns as well.

In any event, while I did not explore much of Tokyo at all, I did google ‘Top things to do in Tokyo’ and settled on going to see the World’s busiest street crossing: Shibuya Street.  I know, its ironic that of all places, having just written that I hate crowds, that I would pick the most congested part of the city to visit.  I didn’t expect to like it at all, but regardless made my way one evening to see what it was all about.

Shibuya crossing is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world.  According to one site (Worldatlas.com) approximately 2,500 pedestrians cross at a time from every direction.  If memory serves, 5 streets joined at a central point in front of Shibuya station and all lights turn red at the same time, allowing for pedestrians to cross from every direction.  Again, I didn’t expect to like it, but my mind definitely changed when there.  Just watching people cross, and participating myself in the middle of dozens of buildings lit up to the hilt with every possible advertisement… I don’t know, I became mesmerized by it all.  While being incredibly busy, somehow it just didn’t have that feel to it.  It was organized chaos in a strange way, and all the lights at night made it feel so beautiful.

As I’m reading on Worldatlas.com about the crossing, I realized I absolutely missed out on a statue that I would have loved to have noticed… Apparently the Hachiko Statue is there!!  Reading that now I’m so bummed I didn’t notice it as I am an avid dog lover!!  Ah, well, guess I have to go back, lol!!

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Fujisan aka Fujiyama

I took a bus to Mt. Fuji after my delightful time in Kyoto and found myself in yet another awe inspiring part of Japan.  I stayed at the Backpackers Hostel K’s House Mt. Fuji, near Lake Kawagughiko  for I believe 5 days to a week and wasted no time wandering around the town (as I normally do) getting acquainted with my surroundings and occasionally lost.

My favorite memories of staying at Mt. Fuji, were of course the volcano itself, the day tour I engaged in, the surprise of meeting a celebrity (Jeannie Mai from the TV show ‘How Do I Look?’ and last but not least having an hour long conversation over dinner with an old Japanese man, who spoke not a single word of English, and I only a few phrases.

From the second I saw Mt. Fuji from my hostel room, I was simply in love.  Tried as I did however, no matter how many hundreds of pictures I took of the volcano, I never felt satisfied that I was able to actual capture the true beauty of Mt. Fuji.  Seriously, if you could see my original pictures, I had about 200! I do recall that being one of the frustrating points of being there… That I couldn’t quite capture how glorious it was (sigh).

The second highlight of my trip was opting to go on a day tour.  The tour was simply called “Mt. Fuji Tour” and was operated through the hostel. We stopped at 5 destinations: Fuji Sengen Shrine, which was the original entrance to the trail to climb to the pinnacle of Mt. Fuji.  If memory serves, devote Japanese people would annually use this trail to get to the top of Mt. Fuji, instead of simply starting at Station 5, like most tourists.  This trail was obviously MUCH longer and harder than getting a leg up to 2305m…

The second and third destinations included the Aokigahara Lava Forest, and Shiraito Falls.  Both places were such splendid displays of nature!  The lava forest was so serene, while the falls were absolutely breathtaking!  I recall the color of the water there. So clear with specks of purples, greens and blue… And the sound of all that water pouring into the lake below.  It was incredible!

Lake Motosuko was a fourth destination of the tour.  And while I believe in general this is the spot where the majority of photographs adequately capture how glorious Mt. Fuji is, again, I wasn’t able to:(  Also the clouds didn’t help;)  Our last stop was to the 5th Station of Mt. Fuji.  I was there at a time where it was out of season to go beyond the 5th station, and even attempting to do so could lead to serious injury or death.  Not to mention no one really wanting to come to your rescue if you were dumb enough to try and go further!  However, it was still fun to be able to get closer to the top, without being too extreme.

My final two best memories of my time in Mt. Fuji was randomly meeting Jeannie Mai.  So a little backstory here: When I was living in Koh Tao, Thailand, the place I rented for a couple months had a TV.  That TV only had one channel where English was spoken.  And on that channel, one of the daily shows that would air was “How Do I Look?” hosted by Jeannie Mai.  It became a daily habit after attending my morning Muy Thai training and having 6 cups of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, Through the Looking Glass, to head home and chill for a little bit by watching TV.

Fast forward to Mt. Fuji, one evening I went back to a restaurant I had gone to a couple times before.  It was a gringo restaurant, meaning the cuisine was American, burgers, fries, etc. while the sitting style was all Japanese (on the floor).  Anyway, as was my usual habit in the evenings, I went there, got a little tipsy and had some dinner.  While I was there, I don’t recall if Jeannie and her mom were there when I arrived, or if they arrived later, but the three of us were the only customers in the place.  At a certain point we all got to talking.  Sharing stories, learning little things about each other, etc.

I kept thinking while we were talking that there was something so familiar about her.  Her mannerisms, her voice, her face… It never clicked with me at that point.  I ended up finishing my meal and drinking and headed back to the hostel (just down the road).  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get out of my head how familiar she seemed.  So I got online and typed in Jeannie… and there she popped up and it immediately clicked that I knew her from watching her in Thailand!  So, silly me, I then proceeded to go back to the restaurant, apologized profusely for my next question and asked, “Are you Jeannie Mai from “How Do I Look?”?  She laughed and said yes, and was tickled I had recognized her.  She was so gracious and also tickled that I had seen her on TV while living in Thailand.  Her and her mom were such sweethearts and were kind enough to let me snap a picture with them.  I even exchanged emails with her mom (which reminds me I should touch base with her again!).  It was such a fun and unexpected encounter!  Interestingly enough, we were both at the bus station leaving at the same time!  We again ran into each other on our respective ways out, and once again, Jeannie (I didn’t get to see her mom as she wasn’t with Jeannie at the time) was so gracious, kind and loving.  Absolutely amazing!

My final memory of Mt. Fuji was an evening I spent at a restaurant, 3 doors down from the “gringo” one.  This one however was 100% Japanese and it was just one old man running the place and cooking.  The food was absolutely delicious and because we were the only two in the entire place, we of course got to trying to communicate with each other.  Miracle of miracles, he had a tablet with some sort of program with the most advanced translating capabilities I had ever seen.  He would speak to it in Japanese and it would translate to English writing.  I would read the question, answer in English, and he would read my response!  It wasn’t Google… I honestly should have gotten the name of that program, but regardless, we literally spent the next hour or so talking about everything!  Why/where I traveled, politics, religion, about his family, etc.  It was one of the most unique and honoring experiences I had ever had.  To sit with a stranger, neither of us knowing the others language, and yet to be able to have a conversation.  It was a beautiful evening.  My only regret was not having my camera in tow, so I wasn’t able to get a picture with him.

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Majestic Kyoto

While I did enjoy many parts of Osaka, by comparison, Kyoto blew my mind!  It is one of the most darling, quaint, beautifully stunning and enjoyable places I’ve been.  The energy there was fabulous.  Quiet, very zen-like with one beautiful place after another.  I spent about a week there walking miles upon miles everyday through its majestic beauty.

Kyoto was the place I first noticed the raccoon dog statues, and made it my mission to find one for myself as a souvenir.  While many people I asked said I would have to travel to a different city to find one, I was relentless in my pursuit and was ultimately successful in finding a raccoon dog about 2 inches tall.  Perfect for travel!  He currently resides in my home in NOLA:)

One of my favorite memories of Kyoto was seeing a man tending to the landscape with tweezers!  I was in awe watching him go about the business of keeping the grounds in spectacular shape with only a pair of tweezers.  Absolutely incredible!  And it speaks to the dedication of their craft.

From what I recall, Kyoto had about 10 zen gardens that were scattered throughout the city.  While each place offered unique sights and feels, along with mind-boggling displays of perfectly crafted landscapes, probably my favorite was the kare-sansui zen garden at Ryoan-ji.  Its simplicity was breathtaking.  I found myself just staring at the various parts of the garden, for what seemed like an eternity, allowing my mind to wander into a quiet space.

Another favorite part of the city for me was the Geisha neighborhood.  The homes were lovely, the streets quiet, and if one was lucky enough, they might get a glimpse of a young, beautiful Geisha walking about with her, shall I call her her Madame(?) sheltering her from the sun with an umbrella.  I was fortunate enough to see one Geisha walking about, but respected the posted signs to not take pictures.  I was also fortunate enough to sit next to one on a train.  Again, while other tourists asked to take pictures of her, I refrained out of respect.  While the Madame did allow others to take pictures with her, I felt it was better to simply keep those memories in my mind.

Those are my most fond memories of Kyoto.  I certainly could have spent so much more time there exploring even more portions of the city that I hadn’t gotten to, but alas, I always try to leave something to go back to every place I go:)  Needless to say, I would highly recommend anyone to visit majestic Kyoto.

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Osaka, Japan

Admittedly, it has once again been YEARS since I’ve update this blog… And I still have so many experiences to get through until I’m caught back up, all thanks to the shelter-in-place mandate due to COVID-19.  May as well take advantage of my down time!  Forgive me for not being as thorough in these next series of posts.  Its not to say I didn’t absolutely adore my time in Japan, as it’s an amazing Country, but since it has been so long since having been there, with so much happening in between, I’ve forgotten so many details.  I stayed in Osaka 3 or 4 days, and while it wasn’t my favorite part of Japan, it certainly still has it’s undeniable beauty!  Enjoy!

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