As promised I am back with stories from Japan. Firstly, I should start with who I went with: Chris and 3 friends called Thomas, Martin and Adam. Thomas and Martin travelled to Northern Ireland a day or so before we set off on our trip (from Norway and Denmark) and we all travelled together. As you all know, I hate flying and the whole process of getting to the destination. However, I don’t think I was as bad travelling this time around as I was going to the country I’ve wanted to go to for ages. Taking off (and actually getting on the plane) had me nervous but once I was in the air I forgot all about it. We travelled to Germany for the connecting flight. I know what you’re thinking, waiting the next flight is so boring. However, our wait wasn’t boring with Thomas around. Poor guy is just an awkward clumsy wee thing. He thought it would be funny to walk/run on the moving walkway before attempting to jump over onto the carpet while we walked to one of the shops. Only thing is, his feet got stuck on the handrail and he face planted in the middle of the airport. I honestly nearly cried with laughter. Our wait also wasn’t boring due to the amount of cute Japanese people at the airport. I swear some looked like they had stepped right out of an anime/manga. I had 16 days of this to look forward to! Our next flight was 15 hours (I think) but with a range of movies, music and food it wasn’t too bad. I got a little sleep but not much. Aeroplanes aren’t the most comfy thing to sleep in, especially when you have the middle seat.
I had a few thoughts once arriving in Japan. My first thought when we stepped off the plane was about how humid it was. It was like a wave of heat whacked us up the face as soon as the door was open and we were outside. my second? Why do we have to fill in so many forms and get our pictures taken just to get through the airport? I panicked a bit in case my suitcase was lost but it did arrive eventually. We got a pasmo card at the airport since we would be travelling about quite a bit. What didnt surprise me was the trains. I guess I just knew what to expect with them. On time, fast enough and a lot of standing room. What I did like about the stations was how easy it was to get around them. move your card over the thing and walk on. No waiting for tickets to be checked for ages and plenty of signs to let you know where to go. I even went about by myself a couple of times from where we stayed to the next stop or two to do some shopping alone easily. I felt pretty safe in Japan too. The only thing that wasn’t great was the humidity…and the rain. To be fair it was the end of the rainy season though so what could we expect. I got kind of used to the heat after a while but I just don’t understand how the people living there were able to walk around in jeans and even hoodies and jackets in that heat as if it were totally normal. I could hardly cope with a dress on not to mention my hair was twice the size it normally is. I got a few looks (one woman even turned her head right round while she walked past to look at my hair!) but I guess you don’t see curly hair often in Japan.
Other things that suprised me include:
- How friendly everyone was. OK with us being foreigners we were generally ignored or just looked at we didn’t really speak much to anyone. However we sat on a train that was empty thinking ”Wow, everyone must be getting off here. Well it does seem to be a popular stop” when an older man came to tell us, in English, that this train was heading back to the place where all the trains stay and that the connecting train would be arriving in a few moments at the other side of the track. Without him who knows where we could have ended up? I also found that we were more forthcoming in offering our seat to elderly people or those with children than others…and that those who ride trains frequently have serious skills in keeping still without holding anything and even reading while the train rattles about. I did get used to balancing when I stood but seriously, they looked so relaxed even when the train stopped whereas I would sort of go to the side when the brakes were on. Awkward. Once, I saw an elderly man who also had a broken arm standing on a pretty crowded train. Once a seat became free we both looked at each other and, me being younger and not having my arm in a cast, I gestured for him to sit. This lovely man however offered the seat to me and we began to ‘argue’ over who should sit. In the end I sat and he seemed pleased. I thanked this man and when leaving we both sort of smiled politely and only then would he take a seat. I just thought he was so gentlemanly.
- How cheap things were compared to what we had expected. Food was seriously way cheaper than what it would be here. And absolutely delicious. I could have eaten all day. We stayed in Shin-Okubo where there was a ramen shop, the type where you press a button to get a ticket to order with. It was quiet, friendly and I went two or three times. Recently I’ve been thinking of how much I want to eat it again. I also went to a place with Chris down the street from this shop and we ordered sweet potato fries, chicken wings and…something else. We took Thomas and Adam along the next time because it was so good. What really suprised us was that they came to the door when they saw us eyeing up the menu and told us there was a member of staff who spoke English who also came out to welcome us and served us. This was great as we had very limited speaking skills.
- How many convenience stores were about. honestly, everywhere we went there were at least two or three, mostly 7-Eleven or Family Mart stores. I found a few of the things I had wanted to taste inside and everything was pretty cheap. We were in these stores so often. Late at night and feeling hungry? Lets go round the corner/down the street from the hotel and get some snacks. I swear, they were everywhere. Amazing. I wish we could get some of the foods and snacks over here.
I felt sad coming to the end of our trip. I didn’t want to go home. Despite the heat and humidity, my hayfever didn’t bother me once and I was loving the food and feeling way better, probably from having healthier foods and drinking so much water. I wish we had more time because we couldn’t see everything we wanted to see due to the intense rain at times and having so much we wanted to do. I really want to go again someday.