Asia / Japan / Travel

My Experience of Complete Japandemonium

I’ve referred to Japan as the country where I caught the travel bug.  That trip was before I blogged so I decided to do a post on it.  Japan was never on my travel radar until a friend went there.  He visited a high school friend of his there teaching english.  When I saw his pictures I instantly wanted to go.

In 2006 my friend Shawn got a position with the JET program.  He had been telling our friends that he was applying so before he secured the position I said if he did I would come visit.  I was there for 13 days in April – May 2007 which encompassed Golden Week.

Golden Week is when all Japanese are on as holiday so Shawn warned that many places would be busy.  I visited Iwate where Shawn was based (4 days), Hiroshima (3 days), Kyoto (3 days), and ended the trip in Tokyo (3 days).  Everyone asked me what my favourite city was but it is impossible to choose.

Iwate

It was a nice ease into the trip and gave me a chance to experience small town Japan.  I attended school with Shawn for a day where he essentially did show and tell with me to all his classes.  The students were great.

Japan Spring 2007 050

Hiroshima

It was amazing.  The history was sobering.  It was so easy to navigate, beautiful and filled with tons to do.  We also did a day trip to the island Miyajima.  It is seen as a sacred island and no one is born or dies there.  Not sure if it still continues to this day, but there are no hospitals on the island so my thoughts are yes.

Kyoto

A gorgeous city and probably what most outsiders  think of when Japan comes to mind.  Kyoto has the Gion district, the famous Geisha district.  Kyoto is quite flat and great for bike riding.   We found this out our first day there since Shawn forgot his wallet in our hotel in Hiroshima.

They posted it to the guesthouse we’d be staying in our last night.  So we biked to that place to let them know it would be coming.  Kyoto was much harder to navigate but when we found our destination it was well worth it.  A particular highlight was the Maiko performance we saw and taking part in a tea ceremony.

Tokyo

Highlights were sleeping in a capsule hotel, visiting Harajuku area and the girls, seeing a sumo wrestler riding a bike, seeing a Shinto wedding, and visiting the hotel that was in Lost in Translation – The Tokyo Park Hyatt.

If you have seen that movie it’s a pretty good representation of being a foreigner in Japan.  You have no clue what the hell is going on but if you roll with it you will have a good time.

I’d love to return to Japan.  I couldn’t stop talking about it when I returned home and I recommend everyone to go.  I knew before going to prepare myself for the reaction the Japanese have towards seeing a black person.  I definitely had some interesting encounters.

The best one however was when we arrived in Kyoto.  Shawn and I went to the information centre and an older Japanese man asked me if it was my first time in Japan.  I said yes.  He said we’re not used to having many black people visit here.  Then with a warm smile he said welcome and have a good time.

Done and done.

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9 thoughts on “My Experience of Complete Japandemonium

  1. Good that you had a nice time there 🙂

    I’ve heard some horror stories about racist Japanese people a la apartheid/segregation black people wasn’t allowed to enter some bars and restaurants and such…

    Blaming all the crime they have on Nigerians..

    • I had an amazing time. That is not to say that the eyes following me at all times were not annoying. Midway through my trip I had a brief moment of feeling like staying in because I didn’t want an audience and just wanted to sight see. However, I felt most looks were out of curiousity. My friend would translate when people would say look black person or even just black. What helped was that we were both sore thumbs in a huge landscape of Japanese people.

      I don’t doubt that people there can be really racist. It is like that everywhere really, especially in hard economic times scapegoating immigrants is easy. Well really any time. England is still about 92% + white. Londoners are really excepting of others as that is where the immigration is concentrated but I’ve been told and I’ve read about hate crime in the north and other areas. There are also places in small town Canada that I wouldn’t venture to. To me it makes the case for black people to travel MORE not less.

  2. My brother wants to go to Japan. He is self-taught fluent in Japanese. But he is a little apprehensive about going. But I’m going to show him this post, maybe it will help entice him.

    • Does he want to visit or go live for a bit? I suggest he check out the expat blogs website. He doesn’t need to blog himself to get the info that might help him make a decision about it.

  3. Pingback: A Self Guided Tour of Toronto « Wanderlust

  4. Back again. You know, I expected racism in Japan since that seems to be the hot topic among travelers. However, I didn’t feel any racism at all. I got a lot of stares from children, but I get that a lot here in the States so it didnt bother me. I just enjoyed myself and that joy reflected in my demeanor. Thanks for documenting your travels!

    • I knew to expect stares, and lots of them. That was pretty much the case but I also found people were overwhelmingly nice and helpful. Exactly, I get stares from people in England when I am outside of London so not a big deal.

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