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.
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.
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.
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.
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.