2021. In our Grand Scheme of Travels, Danny and I had planned to be in Japan with Michel. Quod non. So let’s go back to March and April 2013, when my sister Florence, her husband Kenneth, my nephew Leo and my niece Isaline travelled to Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto. The classic intro to Nippon and a golden opportunity. I grew up with anime such as ‘Dragon Ball‘ and ‘Saint Seiya‘ on television and Japan had been on my wish list since I was little. There’s a lot I don’t remember. But thanks to photos on Facebook, my guidebook and check-ins on Swarm (Foursquare), I can reconstruct parts of that trip.
Tokyo. Hakone. Kyoto. Back to Tokyo
After returning to Tokyo, we had a last day in Japan’s capital before heading home. A last day is often a bit of a lost day. So we did some shopping. At Muji and at Uniqlo. I don’t think we had those in Europe in 2013.
So it’s it’s time to looking back and looking ahead.
2013 Japan Family Trip
- JAPAN 2013 | Solo in Tokyo.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Ueno Park and the Shibuya Crossing.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Sensō-ji, Hamarikyu Gardens and the Imperial Palace East Gardens.
- JAPAN 2013 | Meiji Shrine and Harakuju in Tokyo.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo ft. Tsukiji Fish Market, Ginza, Zōjō-ji Temple, Tokyo Tower and traditional restaurant Jomon in Roppongi.
- JAPAN 2013 | Tokyo – Hakone by train.
- JAPAN 2013 | Hakone Yumoto – Lake Ashi – Owakudani.
- JAPAN 2013 | Hakone Yumoto Onsen Tenseien.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kyoto’s Philosopher’s Path and Anraku-ji Temple.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kyoto’s Ginkaku-ji or Temple of the Silver Pavilion.
- JAPAN 2013 | Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kinkaku-ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kyoto’s other temples: Eikando Zenrin-ji, Nanzen-ji, Chion-in, Shoren-in, Ninna-ji, Tenryū-ji.
- JAPAN 2013 | Kyoto’s Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
- JAPAN 2013 | Impressions of Kyoto.
Writing these posts, I realise I remember more of that 2013 than I thought I would. It also points out I found Tokyo harder to grasp than Kyoto.
Tokyo is this huge megapolis with many cities or Special Wards. Indeed, there’s no Tokyo City (anymore). Tokyo Metropolis is a prefecture of 23 Special Wards, some other municipalities and some islands. Since 2000, these wards call themselves cities, even if they keep the –ku suffix meaning ward. Think of Shinjuku.
Then there is Greater Tokyo, which includes Tokyo Metropolis and the prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma, as well as the prefecture of Yamanashi of the neighboring Chūbu region.
Tokyo is buzz, Tokyo is fuzz. Tokyo is a metropolis on steam, or better: on electricity. Tokyo is a place to live and to experience and to learn new things and new hypes.
Kyoto, by contrast, is much calmer. More low-rise. More history and more culture. And more graspable.
Did Japan provide me a culture shock? No and yes. At first sight, no. Japan is a modern, safe country with a pretty damn good public transport in cities and decent infrastructure.
But the there are so many contrasts. Modern-day buildings and human behaviour next to old temples and and a reverence for traditions.
Vending machines for everything, yet also a lot of paperwork and not a great wifi coverage.
Hypermodern Shinkansen with an ultra-quick turnaround but also old rolling stock and painted-on, never-changing signage.
Being cutting-edge, yet having trouble with lingua franca English.
I could go on. But yes, Japan did provide me with culture shocks.
Future Japan trip
Digging into 2013 wil certainly help me with planning a next Japan trip. This year? Next year? 2024 maybe? Hopefully sooner rather than later.
While researching, I came across practical videos on life and travel in Japan. I got to know the website Japan Guide.
The embryonal planning includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. I also want to include somewhere more rural, something less megacity. Something I felt and experienced by going to Hakone. That must be feasible.
Here are some of the videos I saved for later.