This is my last post about Japan! I know - I've been back well over a month, but it's been so busy I have hardly had time for blogging. I really hope life calms down a little bit soon.
I'm going to write about the 3rd part of our trip, visiting the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka. It was quite a change from the relaxed beauty of Kyoto and the smaller feel of Yudanaka.
- Mascots. Everything imaginable has a mascot - sometimes 2,
like Tokyo Tower. There's a little bear with an apple of his hear for JR
East Railway or a Ninja Girl and her frog for the city of Matsumoto. In
Tokyo we went to 'Character Street' which was part of the underground
mall in Tokyo Station. It's a whole collection of shops dedicated to
mascots or characters including: Hello Kitty, One Piece, Snoopy, Miffy, Domo, Doraemon and Pokemon.
- So many selfie sticks
- There's lots of smoking in the bar/restaurant places and I kind of liked it, but it was also weird because it's been a long time since you could do that in the UK. I thought it was nice when mixed with the smoke of the fried meat and all the cooking smells in the bars.
- We were taken out to a restaurant that had gardens of it's own, with a tofu kitchen amongst the trees. It was rebuilt in Tokyo using wood from ancient buildings across Japan, and served a 9 course meal including the best sushi of our lives.
- I miss gyoza. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with Japanese dumplings but mmmm I need to find them again.
- Harajuka was not full of girls in gothic lolita outfits. Not a bit. There were some shopkeepers in fancy clothes but the images of Fruits magazine were just not there.
- Temples have an interesting mix of of religion and tourism. People come from all over Japan to carry out the rituals at the shrines: washing, ringing the bell, clapping and throwing money through a slotted box in front of the shrine. But they'd do all that and then get out the selfie stick and pose for 10 photos.
- There's English all over the place. In the names of chain shops like Lawson or 7/11, and in the bizarre slogans, like this Pachinko parlour: It is strong in time, and it gently to time tough at time. A message for our times. There was also useful English on the tube listing out the stops, and even on buses in Kyoto. That doesn't mean that it was easy to understand that world, but you can go a long way without speaking Japanese. I just found it challenging trying to actively understand the Japanese all around me.
- They served tako yaki in the aquarium (in Osaka now). Round the corner from the octopus in the tank, you could eat bits of its brethren in deep fried balls...
- Finally, it's been so long since we've been back, but I still look at the photos of the shrines in the mountains, and the cherry trees and feel completely at peace.