This is totally overdue, the second semester slump is getting to me. But because I promised I some people I would keep it up, I refuse to let this blog die. RIP to the many study abroad travel blogs that have become casualties of more pressing commitments.
I have finally fulfilled my 13-year old self’s goals and traveled to Japan. Why did I want to go to Japan in middle school when I knew next to nothing about it? Well, I liked the idea of a country that had erasers that were so unnecessarily cute, and that’s about it really.
But yeah, Japan was a trip, man. By far the most western-friendly of all of the Asian countries I have traveled to (other than Singapore, but their national language is English so I don't really count them). With all of the "weird Japan" factoids I've read and lists I've seen on Buzzfeed, I wasn't really sure what to expect. But it is not by any measure a difficult place to travel to. As far as I can tell most of the “quirks” that the nation of the rising sun has to offer involve just being super polite and hard working to a fault. Even the weird stuff is somehow more convenient than the alternative, and it also makes for a fun novelty instead of a hindrance (seriously, heated toilet seats, the west needs to catch up).
Japan just is not that bizarre, I mean, except for the anime. The anime is that bizarre.
It was nice to go to a place totally developed where there wasn't the constant concern that these disenfranchised people are being exploited for the entertainment of foreigners. There are many nice, modern cities that put effort in preserving notable artifacts, and by visiting these places you're helping this economy not just encouraging injustices. Japan is modern in sense that it must have been AMAZING in the mid 80s, it's still nice, but it is very much the future imagined as only people wearing shoulder pads could.
The train system is a joy, the metro is still a mystery to me. The map resembles the wiring of some impossible-to-disable bomb. After we boarded our third wrong train in a row, my friend pointed out that the entire metro system “Is like one huge game of sudoku, that’s why they like it so much.”
I love Japanese food, there was a day all I had to eat was lattes and sushi and it was amazing, there was so much ramen and mochi and unnecessary trips to 7-eleven. By the end of the trip my former abs were even starting to resemble all of the soft rice candy I had been eating. And I love Asian convenience stores, they're weirdly one of my favorite parts of traveling, although we were really let down by the Kit Kat selection. But wherever you are in Asia, whether it's Family Mart, Tesco or 7-Eleven, these glowing beacons of fluorescent light are always a constant, no matter where you are because they are three times more ubiquitous than Starbucks in L.A. Open at all times and ready to supply whatever seaweed snack or cheap alcohol your heart could desire, it's a comfort when you’re lost or traveling alone that there are some weird rice balls and pocky waiting for you on the other side.
As well as Tokyo, we visited Kyoto and Hiroshima checking the stereotypical experiences off; we saw the Ginza, stayed in a capsule hotel that aesthetically resembled some kind of super clean space prison, visited the iconic red arches and then the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. The park located adjacent to the museum is immaculate, filled with various tasteful tributes and sculptures dedicated to the victims of the destruction and those who suffered in the aftermath. This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways, it is important, but not an uplifting outing.
Japan is just another in a long list of places I never thought I would be lucky enough to visit. I can’t say it was everything I had imagined it because most things I pictured about Asia prior to this year had next to no foundation in reality.
But I am so happy I get to have the opportunity to revise my misconceptions in person.