One month in Japan

After being in this country for almost one month, here are three things that shocked me the most:

  1. Respect by default. People here respect each other even if they don't know the person. The signs - bowing, giving something with two hands instead of one, being silent in public transport, etc.
  1. Attention to details. This ranges from food packing (with a separate box for each ingredient) to architecture. E.g. when I visited teamLab planets in Tokyo, I found out that the exit is located right near the enter. It’s super convenient since you already know where your locker & toilets are.
  1. How clean it is. Honestly I think now every city should remove garbage cans from its streets. But what should I do with the garbage? You bring it with you and sort it at home. Easier than you think. But requires laws & community efforts.

Cities

Tokyo is cool. You can find almost anything you want. My top 3 places: teamLab planets, Akihabara and Edo museum. Wanted to go watch sumo, but all the tickets were sold out. Same for Ghibli Museum.

Hakone is a great place to relax with its hot springs and hiking trails. Another thing I love is that you can stumble upon a tea house which has been open for a few centuries and enjoy a cup of amazake or a tea.

Kyoto has a nice old town and temples, but felt too touristy to me. Geisha(s) dance at Pontocho Kaburenjo is a must thing to watch. Higashiyama Jisho-ji is the most beautiful garden I've been to in Japan (I was in Kenrokuen - bigger, but not as impressive).

Nara is famous for deers roaming in the city park. A lot of the cities nowadays become too distant from nature (though some are trying to bring it back by opening more parks, etc.). One of the biggest downsides - the smell.

Hiroshima is where I'd choose to live in Japan. Not too big, yet there's a lot going on - festivals & different other activities. Close to Miyajima, where I'd go when I want to be alone.

Miyajima is a village located on the small island of Itsukushima, where shops & restaurants close at 5pm. Good hiking trails. Very calm and peaceful place (pierce is crowded during a day though).

Shirakawa-go village is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old.

About Japanese people

I want to tell you one story. It happened to me when I was traveling from Toyama to Takayama. I boarded a train, got into my seat and prepared myself for a nice ride. If you ever go to these places, take the same train I did bound to Nagoya (or a bus). Mountains, immersed in the greenery, the Jinzu river with colors ranging from deep blue to light green and beautiful small villages will be accompanying you during the whole trip.

But back to the story. I was reading a book when someone touched my shoulder. It was an older woman wearing a white cotton sweater and blue jeans. She was smiling at me. She said I need to change my seat. She clearly did not work there. Nonetheless, I checked my ticket and saw that the car number was different (8 while I was in the 10th). But how did she know? So I stood up and went to the 8th car. In the process, she again has stopped me and tried to explain something. I replied that I got my car wrong. Got into the correct car now. I found my seat.

A few minutes later, the same woman touched my shoulder. This time she brought a text note with her. The note was saying she only wanted to suggest I'd move closer to the window as not so many people reserve a green car (read first class) and that she's sorry. She gave me a couple of small chocolate bars. It may be hard for you to understand Japan and it's people just from this story, but I think it nicely shows the deep respect coupled with a desire to help.

Deep respect was one of the things that have shocked me. “Why should I respect someone whom I don't know?” I asked Hiroyuki. “Because everyone feels good if you do this” he responded. I could not agree more. Before I did not understand why Americans smile at each other even if they might be in a bad mood. The answer seems to be the same. It feels good!

Summary

A few minuses:

A few pluses:

I'd definitely recommend to visit because it's such a unique country.

My route

Tokyo -> Nikko -> Tokyo -> Hakone -> Kyoto -> Nara -> Himeji -> Miyajima -> Hiroshima -> Kanazawa -> Shirakawago -> Takayama -> Tokyo

Recommended places:

Resources

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