It is hard to pick our favorite experiences about our time in Japan. Here are each of our top things that we enjoyed the most and a few final thoughts. Several were discussed in earlier posts but this pulls together some thoughts and our favorite things that we were able to experience here in Japan.
John’s take on Japan: My three favorite things were the cat cafe in Kyoto, the Hanshin Tiger’s baseball game in Osaka and riding the Shinkansen (bullet train).
The cat cafe in Kyoto let you sit with the cats and pet them. It made me happy and let me think of my cats back home.
The best part of the Hanshin Tiger’s baseball game was when our team (our #7) got a home run in the first inning and the crowd went crazy. It was fun because people would smash little bats together to go with a song. I liked having a hot dog at the baseball game. I haven’t had a hot dog in a while. Kate got squid on a stick at the baseball game. I didn’t eat any of that.
I really like taking the bullet train. You don’t have to buckle and you can just look out the window. It is really fast. It goes so fast it feels like I’m about to fly. Like a plane getting ready to take off. I told mom Japan was my favorite country so far.
Alan’s take on Japan: Our visit to Hiroshima, spending the day watching sumo, the Bamboo Forest and the Osaka Castle.
Hiroshima was moving. It was so worth the day of travel from Kyoto to experience the museum. The whole of the City reverberates with the idea of peace and rebirth after being the site the world’s first atom bomb used during war. We met wonderful school children that gave us hand made paper cranes and made us smile when we really needed it.
Our time watching sumo was such an adventure. As we mentioned in our previous post, we learned so much about how the system of getting a day-of general admission ticket and what we would do better next time. The struggle to get in made it even more interesting but it also gave us time to really hang out and try and understand the history and culture that is sumo.
The Bamboo Forest and Tenryu-Ji temple turned out to be in our neighborhood in Kyoto and it was a wonderfully peaceful walk exploring the area.
The Osaka Castle was my favorite blast of Japanese history. The view from the top is fantastic. But the real fun was the story told, floor by floor, of the creation and take over of the castle by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Each floor uses a different basket of mediums to tell the story, including historic documents and materials. At the end there is good information on the restoration and reconstruction of the castle into its current form.
Kate’s take on Japan: Takayama and the Hida beef sushi, the Hanshin Tiger’s baseball game, the Shibuya shopping district, Disneyland Tokyo and the Buddha Land Temple in Kyoto.
I loved the small town feel of Takayama and we could walk everywhere. The restaurants were good and there was a walk up sushi window with the best Hida Beef sushi. I loved our Airbnb space – it was big, the futons soft and old bar downstairs really cool. We had a great biking adventure. Our grocery store was really big and perfect for us. It reminded me of home where there was one main cool street.
The baseball game was fun and I loved having squid on a stick. There were cheers and bands and clapper bats going the whole time. We even got Dippin’ Dots treats. It was interesting how they had a mix of American and Japanese food.
The Shibuya shopping district was exactly what I had envisioned when I thought about Tokyo. Everyone was dressed in suits on the train to get there. Everything was packed together but still safe for a big city. The lights and signs made me think of this as Tokyo’s Time Square. I loved the Shibuya 109 store with all the teen fashion on ever floor (except that the bathing suit I liked was $170 which is crazy).
Disneyland Tokyo was great. the rides here were better across the board than the similar rides at home (Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion) – the Pooh ride was so much fun and the Car Toon Spin ride was something we hadn’t seen before.
Out of the 20-some temples we have seen, the Land Buddha (East) Temple in the center of Kyoto, was by far the best. It was huge. I can’t imagine how long it took to make it (particularly taking into account it had been destroyed many times by fire). It reminded me of a giant log cabin. The details on the temple and the gates were fantastic.
Judi’s take on Japan: What I like the most is that traffic (like most things in Japan) is orderly; I loved Tokyo Disneyland; I enjoyed sumo and learning about Japan’s national sport and I was moved by the natural beauty of Mt. Fuji, Takayama, the cherry blossoms and the majestic castle gardens (in Tokyo and in Kanazawa).
Everything in Japan is top notch. The toilets are technological marvels with heated seats and the option of a gentle spray. Once again we have been able to drink the tap water. And maybe it is just coming from Vietnam, but it was great that pedestrians got to cross in the crosswalks and traffic stopped for us. When I left my bag in a coffee shop, it had been tucked away for me and other patrons in the shop were watching for me to return.
Alan and I also feel so thankful, as parents, to have had great care when we needed it for Kate. Kate twisted her wrist when she and John were running around Disneyland. We thought it was a sprain but it got swollen and really sore, so we wanted an x-ray and for someone to look at it. We easily found St. Luke’s, a near by hospital. Its was clean, we had no wait to speak of, and the doctors and staff were extremely thorough. She is on the mend and we are thankful for that!
I also loved Japanese food. We loved the udon and soba noodles with meat. The tempura and sushi were awesome. We tried hiroshimayaki, a Japanese pancake with pork, noodles, and cabbage. It was one of my favorite meals of the trip. Kate and I loved takoyaki, grilled balls with octopus. I don’t eat sushi at home…I’ve never been a fan. But, my ever adventuresome eater, Kate, found the right piece of sushi and convinced me to try it. I loved it. I could eat sushi in Japan every day!
Tokyo Disneyland makes me feel like a kid again. Tokyo Disney has huge walkways and we never felt like it was crowded. It was a wonderful day to just relax and enjoy the familiar but very new experiences.
Our sumo day was such an adventure. Watching all day from the lower ranked matches until the senior division huge pomp and circumstance of the big guys was fun.
Japan is interesting in that it feels like home in many ways. It is more developed and advanced in some ways – trains and toilets – and just as put together as life at home. We enjoyed these comforts and were thankful for them daily. But if you ever get to feeling too much at home something about the food, culture, language or little patterns of life will jar you (like all restaurants closing from 3pm to 5 or 5:30). Even just not having a living room chair sometimes makes us feel like strangers in a strange land. It makes me wish I had been more aware (like my good friend Norance) and taken advantage of Willamette U having a Tokyo International campus (which I saw and ignored almost daily while in college). But we have loved it and we will certainly be back. Arigatogozaimashita.