Travellers Blues, what Travelers Blues... Japan is warming to me

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July 22nd 2015
Published: July 22nd 2015
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My last blog was written while I was contemplating going home after feeling down and a bit bored with all the travelling that I have been doing. One of the main things that a lot of people picked up on is the fact that I couldn't get a SIM card for my iPhone and I thank the people who replied to the blog telling me where I should get one from but in all fairness I realised that I was getting too addicted to my phone and I can really survive without it. However there seems to be a constant routine that you stay in one place for 3 or 4 days, run around the area trying to take in as much as you can, trying to strike up conversations with new strangers in your hostel, before moving and doing all over again which is all part of the backpacking experience and I think that I was getting a bit tired of it. However after seeing Abi leave to go back to UK and the enthusiasm that she tried to share with me for her love of Japan, it was time for me to knock myself into reality and get back to enjoying the travels. All it took was a few days of me time in the hostel in Kyoto with my feet up to get rid of the final bits of infections from Indonesia and chill. It also helped that I started to meet more backpackers who were travelling who understood what I had been through and one Italian guy who had been travelling for 2 years around the whole of Asia just got me drunk and told me to sort myself out! Thats a kick up the backside I was needing.So much so, that I ventured out of the hostel to actually see stuff without someone to hold my hand.

I went down to the Gion Festival opening parade which one of the oldest festivals in Japan. The parade was actually totally interesting, with all participants dressed in their national dress with a hell of a lot of kids painted with make up and to say they looked cute is an understatement with a barrage of grannies around me cooing and ahhing as the children all went past us. The parade went for about 2 miles through the various streets until they got to the City Hall where, I assume. They were met by their version of a mayor and lots of speeches were delivered in Japanese with even more bowing going on. The children then in their little groups did various dances in front of the crowds and it was a really beautiful display. The crowds through the streets just seemed to be normal shoppers who would turn around and with puzzled looks as if to say whats going on, would grab their phones to take pictures and the crowds at the City Hall were not that impressive either, especially for all the effort that seemed to have gone into the parade. After this the next phase was about 300 men carrying a tree that was on fire from the temple down to the river and then back again while banging drums and shouting what I thought were English swear words but obviously not. Once back to the temple they went in and the fire was put out. Very strange, very Japanese but very impressive all the way, I think I got told that it was all to do with blessings for the gods but who knows, I still enjoyed it. That night I had to move from the awesome hostel, due to me being stupid and not booking extra nights till the last moment to being told they were full, to another hostel across the road which was cheaper but the worst one I have stayed in my time in Japan. It was not clean, it was really cramped and there was one other guest there who didn't really understand why I was travelling! So my conversations was lost on him and the fact when booking out I discovered that my IPhone charger and headphones had been taken! Outrageous, but thank god I had back up charger lead and went to buy another set of headphones which didn't help my ever decreasing budget! The weekend was spent moving back into the awesome hostel again and partying with the guys again and seeing the another bit of tourism when I dragged myself off to see the National Museum of Kyoto which was good but with most of museums of Japan being more like Art Galleries then looking at the history of the country or area it seems to be very cultured which I suppose I do need in my life.... My final day in Kyoto I got dragged out by Matteo the Italian to see the final things of touristy bits which made me feel a bit guilty as they were things that Abi never got a chance to see before she left.... oops. Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Golden temple, both on the opposite sides of the city from each other but we were determined to do them. The Fushimi Temples is one of the most iconic sights of Japan, which is so many orange arches (shrines) leading up a hill and takes about an hour and a half to climb. The temperature was high, the mountain was high and the sweat levels were also high however it was an awesome sight to take in and the higher we got the less tourists were about walking through the shrines to the top. It was a personal triumph I had when I got there, even though we were both melting. It was a bit spooky that I got talking to a couple that was there at the same time as us, and found that they too were from Newcastle, the second time that I had met anyone from my area! Walking down was a little bit faster and heading for the train to take us to the other side of Kyoto while sweat was still pouring out of me was a relief. The golden temple however was a little bit disappointing as you pay to walk into the grounds and you can see the temple from a distance for the photo opportunity while every asian have their selfie sticks out attempting to take the perfect photo while pouting. It's a bit of a battle trying to move through them all without being banged in the back of the head! It was a short trip especially as it was getting late so we Matteo decided that we were going to a restaurant that he had read about and it was a japanese noodles place with the added bonus of watching them pour a load of hot oil on it and then set it on fire right in front of your face! The event itself was memorable and the food was absolutely gorgeous and quite cheapish.

After a full day, and one of the busiest for a while it was time to leave and head onto the overnight bus and get some sleep. I arrived in Hiroshima to the heaviest rain I've seen in a while, to be told that a typhoon was heading our way and that this was the edge of it. No way was I going out this plus with the lack of sleep from the journey, it was to be a chilled day and meet the new people in the hostel. One guy was a 19 year old American Jack who was sharing the dorm who was sat on his bed with his laptop open. After chatting to him for a while I discovered he was out of America for the first time in his life and was on his own. His journey through Japan was not the best as he was lonely, bored and not really enjoying it and was even contemplating going home earlier then he planned. I grabbed him off his bed, took into the common room and introduce him to the other people that were there, even though I hadn't met them myself to find out they were from North East England living about 10 miles away from my home! What were the chances..... and after copious amount of beers, all was fine with the American whose outlook on his trip had changed and was going ahead with his whole trip to the very end.

The next day I moved to another hostel to a more central area of Hiroshima and as the weather had improved to sunshine, I went out to see the sights. Everyone knows about Hiroshima being the place that the first ever atom bomb had been exploded and the museum that I went to gives the full story of what happened on the day and the aftermath. Only one place before that had moved me to almost tears and that was the Pol Pot regime museum. Everything about the museum was about peace and how this should not happen again. Across the road from the museum is the Hiroshima Peace Park and the whole area is not far from where the centre of the blast was and basically was the worst affected if there is such a thing to say as the city was totally destroyed and flattened. Most main tourist areas around the world have the usual traders and shops trying to sell you gaudy plastic tat, however the park had nothing except monuments to the people who had died. The whole area was a moving experience with the peace and tranquility in the middle of a modern busy city. There are many things that I can write about to try and describe my feelings but visiting Hiroshima and seeing the various places that are there is definitely a personal one.

The hostel actually made it into one of the best places to stay for the people that were there. Everyone I spoke to was a traveller of Japan or a backpacker, not one tourist or holiday maker. There was a click that came into place when we all crammed into the smoking area with a lot of alcohol and it seemed that everyone in the hostel was trying to join us and therefore we had to find a bigger area, hence why we all ended up in an Irish Bar and possibly one of the most expensive nights of my travels but a hell of a lot of fun! Finishing at a very late time, the whole hostel was on hangover mode the next day, and even the staff made comments that it was the first time they had seen the whole hostel get on so well. With hangovers came a lazy day of nothingness and a chance to recharge my batteries which I seem to do a lot after nights of wildness!

I had 2 days left and I needed to fill them, so me and the Italian decided to have a wonder to Hiroshima castle and it seems that although the city had been flattened during the war, they had tried to rebuild some of their temples and castles to look exactly as they did before the war. It does take the shine off them when you look at the ancient monuments and realise that they are only 50/60 years old, but you get the sense that the people have moved forward and are proud of Hiroshima. For the last day me, Matteo and an Argentinian guy headed off on a train ride to Miyajima, an island just off the coast of Hiroshima which are known worldwide as a Shrine in the sea, although there are other sights on the island which include the tamest deer that you will ever meet, people dressed up as power rangers (for some reason), a castle in the mountains and an unbelievable amount of tourists. Obviously being a tourist trap, the prices go up for everything but still an amazing place and it was a good day out with some good people. I was still trying to come up with a plan of what was to be next and seeing as it was a holiday period for the Japanese, every single hostel was fully booked in the areas that I wanted to go, but for some reason the day before I was meant to leave there was a room vacancy in Fukuoka and I booked it straight away, with Matteo and the Argentinian doing the same. Fukuoka was a stopping point for me before heading to my final destination which was to be Nagasaki and I was hoping to be there for no more then 3 days and move on. Fukuoka is a typical Japanese city, full of skyscrapers and flashing lights. Even Trip Advisor didn’t give me anything exciting to look at or do, and when looking at accommodation for Nagasaki there was nothing for the next week. There was no way I could sit on my backside as I was itching for things to do, so after a hard minutes think, I booked a ferry for the next day and that was me off to Busan, South Korea

So what did I learn about Japan? Personally I’ve realised that I rely on my mobile phone too much and that wifi can be used when you have it without constantly updating Facebook or checking emails, I’ve understood that travelling is a long term journey and that everyone can have off days or couple of days and that you just need to get over it in whatever way you think best, homesickness is normal. I’ve come to terms that not every country will be the best ever and that I should appreciate what I am doing more and seeing it as best through the eyes of a local. Japan itself is a difficult one, I will admit that its not been my favourite country so far, but also the further away from Tokyo I got the better I found the place. It’s a country that still holds tradition highly and is a little bit scared of foreign practices coming in, whether it be new technology or western ways. The lack of English is a common problem I’ve come across while travelling but the Japanese, even if they know a little bit will refuse to talk, but they are the most helpful people I’ve come across. If they know they can help, then they will go out of their way to help. I should have gone to more out of city areas to understand the Japanese way of life more instead of the high rise flats of all the cities. As usual I have made some good friends along the way and partying has taken a toll on my finances but its been an interesting experience…. South Korea here I come….


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