Edit Blog Post
Published: October 1st 2007
Our approach to our recent trip to Japan was relaxed, mainly because it’s only 3 hours away by boat. We didn’t put too much thought or planning into the trip, it just kind of happened and everything fell into place with very little effort. We were surprised to find a country very different from its neighbour. It’s hard not to compare the two countries, especially when Koreans seem to spend so much time doing it. They’re historically linked (understatement seeing as Japan ruled over Korea for 35 years, quashing Korean culture, language and identity…..understandably a bit of sorepoint over here.) Now they are rivals in most things from economics to electronics, Dokdo to baseball. Having spent the last 5 months in Korea a lot of the things that made an impression on us would probably not even have been noticed if we had travelled there from the UK.
The streets are cleaner, more ordered and less of a barrage to the senses. The buildings tend to be plainer, not quite such a cluttered mass of signs as they so often are here in Korea. The streets aren’t decorated quite so liberally with power cables. They drive in such a calm
way breaking and accelerating slowly and steadily (a lot of Korean drivers are into the full foot slam method of accelerating and braking). In many respects it had more in common with back home than Korea. That’s not to say our experience in Japan was boring or anything like being back home. From the small bit of Japan we visited we saw a place brimming over with uniqueness.
The pedestrian crossings play funny music to indicate you can cross. The girls dye their hair orange, style it big and scruffy, complement their outfit with knee high socks and look fabulous. The language sounds beautiful, exotic and clipped (words often ending in consonants as opposed to all the vowels of Korean). There are bikes everywhere, even suited men and elegant ladies ride about on them. They make the city feel calm and peaceful. Even the taxis are smooth, they have electronic doors which pop open when they pull up for people to get in or out and more surprisingly (or maybe not this is Japan afterall) they also close electronically. The taxi drivers complete the effect, looking more like chauffeurs with their smart uniforms and hats.
We arrived in
style, gliding into Fukuoka on a Hydrofoil ferry we then followed the speed theme through on the bullet train to Kyoto. I loved Kyoto, just walking around the place made me feel relaxed and content. It’s beautiful with its backstreets of wooden teahouses, the smell of bamboo, the occasional glimpse of a Geisha. It was best walking around in the evening, the lantern lit streets almost empty in the evening drizzle, wondering alongside the willow-tree lined canal, with the light of the lanterns shining on the wet cobbles. Peeking into the exclusive teahouses, trying figure out what’s going on in this secret world of the Geisha is a novel experience. The teahouses tend to be for the upper echelons of Kyoto society and require a formal introduction before you are permitted to enter; this makes them all the more intriguing. There aren't too many places in the world where the tourist can’t buy an ‘experience’ and be spat out into a souvenir shop at the end of it. Never has being excluded felt so good.
As well as the teahouse areas Kyoto is bursting with temples, castles and gardens. The architecture is beautiful and their colours often surprising, particularly
the use of orange (or maybe that’s just my Korean perspective creeping in again, the temples here having their own particular colours). Bright orange suits the impressive structures and makes a change from the normally more subdued colours of religious places. The gardens too were stunning. Yeah I know that makes me sound old but really you have to see them, so much thought has gone into them they look like movie sets (and doubtless are, although the only one I’m aware of is Lost in Translation). With lily ponds and stepping stones, little bridges and streams, innumerable plants and Zen (rock) gardens they are really beautifully serene places to walk around. The ponds are filled with coy carp and turtles. The turtles didn’t seem at all phased by humans and kept trying to climb up onto rocks to get a better look at us. Walking around Japanese gardens is like meditating without having to put any mental effort in. Your mind just quietly unclutters itself.
As well as all the temples (of which I won’t describe too much because I’m attaching lots of photos) we also really enjoyed the downtown area with its staggering number and variety of
shops and uber-fashionable people. We have been somewhat deprived of shops where we actually want to buy things (although if we lived in Seoul that may be different). So all the money we saved in cheap accommodation was happily spent on clothes and I won’t have to look at photos in years to come of me always wearing the same T-shirt (although in years to come I could probably just Photoshop my entire wardrobe and be wearing something far more exciting than a t-shirt). I’ve never been all that bothered about shopping but I reached the stage where I had to stop myself from looking because there was just so much I wanted (and more worryingly felt like I needed
) to buy. If you are shopaholic you will leave Japan broke and broken but looking fabulous.
Anyway, here are the photos…….
Tot: 3.183s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 23; qc: 100; dbt: 0.1137s; 3; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.6mb