As I write this, I’m sat on a train twisting further up into the Japanese Alps, the sun setting over the green hills. I’m headed to Kanazawa, a place I have literally no expectations about, apart from that it’s got a castle, has something to do with the origin of samurai and is “quite nice”. Well alright then.
This is my tenth full day in Japan now, and my first time going it alone. It feels weird to suddenly not have that extra bit of support there, that extra pair of hands and eyes (not a euphemism). I’ve definitely been taking a lot more selfies than usual (again, not a euphemism). It took me a bit off guard yesterday when I had possibly my lowest moment so far in Hiroshima. Wandering around for ages after visiting the Itskushima Shrine, I couldn’t find anywhere to eat that a) didn’t have any food without fish being involved somehow and b) had a menu in English. I ended up eating pizza in a huge restaurant which contained jut me and the chef, while a soundtrack that I’m pretty sure was Club Bangerz ’08 blared out as I chewed sadly on my rubbery mozzarella. Fairly depressing, but nothing a few beers with some hostel folk didn’t fix. Still, I’m hoping that Kanazawa offers slightly better prospects.
It was also a shock to the system as pretty much every day so far in Japan has been fantastic. I’ve been in love with this country since I first started playing Pokemon at age 9, and I’m so glad that it’s even better than I expected. After living in China for the last year or so, everything in Japan seems even more shiny and clean and polite and well-run – I keep expecting someone to wrinkle up their face and laugh at me for being stupid white foreign girl, or to encounter a delay of some (any) kind, or for the sky to smog over and the incredible clear blue to disappear. It just doesn’t happen.
We began our trip in Tokyo, where we spent five nights. Because we’re a couple of self proclaimed geeks, a lot of our trip centered around Studio Ghibli, Pokemon, arcades and robot restaurants, but we managed to fit in a few historical sights such as the Meji Shrine and Sensoji Temple on the last day. One of the highlights though was heading to Yamanouchi and seeing the wild snow monkeys there – a long, but beautiful, daytrip from Tokyo.
If we didn’t get enough culture and history in Tokyo, we definitely made up for it in Kyoto, a city where there is quite literally a shrine or temple on every corner. We stayed in a tiny traditional ryokan in Gion, the geisha district, and at night after returning from a few beers in the city we’d see them tottering around the back alleys with those demure half-smiles on their faces. The Kinkaku Ji Temple and a daytip to Nara stand out, but not quite as much as a random encounter with a capybara on the banks of the river.
After Kanazawa, I head onto Takayama. Apparently I’m going to be there on the exact day of some kind of autumn festival. I had no idea. I’ll then return to Tokyo for a couple of nights before heading on to Sydney, Australia. I should probably sort accommodation for that at some point, but half of me was hoping just to show up at 42 Wallaby Way and ask P. Sherman to take pity on me.
Saying goodbye to Japan will suck, but I’m looking forward to saying g’day mate to Oz.