Sunday, June 3, 2012

Exploring Japan - the vacation of a lifetime

My husband and I have been contemplating for a while now the possibility of taking a vacation to Japan to visit my little brother.  Miraculously, everything fell into place and we were able to take this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  Of course, my husband is now completely smitten and he wants me to bid on it, but our attitude going into this trip was to see everything we could see in 8 days.

We spent our time in three main cities: Tokyo, Kyoto, and the region around Sendai (where my brother lives and works). Tokyo is a city of 13 million, and thus the biggest city I have ever visited.  I was immediately struck by how clean it is.  In New York and London, for example, when you blow your nose at night what comes out is black (yuck!), but not so in Tokyo.  In Japan you have a fascinating juxtaposition of high tech (think bullet train, Tokyo high-rises, neon lights) and ancient tradition (geishas, beautiful shrines, temples, and gardens).

Some of the highlights:

  • Studio Ghibli, the museum of famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro).
  • Sleeping on real futons on traditional tatami mats in a Ryokon
  • Eating sushi for breakfast at the Tokyo fish market
  • Fukushima Inari - the shrine of 1,000 red gates
  • Bamboo grove near Tenryuji in Kyoto

Being in Japan was an exhilarating mixture of adrenaline and disorientation that I haven't felt in a long time.  Everything is so different from the West, and at least when we went, there were very few tourists.  The Japanese are so friendly and charming.  It helped that my brother speaks Japanese--that goes a long way.

While in Japan my husband and I celebrated our six year wedding anniversary.  We went out to a traditional Japanese meal with my brother and then to the New York Bar (the one in Lost in Translation). We had such a fabulous time.  It was so good to spend time with my little brother and to lose ourselves in the tourist experience.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.