The End of My Japanese Journey

I’m not one to always make the most practical of travel plans. It’s 8pm in Osaka Kansai International Airport, and my flight departs at 7am tomorrow so I’ll either stay up all night catching up on anime or go to the really dark and creepy unlit area of the terminal damaged by the storm and sleep.

It’s not the worst situation I’ve created for myself. I landed in Tokyo at 2am last year for my flight home the next day and there were no shuttle buses and I was running out of money and didn’t want to withdraw more so slept in the disabled toilet of the car park…

I had always been interested in Japan, the language and culture before anime actually, and was so glad to be able to go back so soon after my last trip there.

Tokyo: I loved staying in Akihabara, it is an ideal location for many key places in Tokyo such as the Imperial Palace, Skytree, Tokyo Tower, and many chopping malls. As well as this, the Pokemon Centre and Pokemon Café are nearby. I visited the Japanese Sword Museum, the surrounding parks and gardens, the Imperial Palace, Ikebukuro, and various shops around Akihabara. I loved it all, and it was nice to have my brother as company and win a lot in the arcades. The food was all very nice, and there were definitely cheaper and more expensive areas. The restaurants I recommend are the small ones where you just sit on a stool at the counter and get your food sometimes even made in front of you. They have a nice small business atmosphere and the food quality and portion size is really good value. Although seeing all the Japanese eating alone at these places, often with a seat between them, it struck me just how lonely life in Japan must be for a not-insubstantial number of people. Back in the UK, pretty much no-one eats out alone.

Sapporo: Owing to the earthquake, the autumn festival that was meant to have started before we arrived only started the day before we left. But it was massive, spanning most areas of Odori Park and there was so much choice. My wallet definitely thanked me to only be able to buy a few things at it. It also had a very cheap wine bar! Aside from this, we went to Nakajima Park which was ridiculously big, and contained the Sapporo Concert Hall, some shrines, and an observatory from which we were able to see Venus!  I took my brother to Hokkaido Shrine, and we went to the Sapporo Beer Museum, and got a very nice tasting set (for 600 yen) at the end . I much prefer cider to beer but this was really nice. We stayed in a capsule hotel which was in a ideal location right by Susukino station. I’ll write a full post about capsule hotels, but they’re actually really good.

Kobe: Due to the typhoon at Kansai International Airport, my brother couldn’t accompany me on this stage of my journey. But luckily yesterday one of my students from the language exchange was free to meet up with me and show me around the city. It was nice having a local guide, and we went to the harbour where we saw a black Japanese nay ship set sail, it was so cool! We had gyudon and visited Minatogawa Shrine which was very impressive, and had some of the iconic red pillar gates! Beforehand I had been to Nada, the sake district, and had perhaps a few too many free samples (especially when I’m on an ssri and really shouldn’t be drinking…) but I wanted to make sure I was buying good sake for my friends. My favourite one was one you have to refrigerate and I’m not sure if I can do that where I’m staying in the Philippines, or if friend A has one next year, so I bought my second-favourite, which my friend said is a very famous and popular one!

I walked round Kobe the first night on my own, with amazing lights I wouldn’t have expected from a city that, frankly, looked a bit drab in the light, feeling so content. I had to stop and think just how normal I felt for once. It was a lovely feeling and while thoughts telling me it couldn’t last were trying to surface I did surprisingly well at shutting them out. However this changed when I accidentally forgot to take a small sake cup I got for free out of a bag before I binned it, and only realised too late. I wasn’t as bad as I had been at the start of Tokyo, but my mood plummeted. Getting up today was very hard, and I was lucky that this ideally placed capsule hotel had a later check-out than the other one. I visited Ikuta Shrine today, and made a last stop at the arcade, and wrote my postcards. But I had run out of steam by this point so went to the airport very early. I’m not sure how much more I could have done as I didn’t have time for a day trip to one of the mountains. It just means I’ll have to come back and I fully intend to.

I had a great time, but didn’t bring enough money and did have to withdraw a lot. But it was worth it, and I didn’t want to be miserably counting pennies instead of enjoying myself. I’d like to come again to Kobe and do some trips from there, and also see more of the Sapporo outskirts. I’m not sure when I’ll next be in Japan, if it’s not next year I’m hoping to volunteer for Tokyo 2020, and I can’t wait. It’s amazing what the trip has done for my mental health, and even the pains I was getting have mostly stopped, with only my finger left and even that’s getting better, although I’m not sure being in Japan had any effect on that.

Next stop is Manila.

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