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Japan Travel: Memoirs, Quotes and Personal Reflections by two Friends!

If you enjoyed our previous article on United Kingdom, we have much more in store. Our favorite travel writers- Nazneen Malik and Priya Prabhu have come together to collaborate on yet another fun and informative article, this time from the land of the rising sun- Japan. Say Konichiwa to these two ūüôā

What are the first few things that come to your mind when you hear of Japan? Sushi,  their unique drink made of rice called Sake, geography lessons of them having homes made of paper and bamboo and the majestic Mount Fujiyama, cherry blossoms or Sakura as they call it, beautiful bright kimono outfits, geisha dolls, cutting edge technology, innovative appliances.

Japan certainly leads the way when it comes to respecting their own culture and keeping it relevant in the modern world. The values I observed and the attractions I saw were old but my experience doing so, modern and eased by the best technology. My former classmate and friend Priya read about Japan. The stars aligned this year for me to experience Japan in real life. As we compare our thoughts, we realized, the Japanese live by what they say and believe and immerse you in it when you visit.


At no time are we at complete possession of a journey, down to its last nook and cranny, as when we are busy in preparations for it. ‚Äď Yukio Mishimi

Priya: My travels are usually planned. This is because if I am traveling alone, or even with a friend, I prefer to be in the know about the place I would be visiting. The planning is the most exciting part according to me. However, there are always surprises once you land somewhere. Postcard, erstwhile photos look different, the vibes a city or town gives you may be different from the ones you read about or imagined. And then, the travel gremlins kick in..

Nazneen: TOKYO:¬† 11th April 2017.¬†It was my second day in Tokyo. I had seen the old side of Tokyo already. Meiji Jingu shrine, Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo tower, Tsukiji Hogan-ji temple, Jojoji temple and the beautiful heavenly Shinjuku Gyoen (Japanese garden) in full spring bloom. Running about in Tokyo is my favorite thing to do! I ended the day with scrumptious sushi and the robot cabaret the day before. It was a rainy day that day, as luck would have it. My buddy and I went to Sensoji and Asakusa shrines, Tokyo national museum trudging along in the rainwater. Totally worth it. But we gave up when it came to seeing Ueno park. A park in the rain? No. We went to Akihabara, though I am not much of a video gamer and went to one of the exorbitant cat cafes. Tokyo skytree? I lived next to it, but wouldn’t make much sense, given the weather. Flashback to April 6th, when I took a day off of work. I wrote a 26 page document with a time-table of what to do, when, which train to catch, towards where, the fare to pay. Attach the confirmation. I felt confident and in control going to a foreign¬†country where I don’t speak the language. Flash forward now. Do I regret my planning? Not at all. It made winging it smoother ūüėČ Off to more delicious sushi and a Kabuki show!

                                    Mount Fuji, Photo Courtesy: Shrikant Prabhu 

 

                                   Shinjuku Gyoen, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                               Shinjuku Gyoen, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                          Tokyo Tower ,  Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                         View from Tokyo tower, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 


You have to seek approval from yourself. ‚Äď Ichiro Suzuki

Priya: Often I am a solo Indian female traveller. I have lived on my own and dealt with life on my own too. It only took an honest conversation with me, and my own approval to rid myself of any jitters and just go for it. I am glad this has made me who I am today.

Nazneen: TOKYO:¬† 15th April 2017. Though I couldn’t make it to Nikko because my flight was cancelled, I was determined to cover as much as possible of¬†Nerd Nomad’s 2 week Japan itinerary in 11 days. From various reviews, it sounded like Mt Fuji would be visible only on colder and drier days and at certain times like early morning. So, I didn’t want to plan a whole day activity around seeing it. Rather plan my itinerary so I get several opportunities to do so without much cost. For example, stay at Yokohama en route to Hakone, Tokyo tower and go to lake Ashi at Hakone. The winning view was from my airbnb at Yokohama. They won’t list that in tour guides ūüėČ Hakone is a charming and very pretty town. There are ferry rides from lake Ashi to see more of the mountains and Mt. Fuji on good days. The Matsumoto castle has a moat, cherry blossoms this season and stunning 360 views of the mountains. I relaxed with an onsen (Japanese style bathouse and spa) at Izonukuni. The next was Kanazawa. I saw Oyama-jinja shrine, Omi-cho market, Kenrokuen Japanese garden. If you think you’ll get sick of seeing Japanese gardens at any point, you are mistaken :p. I passed on the Geisha shows at night. I start early morning and didn’t want to disturb the show with my snoring as I did at the Kabuki show :D. The Kanazawa castle (Ninja temple) is a must see. One must dress modestly and not talk in any language other than Japanese. English speakers get a booklet to flip through. It’s a castle full of hidden secrets and clever trickery; a pot that has a secret passage to elsewhere, a building of 7 floors that appears to just have 3, secret rooms, secret staircases. It has a special room called Hara-kiri. A samurai that loses in battle can commit suicide here. Once a person enters, it cannot be opened from inside. He is to cut his belly with a sword. No one has ever done this so take it easy guys! The idea of sacrificing yourself for the state still got me thinking. As Jared Diamond mentions in Guns, germs and steel, in the social organization of a state, as opposed to bands, tribes and chiefdoms do we see people overcoming their strongest instinct of survival and sacrificing their lives for others like no other. How do they do that? You have to be the first person to allow yourself I guess…

                                     Katamachi street, Kanazawa, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                  Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                 Matsumoto Castle,  Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                     Matsumoto Castle,  Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 


We Orientals, find beauty not only in the thing, but also in the pattern, the light and the darkness that the thing provides. ‚ÄďJunichiro Tanizaki

Priya: I am rarely satisfied with pictures of pretty places. In the blink of an eye, I am there to soak it in whole and taking pictures from every angle, several times. Funnily, I am known for my jumping photos before all the famous monuments of this world. Leap of faith I’d say!

                         Photo Courtesy: Priya Prabhu

 

                                      Photo Courtesy: Priya Prabhu

 

Nazneen: TOKYO:¬† 18th April 2017. The historic village of Shirakawago is a world heritage site with cute traditional houses with thatched roofs. I spent a day traveling to and from. The private bus from Kanazawa was booked the time I wanted to go. So I had to wait a few hours for the next. I was so exhausted on my way to Takayama but the Japanese style stay and dining experience added my vitality back for the next day. I rode the gondola and enjoyed the snow covered mountain viewing experience of the Shinhotaka peak. The Takeyama-Kurobe alpine tour, the day after that, was one of the highlights of my trip. I traveled for 8 hours that day, skipped a meal and still have no regrets. This trail opened 3 days before I visited. The snow was fresh and white and what’s the word for it, reflective? I did not want to leave. I spent hours in the mountains observing the sights from various viewpoints. It was immensely crowded. Watching the sunlight emerge from a horizon of snow was something like I had never seen. I walked towards it till I felt I might not be walking on solid snow. Every angle, every corner of that trail was an attraction. Happy to have visited it while I could and take lots of pictures. *Pats self on the back*

 

                          Nazneen in Bijodaira

 

                             Kurobe Dam, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                          Kurobe Dam, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                Nazneen in Murodo

 

                                       Murodo Plateau, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                         Shirakawago Gassho House, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

                                      Nazneen in Shirakawago

 


                                           Shirakawago, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik 

 


If you remember me, then I don‚Äôt care if anyone else forgets ‚Äď Haruki Murakami

Priya:  There are infinite I encounter, professionally and personally. There is much to learn and unlearn from the things and people that happen to us. But I generally tend to remember the leaders, the risk takers and the ones who refuse to conform to societal pressures and carve their own beautiful ways. I do hope I leave a lasting impression on some talented people around me too. I always like to keep the option of collaborating for work with everyone I meet. Everyone is creative, they just have to find their true calling. Hence this quote by Murakami remains my favorite.

Nazneen: TOKYO:  20th April 2017. As I did not have much time in Kyoto, I took a day tour to Nijo castle, Kiyomizu-dera temple, Golden temple,  Sanjusangendo temple, Hayashi Kentetsu temple and some shopping. The golden temple was my favorite. It looks so pristine, it does not even look real. With a heavy heart,  I had to skip the bamboo forest and Miyajima island and until then, I thought, Hiroshima as well. On my way to Hiroshima airport, I met a Chilean couple who helped me take the right Shinkansen train that my railway pass covered and not one I had to pay extra for. This helpful couple also told me that squeezing a quick tour of the atomic bomb dome and the peace memorial park was worth the risk and doable. They also spoke highly of Hokkaido, a northern mountainous region, less crowded and touristy. My initial plan was to see Hiroshima only via the train ride. That changed quickly and I felt greedy because it was also my last day :). They gave me the bus schedules and in my hour and a half train ride, I had a solid plan. I hopped off quickly and took the bus as it was leaving to the peace memorial park. I took a few shots of the park and walked to the peace memorial hall. The images and numbers of people who lost their lives were shocking. The personal stories from their families were sorrowful. The atomic bomb dome still stands in this perfectly functional town that gives an impression that nothing has and nothing can go wrong here. Even after all these years, Japan has maintained the memorial well and plays videos of the aftermath out of respect to those who suffered.

For weeks after I came back, I felt grateful for how accommodating the Japanese had been to someone who does not speak Japanese. I paid my bus fare by pointing to the fares on display and asking “Yen?”. The bus driver would respond with showing the numbers with her fingers. I would pay, say “Arigato” and get off. That is just one instance. I also felt like I left something there and I need to go back for it. I look forward to visiting this artistic country again. Arigato Japan!

                                          Atomic Bomb Dome, Photo Courtesy: Nazneen Malik

 

Golden Temple, Photo Courtesy: Madhavi Paropkari

 

 

Nazneen in peace Memorial Park

Authors: Nazneen Malik and Priya Prabhu

Featured Image Source: Pixabay.com

Memoirs of Japan content by Nazneen Malik.

Nazneen Malik is a Software Engineer based in the Greater Seattle area since 2010. She is originally from Mumbai. She did her B.E. in Computer Engineering and then worked as a Software Developer in Mumbai for 2 years.  After that she moved to Utah to do her Masters in Computer Science in 2008. She is passionate about her career and serving the community. For fun she likes to read, hike, salsa dance and travel!

Japanese quotes and personal reflections content by Priya Prabhu.

Priya Prabhu lives in what she still likes to call the city of dreams- Bombay. Former Londoner, travel blogger, glass painter, voracious reader, sassy sister, doting daughter and an IT professional best describe as to what she has made herself to be today. In her own humble words – Traveling to 23 countries across the world so far, hasn’t changed her values, but certainly changed her perceptions about things. She can be reached at prabhu.priya15@gmail.com

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