Lying here on my ultra thin “bed” placed on the tatami mat of our Ryokan… in a bit of a beer-induced haze from last night…
Another amazing night in Japan, this time filled with traditional performance arts (including Geisha) and modern brews. We spent the evening in the Gion district, famous for it’s centuries old buildings and regular Geisha sightings. We will post some pics soon!
For all you beer lovers out there reading this, craft brews have hit Japan and you MUST come try. I filled my belly with a delicious IPA and T had a caramel-filled amber ale. Japan is in love with their dry, crisp lagers (Asahi, Sopporo, etc) which are definitely easy to drink…but there had to be something else to try in this land of refinement, right? Just ask your Ryokan staff for a recommendation and, voilà! True to form, we had good service, oishi food and a unique setting.
As we round out our time in the Japanese Alps, we have visited several neighborhoods, shrines, temples and markets throughout Tokyo and the Hida prefectures. And, we are in love! To think that this was a dream location for Nick and a place I would have never thought to go, it’s incredible to realize how much I know about this culture and how many things I love now having visited. Nick has been like a little kid in a candy store, finding himself often speechless. One, by the travel and the fact that we are living out a dream, but two, that we are in Japan, a place he has dreamt about since he was a young boy. I find pure joy in being by his side, living out his dream. Of course, I am taking the reins with the camera, with some slight nudges from my husband. It’s been a lot of fun getting back into my hobby, and the surroundings we have put ourselves in is a true dream. It’s just now starting to fall into Autumn here, although its been rather hot, both Nick and I have red cheeks today after our bike riding! But, the leaves have really started to change here in Takayama and goodness, do we both love Autumn. It’s very special to realize that we chose our perfect season for our wedding and for this travel.
Some of the more interesting things we have found in our week here in Japan is that its rather family oriented. They just dote over their little ones, and us newlyweds can’t get enough of the little munchkins. We have seen both moms and dads taking the kids to school in the morning and the whole family unit out in parks enjoying each others company.
The notion that one should be nervous to come to such a foreign place has been erased for us – all of the transit stations are in Japanese and English and they have information stations everywhere, with English speaking employees. There is a lot of hand gesturing and pointing at maps, but overall we get the point across. We bow our heads and say thanks (arigato!) more than once.
Another part of the Japanese culture that may be unknown is their genuine friendliness. Most smile as you walk by (with a bow of the head too) and will give a salutation as well. They will go out of their way to assist. We couldn’t find the ramen joint in our Tokyo neighborhood so we asked a local shopkeep – to our surprise, he walked us to the door of the restaurant which was at least 300 feet from his shop! It was crazy.
We are also surprised at how quiet Tokyo was, being such a large metropolitan. Our neighborhood was bustling in the morning, but you could hardly hear anything whether in your room or even on the streets (save the occasional loud truck or motorcycle). Without exaggerating, we heard ONE car horn honk in our three days in Tokyo! When we compare to our home in Newark CA, it’s astounding. There are also a lot of signs on the metro reminding passengers to refrain from talking on the phone. Nick and I paid close attention to the Japanese riders and noticed that we should be darn near whispering most of the time but were still able to hear one another clearly. Certainly a different manner of carrying one’s self than we are used to.
Have you ever used the NYC metro? Ever realized how nasty is it? Well, come over to this side of the Pacific and you will be amazed – the subway, the streets, everything is spotless. They wash the sidewalks and entrances of buildings every morning. Before our countryside bike tour yesterday we saw a group of bankers outside cleaning the sidewalks together before the opening of business. Their attention to detail is really something to take into consideration.
One of the biggest interests in our travel around this world is to discover the food we love in the places they originate and try food we have never encountered. Japan is certainly showing us some new flavors and preparation methods while also showing us their refinement. It’s been quite a shock to our palette. We’ve found it’s hard to finish a whole meal because the flavors are so new and rich. Oishi! (yummy, tasty). We have had some incredible sushi and have learned the traditional way for eating this beloved food. Thankfully, it’s your choice here to use chopsticks or your hands with a piece of sushi, so if the little sticks aren’t cooperating put them down and dig in!
The big city of Tokyo enjoys it’s fashion. Nick and I love to people watch and we have seem some great outfits. Specifically, both men and women have unique shoes. We have seen every sort of style, both some we would want and others… not so much. Keep in mind, they remove their shoes before entering any dwelling, so the fancy shoes everyone wears is only for the world to see! It’s been a lot of fun experiencing the culture embracing such individuality.
We have been tracking our walking mileage with a pedometer in our backpack and spent the last two days on bikes. So far, in this last week we have walked a shade over 25 miles and riden approximately 12 miles on bikes 🙂 No rest for the weary, although this jet lag has been very hard, although I think we are both finally over the hump!