When I planned my first trip to Asia, I used Japan (Tokyo) as a 2 night stopover to break up the trip from the east coast of the US to Thailand. I took a one day tour to Hakone National Park and fell in love with the country and its people. I knew that I would return and have been fortunate to be able to journey to Japan many times, both solo and also with friends. Let me share some of my favorite memories with you.
I discovered on one of my first solo journeys that it is quite easy to travel about on the Tokyo train system; just do not travel during rush hour! I took the train to Ueno Park, a beautiful park with a pond and several fascinating museums. I have spent many hours at The Tokyo National Museum, with its wide range of artwork and national treasures, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and The Kaneiji Temple.
I have been fortunate to be in Tokyo during the Cherry blossoms (usually late March – early April) and this Ueno Park is one of the most beautiful at that time. Tokyo has other beautiful parks and they are all worth time to explore.
Tokyo’s department stores are interesting places to visit. Their customer service is unrivaled as is their packaging. I love the basement floors where food is presented so beautifully. And, they are terrific places to buy Japanese souvenirs. I was in a department store when they were having a French fashion and goods exhibit. Everything was exquisitely displayed. I still have the “Babar” book that I bought. Department stores also have very good restaurants and cafes, with either plastic replicas or photos of the food choices, so no challenge ordering.
I vividly remember going out for dinner and afterward drinks with friends at a Karaoke Bar. It was great fun, and as I sing “Happy Birthday” off key, I only sang with friends and sang very low. A friend noticed and laughingly said, “I did not hear you.” I responded “That was the idea.”
On one visit, with my mother, we left our hotel to walk about and find a restaurant for dinner. The hotel had given use several suggestions in the area. As one point, I had crossed the narrow street and gotten ahead of my mother. Three businessmen approached my mother and started to speak to her. I noticed and walked back. It turned out they wanted to make certain my mother was OK and not lost. They also gave us the name of a nearby restaurant which was excellent. Another evening, we joined a tour and had a marvelous dinner plus a fascinating Kabuki Show. To me, Japan is one of the safest countries I have visited with the most courteous and helpful people.
In Nikko, at the Toshu-gu shrine, I was captivated by the carving of the three wise monkeys: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” In Osaka, I was fascinated by the 16th century castle, surrounded by a moat and park. And the Bullet train is not to be missed.
My fondest memories of Japan are of its marvelous people, culture and cuisine. There is a sense of serenity and timelessness plus a glimpse of the future as you journey through this complex land with its ancient customs and very up to date technology.
Travel well on your journeys and travel often.