Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thoughts on Our Visit to Japan

I was looking through my pictures again and it seems like a lot of time has passed since we first arrived in Japan. I really enjoyed my visit and seeing the quiet gardens and the other green spaces that you find everywhere in the middle of the city. Some of these areas are associated with temples or other religious structures but many of the parks were just as quiet and restful. I don't think that I could ever get used to the crowds but was surprised by the extent of the farmlands that separate the cities.

It took a bit for us to get used to the signs, the money and even the weird vending machines where you could get just about anything. After a while, we were able to get around using public transportation and didn't get too lost wandering around the narrow streets. Everywhere we went was tidy and clean. By clean, I don't mean "like new" or immaculate but no litter. Now I miss the small shops and food stalls.

These steps seem to be an example of what I miss already. The original stones are on the left and are supplemented with more modern and durable steps in the middle along with the handrail. This isn't any kind of restored historical building or anything like that but just an older, operational temple. We went there originally since there was a geocache near the bottom of the stairs. (BTW, we found a number of geocaches in Japan)

This creek was about a few hundred meters from the townhouse we stayed at in Kyoto. Again, a very nice green area in the middle of the city. There was another geocache here overlooking the bench near the bridge that I was standing on while taking this picture. The little handrail-less footbridge near the middle of the frame would never be allowed to exist in the US. Many people used this bridge including large groups of kids on their way to school. I'm not sure if there is a summer break but kids were still attending school while we were there. In fact, heading to school at 6:30am and not heading home until around 6 in the evening. There were still groups of kids heading home at 10pm. Long hours and six days per week.

Not all of the food in Japan was bland. Here is a very hot and spicy noodle dish that I had for lunch at the Nishiki Market. I don't think I had anything that I didn't like and I must admit that I missed the small noodle shops that we found all over Japan. All very reasonably priced which is not what I had expected. I had heard that food would be incredibly expensive in Japan. The only expensive meal we had was the Japanese dinner with family on our last evening in Kyoto. Most, like this lunch dish of noodles and Chinese fried rice, was about 500¥ or about $5 and change.

I thought about looking for a waterproof point and shoot camera and while the selection was huge, the price was usually much more than the same camera would sell for in the US. Then again, there were quite a few that weren't even available.

There were some real disappointments but maybe I'll cover those in a seperate post.

Here is what we came back to in Fairbanks, smoke and limited visibility. There are fires both east and west of Fairbanks and the smell of smoke is everywhere. But things are green and the temperatures are back in the "normal" range.


  1. Does your view now almost seem desert-like compared to Japan?

    I really want to thank you for sharing those photos and thoughts. Japan has been a dream of mine for a long time.

    I LOVE the stone steps that you show here. So much beauty, so many ideas that I can put to use or just dream about.

    I think you and your family will enjoy this movie- The Taste of Tea. It's weird, but it all makes sense after a while. Very charming.

    1. It was very green in both Japan and Singapore and I noticed that it was also very green on the approach into Fairbanks. The Tanana flats south of town was pretty lush, at least for now. Oregon seemed dry and parched when landing in Portland. More desert-like.

      I'm glad that you enjoyed the pictures and my random thoughts. I will definitely look for the movie as I hadn't heard of it before.

      The stone steps and walkways could be found everywhere. Even the entry into our townhouse in Kyoto was simply three rocks set into gravel. And the front door, as well as most of the interior doors, were sliding not swinging.

  2. That last picture of Fairbanks makes me think you are going through the "lazy hazy days of summer."

    Thanks for the recap post on Japan. Makes me want to go there some days to look at all the beautiful gardens and architecture.

    1. If it was just haze it would be fine. But it's smoke from the numerous brush fires surrounding town so you get smoke no matter which direction the wind is blowing.

      I'd return to Japan in a minute. I really enjoyed the visit. It was one of those places that really intimidated me at first...

  3. Ooh yes. Disappointments soon please. Good food, respect for history and sensible rules are fine in their way. But disappointments? Bring it on!

    1. It isn't a long list but has some significant items.

  4. Interesting recap, Richard. Japan has been on my bucket list for a while now and it was nice to get a sneak preview of things to come (one fine day).
    You found Japan very clean? I had the same impression when we visited Switzerland. I wonder who is the master of cleanliness ;-)

    Of course I am as curious as anyone else to hear about the downfalls of your visit. Please elaborate ;-)

    1. "Master of cleanliness", interesting comparison. The whole time I was in Japan, I never saw a single piece if litter on the street or sidewalk. In fact, I don't know if this is typical but after a tour bus of Chinese tourists left a large gift shop, many of the employees (managers included) went to the parking lot and picked up cigarette butts and other litter. When walking down the street, a businessman in front of me stopped and picked something up and dropped it in the trash before continuing on. I don't think I'd see that very often around here.