So, in three weeks, my dad and I managed to see… not every side of Japan, but a hell of a lot of them. I am going to do more detailed posts once I sort and edit photos (both from this and from my trip back in March), but a quick rundown of where we went and my quick thoughts:
-Tokyo: More from March than this trip, but Tokyo is a fascinating city of tons of different parts all jammed up together - some areas feel like a high-end shopping district in NYC, some have that sheen of ~FUTURE~ that I think is the image of the city that we’re sold, and here and there, there are little pockets of history, of old places that have survived.
-Kyoto: Regal and set firmly in tradition - if Tokyo is Vancouver, BC, Kyoto would be Victoria - the more ‘proper’ counterpart. We stayed the longest here, and I could have stayed even longer, because there’s so much history to be seen. Kyoto definitely capitalizes on that, but in a way that doesn’t feel too overdone or touristy. In some ways it still remains a center of culture, so it doesn’t have the feeling of being stuck in the past.
-Nara: the smaller and more touristy counterpart to Kyoto, but given that it hasn’t been historically relevant for hundreds of years, that’s not surprising. The historic sites are still 100% worth a vist.
-Koya-san: A short trip but a world away from any of the cities. It’s been the center of Shingon Buddhist tradition in Japan for over a thousand years now, and time seems to move differently up on top of the mountain. And it was a wonderful respite from the bustle of the cities.
-Osaka: I went here, my dad went to Hiroshima. Osaka is interesting because I feel like I could describe it in terms that seem very American - rougher than Tokyo, more sense of hustle - but it takes them and makes it something very Japanese. I did not get to try nearly as much food as I had wanted, but another time, maybe.
-Hakodate: Off the tourist-radar - both guidebooks I brought mostly mention it as a stay-over on the way to Sapporo - but with my interest in the Bakumatsu period it was a must-see for me, and I’m glad we did. It’s a facinating little city - much of it’s growth was in the mid 1800s, as one of the three ports open to the West, and there are elements of that everywhere - buildings that combine Japanese and western architecture, tram lines, the old churches at the base of Mt. Hakodate.