Final thoughts on Japan

In short we were a little dissapointed with Japan. I’m sure it was once a beautiful country but it is now scarred by unsympathetic and relentless urbanisation that makes green spaces are rare commodity. In the big cities there is rarely interesting modern architecture to draw the eye and give the place a bit of personality. The only respite from the cities’ uglyness is the temples, many of which are beautiful, and there are a lot of them. But therein lies the problem, unless you are a templeaholic they become rather samey quite quickly and you can be left scratching your head for what else to do that may hold your interest.

We were also a little let down by the food, a couple of notable exceptions aside, we found it to be pretty bland and textureless – not to our tastes at all.

On the up side Japan’s star attraction is the people, they are the most genuinely friendly, polite and altruistically helpful nation of people that I have ever met. Almost everyone we met went out of their way to help us out from the old man in Hiroshima who showed helped us find the way to our accommodation (even though he didn’t know the way himself!) to the guide in the Kobe earthquake museum who was just stunningly warm and friendly and gave us a personal tour through the museum.

The public transport too is wonderful – the trains run promptly and regularly and go to all sorts of out of way places and they are also incredibly rapid. They’re not even particularly expensive, certainly comparable to the UK.

Bear in mind that these comments are based on having seen only a little of Japan, funds dicatated that we could neither travel more widely in the time or travel for longer so we base our judgements on limited experience. I am told that the far north and south are far less developed and that all things flora and fauna are given more space in which to thrive, this we would have liked to have seen.







4 responses to “Final thoughts on Japan”

  1. Robert Hazelby avatar

    Sorry to read that Japan wasn’t quite to your tastes. It’s still at my number 1 spot for ‘Must Visit Places’, but I think a short weekend in Germany later this year is probably as far as I’ll get away from home for the forseeable future.

    On a completely non-travelling related note, the legendary Bison played in Bristol on Friday night. Everything you (John) had said about them was spot-on. The evening was one of the best night’s out I’ve had in a long time (even if one of my mates got stroked and blown kisses at my some bloke, and we had two lesbians getting off with each other in front of us – yes, not your normal ska crowd!).

    The band were without a doubt headline material, and I’m going to see if we can get them for next year’s beer festival.

    I came away with ringing in my ears, and their new album, which has been blasting out of the Mac ever since.

    A great night!

    Right. Time for a late bank holiday breakfast!

    Take care you two.


  2. Keith avatar

    You make some interesting points and I agree with you that the urbanisation is pretty soul destroying, there are few nice new buildings here, but you also said it yourself that you didn’t spend much time here and only saw a little of Japan and not much of the countryside. Tokyo to Kansai is most industrialised part of the country afterall. Saying that, travelling here outside the main urban areas isn’t easy if you don’t speak Japanese, definately expensive and takes some planning. I hope you come back one day and see that there is still a lot of beauty here. Maybe not Yashio next time though eh? As for the food, I know we didn’t go anywhere special when I was with you but I think you are mad! I would say, and many do, that the food is one of the best things about Japan. Again however, maybe not to be done on a tight budget as my credit card will tell you. It was really nice seeing the two of you though, and I’m glad you came to visit. Got an i-pod after seeing yours, Gold is on the karaoke playlist and has been slaughtered a few times after a few too many sakes recently. I might have it as the English song this term and have the kids belt it out as well. That’ll learn ‘um hehe.

    Ki o stukete ne


  3. Sev avatar

    Glad you enjoyed Bison Rob. Pretty much guaranteed. Sheffield music at it’s finest!

    On Japan. It is worth noting that the by far the two best meals we had in Japan were places that Keith took us. We couldn’t really afford to eat out after that. We did find an interesting place in Kobe that sold you food tickets out of a vending machine which you later exchanged for food. The food was nice enough, it was also cheap (my favourite! 😉 The rest of it was not to our taste i’m afraid. I think I was having hallucinations about sunday lunches by the time we got on the ferry.

    I agree with all John says and did find the urbanisation a little monotonous and uninspiring. I personally wouldn’t go as far as to say i was dissapointed with Japan though. I didn’t really know what to expect anyway. It was definately worth the visit just to see Keith and to visit Hiroshima (which I consider to be one of the most intense experiences in my life). Another highlight for me was walking through the tall bamboos.

    China is a completely different kettle of fish. Extremes of good and bad. Japan is urbanised. China is and environmental disaster.

    Bye for now


  4. J-Hob avatar

    Having read my post back I think I was rather over-harsh about Japan. I just don’t think we saw the best side of it given our time and money constraints. If money was no object we certainly would have made the effort to get to less urbanised spots and stayed for longer. I guess the moral of that story is that it is hard to get the best out of Japan on a limited budget. I was very happy to have picked up my nice new camera in Kyoto on the cheap though!

    Glad you enjoyed Bison Rob, they are awesome aren’t they?! Anyone else reading this who has not sampled the musical Bison stew yet could do a lot worse than take a peek at and listen to some of the mp3s there.