Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sayonara, Japan!

Sayonara, Japan - a fitting title to this final post on our vacation to Japan!! Our first night in Tokyo, I found myself humming 'Sayonara, sayonara' from the 60s Bollywood film - of course, the name is totally cheesy - 'Love in Tokyo'!! Before long we had pulled up the song's video on Youtube (hurrah for no internet restrictions) - seriously hilarious, Asha Parekh dressed in a kimono (she's supposed to be Japanese), dancing with mincing steps, complete with fluttering fan and twirling umbrella!! Absolutely priceless!!! For an entire generation (or maybe even two), this song was the very definition of anything Japan, and Sayonara - saying goodbye in Japanese was very, very cool!! Back then, I'm sure I would have laughed at the idea of me ever visiting Japan- but that was then, and now - I can't believe I had the most amazing vacation in Japan!!!

We got around quite a bit in a week - and surprise, surprise - I was a bit erratic with my posts after I got back. 8 posts - this one the 9th - spread over 3 months! Sigh, I have to get better at managing my blog - well, maybe some day! Meanwhile, I thought it would be a good idea to have all of them linked right here - easy access to all our fun adventures in Japan! Here they are, in chronological order...

Getting ready for Japan
Konichiwa, Tokyo! - Part I
Konichiwa, Tokyo! - Part II
Shinkansen to Kobe
Universal Studios, Osaka
Hiroshima and Miyajima
The beauty of Kyoto
Last day in Kobe

The thing with Japan is - there's no one big thing, no must-see attraction - nothing like the Taj Mahal or Great Wall or Eiffel Tower! And while that makes the days a little difficult to plan - there is a limit to how many temples and pagodas and gardens you can go to, it is also liberating in a fashion. Without the typical tourist traps, I felt we got a better feel for the country, the culture and the people - what a refreshing change! The Japanese as a people are absolutely in a class of their own! Soft-spoken, polite and patient to a fault - I can't imagine any other place in the world where hundreds of people would queue up 4 hours (and more) for a ride with barely a murmur or any sign of restlessness or irritation! I am, of course, referring to the Amazing Spider-Man ride at Universal! No loud voices, no pushing or shoving, most surprising - no screaming kids anywhere! Everyone seems to be in a state of zen - what's the secret?

I've already raved about the JR - and I'll say it again - undoubtedly, it was the trains that made the whole vacation so enjoyable and stress free! In hindsight, it would probably have been better to fly into Osaka, and then just stay in Kobe - making couple of day trips to Tokyo instead of staying there! That way, it would have been possible to fit in an afternoon at Mt. Fuji too....I do regret missing that one! The other great thing on this trip - totally unexpected and all the sweeter for it - was the quality of restaurants, especially in Kobe! Small little places, with the most incredible food - coming from China, an absolute treat!

And finally - just cannot resist this - the cherry on top, the cherry blossoms, of course!!! This is kind of funny - I wasn't prepared for how many flowering cherry trees there would be, and I did spend a couple of days wondering what happens to the bumper crop of cherries that was sure to follow - until I found out most of the trees were ornamental!! So much for my visions of giant cherry pies! To conclude - go to Japan, go in April, and don't forget your JR passes! Good times guaranteed!!

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