Experience Japan

Vol. 5 - Tourism

experience5_1.jpgName: Christopher Simonen
Area of Residence: Mostly Nihonbashi Tokyo, but also Kyoto & area
Useful Links:
International Tourism Center of Japan
Japan National Tourist Organization

What do you think you needed to do before go to Japan?
And what was the best thing you have done before you go?

experience5_2.jpgMy first advice to anyone thinking of doing a bicycle trip is to bring a tent and to PACK LIGHTLY. I tried riding my bike with an enormous bag strapped to the back and it was prohibitively heavy. Japan has mountains and if your bike is too heavy then you will have to walk your bike up and down the mountain and that is very straining. Also with a tent you can stay at many places for cheap. At least bring a sleeping bag, as there are some hostels where you can stay on tatami mats for less than 1000 yen($12) per night. Other than that, my short bicycle adventure was amazing. Not too far out of the cities you will see the Japanese country side as seen in books, with rice paddies and old buildings and misty mountains looming above. Really beautiful.

experience5_3.jpgLearning as much of the language as you can is really good too, but one thing I found was that if I asked someone a question in Japanese, they assumed I was fluent and would answer me in high speed. 'yukkuri hanashite kudasai' can be a useful phrase in this situation. Hiragana and katakana are important. Even if you are a slow reader to begin with, if you try to read everything you can as it speeds by the train window, you will find that your reading speed will quickly increase. Learning some kanji was also really helpful. Kanji is everywhere and it rarely has the little hiragana above it to help out, but if you make an effort to learn a few you will see the patterns and be able to recognize the basic radicals that make up the more complex characters. Being able to do this is really helpful in being able to recognize and remember the common ones that you see around, like in place names for example. If you can do this, a little kanji dictionary is nice to carry around.

What do you think about Japan so far?

experience5_4.jpgI'm already back home, but I often regret having to cut my trip short. Japan has delicious food and the convenience stores which are everywhere have the best snacks you've ever seen. The country side and the temples are beautiful, as is the architecture of both the old and the modern buildings. And maybe it's just me, but I think that the messes of tangled powerlines that are all over the place are pretty interesting too. Japan also has the coolest toys, and the kindest people, and you can spend weeks in Tokyo just wandering around and see new things every day. And don't forget the sentos with rooftop tubs for lounging in during typhoons, the convenience of vending machines, the ultra-fashionable people, Yoyogi Park on Sundays, how skimpily locked the bicycles are, the cool motorbikes and scooters (there are magazines for scooter-enthusiasts!), Yamashiroya the 7 storey toy store, the convenience stores, or the earthquakes! Believe me, I could go on.

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