Japan – Art overload
We’ve finally returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan.
Japan is the most technologically advanced country I’ve ever visited. It may take Canada and United States at least 50 years to catch up with them, perhaps more if we tried really hard!
The advanced public infrastructure and transport system are impressive. We had the opportunity to ride high speed bullet trains to and from Tokyo and Kyoto. They were more comfortable than flying on commuter airlines. Even public toilets are advanced! In Canada, we have one knob which is to flush the toilet. A Japanese toilet could have 20 knobs, including one for the small shower to wash the bottom! Ha ha! Some toilet stalls even had a hand wash built into the top of the toilet tank and a strapped seat against the wall to place a busy toddler while you use the facilities; arm rests for the disabled and sinks for the disabled … they seem to have thought of everything in public spaces. And yes I took photos of toilets!
As a “foodie” and artist, I was overwhelmed by the beautifully presented food in markets which took the form of covered streets that seemed to go on for miles and miles. Restaurants and booths displayed food with artist flair, each one trying to out do the other. I found myself taking photos of food in elegant halls in malls and some of the many markets that dot each city. Even bento boxes sold at train stations with food for the long distance train rides were elegantly present with every piece of fish, and every vegetable in an exact location to make the meal a work of art. Food is prepared fresh daily on the day of consumption, i.e. no expiration dates on prepared meals the way we allow 3 days or more sometimes in Canada. If you can’t cook or have no time, most convenience stores sell all kinds of prepared meals.
Japanese are punctual, exact and very clean. We couldn’t find garbage cans anywhere around the city, but there was no litter! How is that possible? If a bus or a train is scheduled to leave at 10 am, it leaves exactly on time. This we learned the hard way, when we were 15 minutes late for a tour bus. We were left behind and lost all our money. There’s no flexibility … It was a bitter pill to swallow.
Tokyo is the Mecca of business and everyone wore black suits with white shirts and black ties, including black leather shoes. It seemed to be the work uniform for men. Everyone was elegantly dressed, no matter the profession. Very few people looked casual like tourists. We stuck out like sore thumbs. Signs were placed in strategic places to train tourists on Japanese etiquette in train stations. Imagine, we need training because we can’t behave to their standards! Morning rush hour was a nightmare of suits squeezed into underground subway carriages. Thousands of young students neatly dressed in uniforms all travelled alone to school using public transport, some looked as young as 6 years old. This is a testament to the safety of cities in Japan. We would never see this in North America. Are we really as free as we believe? I doubt it.
Kyoto was sophisticated too, but with a more religious focus, and temples and shrines on every street. We spotted some elegantly dressed Geisha girls in the Gion district, a rare treat. Osaka had a more artsy feel and some people dressed casually, smiled more and spoke a little louder than the other cities. We saw Costplay and Hippee styled youths with blue, green, pink hair etc. in Osaka, as well as piercings.
I had the opportunity to bathe naked in a Japanese hot spring or Onsen in the countryside town of Furama, north of Kyoto… a unique experience in itself.
Can’t wait to start painting the myriad of images in my head from this trip… so much to do, so little time!
Our travel buddy group stayed at an Air bnb in the neighbourhood near Oyama station in Itabashi, Tokyo. The house is a converted tea house with traditional Japanese furnishings, i.e. mats on the ground, mattress pads on the ground … no chairs or tables! The maze of narrow lanes in the neighbourhood and tiny bamboo gardens gave us an immediate immersion into Japanese culture during the recent visit to Tokyo.
We walked daily through Happy Rd, a covered pedestrian market street, to get to the Oyama train station.
Visit to Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Early morning to the Outer market is a feast for the senses… had to try not to get run over by the busy vans and trucks doing wholesale business… The Outer market hosts many cooked food stands as well as booths selling dried goods and bric-a-brac. The freshest sushi is sold at tiny restaurant/bars at the market with long lines to get enter.
Examining dried fish at the Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan – Outer market, Saturday morning
Visited the beautiful district of Asakusa, Tokyo, with it’s trendy shops and restaurants and home to the famous Sensoji Temple, where all tourists converge for shopping, dressing up in kimonos, eating and temple rituals … I atethe ost tasty mango shaved ice and barbecue squid tentacles!
Akihabra is a gamer’s paradise…. the bright lights at night in this district and everyy possible computer game you can imagine and more, with all the characters on sale, attract gamers from all over the world…
Some people sit and play video games in the numerous, noisy, arcades, all day and all night!
Boat ride on the Sumida River, Tokyo, heading north to Asakusa
Many shrines pay tribute to foxes and they are dressed in red bibs.
Shrine at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo
Boarding the Shinkansen bullet train in Tokyo and heading to Kyoto… what an experience… one of the fastest trains in the world. If you see a pretty view, snap a photo quickly, because in a second or two, it’s gone … poof! Delicious bento boxes with colourful meals are sold at the train station. They look too pretty and picture perfect to eat.