After visiting Japan for the first time I needed some time to make up my mind about everything and I guess that’ll happen to most western people who go there for the first time, because a lot of things are really different from here in Europe and probably also in the United States. So with 2 weeks after returning to Hamburg, I feel that I can give my thoughts on the trip and the country. Or at least an overview, because all the thoughts together might take some time to read (and for me to write xD).
First of all: It was really a great journey and overall I loved beeing there! I might criticise some things later, but they are more regarded as sidenotes from my point of view (except if I say otherwise at some point).
If I had to describe Japan in 3 adjectives right now, I’d say ‘weird’, ‘bi-polar’ and ‘addictive’. Now you probably can’t really picture Japan with just these three words, so I’ll explain my reasoning behind them for you. I hope they’re understandable after that
I’ll start with ‘weird’, so what’s weird about Japan? You surely know a lot of weird japanese things from the media (like japanese TV-shows, selling worn panties and more stuff), but there’s more to that. Women in their 60’s wearing Hello Kitty t-shirts is weird. Having a vending machine every 100 meters is even more weird. No oven in houses is also a weird thing in my book. Crosswalks that cross streets diagonally are also pretty uncommon for my experiences with crosswalks up to this point in my life, so I’ll note that as weird. And do you remember the Romantic Walk that shuts down at 22.00 already? If that isn’t weird… Oh and don’t forget love hotels! Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons behind most of these things (though I fail to see the reason behind the Romantic Walk ^^) and I’m not saying these things are bad, but they just crossed my mind as beeing very diffent from the places I’ve seen so far. Therefor I classify them as weird. And I was just starting with the list there (imagine how much food I could have mentioned here) 😉
The next adjective is ‘bi-polar’. What I want to say with this word is, that there are a lot of seemingly contradictory things in Japan, that fit kinda naturally together. For example the a shintoistic shrine surrounded by towering modern office-buildings. The coexistence of tradition and modernity. Or the immense use of foreign languages in naming brands or shops (or even english words in the regular japanese Language), while most of the people there don’t seem to understand a lot of languages beside Japanese. Of course, the same trend exists here too, but it’s far more extreme in Japan. Also old wrecked houses beeing caught between newer buildings is a hint towards the bi-polar nature of Japan. Small way-shrines next to a busy road too.
And then there is ‘addictive’. Japan is highly addictive! There are so many things that I wanted to try there and afterwards I wanted to try them again (like visiting an Onsen). Only my limited money kept me from doing so. For example once you start trying japanese food, there’s always something different and new that you have to eat too. By the way I find the rumour that Japan has the best dishes in the world a bit overrated – I ate a lot of great stuff, but I also ate a lot of cool dishes here too. And there are the shops… I really don’t like shopping, but visiting anime and manga-shops was amazing. I could stay there for hours and walk through their shelf-rows, always finding something new and interesting. You wouldn’t believe what kind of crazy merchandising stuff you could find there 😀
All in all, Japan is quite different from here, but that had to be expected. What I didn’t expect was how nice and interested a lot of people were in me and my journey. There were some occasions where I someone started to talk to me out of the blue and wanted to know more about me. That didn’t quite fit the image of the shy and superficial japanese people that you tend to hear often. So of course I was extremely positively surprised about that. That’s probably also the biggest point for me in my wish to go back there next year to study abroad: the people. If it weren’t for nice Japanese which I met on my trip, I think Japan wouldn’t have been so special and amazingly awesome. So I’ve got to thank Nozomi for her help in every question that I had and of course also for housing and guiding me. And there are Gen and his family and Shota and Ayano, all of them which I definitely want to see again in the not so far future. Without tem it would have been a more or less usual tourist trip, but because of them, it was far more and I gained a lot of insights. Hopefully I will be back in a year (maybe in Kobe, as the city looked promising for studying there!)
So here’s the official finishing point of my first trip to Japan, where I was truly big ^^