Japan. Also known as the land of the rising sun. There is something magical about this country. The diverse landscapes, sophisticated cuisine, the spiritual nature of its people all contribute to the magic. We visited Japan in February 2016 and instantly fell for it’s undeniable charm.
Nick’s thoughts on Japan: Japan is my favorite country. I love the beer and food culture, the great nightlife, the multitude of karaoke joints, the beautiful scenery… but mostly just the overall craziness of it all. We cannot wait to go back!
During our visit we enjoyed many food adventures: from stand-up sushi and ramen bars in Tokyo, to twelve-course kaiseki meals at one of the most highly acclaimed ryokans in Japan and a Valentines meal up high at The New York Grill in the Park Hyatt Hotel (the setting for the movie Lost In Translation). We even managed to sample the original kobe beef when we stayed in Kobe. We really stuffed our faces with (almost) everything Japanese cuisine had to offer. I even wrote a foodie hotspot list for the Dutch Elle Food on Tokyo. We also paid a visit to the absolute crazyyyy Robot Restaurant. Which is everything you expect it to be (a restaurant full of robots) and at the same time nothing like you thought it would be. It’s totally cheesy but worth a visit!
Sagano Bamboo Forest
However great the Japanese kitchen is we did more than just eating. We visited Kyoto for example. A really nice place and a must see for us. Staying here for a couple of days we took the chance of visiting the Sagano Bamboo Forest and the iconic Fushimi Inari-taishawith with its seemingly endless bright orange shrines (torii). Sagano forest filled with bamboo trees is one of the main attractions for people when they visit Japan. It is located on the outskirts of Kyoto. So we decided to rent bicycles and cycle to both sites. With the sun out, cycling trough Japanese neighborhoods turned out to be one of the best days of the vacation.
Fun Fact: Sagano Bamboo Forest is on the list of 100 best soundscapes of Japan.
It’ll be hard to go to Japan and not stay in a traditional Ryokan (inn, guesthouse or hotel). We stayed in several. From the more basic ones to one of the best in the country. Our stay at Kayotei is one we will never forget. For two whole days we were served by only two staff members, a concierge and a delightful lady who served us all the meals. We never saw any other guests or staff, had a private dining room, a private onsen (hotspring) and wore no shoes anywhere.
Fun fact: We stayed in the same room as one of Nick’s favorite all-time footballers always stays when he visits Kayotei, the Japanese Hidetoshi Nakata.
Another highlight were the multi-course kaseiki meals we were served. These are Japanese equivalent of what you would get in a French Michelin star restaurant, where ingredients are local and the meal balances textures, colors and flavors. During our stay we also had the privilege of having a tea ceremony with a retired tea master, who once travelled the world putting on tea ceremonies for presidents and other special guests. After two days we stepped out of what seemed like a bubble, feeling completely relaxed.
Asha’s thoughts on Japan: I often refer to Japan as the height of civilization. Public transport runs accordingly, food is healthy and complex and the stuff that would bother us Europeans on a daily basis does not seem to exist there. People won’t raise their voices in public transport, they wait their turn in organized queues and will not be offensive if they are confronted with something they don’t like. Now, this is just my observation. And I’m sure there are exceptions. The other side of the coin is that it is hard for any outsider to get a glimpse of what really goes on behind the wall. That is what makes Japanese culture so intriguing and mysterious.
Oh! We also did a Kendo class. Kendo is the Japanese martial arts sport that focuses on swordsmanship using bamboo swords. This is me, kicking ass!
For our last Flashback Friday we re-visited our road trip through Scandinavia. Missed it? You can still check it out here.