My 2nd trip to Japan is imminent and I can’t tell you how excited I am. Japan has always held some kind of mystical hold over me since about 1999. Probably ever since the Dreamcast era and seeing the cool imports from Japan, and all the game shops there. Not to mention the immense life changing experience that was Shenmue.
For all the years after that, I always wanted to visit Japan, but for each passing year, in my mind, the trip had to be even more special. There was so much I wanted to see, and all the Japanese media I consumed made me hungry for it. Back then I wasn’t into Japan as much as nowadays. I didn’t watch anime on a regular basis, although I was a huge Studio Ghibli fan. I loved the quirky Japanese import videogames, read Haruki Murakami, and generally saw Japan as a very cool place to be.
What finally forced my first trip was a work visit. That lasted a week, so I took three further weeks off to tour around. For the first week we were in Kyoto and I took every opportunity to go and expore the famous temples. As well as partaking in the arcades/game centres unique to Japan and the nightlife. I took a quick detour to one of Japan’s most famous castles, Himeji-jo, and then made my way to Mt.Fuji. We were out of the climbing season so couldn’t make it to the top, and it took three days or more for the clouds to clear. But once Fuji-san was visible, it was one of the greatest sights I’ve ever seen. No doubt made better by the immense wait.
After the laid back countryside and onsens around Fuji, it was time to hit Tokyo. I still have hardly seen any of Tokyo. I spent a lot of time in Akihabara, checked out Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku park, and a club on Odaiba but thats it. Far too little time at each place. I then went back to the Kansai district and hit up Nara, the ancient capital and a quick night in Osaka (to see the famous aquarium, home to whale sharks, which I only knew from Endless Ocean, and hence thought were fictional beings).
I then went to Takayama, seeing a more laid back Japan, and some history. Another trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train) took me to Hiroshima, to view history, and the magnificent island of Miyajima. Then was the highlight of my trip – the modern art islad Naoshima. Finally, I took quick visits to Kyoto and Tokyo again before departing. I knew I would be back…
There was just so much I hadn’t seen. A lot more of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Actually climbing Fuji. Hokkaido, Okinawa, the islands south of Tokyo. Yokosuka (the home of Shenmue, it has to be said, going to Osaka and Kabuki-cho, and recognising them from the Yakuza franchise (as well as knowing where the batting cage was) was seriously awesome, I need to go to the town of my most favourite videogame). The list goes on and on…
My first trip was in May/June 2010. And since then, I really got into anime, starting collecting anime figures, and have now started reading manga as well. I’m even more into Japan than previously. And yes, I’m still playing Japanese videogames (mostly Cave shmups), reading Murakami, and watching Ghibli as well.
I thought I’d save up for two years (Japan is an expensive country!) and then visit again. What forced my second trip sooner was again work. I’m spending a week in Tsukuba on business, then two extra weeks on holiday. With a few days before hand to meander around Tokyo. I am so very excited.
For this trip, I plan to spend the first few days hitting the otaku shopping hotspots of Akihabrara, and also Nakano Broadway etc. I’m bringing a suitcase to store all my figure purchases in, and then will travel with just a rucksack. After that I have a week working (with a small afternoon trip to Tokyo included). And then I hit Tokyo for the weekend with a friend. We intend to see the nightlife (neither of us even went to Roppongi on our last trips!) and see the Ghibli museum again.
Then after the madness of Tokyo, we will visit Mt. Fuji again. I plan to visit the Fuji-Q Highland theme park to see the 1:1 scale Evangelion models. Then we’re off to Nikko for some more countryside and temple hopping. Then its back to the craziness of Tokyo. After that my friend leaves and I plan to take the Shinkansen to Kyoto. Check out a couple of brilliant looking temples I missed, go to Osaka for a night to see nano.RIPE play (I’m also trying to see AKB48 live, but doubt I’ll get the chance to). And then I’m back to Tokyo for a final bout of otaku sights and shopping. Oh, and I plan to visit the real life K-ON! school in Toyosato too.
But still, after two trips to various places, there’s still more I’d like to see. Everyone I know realises I’m going to travel back to Japan more in the future. I still need to go to Yokosuka for my Shenmue pilgrimage. Need to actually spend more time in Osaka and Kyoto. And so much more. I’ve sprinkled some random photos from my last trip here. So hope you enjoy these, and hopefully I’ll post up a lot more pictures when I am back. I’m so excited about my trip, and should go finish packing now!