Japan. Travel notes, part I

The expectations. 
- Aren’t you unbelievably excited about the trip?
- I am believably excited.
When going to Japan you are expected to be excited. I think it’s so far and still so mystified in the Western world that going to Japan almost feels  like winning a lottery ticket. If you aren’t excited you gotta fake it at least. So I did.
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Akihabara, Tokyo 
21 days later I’m on board of the beautiful 787 Dreamliner on my way back and I am truly unbelievably amazed by the wonders I’ve seen in this beautiful country. It is un-be-lie-va-ble. I have completely fallen in love with Tokyo. I think I would even live there and get soaked in its amazing mix of culture, traditions, and hi-tech.
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 Shiragawa-go Ethnical village, Takayama
 

I love Japanese devotion to details. For a slightly OCD person as I am Japan is just the paradise on earth. Everything is clean, well-thought, convenient … and sometimes weird.
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Hirajuku, Tokyo 
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Infamous Pachinko game, Tokyo 

The boredom
One funny thing about travelling west is the time change. As you are flying from Toronto to Vancouver you are slowly going back in time. You leave in the morning and when you land it’s the morning again! But then you fly over the Pacific and all over sudden find yourself in tomorrow…
The time difference is brutal. The first 3 days were sleepy, stressful and least memorable. We spent them checking the major touristy attractions off the list. I like to do this in the beginning just to get it off the way. I find it boring to compete with postcards when photographing major landmarks. The highlight was taking selfies for Instagram. People love landmarks, they do.
Ok google, what is the best place to take selfie with mount Fiji?
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Meiji Shrine, Tokyo 
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 Odaiba, the island made of garbage, Tokyo 

The other right.
Yes, we’ve been told that Japan has left-hand traffic. Cars have the steering wheel on the right. People walk on the left side of the street and stand on the left side of the elevator in the subway. So simple, but so hard to get used to!
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When waiting for a bus in Japan, remember that it’s going the opposite way.

Four Hours for the Best Sushi in Town.
Having failed to get into Tsukiji market for the famous tuna auction at 4 in the morning I joined an Irish couple in line for what was supposed to be the best sushi joint in Tokyo. It was an amazing experience as I found out 4 hours later.
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Tsukiji, Tokyo
but God… the sushi was amazingIMG_8047
Never have I waited for food that long.
Special treatment.
One night we got lucky to be having drinks at Roppongi Private Club on 52 floor of the building. Admitedly the best view of the city. Fancy as shit and quite expensive but worth it.
me

 Photo credit: Felix Menard 

Sushi, Ramen, Izakaya or Why I Will Never Eat Japanese Again
… outside of japan. Because it is just THAT good.
Japan boasts an incredible variety of fish and sea food. Needless to say that it’s all fresh and very delicious. You won’t find many fruit or vegetables though. There’s simply no land to grow them. Thus some products in this country get a very special treatment.
The stories about $5 apples in Tokyo are true.
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Shaved White Bitches

Japan is the county of hot springs. The traditional spa is called Onsen. Me and my European-looking girls living in Japan had a pleasure of visiting one just outside of Tokyo.
These pictures were taken in Komikochi and Shiragawa-go, Takayama region, known for its hot springs. Wish I could show you more.
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Kawaii overload 
Japan is a shoppers paradise. And everything is my size.
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Talking to Strangers Your Mom Warned You About.
Gion is the historical Red Lights district in Kyoto. One night walking down the main street of Gion I was approached by a friendly Japanese guy who spoke surprisingly good english.
- Do you mind if i walk with you, he said.  
I did not mind. He told me he was from Tokyo, he told me he studied engineering at Kyoto University. He also told me that he’d show me a different Kyoto, non-touristy. So we got off the touristy path.
He told he was taking me to the river. He told that the river was most beautiful at night. We were making our way down the dark alley that was getting more and more deserted. The river was nowhere to see or hear. It was getting late and really quiet.
And then something inside of me started to freak out. First for long time I got very scared.
- I think I gotta go back to my hotel, i said 
- You sure? The river is right around the corner…
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 I wasn’t walking back, I think I was running. On my way I past by some river. Not sure if that was the mysterious most beautiful river my random encounter was telling me about.
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- Japanese guys don’t approach girls on the street, they are shy, told me Japanese girls the next day.

 

Japanese markets
Japanese markets is a very special thing that deserves a post of its own. During my trip I visited Tsukiji in Tokyo and Nishiki in Kyoto, the 2 most famous ones. Full post about markets in Japan
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Hafu or Blending With the Locals
I have a strange gift of being able to blend with locals wherever I go.  In Peru I pass for a highlander, in North America for first nations, in Scandinavia for a typical Saami; in Japan I qualify as a Hafu, a mix of a Westerner and a Japanese.
Here it’s even easier, they can photoshop you even before photographing.
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Best of Luck

Inari is the head shrine and the major attraction in Kyoto. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span 4 kilometers.

Since early Japan, Inari was seen as the patron of business, and merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari. Each of the red gates hare is donated by a Japanese business. IMG_8753

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If you want to take a good photo you better wake up early.
In case you are interested in donations:

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Ohayo!
Japan is best in the morning.
- Do you realize that you are one of the first people to see the sunrise today?
- Yes, one of the first 120 million people.
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Osaka-style or Giriko
An old advertising from Osaka promises that you’d run 300 meters if eat the little heart-shaped candy.
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Nowadays people line up to take “Osaka-style” photo with Giriko on the background.
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Modern Osaka and traditional Kyoto have almost merged together. It is less than 30 minutes by train between downtowns of the 2 cities.
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 Nijo Castle, Kyoto 
If Kyoto is the cultural capital of Japan then Osaka is its most prominent business centre. Osaka is so westernized that people here walk on the right side of the street.
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