Tokyo time and some final thoughts on Japan

According to everyone who has talked our ear off about Japan, Tokyo was going to be the icing on the cake. We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but so far we’d felt there was something missing about our visit to Japan and we were hoping Tokyo would fill that void.

Following a few days using our rail pass as much as we could, it was time to see the sights more local to our hostel. Having spent a few days failing to make friends in a place which all the reviews had promised would be sociable, we decided to move on again. We actually spent the morning and early afternoon in the first hostel just making lunch, then relaxing with a drink once it was time to check out. Once 2pm came around it was time to lug our bags to the next hostel so we set off on the 30 minute walk though Asakusa.

This was our third hostel in the area and for no particular reason we still hadn’t visited the Senso-ji shrine. Located over the road from the shrine, our final hostel not only provided a gorgeous view of it from the common room but it also made it easy to visit it whenever we liked. We didn’t actually have a proper look around until the day before we were leaving, but we did walk through it every day until then.

On Facebook I’d been given a bunch of suggestions for things to do in Tokyo (thanks Dad!) so we had plenty to fill up our time in the city. Having spent our final day with the JR Pass apart in different cities, Mark and I were just about ready to tolerate each other again. We wrote our list of places we really didn’t want to miss out on and tasks we really needed to complete. Mark had gadgets to buy, I had film to process, we had a number of postcard orders to make, and we both wanted to get traditional Japanese stamps of our names made.

We got a lot done in the final few days, but I’m not sure it filled that void which had been created by the high expectations hearing first hand accounts of Japan. Both of us felt like there was something we were waiting for still. Some culture shock thing which elevated Japan to be miles above everything we’d seen so far on our trip, but all we seemed to find was familiarity.

The void wasn’t filled by Japan because it was created before I knew just how much I was going to love everything else I saw before it. It was unfair to assume that it would be a level above every other country when actually it’s on par with them, each with their own unique charms. Had we landed in Japan first before the madness of India, the beautiful temples of Sri Lanka and Cambodia, the gorgeous landscapes of Laos or Vietnam and all the unfamiliar things these places had to offer, maybe then we would have felt differently.

Having had time to think about it properly, I do adore Japan. It feels like a safe, respectful, clean and colourful version of home which I could happily move to and live in for a few years at least. I want to explore the food and culture and see more of their shrines and cities. I want to learn Japanese just so I can pick up the thousands of comics they sell and understand their crazy TV shows too.

I can’t wait to go back in a few years, but I also can’t wait for the rest of the places we’re visiting this year too.

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