I’ll be frank—Japan was never in my ‘places to visit’ list. But when opportunity presented itself to visit Tokyo, I was not one to say no. So I ended up living in Japan for 6 weeks and what an amazing 6 weeks it proved to be! The place and its people both stole my heart and left me yearning for more! There is so much I saw and experienced that it is not possible to get it all down into a few words. So in this one, I am going to talk about Tokyo and the main things I noticed about it and a few that touched my heart. The first thing you notice about Japan is that it is truly the ‘Land Of The Rising Sun’. Sunrise happens anytime between 4.30 and 5 am (and this was still spring, summer had not yet arrived!) This means people start their days early and actually manage to have some work and life balance. I have never in my life (in all my travels) ever seen better-dressed people than the Japanese. Most men were in suits and women dressed impeccably with stockings, heels and hats—very sophisticated and chic! There is also a complete section of the younger generation who are into alternate fashion—arty, flamboyant and punk. A lot of women also dress in traditional kimonos and the slippers and go about the day—quite a lovely sight. The highlight was when we caught a glimpse of a geisha—the ones who are trained in traditional arts and music.
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Apart from their extremely complicated yet perfectly coordinated subway train system, the other means of travel that many locals choose is bicycles. Their bikes had baskets in the front and fantastic baby seats. I saw women dressed in heels and dresses on bikes, pregnant women riding bikes with their kids behind, men in suits off to work on their bikes…you get the idea! Basically, it was a regular mode of transportation for all classes of people, not just the poor and it was beyond it being just a sport!

In certain areas you have elaborate hand rickshaws pulled by young men to give you a ride. I think the tourists were as enamoured by the build of these young men as much as they were by the rickshaws!

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The Japanese are by far the most polite, cordial, helpful and nicest people I have ever met. You hear about it repeatedly from other travelers, but nothing can prepare you for how absolutely wonderful the people are till you actually meet them. One kind old Japanese lady actually walked me to my destination, which meant going out of her way for around 20 minutes! I was (and still am) humbled and floored by their graciousness.

Best way to enjoy the Sushi experience is to dine in an authentic Sushi restaurant that caters to the locals and not tourists. I had one such wonderful experience at Ginza Street in a tiny restaurant frequented by many well-to-do locals. The chef sat us down and served us what he thought was right for us and it was perfect. It helped that the Chef spoke a smattering of English—especially since I am vegetarian!

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I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing traditional Japanese Shinto weddings conducted in the sacred Meiji Shrine. The Meiji Shrine is situated in a beautiful forested area of the Yoyogi Park and dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. The bride wore their traditional pure white kimono known as a Shiromuku with her groom and they marched in sync behind the priest. It’s quite different from the loud and colourful Indian weddings—much quieter, shorter and peaceful.

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Need I say, I am looking forward to the next time I can visit Japan and hopefully get a chance to experience Tokyo as well as some more cities there!

Happy Travels!

Nethra

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