winter break / 2015-16
if there was any country that i would want to live in for 1+ years, it's japan - without a doubt.
this trip was seriously an impulse decision with my parents and i - we were planning on traveling somewhere for winter break, but just wasn't sure where. we were deciding between new orleans, going to vegas (like we always usually do), or like florida or something. but one of my aunts from my dad's side suggested japan, because she was going there during the same time. next thing i know, we have booked tickets and were on route to japan!
my parents and i flew from LAX -> Osaka. i was so so excited when i landed, i've been wanting to go to japan since hearing and seeing a couple of friends go and say how nice of a country it is.
when we arrived in Osaka, we took a JR train (japan rail) to Kanazawa, where my auntie lives with her family. it's a beautiful, rural city of the Ishikawa prefecture. driving on the flat, empty roads, there are very few buildings and lots of open grass fields. one thing i loved about this city was the houses. around each small, little house, there was a giant field of grass - where i would see vegetables that people were planting, or a small arrangement of tombstones, which my auntie told me was where families would bury their deceased family members.
once we got to my auntie's house, we were all exhausted from the long trip. my auntie's house, like all of the houses in japan was very small yet homey. compared to American homes, Japanese homes use up the smallest amount of space as possible. this is one thing i loved about Japan - Japanese are very un-wasteful and live very simplistically. it's a complete opposite of all the large space and cluster you see in America.
so the first place we went was the small, historical village: Shirakawa. it was a couple hours bus ride to the small village. this place was so adorable! and a really great city showing the ancient custom/tradition of Japanese culture. definitely one of my favorite spots because it was so peaceful, and had that simplistic, natural beauty.
click thru the photos below :3
all the little stores and restaurants were all aligned like a neighborhood in itself. we had out first real Japanese meal here - we went to a little restaurant that seemed to be run by a man and his wife. i had UDON noodles, and we also had some katsu curry and pork skewers. the udon: BEST i've ever had. god i still dream about that broth like every day LOL
the rest of our time spent in Kanazawa was just exploring some ancient temples and walking through the city. we had dinner at this nice little BBQ spot - traditional style seating: shoes off and sitting on your tush. stopped at a family mart and i finally got to try the amazing $1 musubis.
we spent just a couple days in Kanazawa before heading to Hiroshima and Fukuoka. i love this city because not only did it show me the breath-taking beauty of rural Japan, but it also gave me a good first taste to authentic Japanese culture.
we traveled to Hiroshima by JR train - lemme tell ya, the Shinkansen is THE coolest and fastest form of public transport i've ever been on. 1000x more efficient and cleaner than Europe too.
if you travel in Japan, the best way to get from city to city is by the Japan Rail. for tourists it's especially nice because all you need to get is a Japan Rail Pass - you can get one at a travel agency and it works as an unlimited train pass to almost all the cities in Japan. super convenient.
Hiroshima is a beautiful sea-side city which is also home to the atomic bomb site from WWII. we went to see the site - all that's left is the Atomic Dome, formerly called the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. the museum and Hiroshima war memorial was really sad to see. while being there it was hard not to feel the sadness and pain of the many victims of the war. it was definitely a humanizing moment.
we went to Miyajima Island, home to the Miyajima Itsukushima Shrine - REAL LIFE version of that emoji haha. we get to the island by a giant yacht/boat. this island is also where all the cute (but sometimes vicious) deers are! the island is like a village in itself, with cute souvenir shops and food stands all around.
my fave here was the GRILLED OYSTERS - so mouthwatering. i also got to try original Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima too, which was also amazing.
the last place we went to before leaving Hiroshima was the Kintaikyo Bridge, the bridge known for having 5 arches across the whole thing. this place was SO AESTHETIC and definitely one of the most beautiful sights in Japan ever. on the other side of the bridge was yet another small little village selling food and souvies. i think the bridge was one of my favorite spots from the trip because the rocky river under it reminded me of something you see in indie, film-festival movies lol.
I think Hiroshima is a can't-miss city if you really want to see the historical parts of Japan. the city itself holds so much history, beauty, and meaning. i recommend making it an effort to go to Hiroshima if you ever travel in Japan.
and the last stay on our Japan-venture...
we came to the Fukuoka prefecture because my cousin currently goes to school there to study Japanese and for her masters degree - so she offered to show us around!
two things when i think of Fukuoka: food & shopping
Fukuoka is definitely more urbanized than the other cities we went to. lots of shopping malls everywhere, i think my aunties and cousin said it was one of the shopping capitals of Japan. here was also where i got to try OG Hakata tonkotsu ramen! Hakata is a city within Fukuoka prefecture, and where tonkotsu ramen originated. SO OISHIIIIII. tbh every food you have in Japan will be good. no lie. i honestly don't know how Japanese ppl are so skinny LOL
it was in this cool spot in a shopping mall called the "Ramen Stadium." but it was a big restaurant that served all the different types of ramen from different cities throughout Japan.
Fukuoka was a nice change from the rural scene of Japan, and it was cool to see the more modern and contemporary side of Japanese culture.
we spent our last full day at this Dutch-themed amusement park called Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki. it was really well done and we went to see the beautiful light show parade they have. because the entire park is lit up at night and it's a really, really beautiful sight.
- it's also COLD AF in Japan during the winter. be prepared if you plan to go during december-january.
I had to leave a day earlier than my parents because it was just cheaper that way, lol so my parents had an extra day in Japan and spent it Kyoto because thats where we departed to come back to the US.
i was sad to leave Japan, the country is such a different scene, atmosphere, and lifestyle. i didn't realize how much there was to see and experience there. it's actually quite a big country, and each city has something so unique and interesting to offer. i'll most definitely be back again - Tokyo I'm coming for you!
Japan is one of my favorite countries so far, and I think it'll stay that way for a while.
Domo arigato for reading! ^__^ I love love Japan, and if you ever go I hope you do too ~