We have arrived in Japan!
After a lot of anticipation, we were extremely excited to have finally arrived in Japan. It was one of those countries that both of us had been looking forward to for various reasons for some time now. Some of these reasons (but not all) included:
- The food!
- Learning about traditional Japanese culture
- Seeing the cherry blossom
- The food!
- Tokyo & Mount Fuji
- More food!
Leading up to the trip we had both done extensive reading and research about Japan…read rumours, what to do and what not to do…upon touch down in Fukuoka we were buzzing!
We had picked Fukuoka as our starting point due to its location, flight availability and price. Whilst not a busy touristy area, we thought it would be a nice gentle introduction into the country. We had made a reservation via AirBNB and our host had sent us a fantastic PDF file with clear instructions from the airport, to the front door. Very handy!
We later discovered from further bookings that nearly every host did this to make things as easy as possible for you.
What was initially shocking about Japan was more than just the language barrier. Not only can you not understand the locals, but also you cannot understand the signs either. Oh and to make things a bit more difficult you cannot save Google Maps offline…great, what could go wrong? The last 2 points had never been an issue before. If for example you saw a sign in another country with a foreign language you could at least match up the letters to your own map/guide. Not here though!
Following the hosts directions, we made our way from the airport by train…all of a sudden everyones’ phones started buzzing and playing loud alarms. As he could see we had absolutely zero idea of what was going on, a gentleman sitting opposite us told us one word: “Earthquake”! We didn’t actually feel anything, but figured that they must stop the trains to check for damage and get the all clear before carrying on. This was probably a regular occurrence here as nobody seemed to be panicking or worried, just carried on as normal. Eventually we made it to the designated train station…and then we were stuck.
Picture the scene, two obviously bewildered nomads, staring at a phone and around them whilst repeatedly saying “…errrr….”
However we were quickly rescued! 2 local people stopped and when we showed them the address, not only did they point us the right way, they walked with us to ensure we found the apartment as well. This level of generosity was almost overwhelming! It was amazing…something like this would NEVER happen in London…we talked while we walked, it helped take the edge off this new and scarily exciting place.
We got into our apartment, looked around and instantly fell in love. It was quite small, yet just the right size for 2 people. It was very…Japanese. Which might sound strange to say but it’s surprising the amount of foreign hotels who change their room styles to accommodate western tastes.
Anyway, we settled in for the night but we were quickly woken up by a weird feeling…it came from beneath us, then the room was shaking and a few seconds later it was over. It took a moment but then we realised we had experienced and felt an earthquake for the first time. We were ok, not rattled too much and went back to sleep.
The next day we got up early and went exploring. Although quite a bit colder than the Philippines, Japan still proved to be warm enough to feel like a nice spring day! Although towards the end of the season, we were very lucky to still experience some cherry blossom in a local park. We tried to get a feel of Japanese people’s day-to-day lives and it’s amazing to see how some traditions continue to be upheld.
We tried some traditional food and that evening we went to a recommended restaurant and asked for “Motsunabe” – the menu was entirely in Japanese so we had no idea what was coming except that, at some point, we would get the aforementioned dish (which we didn’t know what that was either). It was great fun! The waiter was very accommodating; as he couldn’t speak english, he brought out an iPad and we managed to communicate using google translate. The Motsunabe itself was remarkable.
That night, we were rudely woken up by another earthquake, and this time it was a big one. It shook the whole building a lot for what felt like a long time and it scared us both, a lot. The earthquakes in question were hitting Kumamoto, roughly 100km away from us. The original plan was to stay in Fukuoka for 3 nights, but after this we didn’t feel comfortable and we decided to leave one day earlier to Hiroshima.
To get to Hiroshima…
…we took the Shinkansen, one of the fastest train services in the world and reaching speeds of 320kph! We soon arrived and made our way to the hotel. Looking back, we were very glad we gave ourselves an extra day. There is far more to take in and see than in the previous city.
We dropped our bags and headed straight out and visited the A-Bomb dome showing the remains from the tragic events of that day. It has been kept as intact and original as possible to provide a constant reminder of what happened and to be a symbol for peace on earth. The surrounding area has also the peace memorial, cenotaph and other references to August 6th 1945.
The next day we went to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum which goes into great detail of the events that occurred, not only on that day, but also the aftermath from the bombings and how it still affects the lives of some people to this day. If you ever visit this city then visiting the Museum is an absolute must do! Although afterwards we had to sit down and take a breath; its very heavy going and not for the faint hearted.
As always, we decided that food would be the solution and went for lunch! Ana had found a place where we could try one of Hiroshima’s typical dishes: Okonomiyaki. It was the style of restaurant which cooks directly in front of you on a large hot plate while you make a mess from constant salivation. Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients, take a look at the video below of it being made. Apologies for the odd focusing issue, we’ve not used the video function on the camera very much and we are still getting used to it.
The Okonomiyaki was delicious! It soon became Jakes favourite dish of Japan.
After Hiroshima, it was time to head to our third destination of Japan…Tokyo! On our flight there we had a nice surprise, a sneak peak at Mount Fuji!
Next up, Tokyo!
Jake & Ana