Japan has been wonderful. As a country to visit, it has everything you could want: buzzing cities, scenic countryside, delicious food, breathtaking sights both ancient and modern. The contrast between the extraordinarily large and densely populated cities and quiet mountain villages, between flashy neon lights and peaceful shrines and temples, was stunning. Japan’s also easy to navigate, and the people are friendly and helpful, even though English is not widely spoken. It seems a far more vibrant, comfortable and flourishing place than the prevailing western perception of stagnant economy and aging society would suggest.
Highlights of the trip included the nighttime drive through Tokyo, the misty mountaintop shrines of Koyasan, the meal of fried goodies on sticks in Osaka, and sake tasting in Takayama. But because they displayed all that variety, vibrancy and and friendliness in one wonderful package, Hiroshima and Miyajima were the best of the bunch.
Not everything is perfect, of course – we found it tricky to track down fresh fruit and vegetables, officials can be *very* officious, hotel accommodation was pretty expensive – but there’s no doubt that we would definitely come back again for another visit. There is just so much we didn’t get to see in our three weeks, particularly in the mountains and rural Japan.
Oh well, we’ll just have to do this all over again some time…