I want to share some pics of the rest of the two weeks in the amazing country of Japan. I have been traveling since childhood and seen a lot of different places and cultures, but this mysterious country left me many times speechless.
Japan has succeed to sell it’s brands to all over the world and many features of the culture are quite well known. In Europe many kids are crazy to manga, cosplay and J-pop. The Japanese martial arts are teached in several dojos even in the smallest villages in the most remote places. Buddhism, also the Zen brought to the West by Japanese is all the time getting more popular philosophy and religion in West. The incredibly crowded Japanese cities are a common sight from several Hollywood and European movies. Is there someone who has never eaten sushi or been to a karaoke-bar? Not to mention all those well known high quality products of Japanese companies that probably everyone has at their home or garden.
But still, how many have really been in Japan? Backpackers and businessmen, but the main tourist masses stay elsewhere on beach holidays. Already when boarding on the non-stop flight from Helsinki to Tokyo, there wasn’t many westerners around to be seen. Soon I was there, an alien trying to head from the airport to the hotel in the huge Tokyo rail network. Writing on many signs was unfamiliar for me, I didn’t understand the speech and usually not too many people spoke English. But no problem. People where extremly considerate and polite, and if I stood even 30 seconds somewhere wondering where the heck should I be heading next, there was already someone helping me out. It was fascinating. In two weeks I felt so many times puzzled about almost everything. What is happening here, how should I behave or what to do next, what are these people doing here, what is this place exactly etc. and still always careful instructions were either given by someone or printed somewhere and everything was quickly solved out without any hassle.
This is the perfect ticket to travel around. Japan rail pass is meant to serve the tourists wanting to do sightseeing around the country and is thus sold only to foreign citizens and it must be bought already in good time before arriving to Japan. This ticket lets you travel in most of the trains, also most of the shinkansen (bullet train). The train connections are good, easy to use and the trains are exceptionally well in time.
Japan is famous of its temples. The Great Buddha Hall in Todai-ji temple complex in Nara prefecture is a magnificent building, but the very remarkable thing I noticed is that it’s wooden. I was wondering it and thought that I’ve never seen such a big building out of wood, but soon I learned that it’s quite obvious, because The Great Buddha Hall is the biggest wooden building in the world! You learn something new every day!
Only in Japan! Schoolkids posing with a deer! Nara is famous also of it’s deers. They are wild, but they roam everywhere around and tourists from Japan and abroad come to see them.
I remember from my schooldays the excuse that was commonly tried to offer for a teacher: “Our dog ate my homework.” The Japanese version might be: “A deer ate my homework!”
Food! Japanese food is excellent! So many different kind of restaurants offering delicious tastes in a reasonable price. Fish and meat, vegetables, and good desserts. Many times I wasn’t actually sure what it was I was eating, but always the taste was good! Even without knowing the language ordering the food was easy, because the restaurants usually have pictures of portions on their menu. This one was a kind of kaiten zushi restaurant in Shizuoka. The food could be ordered from the screen beside the table and the portions appeared to the table by a conveyor belt.
There is much to see in the country, but I love outdoors, nature and countryside, so that’s what I wanted to see. Japanese are keen hikers and there is lots of hiking routes all around the country. It was difficult to choose where to go, but we decided to head to the less populated island of Hokkaido. In the middle of the island is located the Daisetzuan national park, the biggest national park in Japan.
We tried to find hiking maps from cities, Tokyo, Kyoto and Shizuoka. In bookstores we didn’t find any. In one sports- and outdoorshop we found some, but not from Daisetzuan where we were heading to. So I really don’t know what is the best way to find maps if you’re planning to hike in Japan. Anyway the trails are well marked and we thought that it’s ok also without an accurate map as well, if necessary.
Finally we found the map from Sounkyo, a holiday village on the edge of the national park. And that was good, because when we arrived to the upper station of the cable car, from where we were going to continue by foot, there was a very steep climb ahead of us and in the beginning of June the trails were still covered with one meter of snow in the height of 1500 meters. Ice crampons would have perhaps been necessary, but we managed without as well. A walking stick was a rescue in many places, at least when coming down.
The views in the plateau in 2000 meters were stunning. The mountains are volcanoes and there were huge calderas and the paths whirl around their edges, but never climb down in the calderas, because they are puffing all the time poisonous gases. The scenery was also dotted with steaming spots and hot springs in the middle of snow. Despite the snowmasses hadn’t melted yet, we spent two sunny and hot days up there. Absolutely great!
Lost in the middle of snow…
Highest peak of Hokkaido, Asahidake, 2209,9 m. The climb looked quite steep in the snow without ice crampons and we were not sure about the suitable route because the trails were under snow, but we decided to climb anyway. Down from the valley it took 45 minutes to get up, and it was worth it. There were great sceneries from the top in every direction. On the sunny top we were accompanied with swallow birds hunting the numerous insects. Coming down then, that was hilarious! It took less than ten minutes sliding and running down the snowy slope! I’m happy we decided to go there. This pic is taken in the next morning and our trail can be seen in the middle.
Ok, back to the civilization! It was this wonderful, athmosphearic old night train that brought us through the longest railway tunnel in the world. The tunnel runs under the sea connecting islands of Hokkaido and Honshu.
After the night we changed to an otherways wonderful train. Shinkansen Hayabusa brought us 714 km from Shin-Aomori to Tokyo in three hours. The top speed is 320km/h. Wow!
Just beautiful. Traditions and the present. Woman taking a photo in a shrine. Her phone has cute bunny covers, perfectly matching the kimono.
In today’s world where we increasingly share the same brands, and even manners and culture, Japan is an interesting exception. Japan has long been one of the leading economies in the world, and thus well connected globally, but still today the culture has maintained lots of it’s original features and is very much different even from the neighbouring countries. Japanese people put a lot of effort into the consideration of other people. That makes you feel everywhere safe and people are always very polite, kind and helpful. Truly a country worth of seeing!