Friendliness. One thing that everybody in the world needs is friendliness! This is at the top of my list. I have never felt more kindness and generosity. The Japanese culture is a truly beautiful thing. Everyone that I met was extremely gracious and made sure that they went out of their way to ensure that my visit was exceptional. I was moved every single day by the thoughtfulness and respect that you see and receive while visiting!
Sushi. My sushi brings all the boys to the yard and they're like, Konichiwa.Sushi is everywhere in Japan. Of course there are actual shops for it, but you can just as well buy it as fresh, ready-to-eat boxes from every single supermarket or convenience store. In other words, no matter where you are, you have not one but several options to get sushi within a 10-minute-walk radius.. Japanese food has very strict standards on its ingredients and cooking process! We stumbled upon so many delicious little restaurants just in time before Hanger struck us! This alone is worthy of the hashtag #takemeback.
Feeling Safe. As Mr. Miyagi once said, "Wax on, Wax off." This actually has nothing to do with feeling safe in Japan. But I felt like an homage to The Karate Kid was important to squeeze in here. Small police stations, often no more than a single room with a desk and a couple of chairs, called koban are strategically placed throughout cities and neighborhoods so you can always find a safe haven, report something suspicious or just ask for directions if you’re lost. This made me feel even more safe while I walked the streets alone at any hour of the day or night!
Karaoke Bars. Like Nike says, "Just Do it (even if you suck)." And if you are still scared there is nothing that a whiskey highball can't fix. Seriously, its liquid courage gold and will make you think that you are Aretha Franklin. You guys- karaoke originated in Japan. So its basically their favorite past time. Japanese business men are always taking clients to karaoke to impress them and close the deal! I basically had the most fun ever in a high rise building.
Onsens. Take the plunge! Seriously though, shower first! Depending on the facility they more times that not want you rinsing off the outside dirt before soaking! Not only are onsens therapeutic, but they are relaxing and refreshing! This was the perfect way to treat myself after walking over 6 miles every day! You can book cheap massages, body scrubs, or even just go there to take a nap! And since nap time is my favorite happy hour, I definitely took advantage of this! You can walk around all afternoon in a beautiful kimono eating ramen, green tea ice cream, or even have a few cocktails/beers!
Temples. The most beautiful statue that I have ever seen is located in a quaint seaside city called, Kamakura. The Great Buddha is a striking copper statue of Amida Buddha, measuring at almost 36 feet and weighing in at 120 tons! That is literally heavier than a blue whale. The original statue was built in 1252! Can you believe that? I don’t even remember what I was doing in 2017. While walking through Kamakura, take time to visit local shops, antique stores, sit down at a tea shop and enjoy matcha lattes and desserts. We ordered a matcha tiramisu to share along with a matcha parfait. The tiramisu was delicious- slightly bitter matcha powder over soft mascarpone cream and green tea cake, all in a cute wooden box. Definitely a unique Japanese take on a traditionally western dessert. The parfait was quite something - a layer of matcha jelly at the bottom, then soft cake, then matcha cream, all topped with matcha soft serve, red bean, and shirotama, a type of white mochi. It was so sweet! So sweet we couldn't finish. Definitely a beautiful dessert though and great for pictures.
Cosmetics. Step into a Japanese drugstore without buying something, I dare you! Ceiling to floor, the shelves are packed with bright colored, compact goodies that are unlike anything you’ve seen before! Seriously, Japan has thought of it all! If you want to look like a cat while you’re wearing a sheet mask, you can. You can find products that will stain your lips so that you don’t have to put lipstick on for days! You can find little gadgets to give you a temporary nose job for heaven sake. It is not difficult to find great quality skincare and makeup products in drugstores here for a great price! Everything catches your eye, so be prepared to bring home 50 gifts for you and your friends!