I know each blog post has been a retrospective, but I thought I’d put some final thoughts and thank you’s into one post. If anything, it reminds me that we really did everything we blogged about. It seems like a dream at this point, but we really did it thanks in no small part to friends and family on the trip.
This was my second ever trip to Japan. My first was sixteen years ago when I was thirteen. That was a very different experience because I knew very little about Japan, hadn’t traveled outside of the country and I had no idea what to expect. Something I saw a lot of during that trip were more American celebrity advertisements. I think at that time it must’ve been at its peak because it was unavoidable. This time around I only saw half a dozen ads.
There really were so many amazing things that we saw but I think by far the highlights were: the food, Ghibli Museum, Tsujiki Fish Market, Kumamoto, Yakushima, Nara and Kyoto. The cleanliness, convenience and service in Japan is also second to none. These are all things that I miss a lot.
The food the food the food. I knew people who are from Japan say that they miss the food in Japan, but I seriously ate some of the best food that I’ve eaten in my entire life all in the space of two weeks! Every bowl of ramen was delicious, and even the “worst” bowl of ramen was heads and tails above most ramen places in New York.
The broth of all varieties were full of flavor, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, but always saturated with flavor. The noodles were also very different than what I’ve had in New York. A friend of Anna’s brother said that the water for boiling ramen is very important and that’s a reason it’s so good in Japan. The thing I consistently noticed was how smoothly they went down. Always had a slightly chewy texture to them, but just positively slid down my throat.
Charshu wasn’t as good as at Minca, but still very good in its own way. Usually the slices were much thinner, but still juicy with bits of fat on them to make them a bit melty. Also I liked having an egg in almost every bowl that we ate. Thank you to every ramen chef and host we met on our trip for your delectable ramen!
I already spoke volumes about the amazing sushi at Sushi Dai, but it’s a great feeling knowing that I got to eat what is probably some of the best sushi on the entire planet! Seriously, there aren’t many places in the world that can compete with that freshness. Plus the fact it was served by such nice and attentive sushi chefs made it that much more enjoyable. Thank you to the chefs and host at Sushi Dai!
I made a separate flickr set for the food we ate on our trip which I predict I’ll be going back to look at periodically to just wonder at what we had the opportunity to eat on our trip. Even the ekiben, fast food, convenience store instant ramen and hot potato from the stand were totally delicious. I feel privileged having been able to eat all this wonderful food.
The Ghibli Museum was even more amazing than I imagined. Truly one of the happiest places I’ve ever been too, never mind that it’ll forever be the place where Anna and I got engaged ^_^ Thank you Hayao Miyazaki for your amazing work and for creating the perfect place to share your craft with people and help them understanding the love and dedication you and Studio Ghibli put into every frame of each movie.
Kumamoto was great to see because I got to know a little bit more about Anna and where she grew up. It also gave us a chance to relax a bit and just eat some good home cooking in between extremely packed schedules. It’s a good thing we had this time to unwind a bit, because Yakushima was just a ferry ride away. Thank you so much to Anna’s parents and Aunt for being welcoming hosts and serving us delicious food!
Our trip to Japan was already like a dream come true, but going to Yakushima was like walking into a dream. Living in New York it’s not often I find myself not surrounded by giant buildings, but going to Yakushima was otherworldly to say the least.
Never have I felt so close to nature and in awe of its power. I really felt like Miyazaki must’ve felt when he went to Yakushima and was inspired to make his films to try to bring that feeling to the movie screen. The fact that the vegetation there could grow on top of an island of granite makes me feel very small indeed. Thank you to Wada-san for your guidance on the Joumon-sugi trail, thank you to Lodge Yadaeke for your excellent service and thank you to the people of Yakushima! I hope my photos inspire people to go there someday so they can experience it for themselves.
After we finished Yakushima it seemed like anything that came after it couldn’t possibly be as much fun, but there was still more to do. Feeding the deer at Nara park was a joy (despite the deer bite) and the source of many a hilarious photo of us dodging them while trying to give biscuits to our deer of choice. Thank you deer for not head butting us and biting us to death 😛
The Fushimi Inari Shrine was also an amazing thing to see. Otherworldly in a way completely different from Yakushima, but still surreal in its own way. Going through the entire area despite my bad knee was totally worth it. I was also glad we were able to see the Gundam, because I was afraid that due to its schedule we might not be able to. Thank you Japan for being you.
The last few days were light, but still many thanks go to Takashi for the delicious lunch and good company. Thank you to the dedicated staff at Donguri Kyowakoku for helping us get all our awesome Ghibli merch!
Thank you to Anna’s brother and Kyoko for letting us stay at your apartment and the wonderful food for our welcome and goodbye dinners in Japan! Also to Keiko and other friends old and new for being great company and good drinking buddies!
Finally I have to give the biggest and last thanks to Anna! This trip would not have been possible in the slightest without your tireless efforts, late night planning, late night cleaning, late night organizing, emailing, calling and research. Thank you for the trip of a lifetime!
Usually when people go on a huge vacation like this it can be stressful to the point of needing a vacation from the vacation, but this one was a fantastic experience on so many levels that I could never finish blogging about it. Until next time!