Reflecting on my travel to Japan, part 2

When you’re a textbook example of a (slightly educated) bumpkin from Polish countryside somewhere in the south, Tokyo may definitely appear overwhelming. While ‘bursztynowy świerzop’ or ‘gryka jak śnieg biała’ no longer can be found in the place where I grew up (idyllic stuff our national poet wrote about few centuries ago), nonetheless time flows more slowly here, and there’s not that much going on, which greatly contrasts with the Japanese metropolis. During several days there I’ve probably seen more people than in half of my lifetime. What shocked us, however, was the small number of foreign tourists around us. I mean, there was a bunch of them in Asakusa and another quite large gathering near Hachiko statue in Shibuya, but these weren’t the hordes we expected to see on every corner (more than 20 million tourists visiting Japan yearly). Fact: Japan is just a such a homogeneous nation that the Japanese folks make up for the great majority of people there. That’s one thing Japan and Poland have in common – larger cities have some expat communities, but overall it’s Poles everywhere. As such, the hosts (locals and the domestic tourists) dominated in most places, and we were lost in the crowd (or actually we kind of stood out, towering over quite short Japanese folks). Continue reading →

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Reflecting on my travel to Japan, part 1

I’ve finally fulfilled my biggest dream and  between March and April this year I flew to the land of sakura, anime, AKB48, sake and wasabi, to spend there almost three weeks. In general it was no spontaneous ,last-minute sort of deal, which would be built around visiting those few places that pop up on the first page of Google, after writing down ‘Japan things to see’. After buying the plane ticket (more than a half a year beforehand), the real fun began, as I wanted to pick the most interesting spots to catch a glimpse of. The temples like Fushimi Inari or Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto (which first impressed me in an animated form – through anime Lucky Star), or the memorial plate  of my favorite Japanese singer – late Yutaka Ozaki, in Shibuya, Tokyo were on my trip’s must-see list from the very beginning, but the rest of the itinerary was a real dilemma. It turned out my knowledge about Japan was mostly based on countless watched anime titles, movies and TV series, and dozens or hundreds of pop and rock bands I listen to. For the next few months, I had to learn a bit more about what Japan is all about, when it comes monuments, and otherwise. Continue reading →