Japan the land of Contrast.
Japan is a land of contrast from the megacity of Tokyo to the snow covered areas of Hokkaido.
Tokyo is like most modern cities on the planet, it has Skyscrapers, underground shopping malls, wide streets, magnificent parks and gardens, and the most amazing public transport system. The traditional Tokyo is not far away, amongst the highrise buildings there are Shinto Shrines, Ryokans, beautiful traditional gardens, and the Imperial Palace. Then there is the other Tokyo, the alley ways lined with tiny bars and places to eat, the streets lined with neon lights and signs to form neon canyons, the electronic billboards running HD animations and videos as high as 4 houses, the kids dressed as anime characters and punks, the little tune that plays as your train is about to leave the station, and the Pachinko Lounges. If shopping is your thing there is the Ginza with all it's high end shops and boutiques.
Away from the big cities, Japan is beautiful, pristine rivers and streams, majestic mountains and alps and spectacular landscapes, all formed by volcanic activity over millennia.
We travelled to a pristine area in central Hokkaido, where we skied in deep powder snow and amongst Birches and Bamboo, the snow conditions here are the driest I have ever experienced. Whilst on Hokkaido we visited the fishing village of Otaru, with its traditional stone buildings, canals and fishing port all covered in snow and the freshest King Crab and Shishimi we have ever eaten.
After arriving in Hiroshima, a late dinner was in order so we ventured out and found ourselves in a traditional Okonomiyaki Bar with a chef and 6 locals, us with next to no Japanese and the others with no English, the only thing everyone understood was "beer", this made for a very funny evening of charades whilst passing the English to Japanese dictionary around the bar, this is a night we will never forget.
Hiroshima is an amazing city, being destroyed in 1945 and rebuilt into a modern city today, the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park is one of the most moving experience on our lives, and is a testament to the Japanese people's will to survive and rebuild. Lets hope this never happens again any where in the world.
Traditional Kyoto was our next stop, the home of the Gesha, another Imperial Palace and the Golden Pagoda.
The traditional buildings have been beautifully maintained for centuries and the gardens with there Koi filled ponds and bonsai lovingly tendered for just as long. The Japanese attention to detail is on display everywhere with not a leaf or a stone out of place, pure perfection.
All aboard the Shinkansen, off to the Nagano Prefecture at 320 kmh, and Hukuba for some more skiing in the Japanese Alps, It did not stop snowing the whole time we were there, deep powder, I mean deep powder (thigh deep) all week long. This ski area is quite westernised with many Australians and Kiwis enjoying the epic skiing conditions.
The food is quite varied across the country with Teppanyaki, Sukiyaki, Okonomiyaki, Ramon, Curries, Shishimi, Sushi and many other types of dishes being served, all made from fresh ingredients some I recognised and some I did not. We ate many firsts, but mostly all very tasty and delicious.
The Japanese people are the most gracious and respectful we have ever come across and it is the Japanese people that made our trip so very special.
We will certainly return to explore more of this beautiful country, and meet more of these beautiful people.
I have posted some of my of photographs I have captured in this trip to the Japan gallery, just follow the Japan Gallery Link.
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