Visiting Japan during the Cherry Blossom season this year as part of our far east adventure was one of the most life-changing experiences I've had throughout our travels. I've always been fascinated with the far east, especially Japan, and have wanted to visit since I was a kid.
My wife, Sam, and I travelled to Japan as part of a larger trip to Tokyo, Kyoto and Beijing. We landed in Tokyo after flying direct from Chicago ORD on a Boeing 777 and spent the first week and a half in Japan admiring the Cherry Blossom's before traveling to Kyoto via the JR Rail, also known as the Bullet Train. From Kyoto, we took the JR Rail back to Tokyo and flew direct from Tokyo NRT to Beijing, China PEK.
The first few days in Tokyo were overwhelming and flew by very quickly - from walking through the gardens filled with Cherry Blossoms to witnessing the crowds of salarymen and tourists at the Shibuya Crossing to experiencing the arcades and storefronts lines with manga, video games and action figures in Akihabara. The food was fantastic, and from a consistently standpoint, the best I've ever experienced. Arguably, the best meal we enjoyed was an Omakase style lunch with Chef Mizutani in Ginza. Or maybe it was Fu-Unji in Shibuya.
I think what struck me the most about Tokyo was how welcoming and warm the Japanese people were to us and to each other. Imagine Tokyo as a clean, friendly, and quiet (with the exception of Akihabara!) version on Times Square in New York City... it was surreal. Living in Chicago, Sam and I couldn't get over constantly being aware of our surroundings and ensuring we weren't walking in to any shady areas. At not point in my entire visit, day or night, did we feel out of place or unwelcome. We enjoyed some of the best meals and experiences since deciding to travel the world, including attending the Opening Day Japanese Baseball Game and our early morning visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market, which apparently will be moving outside the city in the near future?
The Bullet Train ride to Kyoto was more beautiful than I had imagined. After spending time in a mega city like Tokyo, we had the opportunity to see some of the countryside, or more rural parts of Japan, as well as a glimpse of Mt. Fuji. We met an older man on the train who insisted on practicing his english with us and demonstrating his knowledge of the United States. In addition to our conversation, he provided us with a sketch with rough english-written recommendations of what to avoid or enjoy during our brief visit.
During our time in Kyoto, we experienced a good amount of rain and unpleasant weather however the Temples and Bamboo Forest were beautiful. The Temple's provided incredibly bold and bright colors, amazing attention to detail and an environment that truly felt as if there weren't tourists surrounding the temple. As for the Bamboo Forest, the colors, size and consistency of a natural environment reminds you of the power of nature and how small we truly are.
There are so many amazing things about Japan and while we spent a good amount of time there, I left feeling like we had only scratched the surface of this country. That said, I believe Tokyo is the only city where I would drop everything and move there in a second. No questions asked. The Japanese people were amazing hosts and I cannot wait to return to explore and learn more about such a beautiful country.
Images below were taken with the Sony A7 Mark ii, Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4.0 ZA OOS, and Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux.