7 Reasons Why I Love Japan
When I was reflecting on what to write for my first blog post, I realised something quite amazing; that I am lucky enough to have found not just one, but two loves of my life; my amazing boyfriend, and the incredible country that is Japan.
It all started when I met this beautiful, strong, if not a little dim-witted girl named Serena, who taught me everything a 5-year-old girl needed to know about friendship, loyalty, and love. Twenty years later, I still squeal with happiness whenever I watch Sailor Moon (or see a new Sailor Moon themed product online!) and have developed a deep love of everything else Japan has to offer.
Here are just some of the reasons why Japan is, and forever will be, my favourite place in the world.
1. They have mastered the art of simplicity
“Kanso” is a concept influenced by Zen Buddhism that simply means, well, simplicity. It teaches that the truth or essence of something can be found when you strip away clutter and decorations. Throughout my time in Japan, I was constantly struck by the beauty of simple designs – be it the packaging of a glass cup, the design of a shop front, the layout of a zen garden or the interior design of a museum. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of peace and tranquillity that these things awaken. Pure bliss!
2. The modern and the traditional coexist – and thrive
One of the most extraordinary things about travelling in Japan is witnessing the blend of the modern and the traditional. When exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo, it’s easy to find yourself shopping in a multi-level department store one minute and exploring the grounds of a grand temple the next. The two beautifully blend and enrich each other; creating a truly harmonious cultural dynamic I have not seen anywhere else in the world. And if you look closely, Japan is full of opposites coexisting within the same context – perfection and imperfection, technology and nature, new and old, life and death.
3. It’s so safe, some call it ‘Utopian’.
It’s a very well known fact that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Most mornings I’d find myself walking alongside small children by themselves, happily making their way to school. No matter what time of day it was, I never experienced that looming fear of being alone in a foreign country. Most locals keep to themselves, but don’t fret! If you ever need help, they will go the extra mile to make sure you’re looked after.
And not only are the streets safe, but CLEAN. So clean. Even in the bustling streets surrounding Shibuya Crossing (one of the busiest intersections in the world)!
4. You’re able to fully embrace your inner child
It’s no secret that I’m a big geek – I’m in my 20s and still love “powerful girl” anime, cheesy romcoms, figurines, plush toys and all things “kawaii”!! And all of these things have a beautiful, vibrant and crazy home in Harajuku. Not only can I buy awesome Dragon Ball Z figurines for my boyfriend there (best girlfriend ever), but also buy myself an endless supply of colourful socks, add to my already huge collection of Disney plushies, and gorge myself on an endless supply of sweets (including marshmallows almost as big as my phone)!
5. The peace and tranquillity of temples and shrines
The aura that surrounds each temple and shrine in Japan is truly remarkable. The still, quiet, divine atmosphere is felt immediately as you enter, and it’s quite humbling to be surrounded by such an environment. It’s easy to see how monks could easily spend hours meditating in their beautiful grounds.
There is a level of respect and reverence that these beautiful places demand, and thankfully, it’s something that the tourists alongside me respected while visiting. As part of the temple visiting experience, you will be asked to remove your shoes while indoors and to refrain from photographing the shrines. Although this might seem counterintuitive for you while you’re in tourist mode, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the experience and taking in the ambience of the space. It’s awe-inspiring, and an experience not to be missed.
6. Sakura (cherry blossoms)
As an iconic symbol of the Japanese spring, who can deny the beauty, elegance, and bittersweet nature of cherry blossoms. In Japanese, cherry blossoms are called “sakura”; which is not only a popular girl’s name but also the name of one of my favourite anime characters (hey there Cardcaptors fans!)
What’s even more beautiful than the flowers themselves is what they represent. Their life is heartbreakingly short, with blossoms starting to fall after just two weeks. This represents the impermanence of everything, the importance of living in the present, and the fleeting nature of life.
7. The crepes
As a HUGE sweet tooth, I am absolutely amazed at the genius that is a Japanese crepe. If you’re in a city like Tokyo or Osaka, it won’t be hard to find a street vendor cooking up one of the most amazing dessert experiences you will ever face.
I won’t even try to describe what it is like to devour a triple chocolate crepe with chocolate cheesecake, chocolate ice cream, chopped nuts, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. But rest assured, it’s worth the round trip just for that.
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