Kyoto is filled with historical sights like castles and temples. Even though we’re pretty sick of temples at this point, the ones in Kyoto are really impressive. (We weren’t allowed to take pictures in some of the best places, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.) The gardens are especially nice to stroll??through or just relax and savor the serenity. But as great as they are, I don’t really feel like writing about temples. Instead, I’m just going to write about the fun, quirky things that make Japan so great.
??? The food! I think I’ve said this in every post, but Japanese food is so yummy! Sushi is, of course, awesome, but so is everything else! We really haven’t had bad food. And it’s been nice not having to worry about food poisoning. Some of the foods I loved were udon noodles (especially with ginger), takoyaki (the ones overflowing with octopus in Osaka were the best), yakitori (fried yummies on a stick), okonimiyaki (at the fun, crowded place in Hiroshima), Japanese curry (which Brad ate almost every day for lunch), grilled chicken bits (especially the heart that we had in the basement hole-in-the-wall with Katie and Terry in Osaka), and beef bowls (rice topped with thinly sliced beef and onion).
??? The vending machines. You can buy pretty much anything from a vending machine here, including beer and sake!
??? The toilets. They are like pimp my ride style, with seat warmers, butt washers, remote control flushing, even music to cover up farting sounds. I got so spoiled, if I sat on a cold toilet seat, I’d be like, “Oh my God, this toilet is horrible!” Also, the rest stops in Japan were the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever been in. Indirect lighting, soft music, automatic everything, powder rooms with full-length mirrors, and all spotlessly clean. Pretty different than peeing on cement floors in Vietnam.
??? The pop culture. I think Americans tend to exaggerate how strange Japan is, but it’s still very weird. We saw the most bizarre music videos and TV shows, not to mention the strange anime and porn.
??? In some restaurants, you push a button to call the staff when you want something. It’s a much better system than waving your arms or constantly getting interrupted before you’re ready. And in many fast food places, you order and pay at a vending machine, then bring your ticket up to the counter.
??? The language. At first it sounded very strange to me, like the women were robots programmed to sound like Mickey Mouse. At least Japanese isn’t a tonal language and the sounds are mostly like they are in English, so people can understand us when we ask a question. In places with tonal languages, like China and Vietnam, people had no idea what we were trying to say.
??? The crazy fashions of the teenagers. We’ve seen many strange color combinations in clothing, hair, shoes, and makeup.
??? Jazz seems to be popular and you’ll hear really good music in unexpected places, like bookstores and bars. (We haven’t heard any of that smooth jazz elevator crap you hear in the States all the time.)
??? Tatami mat flooring. I love how it smells and feels.
??? Polite, helpful people. Overall, the Japanese are super nice and avoid conflict. And they actually wait for people to get off the train before they all rush on!
I could go on and on. Japan is by far my favorite country we’ve seen on this trip. I’m sure I’ll enjoy other places, but I don’t know if anywhere can beat Japan.