We ended our time in Japan with a couple of days in Tokyo. What a great city… It’s of course enormous (13 million people in the official city, but almost 40 million in the greater metropolitan area), but also really diverse. There are many different neighborhoods with all very different vibes. After our stay here we now rank Tokyo among our most favorite big cities. There is just so much going on all the time, and there are interesting surprises wherever you go.
Already the first day we were there, we were able to visit one of the most important religious events in Tokyo: Sanja Matsuri. Shrines of different communities are paraded around. This is quite a happening. The shrines have to be carried by lot’s of people (they seem quite heavy), who not only have to bear the weight of the shrine, but also move the shrine up and down constantly. There were even smaller shrines that could be carried by the children.
Meanwhile, there are lots of spectators, and food stalls selling thing like pink colored chocolate banana with sprinkles, around the event.
Another neighbourhood we visited was Harajuku. This is the place where teens come to buy their hello kittyesque outfits. There were some interesting choices of clothing around here…
They also sold nice snacks like pancake with chocolate pie…. really… we couldn’t resist.
In this neighbourhood we also by chance encountered a music festival. There was j-pop, and the spectators knew all the dance moves. They really take this thing seriously.
While walking back to the metro station we encountered a DJ on the sidewalk. He just put up a big music installation and was playing dubstep. A small crowd of people were dancing, while, whenever a traffic light went to green, a crowd of people would walk past. Tokyo is way less reserved than the rest of Japan, and we were quite surprised to see this kind of stuff here. And this was only at 20:30…
Because what is weird about Tokyo is that the metro stops running around midnight. So when going out, people start early. And the last metro is actually one of the more crowded ones.
One night we went out in Shinjuku. Here there’s an area (golden gai) with lot’s of small bars. And when I say small, I mean that a lot of them have a capacity of around 6 customers… more than 100 of those bars in just 4 small streets. Witch is a strange contrast with the busy main streets just some blocks away.
Shinjuku is also the place where the red light district of Tokyo is. The red light district here is totally different from the one in the Netherlands. It is more like exclusive clubs. There are also a lot of ‘ love hotels’: hotels which you can rent for different time slots, from a few hours to the whole night. Guess what people do in here?
Another night we went to a live house (there are loads of small places where bands perform) in Shimo Kitazawa to see a very good jazz band perform. Shimo Kitazawa itself was also a very nice neighborhood, with lots of vintage second hand clothing stores.
An other neighbourhood is Shibuya. This one is famous for the Shibuya crossing, a very busy intersection where all pedestrians cross at the same time. Only when we were there, they were not all walking on the pedestrain crossing!
An activity we saw people doing in Shibua was Mario Kart. But not on a computer, in real life! You can rent a kart and costume and play on the streets of Tokyo. Awesome!
Then there is Akihabara: a whole neighbourhood for nerds. There are shops selling manga and anime, to 8 story arcade halls and markets selling electronic components. It’s interesting how there are neighborhoods targeting every subculture.
There are also loads of museums, but in the end we only had time to visit the photography museum, which had 3 very diverse exhibitions going on. If we would have had more time, there would have been dozens of other interesting museums we could have visited. We could have stayed a month just in Tokyo, and not get bored. It was a great ending of our time in asia.
After Tokyo we went back to Europe.
Here we first spent a couple of days in Rome, together with Lidewij’s mom and a friend. After all this time with limited decent food (Japan is terrible for vegetarians, and except for a few locations, Philipines is terrible for everybody), we really enjoyed some good pizza’s and ice creams.
And of course Rome itself is a very pretty city. We visited some of the well known sights, like the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Vatican.
Rome is also famous for the many old fountains in the city.
And it beautiful churches.
But we also enjoyed just wandering through side streets and absorbing the atmosphere.
One afternoon we spent in the park around Villa Borghese. There was a horse jumping event in one part. In another part people where making a movie or something. And there was a big modern art museum where they had works from well known artists like Mondriaan and Yves Klein (that guy that just paints everything blue), but also dead horses (yes, actual dead horses… some art is a bit weird), and a video of a guy that imitates various models of old mechanical and electrical typewriters by beatboxing. It was a quite diverse selection of works, and it was nice to spend some time here.
We also saw the convent, in which both Rob and Lidewij slept during their trip to Rome in high school. It brought back old memories.
All in all we enjoyed Rome, and it was also a great way to acclimatize a bit to Europe, before going back home.
And now we’re back home…
… we started noticing some things about the Netherlands. We are very organized, which has it good things: facilities like running water, health care, sewers etc. But also it downsides: people depend on the rules and are not that ingenious in thinking off solutions outside the rules. We also notice people being very stresses about doing things the ‘perfect way’, and being busy all the time. Also some very typical dutch sceneries: people eating icecream on a bench, cycling just for fun. And usually it are couples, only two people. And that the Netherlands is absurdly crazy rich. No really. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how rich people are.
…time for some reflection…
We had a great trip. We’ve seen many thing of extraordinary beauty, but also many very confronting things. We’ve seen extreme poverty, and experienced great hospitalty, often from the people who have the least. We spent days (and sometimes nights) on trains, ferries, buses, motorbikes and tuktuks. For month we were travelers, a very different experience from being on a holiday. To the point that even our home now feels like just a destination on our journey. And it changed our perspective on things. We learned valuable lessons. Not to stress about things that are outside your control anyway… accept those things. To trust other people and yourself. That in the end everything usually works out fine. Not too plan too much and just experience what comes your way. That you actually don’t need a lot of stuff, but you need people. Now that we got back home we immediately started cleaning up, getting rid of stuff we don’t use that often anyway. Laugh more about things and taking it less serious, more positive vibes!
This journey changed us and made us appreciate even more everything we have, our friends, our family.
Now what will be our next plan? The travel companions almost ended up in the trash bin, but we found out they could be recycled! Our travel companions are ready for another journey… where should they go next? What do you think?