A&E on the World Heritage Train East 2009 travel blog





















































Sadly, my last day in Japan didn't work out very well. I got back into Tokyo (for the fifth time) early afternoon, booked in my Ueno hotel from last time, and went off to visit the two galleries I came here for, and they were both shut! So I did a little shopping and some cruising around instead, mostly in Akihabara's anime-oriented and electrical shops, but didn't buy anything. I wasn't sure the electrical stuff wasn't potentially cheaper in the UK, and the anime stuff - which was more for my kids anyway - was very expensive and I wasn't sure what they liked either. I was a bit depressed after all this, feeling like I had wasted a day, and having had plenty of Japanese food over the last six weeks, I had my last dinner in a so-called Victorian pub (which was quite realistic looking, even if it was on the third floor of an office block). They even had Cornish pasties on the menu, although I had a sort of fish and chips and a sort of guinness, both quite acceptable. And tomorrow its back to Korea, and to who knows where afterwards!

So to summarise my experience of Japan in a slightly rambling way. If you're one of those people who balks at third world toilets, its definitely for you, it is the cleanest and most hygienic place on earth. I usually get some sort of stomach upset travelling, even in Europe, but so far not a murmur in either Korea or Japan. It is heaving with culture, overflowing with the stuff. There is loads of gorgeous things and places to look at and admire, etc. The cities are pleasant and the public transport is superb, especially the bullet trains. The food is great; its varied, can be cheap, and is always quick, fresh and often healthy. Generally Japan is a very expensive place, easily on a par with Northern Europe. The countryside is great, but definitely should ideally be sampled in Autumn, secondly in spring, and its worth researching exactly what dates, the Japanese are very clear on the best times of the year for each area of the country. It is a crowded place, there are a lot of people, but its not too hard to get away from them. You don't need Japanese language skills in the main tourist places, but it sure helps in other places. The people are generally very nice and respectful, not exactly fun or friendly as we might understand it, though unfailingly polite and with customer service second to none, including the USA's. It is also hard to imagine a safer place in terms of crime or violence. I think one could have a great time (especially if you only had two weeks) just focussing on Kyoto, ideally with a trip to Tokyo, perhaps some other places in the West. If you do the sensible thing and come in the Autumn, then also go to some mountain temples. Generally I would say it is probably more attractive to the more mature traveller, and all in all, if you have the cash it is a great place to go.

The photos on this page are my 'Best of' Japan, though I couldn't be too explicit on what the choosing criteria was, mostly good pics and amazing places, and maybe a couple as they show certain sides of Japan. It was hard to winnow down over 2,000 pictures that I kept, never mind the rejects, but I think most of the ones I like are in the blog somewhere. As usual I wish I had taken more pictures of 'normal' thi gs, things that when I get back home I realise are potentially interesting. The reason I always forget is that I very quickly adjust to places, and it just doesn't occur to me to take photos of normal stuff!

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