The Trip To Japan – First Impressions

Today is my last day of my trip to Japan, I’m leaving tomorrow for my beloved Auckland. I’m having mixed feelings right now about this trip, but I guess it’s normal. It is by far the most challenging trip I ever had, far more challenging than the trip to Thailand, and much more demanding than my trip to New Zealand.

I had a lot of things to do here and every day was filled with challenges. I wasn’t bored not even for a single second. But I’m happy to leave now. And maybe the biggest reason for being happy to leave now is the fact that I didn’t know the language. Despite the fact that I can read a little katakana and hiragana, I can’t extract too much meaning without serious knowing of Kanji. This was a huge handicap. In Thailand everybody seemed to know English and also seemed happy to talk. Here, even if somebody knows English, and even if people are most of the time very kind and willing to help, it’s very difficult to have a normal conversation. I understand that is my task to learn the language of the country whether I’m staying in Kyoto or Bangkok and I will be sure to do that from now on. But the frustration is still there.

Another reason for being happy to leave is my raw food diet. As I predicted, I had to make a lot of compromise regarding my way of eating. It’s almost impossible to keep a raw food diet as a visitor in Japan. Not only fruits and vegetables are horrendously expensive (it’s a volcanic island, after all, with little or no agriculture) but it’s quite difficult to find them, at least in central spots of Tokyo, where I was walking. Although I managed to keep a rough 50/50 balance between cooked and raw food, I still had to make big changes to my diet. And that was not ok. My body reacted extremely good to this change, I had no health problem whatsoever, which means that in the last 7 months of eating raw I improved a lot my body digestion capacity. But the fact that I can safely eat now cooked food doesn’t mean I have to. On the contrary, I miss the feelings of clarity and balance I have when I’m on my regular raw food diet.

I’m going to write more about this trip, as I’m just arranging my notes and mind maps, but I felt the need to write something about it while I’m still here. And since I’m not going to write anything descriptive or conceptual, I thought it would be better to just post some photos. Those of you who are already following me on Twitter have already seen those photos.

The following posts about this trip to Japan, which I guess I’ll be able to publish once I will be back in Romania, next week, will not follow my regular chronological pattern, there will be no day one in Japan, day two, and so on. Instead, I’ll write about places, ideas and feelings. There will be for sure posts about Tokyo, Kyoto, Tea Ceremony, Nikko and Odayba. There will be a post about Japan – the aftermath, because I leave this country with a huge feeling of growth.

On the bright side, because there is a bright side, and it’s very bright, I learned a lot about many things like effectiveness, politeness, limits and expression. I learned about delicacy and force, about power and discipline, about history and respect. All those concepts were heavily challenged during this trip and all of them are now reinforced inside myself, one way or another. I’m happy and grateful to have been on this trip and if I draw the line, there’s so much on the bright side that the frustrations I’m experiencing right now are just small, acceptable incidents.

And now, here are the photos. Enjoy! 🙂

Geisha spotted in Gion, Kyoto
Zen temple garden
Tokyo view from Tokyo Tower

Tokyo rounded skyscrapper
Tokyo skyscrapper
Odayba island by night, seen from Tokyo Tower
Tokyo by night (view from the Tokyo Tower)
Tea ceremony performed at tea house in Kyoto
Sakura (cherry) blossom
Rainbow Bridge between Odayba and Tokyo, in the twilight
Lake Ashi, Hakone, near mount Fuji

35 thoughts on “The Trip To Japan – First Impressions”

  1. Pingback: Post Raw Food Diet
  2. @Daniel Brenton at some degree, you are right, there is this Manga obsession which is hardly understandable by Occidentals, and those strange cosplay things. But those are parts of a bigger picture, a picture which does include respect and politeness. Contrasts, I agree 🙂

  3. I love Japan, but never have chances to visit the country, it is kind of too expensive for people like me in Malaysia. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Philip Ze’s last blog post..The Stereographic Projected Panoramas

  4. Dragos —

    Forgive me, but all I can think of with the pictures of Tokyo Tower are actors filmed in slow motion wearing clumsy rubber monster suits. Ayeeeeeee!

    So much for tradition and respect ….

    Daniel Brenton’s last blog post..Gratitude Watch – 2009-04-17

  5. @Evelyn Lim thanks for the nice words, your previous information about your trip to Japan was very useful to me. I’ll be back with some more detailed posts soon.

  6. @nutuba you’re perfectly right in your assumptions about language. We see reality, interpret it and then we describe it using language and other descriptive tools. So, language comes way after the initial interpretation of the reality so this is why things were so different there because the reality perspective was so different.

  7. @Nathalie Lussier thanks for your support, I appreciate it. Getting back to my normal raw food diet is certainly one of the things I’m really looking forward to.

  8. @ibz you are right in everything you say and I definitely relate with a lot of your experiences. I didn’t want a perfect trip as you said, I purposely looked for challenge and I was just lucky enough to find it. Japan is overwhelming, is one of the most energetically rich places I’ve been to and it is like this because of the people who conquered their environment. As one of the Japanese woman told me: Japan is a rich country in natural disasters. Yet, is still the 2nd largest economy on this planet. Amazing!

  9. @Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills: thanks for the nice words, didn’t know you have a passion for bonsai, sounds very interesting. And yes, this trip was the most challenging yet the most fruitful one so far.

  10. @BunnygotBlog gals we can relate on some of my language frustrations 🙂 You should sea a tea ceremony for real, it’s an enlightening activity, very close to meditation.

  11. I’m glad to know that your trip to Japan has been a fruitful one! Excellent! Looking forward to more of your sharings!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Confessions Of A Shopaholic Ego

  12. It’s really interesting reading your thoughts on language. My kids and I have been studying Chinese for a while — it’s tough but enjoyable. I’m beginning to think that language can actually shape how one thinks about things, and certainly how communication and relationships and ideas are propagated. I’m not exactly sure what I’m thinking … but language, or the combination of language and cultural differences, can make communication difficult, not just because the words are different but because the ways of thinking about things might be different.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m totally wrong and am just “blowing smoke” … but it’s something to think about.

    I enjoyed reading about your Japan trip!

    nutuba’s last blog post..The Fluffy Dozen

  13. I know what you mean about wanting to return home after a trip because of wanting to eat raw food. I traveled to China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore for 4 months. I couldn’t wait to come back – if only for my delicious raw foods!

    I just wanted to give you my support, and share that we’ve all been there at some point. 🙂

    Nathalie Lussier’s last blog post..Raw Food Benefits For Weight Loss: Edition #2

  14. Ha, totally understand your language frustrations. Lived that feeling for a couple of months after I moved to China. Even now, after 2 years, I’m not comfortable with the language, but I guess I got used to not being able to communicate everything I would like to.
    More than the language barrier however, I think it’s the “how things work” barrier. Nowadays I feel comfortable doing stuff even though I can’t speak much, just because I know how to do them. And that’s something you only learn by living in that place for a couple of weeks. You can’t learn it from a phrasebook. I remember how confused I was for a thing as simple as taking a bus (well, that’s actually not an easy task considering that the list of destinations is only available in hanzi (kanji)). Or I remember for how many *months* I never ate chocolate, cheese, salami, good bread, good cakes, or other things we take for granted in the West, just because I didn’t know where to get them. Now I’m sure that I would have been able to do these things much earlier if I would have been forced to.
    On one hand moving to a new place is cool because you can discover everything slowly. On the other hand, making a trip like you did, 1 week in a totally new place, definitely pushes you to learn and experience as much as possible in that time frame, which is more rewarding I would say. That’s not a reason to stop traveling to places where you can’t speak the language! Remember that you’re not an ordinary tourist after all. If you would be – you would just buy an all-inclusive package, which would take you to the most famous places and leave you just enough time to take pictures. 🙂 So I guess having a “not perfect” trip is actually what you want, if you think about it.
    Looking forward for more detailed impressions about Japan!

    @ibz’s last blog post..ibz: @lalomartins Creating a QQ account, or what? 🙂

  15. @Dragos, thanks for sharing your thoughts and pictures. I love those pictures. It sounds like you had quite an interesting time and I’m glad for you and the experience you had.

  16. Greetings Dragos and thanks for sharing your experience. I have a special connection with traditional Japanese culture because of my passion for Bonsai. I have been in workshops with Japanese Bonsai Masters who spoke no English. Unlike the Latin based languages where some similarities exist, Japanese leaves no clues to the western ear. Thankfully for me, there was an interpreter. I am trying to imagine the scope of challenges you must have encountered even with the basics. Still, I know that because of you focus and appreciation, you will have grown in many ways and that is always a good thing. Welcome back.

  17. What a wonderful adventure you are experiencing. I know the lost in translation feelings to well. When traveling I was told not to expect everyone to know English and I know a little high school French and Spanish,German I have a hard time stacking the words together.It is such a hard language.
    I love the pictures.Especially the one of the tea ceremony.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay:)

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..Helen Keller

  18. @EuroBubba maybe, maybe not. But I know for sure that if I go into a country where my language skills are under 2% my chances of having a normal trip are close to 0.

    About Japan, I could have learn at least 20-30 standard phrases before getting there, that would have made me feel a little bit more confident. Knowing the language means to know at least enough to get food, shelter and find transportation without too much trouble, not reading their national poets.

    Anyway, that was a great thing to learn about my personal limits. 🙂

  19. Dragos-san!
    Inspired by you, I started bloging.
    Safe travel and Happy Easter!

    io_da’s last blog post..Mental rehearsal – key to change!

  20. I understand that is my task to learn the language of the country I’m visiting and I will be sure to do that from now on.

    So you’re only ever going to travel to countries where you know the language? That’s going to restrict the number of potential destinations quite a bit, no matter how much of a polyglot you are.

    EuroBubba’s last blog post..NYT: Obama Unveils High-Speed Rail Plan


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