East Asia

Japan, the Endless City: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hakone area.

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Never on my list of top destinations, Japan was a pleasant surprise. It’s a fascinating society where tradition and modernity seem to somehow coexist against all odds. A huge population, crammed together in places like Tokyo, impossibly appear to get along just fine. Perhaps it’s owing to their politeness, which to us foreigners, border on neurosis. But even if it is, it’s nice to visit a place where civility is a cardinal virtue. Nevertheless, I left the country feeling that I never really penetrated the outer layer of politeness and courtesy that is so prevalent.

Covering great distances is easy in Japan due to its monumental train system. My travels centered on three big cities; Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. To counter the assault on the senses of the modern metropolises, I topped the trip off with a climb up Mt. Fuji (see separate post).

Tokyo is massive.

In fact, it’s much larger than any U.S. city. I had expected something out of the movie Blade Runner but was surprised that despite its size, the city still has a human scale. Unlike its US counterparts, Tokyo is more horizontal than vertical; more spread out, allowing for some breathing room and giving you a sense of a city made up of cities.

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IMG_2873Sake labels.

IMG_2419Food is everywhere but do not expect to find those ubiquitous sushi trays that we find in the West. 

Japan is a graphic society if there ever was one. Not sure what the girls on the right are promoting but I think it comes with 0% financing…

Judging from a walk through the red light district, school girl/nurse uniforms seem to be a big fetish.

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99.81% of deceased Japanese are cremated. The funerary rituals are extremely involved and remarkable. 

The Japanese railway system is the envy of the world. The speed, punctuality, and efficiency is nothing short of mindboggling. 

Traditional Kyoto

Once the capital of Honshu, this large city prides itself on tradition. The gardens, restaurants are very refined and it has a conservative flair.

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IMG_2606Japan is a very hygienic society…

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Though the gardens appear “organic” they are in fact heavily curated and maintained. The guy on the left was brushing off stray leaves from the mossy ground. 

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Working Osaka

While Kyoto appears to be all about tradition, Osaka seem to be about pleasure and hedonism. A more working class city, it’s hard to fathom that 19 million souls inhabit this city. I toured it by bicycle and I never seemed to get from one side of town to the other…

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Hakone

A few stray photos from the spa towns of the Hakone area. Great landscape for hiking and most hotels have geothermal baths. They even serve eggs boiled in them.

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Categories: East Asia, Japan

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