Japan is a country that so perfectly balances the traditional and the modern – from the buzzing streets of Tokyo to the traditional crafts and temples of Kyoto. Michaela recounts her travels to Japan in this two part series which takes us to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Naoshima and Kyoto.
Japan is a country of parallels. The most apparent of which is perhaps a distinct obsession for the new co-existing with an unwavering respect for, and maintenance of, tradition. It is the intersection of these two factors that makes Japan so unique, and why I simply cannot wait to return.
We started our three week trip to Japan in Tokyo, a city that certainly does not disappoint. Arriving in Tokyo was like stepping into a new world – an expansive city that makes our Australian cities seem like country towns, train stations that head endlessly underground and an atmosphere that is constantly buzzing.
Our week in Tokyo was filled with delicious food, shopping, sightseeing and of course, a trip to Tokyo Disneyland (a definite highlight of the trip but perhaps best saved for a whole other post). We also experienced the magic of Karaoke, not once but twice. An authentic Japanese experience that had us screaming all our favourite songs at the top of our lungs well into the night.
Tokyo offered a taste of the old as well. We stayed in Asakusa, one of the more traditional parts of Tokyo with many temples and an old world feel. Here we visited the famous Sensoji Temple, one of Tokyo’s most popular and oldest Buddhist temples, built in the seventh century.
While in Tokyo we also took the opportunity to venture slightly out of the city to Mount Takao, a beautiful mountainous area just outside of Tokyo. We hiked to the top of Mount Takao, aided by a chair lift that went half way up, hoping to see Mount Fuji in the distance. Unfortunately the day we had chosen was not clear enough to see it although the view from the top was still great.
After a week in Tokyo we headed south towards Hiroshima. Hearing so much about this city, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Hiroshima is a beautiful city that feels so calm and peaceful, it’s hard to imagine the devastation that occurred here when the atomic bomb was dropped. We only had one full day in Hiroshima but we packed a lot in.
Our first stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum – a museum dedicated to teaching people from all over the world about the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. Hearing the stories of the victims and being within metres of the epicentre of the atomic bomb drop was rather eerie, but I really gained a sense of the magnitude of what occurred and the resulting devastation. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum calls for world peace, so that an event like that which occurred in Hiroshima will never occur again. Visitors are encouraged to leave their feelings and wishes for peace in a large book upon leaving. I left my message along with many others from around the world. I walked out to greet my friends and we were all somewhat silent, just reflecting on what we had seen.
That afternoon we headed to Miyajima, a beautiful island just off the coast of Hiroshima. Renowned for its native deer and red Torii gate standing in the sea, Miyajima was calm and peaceful. I wished we could have spent longer there, just exploring the island and taking in the scenery, but alas we had to be on our way to another island, Naoshima.
Stay tuned for next week when we’ll hear part two of Michaela’s adventures in Japan...
Image courtesy of Flickr user Moyan Brenn.
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