Why I fell in love with Japan

Why I Love Japan

Let me tell you the story about how I fell in love with Japan… twice.

I first fell in love with this Asian nation when I was about thirteen years old. As a teenager I was quite the movie buff. I had only one goal: watch the entire 250 IMDB top rated movies (spoiler alert: I failed). So on a seemingly ordinary day I rented Spirited Away and fell head over heels in love. Only years later I would discover that director Miyazaki had been inspired by Taiwan. I loved the story, the characters, the magic and the stunning visual landscapes I had never encountered before.

Spirited Away movie still

Still from Spirited Away

After watching a sh*tload of other Ghibli films I made a promise to myself: One day I would travel to Japan and live my own Ghibli movie.

The second time I fell in love with Japan was October 2015. After waiting for about fourteen years I finally made it to my dream destination. I would lie if I told you I immediately fell in love with the country. Narita airport was like any other airport, maybe even a bit outdated. I still don’t know what I expected of my first touchdown on Japanese soil but is was just… normal.

I did fall in love on my first day there though. I remember being grouchy and giving my boyfriend a really hard time after landing in Tokyo. After the twelve hour flight I only wanted to shower, shower and probably shower some more. This is one of my worst character traits: I always want/need to shower. Since our hotel room wasn’t yet ready we waited in a nearby restaurant (which disappointingly only served ‘western’ food). My mood grew darker and darker until our room was ready and my beloved bathroom awaited.

And then it happened: still not feeling 100% happy we went on to explore Tokyo. Our first stop: Meiji-Jingu. At Tokyo’s largest shinto shrine I forgot all my worries, all my first world problems, all my nagging and fell in love. Fell in love with this acient place in the midst of a modern metropolis.

Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine

Wooden prayer plaques at Meiji Jingu

Traditional wedding Meiji Jingu

Traditional wedding at Meiji Jingu

During the next weeks I will highlight all the different places we went and why they were so great. I believe many people have a certain image of Japan that doesn’t necessarily reflect the true nature of the country. Japan isn’t only about big cities and weird KitKat. It has stunning mountain ranges, beautiful temples and hot water springs other countries can only dream about.

Up next: All things Tokyo.

Shibuya crossing

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo

10 Reasons I look forward to travelling to Japan

While all of my family and friends are spending their summer holiday abroad, I’m sitting in my sofa dreaming about my own vacation this fall. I’ll be visiting Japan, a dream I’ve had for over ten years.

Many of my friends are surprised at my curiosity for Japan. Nothing to be surprised about, let me show you why I want to go to Japan so desperately.

  1. Studio Ghibli Museum: I’ve been a huge Ghibli fan since my childhood so I really really REALLY want to go to the museum. Even though some fans told me it wasn’t _that_ great, it’s still number one on my to-do-list. I want to see shorts I’ve never seen before, I want to be in a fairytale I don’t comprehend one word of and I assume I’ll want to buy everything in the gift shop. My sincere apologies to the customers after me.
  2. Kyoto: Look at all the World Heritage in Kyoto. Look at the tiny streets and great restaurants. Look at the culture, the geisha and the kabuki. And look at the…
  3. ... Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. One of the most photographed sights of Kyoto (and possibly Japan). I’m going to take an endless number of photos there and I won’t feel a tiny bit of shame.
  4. Onsen: Alright, I must admit I’m a bit scared for this one, but it’s a healthy anticipation kind of fear. Onsen are natural hot springs spread across Japan. We’ll be visiting at least one (in the countryside). I hope I don’t make a fool of myself since I’m usually not a ‘spa kind of person’. Fingers crossed!
  5. Mount Koya (Koyasan): A place out of dreams (or Ghibli movies). A sacred place. I hope to find a natural peace here, even though I’ll have to share my moment with other tourists.
  6. Nikko: Again a sacred place in Japan, with one of the most decorated shrines.
  7. Mount Fuji: Unfortunately we won’t have enough time to climb this mountain, but we will be travelling to one of the nearby villages to gaze and wonder.
  8. Tokyo: Also a bit nervous for this one, since I’m used to living in a tiny city. I’ll probably never forget Shibuya Crossing (one of the busiest crossings on earth). I suspect other highlights will be Tsukiji Fish Market and the manga/anime overload.
  9. Ryokan: We’ll be staying at some ryokan, a traditional Japanese guesthouse. One of them has its own onsen. Yikes! Unfortunately we were too late booking some of our preferred design or capsule hotels (even though we booked a year in advance!) but we still got the ryokan we wanted.
  10. Sushi: I’ll be honest. I’m going to bore everyone I know with sushi pictures and quotes. “Yes, this sushi place is great but it’s nothing like the one I visited in Kyoto/Tokyo/…”. Yes, I will be annoying once I’m back and my friends and family will have to endure. Sorry not sorry.

Now everyone’s sharing their holiday pictures and stories, I can’t wait to go. I’ll have to be patient for a few more months and then this dream can finally come true.

Still looking for some travelling tips so if you have anything you’d like to add, please feel free!