My trip to Japan
This summer, I had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks in Japan with the organization I take my Japanese classes with. Indeed , I have been studying Japanese for 2 years now and I’ve always wanted to visit the country. The culture, the habits there, are totally different and it amazed me how little we know about different cultures around the world.
I stayed in Japan from July 7th to July 27th. I spent the first 2 weeks in Tenri, a rather small town near Nara , and 1 hour or so away from Osaka and Kyoto. In Tenri, I was hosted by religious believers in the Tenrikyo (天理教) faith, a religion that is practiced by more than 2 million people. During those two weeks, I had Japanese classes in the morning, from 9 to 12. Prior to that we had a test and were then put into small groups of 8 people according to our level in the language. One thing that I really appreciated was the diversity. American, Spanish, Ukrainian, Thai, Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean people were also taking part in the trip and I was delighted to be in the same class as some of them. It was a good way of practicing my Japanese as a lot of them didn’t speak English.
Although I stayed in Tenri, I spent a fair amount of time out of town, and went to Nara for a day and to Kyoto twice! One afternoon, I got the chance to try on a yukata (traditional outfit) and experience a tea ceremony. It was so fun and interesting, I actually bought a yukata for myself when I went to the Gion festival in Kyoto (祇園祭). On July 17th, I went to Osaka alone for a concert called the SMTown which is an event organized by the entertainment company called SM, with all of their artists such as SHINee, Red velvet or Exo. It was an amazing night, one of the best concerts I ever went to; it felt surreal to finally see my favorite artists live!
July 21st was the day I had to leave Tenri. I felt extremely sad because I’ll probably never see all the friends I made there ever again.
On that day, I took the train with the other French people to Hiroshima; I stayed there from the 21st to the 22nd. The first thing we did when we arrived was to eat Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) , Hiroshima’s specialty (a sort of sandwich with scrambled eggs). It was absolutely delicious!
Then we visited the Peace memorial museum.
I was brought to tears by the atrocity of the bombing’s aftermath, the number of deaths and testimonies left by the survivors. The next day, we took a boat to Miyajima (宮島), an island near Hiroshima. We saw the Torii (大鳥居), as well as the Senjokaku (千畳閣). I love Japanese traditional architecture and temples, so this experience was wonderful to me !
We stayed there for the day then headed to Kyoto. We stayed there for two days, from the 22nd to the 24th. When we arrived, it was so late we just had time to look at the neighborhood and unpack. The next day we visited a few temples such as the Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺) and the Ryoan-ji (竜安寺) and spent the rest of the time sightseeing and shopping.
On the 24th,we attended the second part of the Gion festival. It was very impressive as it was my first time seeing the parade. We had a great time all day, but we had to cut it short to go to Tokyo.
Tokyo. Ever since I knew about Japan, I have always dreamed of going there. The first thing we did after unpacking and letting our luggage at the hotel was to go to Akihabara (秋葉原), which is a metro station away from the place we stayed at. It’s a district centered around Games and the Japanese entertainment goods (everything revolving around anime and manga basically). We ate there and went to a maid cafe which was really nice, but a bit creepy. A maid cafe is a cafe (wow) where there are only waitresses, very young for the most part, dressed like anime characters or in a certain fashion, often cute. These cafes are mostly targeting young to middle-aged men. I asked my waitress about her age and she told me she was 17! You have to cast magic spells to order food and you get a Polaroid with one of the waitresses at the end, so it’s still a fun experience, but as I was the only girl in the cafe, I felt a bit uneasy, uncomfortable . The next two days went by very quickly and we visited a lot of things, but as I wasn’t very good at managing money, I didn’t have much left when we arrived in Tokyo so I couldn’t enjoy the city as much as I wanted to.
Tokyo… I wasn’t disappointed, but I prefer cities like Kyoto or Osaka which are less big, cold, and urbanized. Tokyo reminded me of New York because of its tall skyscrapers and the amount of people on the street. It felt cold because everyone walked quickly and wasn’t as relaxed as in other cities I previously visited. If I ever go back to Japan, I wish to visit Osaka more, because I only went there for a day, as well as Kyoto because I love it so much.