5 Day Tokyo: 16 – 20.10.2013

Our time in Tokyo became a blur; the days were spent too quickly and we became good friends with our couch surfing host Yuki. We spent a lot of time just chatting and hanging out, cooking, eating, laughing and generally just enjoying ourselves.

Our first full day in Tokyo was spent indoors – the typhoon rains were so heavy we were pretty much forced to stay inside; the ten minute walk down the road to the local supermarket left us drenched and cold, but at least we had a heap of ingredients to cook ourselves an awesome lunch, dinner, and for Jacob to attempt to make bread!

We stopped off at Daiso, the 100 yen shop near by ‘home;’ whilst Jacob worked on and succeeded to bake bread in the rice cooker (how amazing is that!?), I attempted to teach Yuki how to crochet. Craft in Japan… who would’ve thought?

Our dinner consisted of Japanese rice and mouth-watering Japanese curry, vegetables and freshly-baked bread. The rain might have stopped us exploring Tokyo, but we’d had an incredible first day.

On our second day in Tokyo the rain had subsided and the sun came out to shine. We headed by train into Tokyo and spent the day wandering through a few different suburbs, eating Yoshinoya and generally hanging out. Yuki had generously hand-drawn us a little map and given us some great directions, so we knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing.

Our first destination was Ryogoku – an area of Tokyo well known for its large Sumo Stadium, sumo attractions, sumo stables (aka “sumo homes”) chanko (aka “sumo food”) restaurants and a heap of shops selling awesome sumo stuff that I wanted to buy, purely because they had awesome sumo pictures on them… I mean, who doesn’t want a set of shot glasses with little images of obese, almost naked men with giant wedgies fighting each other!?

As it so happened, within about two seconds of actually being in Ryogoku district we’d seen a sumo and I was almost wetting myself with unexplainable delight. Within about ten minutes we’d seen several. Jacob had to put up with my constant “Jake, Jake, JAKE! I just saw a sumo! An actual SUMO!”… There was a lot of skipping involved as well.
We saw several sumos actually, they were usually just riding around town on tiny bicycles. Or, perhaps, now that I think about it, the bikes were actually just normal size… maybe it was just more so the fact that the sumos were massive in comparison… Still, pretty awesome. There we were in Ryogoku, totally and unintentionally “sumo spotting…” I’d completely forgotten about the Sumo Museum and was more interested in seeking out these big guys.

Of course, being in a new place in Japan, one of the first things we needed to do was find the local Yoshinoya for 280 yen gyu-don breakfast. And find it we did – we’re experts at this now; we can almost sniff that gyu don out! Japan on the cheap? Yeah, we’ve got this down.

We visited the Sumo Stadium and a very small museum which was interesting but way less exciting than actually seeing them in the fluffy flesh. There was some sort of event happening and by around mid-day we were ready to move on to Asakusa, where we spent the afternoon strolling through the streets, shops, market stalls and temples.

Back at Yuki’s home in the evening, we cooked beautiful soba noodles with mushrooms, spring onion and a light soy dipping sauce then filled up even more on Japanese sweets and royal milk tea. We are so Japanese right now…

Our third day in Japan was pretty chilled; we went out and strutted about for a while, cooked our selves a Japanese style lunch, explored some supermarkets, shops and areas around where we were staying, bought some sushi and ingredients for tea, surfed the internet and didn’t do a whole lot else. Jake was feeling a little unwell so most of our afternoon was quiet. Yuki had school all day and we were happy to entertain ourselves… and drink a lot of macha green tea and royal milk tea in the process.

We’re learning that traveling long-term means that not every day can be filled with all day sight-seeing, exploration and new adventures. Instead, having a day off and just doing one or two little things, taking in your surroundings and processing all the information and amazing experiences is a normal and necessary part of this long adventure – sometimes sitting back and appreciating what you have done whilst not doing too much is the best way to spend a day. Looking through photographs and reminiscing about previous travel experiences can feel like you’re traveling to that certain place all over again. I often feel really “guilty” when we’re not out and doing something – I’m always conscious of the fact that where ever we are right now, it’s not for long… but, at the same time, it’s really nice to just be somewhere..

We cooked dinner for Yuki, loving the opportunity to shop like a local and cook at home, Japanese style. Whilst at the supermarket a Japanese man stopped us for a chat – I think he was just so excited to practice his English and didn’t want to say goodbye to us. It was lovely.Poor Yuki had to put up with our cooking – we cooked the exact same thing as the previous night, although this time we added grilled chicken and egg. I’m drooling at the thought of it, it was so delicious… Jake bought ingredients to make chai, and our evening was spent eating, talking, laughing and drinking chai… and, of course, more royal milk tea.

We’re loving this experience and adore couch surfing with Yuki – as we have with every other host. Couch surfing changes you experience completely and offers you a style of travel that is not possible when staying in hotels and hostels. It’s a lot of fun and we have made some very precious memories.

Our fourth day in Tokyo was just so wonderful, it’s hard to put it into words. Yuki had to unfortunately work all day today, but we did get to enjoy watching her “before work routine” where she sat in front of her fridge eating a piece of chocolate. Her little pre-work reward. Cute.

We traveled to Shibuya, where the coolest sight can be seen from the window of the world’s busiest Starbucks on the first floor – the massive and very famous scramble crossing that is also the busiest in the world. It was there we met my dear old friend Akane, a Japanese girl who had come to live with my family as an exchange student some seven years ago. When we saw each other we were so excited, we hugged and squealed and the first thing I thought – and said – was “you look the same!”

We spent the day with Akane and it was truly wonderful. We ended up in Harujuku, where we took a stroll through my favourite Japanese street, Takeshita Dori. I bought some cute socks – it’s a must when in Japan, I feel – they’re just so nice. I resisted most of the other shops and unfortunately we didn’t get to see any Harujuku girls dressed up, but Akane and I did eat a crepe which was pretty awesome. Another “must” when here… or maybe I’m just telling myself that to rid myself of any guilt.

Akane took us walking through famous areas and streets surrounding Harujuku and Shibuya, and we ended up in the greatest shop – Kiddy Land. 5 floors of toys, games, cute characters, stuffed things, stationary and staff dressed as bears and rabbits, complete with tails and ears. I want/need a job here, purely so I can go to work dressed as a bear with a pom pom stuck to my ass. The Miffy and Hello Kitty sections were my personal favourites.
Jake went straight to the Manga section whilst Akane and I swooned over every cute thing we saw… in other words, we spent a good hour or more in that store.

Moving back to Shibuya, we needed some food… and not just any food, we needed sushi from a sushi train. Akane navigated us towards a little place tucked down some stairs just nearby to Shibuya station – also, just next door to Yuki’s workplace. We spent a good hour or more watching deliciously fresh fish become little pieces of edible art and then rotate around the large table whilst hungry customers picked out what they liked. The little sushi chef man took a liking to Jake and I, and kept giving us the expensive stuff on cheap plates as a “presentu.” What a guy! He was awesome. Even more awesome when we were all taking photos of ourselves and he kept photo bombing and pulling hilarious faces. Absolute gold. Love it.

Our afternoon was spent flitting about and strolling through the streets and my favourite Japanese department store, Loft. In particular, we were in the stationary section which is an incredibly difficult place to be when traveling on a tight budget. I would consider it almost torture, actually, to not be able to buy anything. Anyone who knows me knows my absolute endless love for beautiful stationary. To walk out of that store without half of the entire shop contents in bags in my hands was a hard pill for me to swallow. I really needed those candy shaped push-pins, those do-it-yourself flash cards with a cute character on the front, the design-your-own 4 coloured ink pen, the flash disk shaped like a scuba diver, the fun shaped paper clips, those 3D sticker letter seals, the musical note writing pad, the leather bound journal in a large range of colours, a webcam shaped like a cat, those rainbow coloured set of gel pens, the camera case with the amazing design, the lime green coloured EVERYTHING…Ok, I’ll stop there…

More wandering about and I guess our visit to Kiddy Land didn’t quell our need to fluff about in stores made for children. What I mean to say is, our visit to Kiddy Land didn’t quell my need to fluff about in stores made for children. But who am I kidding, I still feel like a child and the Disney Store was like a little bit of paradise… so, yes, what I’m saying is another happy hour was spent skipping (almost) about the isles and cute character displays of the Tokyo Disney Store. If Kiddy Land isn’t looking to hire staff, maybe the Disney Store is…I’d love to work here – all the staff get to walk around with cute stuffed Disney characters on their shoulders. That’s as good as a set of fluffy ears and pom pom on the bum in my opinion. I’m not ashamed to say I bought something there. “It’s for my niece.” That’s the excuse I used and that’s the excuse I’m sticking to.

Late afternoon Akane, Jacob and I headed to Yuki’s work for an early dinner – Yuki works at a really cool authentic Japanese grill restaurant and sake bar, so she finished her shift and the four of us had dinner together. As if we needed more food after all the feasting we’d done today – but it didn’t matter; it was so delicious and a lot of fun. Akane and I reminisced and it was quite funny to look back all those years to when we were in high school.

Saying goodbye to Akane near by the famous Hatchiko Exit at Shibuya Station, I felt sad to say goodbye again so soon but so grateful I’d been able to meet her again.
Together Jake, Yuki and I took the train back ‘home’ where we spent the rest of the evening drinking home made chai and not doing all that much else. It was fantastic.

Our fifth day in Tokyo was spent just chilling out again – Yuki had the day off and it again poured with rain, but none of us were bothered. We were all happy lounging around, cooking, eating, drinking tea, watching Youtube clips, singing, laughing, washing our clothing in the apartment buildings communal washing machine that seems to be ALWAYS being used – we were sneaky and managed to find it briefly empty!…Yesss! We walked down to the shops and bought ourselves some lunch and ingredients for dinner, getting drenched again in the process. It was an awesome day just hanging out with our new friend, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend our Sunday in Tokyo. In my opinion, Sundays were created to be enjoyed in a leisurely way; rain against the windows, blankets, good friends, good conversation, fresh rice cooker bread with butter, chai, royal milk tea, daifuku ice creams, matcha green tea, dango and red bean and Japanese curry and rice for dinner was the perfect way to spend today…

Tomorrow is our final day in Japan. I can’t actually believe how quickly these three weeks have passed. It feels too quick, yet looking back on what we’ve done and what we’ve seen, I’m just so happy. We’ve met some incredible people and done some incredible things. I feel so sad to leave – I don’t want to leave, but I know we’re going out tomorrow with a bang. We don’t fly out until almost midnight which means…

…tomorrow, I’m going to Disney Land!

Our Own Japan: 14 – 15.10.2013

Our only full day in Takayama was another wonderful day in beautiful Japan. Traveling is just so unbelievably awesome; how often in life do you get to say that every day has been filled with adventure, new things and just in general, been pretty spectacular? I feel incredibly lucky.

We woke early and cooked breakfast in the kitchen area, saying goodbye to friends we’d only just met and meeting new ones whilst sipping coffee and eating rice and natto with chopsticks.
It was early and the air was so cold; a group of us got together and headed to the morning market (one of two). The walk through the preserved streets and alley ways was beautiful; the old houses and streets were empty at 7:30am and we were able to walk quietly and peacefully through the clean streets whilst admiring our surroundings.

The morning market, however, was already packed with people – shops and market stalls lined both sides of the road that ran parallel to the flowing river, people were busy buying and selling and making; we hugged our jumpers a little tighter around us as we marveled at everything around us. Having been here in this town exactly a year ago, it all felt still so familiar and fond memories and reminders of my past trip here kept me smiling.
Free tastings of every pickle, rice cracker, green teas, fruits, snack, sweet and Japanese treat kept us all stopping and munching, trying new and strange flavours, and occasionally purchasing something we all loved.

I had been waiting for so long to re-visit the Japanese Marshmallow man and show Jacob the person and the food I’d been talking about and mimiking constantly for the past year. This little man was so gorgeous, smiling the biggest smile as he served up his own concoction of a Japanese sweet made from sake and egg. Our group stopped outside his busy stall and watched as he smiled, laughed and went about turning his cubes of goodness, which he called “Marshi-mallus”. His sweet voice calling out “Hai! Thank you very maach!” and “Paper come back!” (please give me your rubbish) left us smiling and handing over money for packets of the golden yellow deliciousness. I only wish I could give some to my mum, who adores this little man as much as I do.

We spent time wandering through the streets as the sun came out and more shops and cafes began to open their doors. The river was flowing, the air was fresh and tourists were busy exploring; some pushing very stylishly dressed, spoiled dogs around in dog-specific prams.
We wandered down to the second morning market, which was purely dedicated to selling fresh produce, and bought ourselves a 1.5kg bag of Japanese rice that we’ll be able to share with our couch surfing host in Tokyo for the next week; we’re loving this whole ‘rice for breakfast’ thing and are going to enjoy it while we can. Japanese rice is unlike any other rice; it’s perfect and tastes so clean and wonderful – every grain is a joy to eat.

More wandering through the shops and streets, we went back to our hostel to drop off our rice before heading out, but ended up staying for an hour or so for a quick nap; after clocking up a decent sized sleep debt over the last few months, we needed a rest.

Awake again, we wandered down to the bus station and bought ourselves our tickets to Tokyo for tomorrow – I can’t believe we have to leave already! I absolutely do not want to go to Tokyo yet; I love Takayama and want to stay here longer, but more to the point, going to Tokyo means we have just one more week left in Japan. Didn’t we just arrive here? It’s going too fast and I don’t like it one bit.
We paid for our tickets (handing over $140 for two tickets for a 5 hour bus ride hurt our budget a lot more than I can explain…) and then purchased another ticket each to take the bus to a near-by open-air museum, Hida No Sato Folk Village.

Hida No Sato Folk Village was fascinating; set amongst incredibly beautiful scenery in a peaceful, well maintained area, a dozen or more historic buildings stand. We were able to wander about inside the buildings and around them while learning about how life was like in this area of Japan many years ago. It was interesting to see the different architecture, how homes were built to deal with earth quakes and massive dumpings of snow, and the different tools and utensils used in daily life.
The space was really beautiful and very interesting, but also very touristy. Towards the end we started to feel a little like sheep in a big pen and were ready to run free again after an hour and a half or so, away from the crowds and one very loud, complaining American man who we’d actually spent most of our time there trying to avoid.

We caught a bus back to Takayama bus station and spent an hour or so wandering through the different shops, taste-testing the various pickled items, snacks, rice crackers and sweets on offer. Oh Japan, how generous you are, and how shameless we are. Seeing as we’re on such a tight budget and blew way too much money on a bus ticket to Tokyo, we skipped lunch today and relied on free samples to fill our stomachs. We wern’t completely stingy though – we did buy a few different things as gifts… It offset the guilt a little bit.

Late afternoon was spent wandering the streets and through too many cute shops with way too many cute things that were calling out for me to buy them. I resisted, and bought nothing, although the thousands of beautiful baby products made it very difficult – I saw so many things that my baby niece absolutely, most definitely needed.
It was wonderful just having the day to explore and mull about as we pleased; Takayama is an easy place to explore and time seems to pass quickly.

Our last night in Takayama was spent cooking up a storm of rice, natto, cabbage and age tofu, miso soup, a big pot of coffee and countless cups of green tea. We spent the evening in the kitchen chatting until late with a New Zealander and a Pom; I love meeting new people and travelers – the conversation is always so interesting and varied. It’s like there is this unspoken bond between us all, it’s as though you become instant friends
I love being a backpacker. I love being a traveler… and I love being here in Japan.

We went to bed in our spacious bunks and fell asleep laughing at each other. I think we’re both on travel highs at the moment. Tomorrow we head to Tokyo and I think both of us are having too much fun to admit we only have a week left in this country.

On our last morning in Takayama we woke early, enjoyed green tea, coffee and breakfast of natto, rice and miso soup with our new Pommy friend. We planned to re-visit the Morning Market area and take a wander further into the less touristy areas to see what we could find.
After packing our packs and checking out of our hostel, we spent a few hours doing just that. We started wandering, ate more Japanese Marshi-Mallu and a delicious matcha dango stick, and explored the lane ways and preserved streets, the tiny shops, galleries and temples. We headed back to our hostel around 11am, just as it started to rain…and by rain, I mean, a lot of it – bad weather had rolled in due to a typhoon.

We said goodbye to Takayama and boarded our bus at 1:30pm, expecting to arrive into Shinjuku, Tokyo, at 7pm. The bus ride was incredibly comfortable and we spent hours rolling past some absolutely spectacular scenery; mountains, waterfalls, creeks and rivers, greenery and forests – all set amongst grey skies and heavy rains that continued to pour down and down.

The rains slowed the traffic, and it was completely dark outside by the time we arrived into Tokyo, about 40 minutes later than expected. Off the bus and trying to avoid the rain, we headed straight to Shinjuku train station – the world’s biggest and busiest train station – and tried to navigate ourselves two trains and about one hours distance away to where our next and final Japanese couch surfing host, Yuki, lived. T
The torrential rain caused heavy build ups and train delays, and a strange encounter with an overly helpful man who bought our tickets for us (with our money) then asked for a 300 yen tip (for something we were in the process of doing quite capably before he came along and snatched the 1000 yen note from Jake’s hand and shoved it into the ticket machine we were standing in front of) – I said no and removed the coins from his grasp, and he thanked me – how’s that for unbelieveable?! Someone just tried to scam us in Japan!… I didn’t think it was possible. At least he was polite about it.

Around 9pm Yuki greeted us warmly at the station near by her home and together we walked in the rain, crouching under shared umbrellas.
Yuki generously prepared us dinner, and it was lovely to once again be welcomed into the home of a stranger who instantly felt like an old friend.

The plan was to visit Kamakura or Yokohama or even Disney Land tomorrow, but the incessant rain this evening and the forecast for tomorrow that spells the same wet weather due to a typhoon means we probably will opt for a quieter option. Either way, we’re in Japan and that is just so amazing. On our tiny futon in this little house, we already feel at home.

Em’s Top 10 Picks: 2 Weeks in Japan

Last year in September/October, I spent two glorious weeks in Japan, travelling with my amazing mother.
We arrived into Tokyo with eyes wide open, so excited to embark on the next two weeks of travelling together in this inviting country.

There were a couple of things we noticed instantly about Japan: the friendliness of the people, and the amazing public transportation… these two wonderful characteristics of Japan were constants throughout our short-lived travels there.

Stepping out into the fresh air of Tokyo, it felt spectacular to finally be there. Japan is a country I’ve been dreaming about for many years, and to set foot in it felt similar to coming ‘home.’ This trip had, within a matter of minutes, confirmed that Japan is my ‘spiritual homeland,’ and I was instantly, madly, head over heels in love.

The next two weeks were spent filling every possible minute with new experiences and different places, and my mum and I had such an amazing time travelling together – we can not wait to go back to Japan.

Months on since returning, Japan has never really left my mind. It’s one of those ‘dream countries’ for me, and I know it’s somewhere I’ll return to over and over again
I’m always re-living memories and looking back over photographs of the trip time and time again, and so decided I should do a ‘Top 10 Picks’ about my Japan trip… So, here it goes: Em’s Top 10 Picks: 2 Weeks in Japan!

1. Food! – What more can I say; it’ absolutely takes the number one spot. Everywhere we went, from street vendors and market stalls, to sushi trains, tempura bars and ramen shops, train station bento boxes and stand-and-eat curry shops, food courts and supermarkets… The food was always incredible; served like it was a piece of art. The tempura was melt-in-your-mouth, the Hida Beef steam buns were to-die-for, and salmon and tuna sashimi skewers with soy, lemon and sesame seeds has left me dreaming for more… Food was one of our biggest experiences in Japan – we tried the local specialties wherever we went, and always without ever breaking the budget!

2. The People! – The people in Japan are unforgettable. From locals in the street, commuters on the trains, shop assistants, information assistants, train station assistants… everyone was so helpful. People went out of their way to make sure you were okay. I once asked a lady on the train if this train was going to a certain destination. She got off the train, found a train station attendant, asked him, and then got back on and told us where to go instead, meanwhile, her own train was just about to depart!… I remember another time I dropped my train ticket on the ground, and another commuter way down the carriage saw. He walked all the way down the carriage, picked it up and gave it back to me. I recall thinking “I don’t think this would happen back home.” The politeness of people, and the absolute respect they showed not just to us but to everyone else was astounding. People respected one another – Tokyo station at peak hour, with millions of commuters trying to get home, was a peaceful flow of people, unlike back home with people racing and pushing and darting and cutting-off one another. People watching was a great activity to undertake whilst in Japan; they are inspiring.

3. The Culture! – Japan’s culture is rich, ancient, traditional, modern, new, old, exquisite, an art form, precise, a little bit odd at times but always interesting, and absolutely inspiring. The food, the music, the clothing, the sports, the festivals, the traditions, the way-of-life, the oh-so-mystical geishas, tea ceremonies, sugar cakes, gift giving, comics and characters, neon signs, shopping…and then everything else and more. Impossible to experience it all in just two weeks, but we scratched the surface.

4. Takayama! – Words can not express my love for Takayama. It is simple; you MUST visit this incredible small city, and fall in love with it just as I have. The people, the markets, the river, the preserved lane ways, the food, the shops, the scenery, the guest houses, the strange ice-cream flavours, the Hida beef steam buns, the sarubobo dolls (go there, and you’ll know what I am talking about), the art and crafts, sake brewers, the exquisite chop sticks and hand-made items… I could continue, but it’s making me homesick.

5. Tokyo! – Tokyo is so much fun; it really is a paradise for children and adults alike (and for people like me who are children in adult bodies). The noise, the colour, the hustle and bustle of a busy but gentle city. The trains that take you wherever you want to go, and send you to new and interesting places. You could spend weeks just finding new neighbourhoods and exploring… meeting and watching the locals, the sub-cultures, the groups of girls in strange costumes, and the dogs paraded around in prams, dressed in the latest upmarket fashions…
Go early for the markets, explore local supermarkets, if shopping is your thing visit the many mega malls, or go at night to see a skyline of neon flashing and moving signs…Get lost, explore, eat, listen, see, smile, share… wherever you go, you’ll find history and modern life merging, and it is never ever boring.

6. Kyoto! – Kyoto is famous, of course, and we along with probably every other tourist fell in love. But the highlight for us was found in wandering about with no time-table, no schedule, watching people; tourists and locals. It seemed, for us, you didn’t have to really do much in Kyoto to be surrounded by culture and life, and to be able to enjoy yourself. There is a beauty and magic that can be found wherever you look…
Oh! and those sashimi skewers at Nishiki Market are still making me drool!…

7. Nara! – Who doesn’t love incredible scenery, delicious food, friendly people, and petting deer after deer after deer! I do! I do! Nara is a whole lot of fun, combined with ancient tradition, temples, stone lanterns, culture, religion, beliefs, practices…, yummy food, great guest houses, and a whole lot of cracker-loving deer!!! Nara was a highlight all round, but the walking tour we took gave us insight into temples and religion in Japan that we would’ve otherwise been blind to.
Tip: Get some deer crackers and get snap-happy with your camera!

8. Mt. Koya San! – High up on the mountains, you can instantly feel the spirit of the place deep within. Steeped in ancient tradition and spiritual practice and beliefs, this is a place I highly recommend to anyone. You can stay in temple lodging like most tourists will, and experience amazing vegetarian food, tatami mats, onsens and a 5am wake up call to watch traditional ceremonies taking place. Walk amongst Mt. Koya Sans incredible cemetary, and feel the energy around you. In that sort of incredible environment, it’s hard not to…
Tip: There is a cafe on the main street; a hippie looking Japanese guy makes the best Chai Latte I’ve ever had… we had 4 or 5 – indulgence at its finest, I know, but oh so worth it.

9. Osaka, Dotombori! – Get ready for a feast of Okonomiyaki served to you on a grill, and Takoyaki balls like you’ve never eaten before. A foodies paradise, we did not have enough time here. The people are trendy, the cars are flashy, the hair-styles are high, and the fashion is the latest. The starbucks was never empty, and as the sun set on Dotombori Street, the neon lights and mechanical crabs came alive. People are everywhere, and you can hear the pachinco machines loud and clear as they ring out whenever the doors open. There are dog clothing shops, and you’ll find the weird and whacky. Grab yourself some pumpkin flavoured ice cream, and enjoy your time there into the night…
Tip: If you’re interested, or even if you’re not…head to Osaka Aquarium. Children and Adults (and me, the child-adult) will love the amazing displays. Who can say no to a smiling puffer fish?

10. Public Transport! – It’s pretty much a guarantee that if I’m using public transport at home, I’ll experience delays or cancellations. People graffiti the walls of the train, people are loud, rude, put their feet up, curse and carry on, and are just generally not so considerate of anyone other than themselves. Come to Japan, take a train, and for me, it was like entering a whole new world. Pristine trains that arrive to the second, conductors who bow and take their hat off as they leave each carriage, polite and respectful commuters, and travel that is incredibly fast! Japan trains are like a dream.

What did you love about Japan?