40 years of Memorable Moments: Japan

When we celebrated 40 years of wedded bliss last year, I decided I would write a series of posts entitled “40 years of Memorable Moments.” We’ve already passed the 41 year mark and I’m nowhere near finished!

I had always wanted to visit Japan. Television programmes had whet my appetite and expectations were high when we visited back in 2007. Although it was my maiden trip, my beloved had visited Japan many times on business. We were combining the two and my beloved was going to take a few days’ vacation to finally enjoy some of the sights.

We were fortunate to time our visit with cherry blossom season. It was glorious. I’ve never before or since seen so much pink blossom. The trees were heavy with flowers, petals from which would drift to the ground like confetti as you walked past. It was truly magnificent.

We started our trip in Tokyo before heading off to Kyoto and Nara. In Tokyo my beloved had business meetings and I would occasionally join him for dinner with his clients all of whom took us to the most amazing Michelin-starred restaurants. The food literally looked too good to eat but I somehow managed it!

My days were spent with the son and future daughter-in-law of my beloved’s agent in Japan. The two had been brought up in Tokyo and had met while working for one of the many French patisseries in Tokyo. They put together a sightseeing programme that included most of the tourist hot spots and many where I was the only Westerner. In addition, both spoke excellent English so they were able to answer my barrage of questions. Without their guidance I would no doubt have gotten lost in the subterranean Tokyo subway system, never to be seen again.

The future daughter-in-law’s parents ran a couple of inns and restaurants so the pair took me to numerous neighbourhood restaurants where the food was just as delicious as that at their Michelin starred counterparts. On the few occasions my beloved and I ate together we were restricted to those restaurants which helpfully have plastic reconstructions of the meals in the windows which you just point at to order. Sadly neither of us speak much restaurant Japanese.

My first impression of Tokyo (and of Japan) was of a clean, well-organised, graffiti-free, litter-free world, filled with polite people, non-horn-honking drivers and immaculate urban landscaping. I was also struck by the quiet, quite amazing given it’s one of the world’s largest cities with 35 million people living within a 50 km radius of the centre. I soon discovered quietness, politeness and respectful behaviour is deeply embedded in the Japanese psyche. It is not feigned or cynically observed; it is a sincere and genuine sensibility, one of their core values.

During our visit to Kyoto and Nara, we took organised coach tours to visit the many Shinto and Buddhist temples which co-exist side by side in harmony and explored their tranquil gardens. We spent the evenings just wandering around the neighbourhood, soaking up the atmosphere and mooching around traditional shops and restaurants. It was just magical.

By the end of our short trip, I realised I had merely scratched the surface of Japan. Of course, I only went to the bigger cities, but I was able to experience the ultra modern, the traditional and a lot in-between. I know different parts of Japan will have much more to offer and I’m keen to experience this. I loved every moment of this short trip which greatly exceeded expectations and I’m planning on a return visit for a longer period, maybe one autumn, to visit more of this wondrous land. So with that . . . Sayonara.

Aside from the header photo, all the others were taken from various sites as my photos of Japan appear to have gone walkabout!