Top 4 Japan Moments

by Jackie D on May 10, 2017

Jackie Travels JapanHere’s everything I miss about Japan so far: the food (the FOOD), the temples, the fashion, the pork buns from 7/11, the obsession with cats that seems to permeate the whole country, the fancy toilets (never have my girl parts been so pampered by anyone or anything, ever), the friendliness, the cleanliness, the unspoken rules that everyone follows, the subways, the high-speed train (one of the few Japanese words I know: shinkansen), the trees, the views from our hotels, the smog (reminds me of LA), the cab drivers, the vintage shops, the food.

I don’t remember when I first became obsessed with Tokyo, but I do remember the day that two guidebooks I ordered online arrived at my office in New York. I was so excited that I couldn’t even wait until I got home that night — I took my lunch break right then and flipped through as much of the books as I could, and then I almost missed my subway stop on the way home that night as I continued to devour them on my commute.

I have so much to say about the trip and I think I’m still mentally processing it (and my stomach is still recovering), but for starters, these were my four favorite parts.

Crazy Tokyo Streets

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Tokyo streets are as crazy as you’d hope. People going in all directions, neon lights stuck to every surface of every building, people dressed in costumes, girls with owls on their arms trying to lure you into the myriad cat/owl cafes, vending machines selling all sorts of weird drinks (I accidentally got hot tea out of a vending machine. You’d assume that any drink that comes in an aluminum can would be cold? Related fact: hot aluminum cans really hurt your hands).

But weirdly, there is a structure and almost an order to the chaos. People actually wait at crosswalks if the light says “Don’t Walk.” Somehow, despite the crowds, people avoid shoving past you. If someone does accidentally bump into you, there is always an apology. In the subway stations, there are arrows painted on the ground showing you where to line up as you wait for the next train to arrive, and PEOPLE ACTUALLY OBEY THESE ARROWS. If New York City painted arrows on the ground in the subway stations, people would pee on them.

The Shrines and Temples (in particular, the CAT TEMPLE)

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It shocked me how much I loved the shrines and temples. I’ve seen enough western churches to last me several lifetimes — not only am I not interested them, I actively avoid them if possible. But I knew I had to at least try to appreciate the temples, which are such a massive part of the history of Japan.

There are several things I like about Shinto. One: they don’t try to convert you. Either you practice it, or you don’t. Two: Humans are considered to be fundamentally good rather than fundamentally evil — evil deeds are thought to be caused by spirits. (I prefer this to Catholicism’s take that women are generally the cause of most evil) Three: there is a huge focus on how amazing nature is all the time.

Also, there was a temple that was entirely dedicated to worshiping cats. Obviously, more on this later.

Japanese Obsession with Cats

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I would just like to state for the record that getting to feed a group of cats in the Cat Cafe in Shinjuku was without a doubt the happiest moment of my entire life up to this point and nothing will ever live up to it. Basically, you pay by the half-hour to spend time in this hip cafe area with a bunch of cats (one drink included in the entry price), and that’s it. Unless you pay 5 dollars extra for the privilege of offering the cats their afternoon treats, in which case:

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Once again: more on this later. Much more. Possibly the sole focus of this blog from now on.

“Just Eat”

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I ate so much amazing food on this trip, thanks largely to my cousin, who did extensive research before we left. I will try pretty much anything, and did: I ate a whole squid off a stick, lollipop style; I ate a cone of cotton candy larger than my head; I ate things without even knowing what they were, just because a chef was handing them to me and I knew that he knew what he was talking about.

My favorite part of the meals was that everything had a rule: eat this part first, then that part. When you’re eating this part, just this sauce but not that one; for the second bite, use the second sauce. Use this salt but only with this fish; and sometimes, when we were waiting for instructions, the chef would look at us and we’d raise our eyebrows expectantly and he’d wave a hand, urging us to hurry. “Just eat,” he’d say, without indicating any sauce or salt or number of bites.

And “just eat” we did. All the time. So much. And the amount of probiotics I’m taking to get my stomach back on track right now is 100% worth it.


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