I visited Japan three times, each time to a different place : Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Fukuoka. Lets look at the map to get a clear idea of where they are (see the red dots). Fukuoka is on the northern side of Kyushu Island (closest to South Korea), whereas Kanazawa and Tokyo are in Honshu Island. I visited Fukuoka for a robotics and control conference, Kanazawa for a summer school on Locomotive and Cooperative Robotic Systems in JAIST, and Tokyo for writing my Computerized GRE (I was in South Korea at that time and it had only paper GRE system).
Japan is a wonderful mixture of culture, tradition and technology-driven modern lifestyle. And in terms of food, you can find a variety of Sushi or Sashimi, which are very popular all through the world. But unfortunately, they are not my favorites given my Bengali upbringing as I am used to eating fried / grilled fish. But, its ‘Kobe’ beef is unparalleled. Also, I love Ramen, which is a Japanese noodle soup dish, Tempura (deep fried seafood / veggies) , Yakitori (skewered meat), and Donburi (rice bowl). Here’s a picture of two bowls of very late night delicious meat Ramen (not so much soup though, me and my friend not in picture) in Tokyo..
Tokyo has something to offer for everybody, whether its the busy Shibuya with its tranquil Meiji Shrine, the Shinjuku Gyoen gardens, Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa in Taito, Takeshita Dori in Harajuku for fashion, Ginza for shopping, Roppongi for night life, the Electric town Akihabara, the mighty Tokyo Tower, or Ueno Park. Here are some random snapshots from these places (Navigate over each image to see the caption):
At Senso-ji Temple site, I saw a familiar site of burning Incense Sticks and this reminded me of my home, where people burn incense sticks as an aid to their prayers..
And here’s me and others trying to wash our hands and purify them with the sacred water at Chozuya by grasping the ladle with the right hand and pouring the water over the left hand and then switching hands…
At Senso-ji Temple, I saw a very interesting phenomenon where a lot of people were trying to get their written fortune (Omikuji). The way they do it is while praying, they shake a box gently for some time and a stick with a number pops out. They are supposed to remember the number and put the stick back. Using this number, they are supposed to take the ‘Omikuji’ out from the drawer with the corresponding number and take it home with them (See left picture below). Another interesting thing was the ‘O-waraji’ which was a huge pair of straw sandals (You can see one sandal in the middle picture below). Apparently, this was made by 800 citizens of Murayama city in a month and weighs 2500 kgs, and is meant to be a charm against evils. You are supposed to touch this and wish to have strong legs (which, at that time, meant capability of physical labor to feed themselves). And finally, in the right picture below, you can see ‘Ema’, which are votive tablets for special personal prayers. The wishes are written on the reverse side of the tablet and hung around a divine tree.
I was lucky enough to see a traditional Japanese wedding at the Meiji-Shrine (picture below). Also, on the streets, we can often see people wearing traditional Japanese clothes and they look stunning 🙂 Here are some snapshots:
Fun fact: The design of Shiodome Station in Minato is inspired by a pattern made from reeds that grow by water side (Reeds were often used by poets as a subject matter of their work — See ‘A collection of Myriad Leaves’ — the most famous and oldest anthology of traditional Japanese poems. An arrow made from reed is supposed to be a weapon against evil.
Unlike Tokyo, Kanazawa is not the first choice of international tourists. However, Kanazawa, with its history of Samurais, Geishas, and Temples, has a lot of things to offer like the calm and tranquil environment in Kenrouken Garden, Myoryuji Temple, Kanazawa castle etc. Luckily, I managed to see Japan Tent, which was being held in Kanazawa during my visit and I could try a bunch of international cuisines at different stalls. Here are some shots from Kanazawa:
Finally, Fukuoka, a port city was a nice addition to the Japan travel. Its Tenjin underground city was particularly interesting 🙂 Here are some random snapshots from a random walk through the city :
So, you see, Japan is a perfect blend of tradition, culture, history, and modern technology. Its gaming culture and anime / manga craze is known across the world. After my multiple visits, I have become an avid anime follower myself.. Japan is magical and I would love to visit it again and again.