I’m traveling to Japan on Friday and although I can’t wait the trip is tinged with nerves.
Let me give you some background, I am a complete Japanophile not in the creepy or sickly sweet way (although I do have a soft spot for Hello Kitty) but I do love the food, culture, way of life and just how completely different it is from the way we lived London. Berlin holds a few more of the Japanese values but it is still very different.
When we first decided to go there in 2007 I was so excited I could hardly stand it and the trip didn’t disappoint, it was everything I thought it would be and more.
We visited the Ghibli museum
Went to Kyoto and saw the the world famous Fushimi Inari-taisha
and of course the best way to get to Kyoto is on the Shinkansen
I was go as far as to say it was the best holiday I have ever had, we experienced so much and had such a wonderful time that of course when looking to go on holiday again in 2011 it was at the top of our list.
We landed at around 10 on the 11th of March, made our way to the hotel where they let us check in a little early. I unpacked our things and decided to have a little nap before going out to dinner. At 14.46 we were woken up by the room shaking, it got worse and worse and went on for 6 whole minutes. I had never experienced an earthquake before and this was an extremely strong one.
I will not go into the devastation this earthquake cause because to think about the sheer volume of people wiped out breaks my heart but I will say what we experienced in Tokyo during the aftermath reaffirmed my love of this beautiful country and the dignity and resilience of citizens. People were calm, generous, caring and respectful in the face of such tragedy. The after effects in Tokyo were minimal to the outsider and mainly limited to understandable closure and power outages. You could however sense the loss everywhere and visiting temples was a difficult and moving experience as people prayed for their loved ones.
People often ask us why we did not come straight home and the answer is two-fold, firstly we could not afford the flights and prices understandably shot up and while our insurance company advised they would reimburse us for any costs incurred, we simply did not have the £6,500 they had quoted us to get home. Secondly we were in no immediate danger, the British Government were not evacuating people from Tokyo and we decided it was best to leave the airport and flights to people who really needed to use them.
Eventually my husband’s company very kindly organised us some earlier flights out of Tokyo as they deemed it to dangerous for us to stay in the country with the threat of radiation growing ever closer. It was bitter-sweet, on one hand I was pleased to be going home because we were unable to help with the situation and equally unable to enjoy any remaining time there but on the other hand I wasn’t ready to come home yet. I wanted to help, I wanted to support the economy, I wanted to not run away and abandon them like so many other scared tourists had done. Even now I have mixed feeling about it, guilt for staying and trying to make the best of the situation and guilt for leaving when we were in no real danger.
We did have some nice experiences still
Our first sight of cherry blossoms just outside Ueno Park
Being given a guinea pig to cuddle at Ueno Park Zoo
Visiting some temples in Kamekura (you can see how sad and tired I look here, I had been crying my eyes out about 10 minutes before this was taken)
Going to the Mori Tower in Ropongi Hills (probably not the best idea in the wake of the after shocks but well worth it)
I will try to blog and vlog as much as I can while I’m out there, am I excited to be going back? Definitely! and I nervous? perhaps a little but if past experience has taught me anything it’s that you can trust in yourself and others to get you through a difficult time.