Nostalgic for Japan
A 21-day Journey
We happened to pass by the Oedo Antique Market, a bi-monthly al fresco antique show on the grounds of the Tokyo International Forum.
A tin box caught my eye. The lid showcased what looked like an early 60’s pinup Asian model wearing goggles, an interesting bathing suit and the beautiful blue sea as the backdrop. It seemed to have a story behind it. I later found out that the Japanese female diver on the cover is known to be an Ama, sea women famous for free diving 30 feet into cold water wearing only loincloth, collecting abalone, oysters, seaweed, shellfish but mainly pearls. This was their livelihood. Japanese tradition holds that the practice of ama may be 2,000 years old.
I had to have it! To me ... it had this cool rustic feel to it, so OG, a glimpse into Japan’s past, and, although old, perhaps innovative in its time by practicing sustainability.
This is ultimately how I felt about my 21-day love affair while visiting Japan for the first time. Incredibly cool Osaka. The beautiful nostalgia of Kyoto, and the very modern and innovative Tokyo.
The incredibly cool, hipster vibe with it’s rustic much more laid back charms of Osaka is far from the polished neighbourhoods of Tokyo but it is equally bursting at the seams with all kinds of activity. There’s the go-to tourist destinations of Namba, Shinsaibashi, and the Dontonbori, showcasing not only vibrant (flashy neon lights) entertainment on every corner, but also premiere shopping that I tried to ignore until I discovered a boutiquey shop like Urban Research where I picked up some great pieces that I just love. And if vintage shopping is your forte, Amemura (American village) district is the Harajuku of Osaka - but here’s a tip, shopping is like no other in Japan. Trust me when I say there’s an endless selection from top to bottom, don’t even get me started on the sneaker shops in Tokyo!
Just know around every corner, there are more shops waiting to be discovered, but just make sure you save some yen because you still have to experience the nation’s kitchen, which varies from Michelin Star-level restaurants to equally regarded street food, classic dishes like hearty Okonomiyaki and the Osaka’s signature snack, Takoyaki.
Nothing holds more true than the common Osaka maxim - Kuidaore! (Eat till you drop!)
The Nostalgia of Kyoto’s historic district is so incredibly magical.
The first dose of that mystique started with a walk up the mountainside at Fushimi Inari Taisha - one of the most visited shrines in all of Japan, most famous the thousands of orange Torii Gates.
Located 233 metres above sea level, hopping off the subway and into this shrine whisks you away from anything remotely ‘city’, into a place of astonishment.
From the mountains it seemed like we hopped into a time machine, as we walked the picturesque streets of the Gion District.
It’s considered the heart of Kyoto, and like a history book’s pictures opening up in real life -surely one of the highlights of our visit.
Close by is the majestic Yusaka shrine located next to Maruyama Park, we sat on a bench for more than an hour, we actually didn’t say much, just smiled at each other every once in awhile, we actually put our camera’s away and and relished in the calm serenity.
Just when you think this charming atmosphere is the tourist apex, we visited the western outskirts of Kyoto, and were treated to another scenic marvel: the Arashiyama bamboo forest is an incredible place. There is something earie, yet the bamboo reaching into the heavens is probably why you feel peaceful, and out of this world.
No doubt why it’s one link to the impressive 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kyoto. Japan currently has 22.
All these magnificent sites but don’t think that Kyoto is stuck in the past, in the city centre is adorned Shijo-Dori beautiful bustling boutiques and if you need a little snack,a quick stop into the Nishiki market is minutes away.
The continuous innovation of Tokyo blows my mind.
From modern Japanese architecture to adopting the most advanced technology and materials whether It’s getting around Tokyo as one the world’s best public transportation to globe shaking trends of robotics and 3D manufacturing. Makes perfect sense why they hold 2018 the title of most innovative city.
While modern, the traditional aspects of Tokyo still keeps equally captivated. We gladly got lost in different prefectures, which turned into adventurous discoveries and stories to remember - and even then, we’d only begun to scratch the surface of this corner of the world. If you hope to read more on why Tokyo is the world’s greatest city check this out.
While modern is so awe dropping, the mix of traditional aspects of Japan keep me equally captivated like this tin box with a picture of an ama, women who carried this art well into their eighties, Now, who said mermaids aren’t real?