May 1, 2018

Japan – Kyoto / Kawaguchiko / Tokyo

I know this is a long overdue post, but I finally managed to get over my laziness and muster some effort to write about the Japan trip. So what do I think about Japan?

Hits (like):
Kyoto : All my best days in my Japan trip were spent at Kyoto. Mix of city and traditional Japanese landmarks, if you have to choose a week to spend at either Tokyo or Kyoto, go for Kyoto. All the listed places in my itinerary are awesome, but especially worth mentioning would be that Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo-jo castle. Both places are fucking amazing and mind blowing. It is said that Kyoto has shit tonnes of temples so, what I experienced here might be just the tip of what’s more awesome. If I get to choose again, I’d cut out Tokyo to spend more time at Kyoto.

Kawaguchiko : Kawaguchiko (a lake side town) is a great place with killer views too. I was here for Mt Fuji, as it was my lifelong dream of witnessing Mt Fuji from the base with my own eyes (when I saw it from the plane back in year 2000 while en-route to USA). Most people opt for a day trip here, but don’t be like them hippies. Put 2 – 3 days here to roam around, it’s worth the time. There are plenty of places to hike in the vicinity of this town, and they’re mostly outdoor. But there’s also a roller coaster theme park here if that’s your kind of shit (those coasters look quite intense) but this is even more awesome because at every dip and scream, you get to see the majestic Mt Fuji laughing at your ass for being such a pussy. Mt Fuji is just so surreal. (our hotel was just right next to the theme park and full view of Mt Fuji)

Disney Resort at Tokyo : I’m not a fan of Disneyland but I had a blast this round at Tokyo Disney Resort (combination of 2 theme parks – Disneyland and DisneySea). With proper planning this time round and also the blessing for having a very organized crowd, we managed to hit 18 rides in Disneyland and 15 in DisneySea. We spent a total of 13 hours at each park, from dawn till dark. Sure the tickets were expensive but it was well worth spending than at a shittier Tokyo city (which you should give a miss).

Nakamise Dori 仲見世 and Senso-ji Temple 浅草寺 at Tokyo : Both located at the same area. Nakamise Dori is a shopping street teeming with souvenir stores, food stalls and art stands. Starts at Kaminari-Mon, which is a big ass gate, ends at the Senso-Ji Temple – all in 1 stretch of happening road. It reminded me very much of a night market in Taiwan, only that it is much smaller in size and is throughout the entire day. What’s most important is, it doesn’t cost a thing to enter the place and the temple.

Payment machines around Japan : I’m a big fan of its payment machines. You know, you enter the restaurant, instead of having a server waiting for you to check out the menu, you do that at the side before entering the restaurant, make up your damn mind, place the order at the vending machine and the machine spits out your order coupon, then you go get a seat. Server gets the coupon, and you get served. How about that? Very organized and there’s no need for communication (unless necessary at all). It resolves the problem of getting the wrong order and waiters songlap-ing the $$ from cash register.

Misses (dislike):
Tokyo in general : Tokyo in general is a shithole. It’s overcrowded as fuck and if you’re unfortunate enough to hit the public transportation at the peak hour, you’re in for a nightmare. If you’ve seen videos of platform workers stuffing commuters into a jam packed train like sardines, yes it’s all real and I’ve experienced it myself. It was a fucking insane experience. Transportation is also expensive in Tokyo (albeit well established), most of its day-passes are very limited and simply does not worth the value unless one goes to shitloads of places within the same day. I allocated 1 week for Tokyo. Bad call. Tokyo at most, only needs 4 days. 2 of them at Disney Resort (only if one has not been to a Disney theme park). I’d have cut out Tokyo if it wasn’t for Disney (for my daughter).

Entry fees for almost all the places of interests :A lot of the temples require entrance fees or cover charge, and if you’re planning to visit shitloads of them, they could add up. While I understand the need to maintain these places, I can’t fathom why these places can’t be funded through other means? Like sales of trinkets or through donations (oh they have that as well). It makes me feel that visiting Japan is all about money. In Penang, none of our temples inside the UNESCO area require entrance fees. Those POIs that require fees, are usually cheap and they give you a bang for the buck, not like a small parch of shitty rock garden or something like that.

Bus driver duties : Japanese bus driver is equipped with a microphone, and for some fucking strange reasons, he is required to talk to his bus commuters like he’s a DJ or something. Like when there’s an interesting area that he drives past, he’ll go “Hey guys that’s where my friend Tamaukasi lives, he’s still a virgin with a lot of doll pillows” in Japanese. Or maybe something like “This is the last stop guys, better get off the bus if you do not want a wasabi root shoved up your ass”. Gets fucking annoying after a couple of turns.

No hablo ingles : The general Japanese public do not speak English. This is especially inconvenient if you’re in a restaurant with no English menu. Online apps with the camera translation aren’t helping either. Their flawed engine would translate a dish to something like “chicken tits motorbike winter”, or something worse. So most of the time, we’re reduced to sign language. There’s a time when my wife had to sign to the Jap chick at a convenience store to buy ‘menstrual pills’, but somehow it got translated to cigars (for some reasons, my wife didn’t think of using Google translate FROM English to Jap writings).

Neutral (meh…) :
The Japanese people : The Japanese people aren’t as polite/friendly as everyone says (overrated). Well, not the way I like it, I should say. They’re not generally rude, you have to give them that. The only rude encounter I had was at the immigration. The overall Japanese society is apathetic to everyone. They don’t give a fuck about anything, unless they have to… which then they’ll be polite about it. They’re obliged to sound/act polite and it’s very rote. It felt fake, and there’s no feel of sincerity to it. Most of the time, it made me feel uneasy. Fake smile, fake bow, fuck me. I prefer them to be rude but sincere than a fake courtesy. If you want genuine politeness and courtesy, you should check out the Taiwanese. My favorite people on Earth. However, I also have to say that the streets in and around Tokyo/Kyoto/Kawaguchiko look very secure and feels very safe. I haven’t seen any loiterers or vagabonds or people peeing on the streets like what I saw at USA/Germany/Indonesia/China/Malaysia.

Food : I have always liked Japanese food. I don’t know if this is just me but, with the exception of that fantastic Houtou noodles at Kawaguchiko, and some expensive sushi at Tsukiji, the general Japanese food at Japan isn’t any better than the Japanese food at Penang like many said it is. There are good ones in Malaysia that are even better than those at Japan, true story. So, that sort of failed to justify the pricey food there… My wife and daughter are of the same opinion.

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