Thursday, June 18, 2015

Japan...What we MISS

I've been asked quite often what I miss or liked most about Japan. It was a huge hunk of time, especially for our first international trip together, and even more so when we were camping the entire way. Alright, I wouldn't really consider it camping since we had nice restrooms (which also acted as laundry and shower), fresh water (drink-able too, which was great for cooking and refilling our water bottles), plus we were up off the ground. Even now I would probably state I'm not a huge camping fan, but when it comes to travel I love urban camping and the price tag of 0.00 USD. Ok, back to what I miss, since I have my hammock hanging up as a bed, I can't really say I miss it. 

I miss the people and culture. Everyone was very polite, carrying, hospitable, and willing to go out of their way to help. It was a huge shock coming back to the states...I bowed whenever I said thank you for the first little while. Even now (a whole year later) I sometimes start to bow when I really want to say "thank you". In a way I feel (at least in my mind) just words don't carry the same weight anymore. Action, and bowing, which takes your whole body to do, shows how much you appreciate it - ie the deeper the bow, the more appreciative you are. Well that was an interesting side note....

FRESH fruit!!!

Yes these fruit prices range from 18 USD to 98 USD, generally they were cheaper, but these are for presents/gifts, not for general consumption....they just looked SO pretty.
We miss fresh fruit. Yes, you can walk into any grocery store in America and get "fresh" fruit, but do they look like this? And, I swear that the carrots, cabbage, pretty much every fruit and vegetable we ate there tasted a WHOLE lot better than what we get here in the States. 

I would also say I miss 7-Eleven. I've even gone to their Japanese site to day dream again about the amazing food they always had at the ready. The caramel macchiato ice cream cones, the pasta and rice curry they would microwave for me and the sticky buns filled with delicious meat and vegetables. And to know that they had all been fresh delivered to the store that morning or afternoon and not sat there for a week or more. Man I miss the fresh, convenience store food. We had heard tales about street food, especially in some of the less developed countries, but I had serious withdrawals from 7-Eleven, Lawson's, Cirlce-K, and Family Mart food. Sometimes, just to switch it up we would stop at an actual Grocery Store to raid their fresh, ready to eat food. Ahh, the dreams about handing over yen and saying "yes" to having the store attendant microwave my food, to then walk to a nearby park that would be our home for the night to eat dinner. Yes, I've actually dreamed in Japanese about the food and having them microwave it for me, sad? maybe, funny? heck yes!

Val (left) and I (Ash on the right) in front of the first Onsen we visited. This one is located in Beppu, which is known for its many many Onsen. The person that was kind enough to take the photo for us is a native Japanese girl (mid 20's) that we met in the bath and started chatting with us. 
While we did utilize many public bathrooms to wash, freshen up, brush teeth, deodorize, ect. we enjoyed the opportunities to enjoy traditional Japanese bathing. Onsens and how the Japanese regularly bathe by having a little shower that you sit in front of to scrub and rinse and then a large tub to soak in afterwards, makes so much sense. I've found myself countless time wishing for one of those little seats in front of a shower faucet, trying to balance in a shower as the curtain starts to engulf you isn't much fun. I think they have the right idea. We weren't able to take photos inside any of the public baths due to wanted privacy (I would be a little wary if they were willing to allow photographs when you're walking around nude), but I did find some photos on the internet.
Demonstrates the little stool in front of the spigot to scrub and wash
Plus the large bath to soak.  
Onsen that has an outdoor section.