How did this happen? Are we really leaving Japan tomorrow? I guess we are.
Very happy that we decided to extend our stay here to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, I can say that Japan has grown on me immensely the last couple of days. In my books, any country visited after a trip to Korea will have a hard time standing the comparison, since I think that Korea + Erik is like fireworks + unicorns. I have never been to a place where I feel so energized, inspired and in my element. I simply love it. Initially, I thought that Japan was too similar to Europe, dated (compared to Korea which is like a young tiger in its prime) and way too expensive when we got to Tokyo.
But then, something happened. I realized that every meal I ate was a 10/ 10, every person I spoke to was a model of friendliness and helpfulness, there is an abundance of places so beautiful that you have never seen anything like it, the language is so delectable that I could listen to people speaking on the phone for half an hour without understanding a word, things are clean and simply hold a certain quality to them. Tokyo is huge but still has very lovely parks and (to a person who lived in China) good air.
People here seem to work unimaginably hard. Too hard. Yuki said that he sometimes stays in his lab until midnight, and Yusuke considered finishing at 21 in the evening normal, whereas he simply slept at work during busy days. Still, people are so generous and don`t seem to think twice before sacrificing their hard- earned cash to buy you drinks, dinners or even opening up their homes to you. Yusuke was our host in Kyoto where he holds a good position at Nintendo (he’s also a street performer and a skydiving instructor, #coolestguyever). He works a lot and still generously accommodates couch surfers basically every week. He finished work earlier one day (19.30) so that he could take us to teppanyaki where we chatted about Japanese culture. We could not have gotten a nicer or warmer host! Also, yesterday, Marco and I were having sushi (delicious) as two businessmen in suits came in and sat down next to us by the conveyor belt. We chatted, they bought us beer, we said no, no, no, they bought more beer and ordered in things that were ‘special insider sushi- tips’. Soon, it felt like we had been friends for a long time as we awkwardly had to ask for each- others’ names. They insisted on paying for our dinner. Marco and I were supposed to have an early night, but we couldn’t refuse when the guys treated us to their favorite Irish bar. In came drinks, snacks and food. Everything payed for. We had valuable conversations about what it is like to grow up and work in Japan. After a while, we had to say good – bye, two friends richer and very satisfied from the sushi and drinks. Once again, I had to sadly acknowledge that this just does not happen in Europe. If someone unknown approaches you on the street / in a restaurant back home, people automatically think freak. The people of Asia, instead, seem to have understood a pretty basic human truth: it’s nice to be with other people. (This stated, I know that there are issues of loneliness and isolation in Japan, which I think is due to their crazy work hours).
Tomorrow, we leave for Taipei again which will be the last day and stop of our trip. It’s hard to grasp right now. We have seen and done so much in just over one months time that it feels like we have been away for ages. When I think of everything I have to do when I’m back home, I kind of want to crawl into my Asian turtle-shell again, but I just won’t think about that right now. Right now, I will have a bathing bonanza in our capsule- hostels’ (?!) hot springs. I will think of Sakura, kimonos, sushi, and 1990’s street fighter games.