It seems like it was only yesterday that I was searching like crazy to find a travel buddy (with very little result) and the idea of going to Japan was just that – an idea. Now me and an amazing Italian girl named Marta have booked our tickets, accommodation and made a two week travel plan to explore everything from Kamakura to Tokyo. (And I got an amazing bonus as I get to join Marta in Milan for four days before we head to Japan.)
Japan is such an amazing contrast to Sweden where I live, with that being said, I naturally have some expectations going into this adventure. I thought it would be fun to share them with you now, 3,5 months before going, and then get back to you as I come home at the end of May and reflect on how accurate they were.
1. Public transportation will be confusing.
I think I should start off by saying that I’m on a level where I find Stockholm’s subway system to be confusing (and most people don’t) so I don’t expect the Japanese systems to be any easier on me. Thankfully people have adviced me to download a great variety of travel apps specific for Japan and having both PASMO (metro card) and the Japan Rail Pass should make everything slighly smoother.
2. ..But train rides will be a cosy experience.
We will spend the first week travelling around Japan with our Japan Rail Passes, going by train exploring places such as Hiroshima, Kamakura and Kyoto (to name a few). Japan is well known for their modern trains and bringing traditional Ekiben on each ride will surly make it even more comfortable. (Also, I think trains are a great way to see the country!)
3. My suitcase will probably not be enough..
.. Because I will probably shop a whole lot of cool stuff and quirky snacks! While I usually don’t do a whole lot of shopping when I travel, I think I have to make an exception for Japan. They have everything from the five-story toy store Kiddyland to 100 yen shops such as Daiso. If you know of any cool stores that I should explore, please leave a comment below! 🙂
4. .. And I will bring home at least one Gudetama item.
If you’ve never heard about the hilarious lazy egg character Gudetama, then you’re in for a strange kind of treat. I fell in love with this character about a year ago, and my friend Robin even got me a Gudetama gift during his trip to Tokyo.
I heard that there might be a Gudetama Café but I’m not sure if it has opened yet.
If there is, however, it would be too weird to miss!
5. There will be a million things to explore and experience.
One of the reasons why I decided on Japan for 2017 was because of the many things there are to explore. There are mountains to hike, temples to see, foods to try and busy streets to take in. I don’t think we will ever get bored on the trip.
6. .. And I will probably enjoy Shibuya best out of all the parts of Tokyo.
While Shibuya Crossing and Shibuya in general is popular among tourists, I’m kind of attracted to the chaos of the crowded streets and massive buildings. Then again I’m sure I will find other parts of Tokyo to love and be surprised by.
7. Finding vegan/vegetarian food will be a challenge.
While I’m not vegetarian or vegan, I tend to eat a lot of vegetarian and vegan food and I’m on a quest to do it even more. Marta is vegetarian going vegan, so we are pretty much on the same page when it comes to not eating meat on our trip.
Here is the thing – most people will tell you it’s impossible to find vegan and vegetarian food in Japan and I have come across a lot of people who went to Japan and got shocked by the lack of vegetarian options (but then again they did zero research before going..).
We, however, will go to Japan prepared (and all the people nagging actually made me even more excited to research the options)! I have already found places like Shanti Yoga Vegan Café in Hiroshima and popular T’s Tan Tan in Tokyo station that serve 100% vegan food, to name a few. We are also super excited about the Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival taking place on 15th May.
If you are going to Japan I recommend the site Happy Cow and do also join the many Japanese vegan/vegetarian groups on facebook for advice from people who live in Japan. Bring translated notes stating everything you don’t eat rather than just a translation for vegetarian/vegan, as many don’t know what those diets actually mean.
8. And I will have trouble choosing between the many, many Ekiben.
While it’s actually tricky to find a vegetarian Ekiben, I’m not ready to give up just yet since there are many to choose from. Ekiben is a form of regional bento that people buy at train stations. Today you can find many of them being sold in a shop in Tokyo station and it’s a great way to try regional food from other parts of Japan. Traditionally you bring them on your train and eat them while travelling to your destination! Some come in disposable boxes but there are also more expensive ones that come in pretty bowls and such that you can bring home as souvenirs.
9. I will most likely press the wrong button on one of those high tech toilets..
Japan is known for having high tech toilets that do everything from playing different tunes to offer heated seats. This also means that the toilets have a million buttons, and it’s not all clear what they all do.. And I guess I’m about to find out!
10. DisneySea will be crowded, but totally worth it.
Here is a fact for you – I have never been to a Disney theme park, and I love amusement parks! So while we are going to slurp ramen, visit old temples and take in the beauty of the many parks, I can’t wait to cross Disney Sea off of my bucket list!
DisneySea in Tokyo is the only Disney park of it’s kind in the world, and while Disneyland is more for families with children, DisneySea is more for an adult audience. The park is known to be very crowded, but I can’t wait to try every snack, be scared as hell on Tower of Terror and explore many of the 30(ish) shops in the park.
11. We will probably buy a whole lot of weird stuff at 7/11.
Apparently there is a 7/11 around every corner in Tokyo, but they sell typical Japanese treats and food that can’t be found at home. I really love exploring grocery stores, markets and shops to get a sense of the culture when I’m travelling.
12. Japanese people will be friendly and helpful, but very few will speak english.
I have never heard anyone talk about Japanese people as rude or unfriendly but I have heard that very, very few speak English. I’m not really worried about this, but I’m kind of spoiled by living in a country and travelling to countries where people usually speak English, making it very easy to ask for help and navigate.
Have you been to Japan and if so, what did you experience by your own expectations? Make sure to keep an eye out for an update on all of this when I get back in May. 🙂