domenica 8 marzo 2015

Lost in translation

There is one thing that makes me feel alive more than others: travelling!  When  ! I check new flights and destinations or I start to read about a new trip I feel something that flows in me.  This is definitely a meaning of the of life.

This post does not pretend to be a guide but a way to share my experience in Japan with some tips.

Tokyo is surely a city full of contradictions, lights, colors, noises and gadgets.  I am addicted neither to cartoons nor to technological and electronic staff so I was looking for a different Tokyo and I got it.
Tokyo is enormous. There is not just one city center also because the distances are very big. The tube works amazingly and allows around 15 million of people to move from/to Greater Tokyo daily. Do not panic once you see the Tokyo tube map, it seems more difficult than how it is. You just need to pay attention at which kind of tube you want to get on, -there are different colors and letters and mainly two different companies (Toei, JR and Tokyo Metro)-, the final destination and the stops of the train- no all trains serve all stations, and the platform from which your train will leave. Do not take the first train! Never do it!

The Greater Tokyo is made up of different districts. My favorite place was TSUKIJI market, a vibrant place. I had the chance to see the Tuna auction and to visit the market with a local, my dearest friend Emiko. I suggest to go very early in the morning between 2-3 am to get the  number (there are just 120 entries, organized in two groups of 60 people).
GINZA is a district that could be in Tokyo or somewhere else. Full of wonderful buildings and luxury shops. Mitsukoshi is the biggest department store. I just enjoyed their gourmet floors, especially the fresh raw fish  and the patisserie corners. Japanese are keen on bakery, especially French patisserie. They love geometric dessert and fluffy cakes.
ASAKUSA is a really nice and traditional district. Sensoji is the Buddhist temple you must visit and If you love cooking, Kappabashi Dougu street is your place. It is a street with stores, offering Japanese tableware, kitchen tools and utensils, packaging supplies and many wax food samples.
SHIBUYA is very famous for its crossing. The metro station is served by different lines but It is impossible (I am always so optimistic) to get lost because each line has its platform and colors and there are  a lots of exit according to the place you wanna reach. In Shibuya I was at Starbuck at 5 pm, drinking my matcha Frappuccino without whipping cream  to see  many ants crossing the streets. Yes, Japanese, even if they are in hurry in rush hours,  are always in queue, surely a tiny queue. Hachiko statue is on a small square behind the big crossing. Takeshita Dori is full of original shops in which I bought several things and gifts.
YOYOGI park is a calm relief, one part of the park, on Shinjuku side, is quiet and silent where the Meiji Jingu shrine is whilst the other part of park, on Harajuku way, is like a theater where teens come here dressed up, singing, dancing and having picnic. Here I met Gothic Lolitas, many manga and anime characters.
MARUNOCHI is a very modern district where the Imperal palace is. I enjoyed Marunochi street a lot for its cozy coffees and wooded streets.
ROPPONGI is the expat area. I found it not so interesting and a bit dangerous compared to other districts. It’s worth just the astonishing panorama from the Tokyo city view.
AKIHABARA is your place if you love video games, manga, anime, electronic staff and tools indeed not my place!
SHINAGAWA is a nice ward on the Tokyo bay. I spent there a week, waking up with a wonderful view on the sea. If you think that Shibuya is a tough place because overcrowded, you haven’t see Shinagawa station. Here there are also Shinkansen trains platforms so it’s a bit a mess…surely a Japanese mess, so not a mess as we believe. It was so funny to  cross and overtake people …I’m Neapolitan, I’m pretty used to this.
SHIBAMATA is the place in which I stayed for a week at Emiko’s house. Emiko leaves with her two lovely children: Kaoru and Jun. They have a typical Japanese house on 2 floors and I slept on a tatami. Shibamata is a very traditional ward a bit out of the Greater Tokyo. It is well known for the Torasan statue in the main square out of the station. There are wonderful Zen gardens and a magic temple, Taisyakuten. Living with them has been special because It was ages I did not spend time with Emiko chan and with her two amazing children. I prepared pizza with Jun chan. Yes, he likes pizza, pasta and mozzarella more than sushi! I‘m so proud of him.  

Brave of the jetleg two days after my arrival in Tokyo, I left for the Kansai region. From Italy I have bought a Japan Rail Pass, that allows foreigners to travel on Shinkansen, Yamanote and JR train at zero cost for a period of 7, 14 or 21 days.
KYOTO is the old capital and the kingdom of geishas. There are wonderful temples and shrines. I felt in love with Sanjusangendo. It is a Buddhist temple where there are 1,000 standing life size statues. It is a so relaxing place and I felt for a moment out of time. I suggest to visit Funami Inari shrine too. It is  a bit out of Kyoto, but it is served by train  (it is on the JRP). In Kyoto I ate at the Nishiki food market and It was simple delicious, obviously raw fish, onigiri and radish but I must confess I still do not know what exactly I ate.
OSAKA is the most lively city of the Kansai region. There are not a lot of tourist attractions but Osaka people ar every friendly.  The Dotonbori area is really a labyrinth of colors and noises, shops and restaurants everywhere.
NARA is a nice village or more it is a nice Park since I just visited the Park to get lost in its nature and free deer.
KOBE is very nice, with its port and magnificent bridge. It is full of restaurants that offer the very famous beef Kobe. I had a delicious Shabu Shabu, a hot pot fondue.
KAMAKURA is a very small city out of Tokyo. There are wonderful shrines: the Sasuke Inari and the Tsurugaoka Hachiman- gu. The city is also very famous for its Amida Buddha statue at Kotoku-in.
YOKOHAMA is really a wonderful city. I really loved it. There is a wonderful walking bridge over the sea…amazing buildings, parks and surely Chinatown. I had lunch in a small place in which two ladies prepared dim sum. I had my portion of shrimp and veggie dim sum and the yummy matcha mooncakes. While I was coming back to Tokyo on my Shinkansen, the old man, sit next to me, just woke me up to show the beauty and the greatness of the Mont Fuji. YES, I saw it.

Japan is not an easy trip since the distances are very big, English is not so spoken and the streets have no name, yes it is a mess unless you find some nice people who will bring you directly to the destination after tons of bows!
I spent my last day in Tokyo before my night flight at Ooedo Onsen Monogatari. It is a hot spring bath park on Odaiba. You choose your Yukata and leave your clothes…yes, because you must be barenaked. There is a women and men area and a mix area in which you could eat or having massages or being out in the nature. There are baths with different temperature. I had my baths, my massage, my shower with the special products they offer. I came in at 10, I left the Onsen at 17. It was my special day, fully immersed in nature no time no space just me.
From this trip, I won’t never forget: the children, always smiling and nice, old people, so kind and really open to the world -because the most of Japanese people are not so open minded – last but not least, FOOD. I tasted everything I could. I ate sushi in the morning, for lunch, for dinner. It was an addiction, especially for the tuna sushi. Sea urchin, scallops, salmon, crabe, Ikura, shrimps…pickled radish, lotus, green tea, umeboshi, yuzu…I never tasted something that was bad, never…I also tasted NATTO (it is ranked as one of the 10 disgusting food in the world) and you know, it was not so bad.

Japan was a little discovery every day. You will feel lost in translation but out of blue you will meet yourself…as when I was coming back from Tsukiji market and walked alone until my apartment in Shinagawa at 5 am.

The far East is amazingly different and fascinating but to me it was more than just this, It was love at first sight with this young boy.


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