LOTS of people ask me about my last name – what’s up with ” JAPAN”walla? “Are you Japanese? Are you Parsi?” (I get that a lot) … It’s an interesting little story …my great great grandfather was the first person from India to trade companies in Japan…and for some reason people nicknamed him JAPAN walla (literally…the guy from Japan) and it stuck. Needless to say, my name has gotten me quizzical looks from both Pakistanis and Europeans ..but hey! at least it’s an ice breaker.
It seems like my link to Japan is in my blood and so fate had brought me face to face with the mystique of the orient. I have had the good fortune to travel a great deal, but I have NEVER experienced a country like Japan. It’s an entirely different world. In some ways, it’s so futuristic, cosmopolitan and fast paced yet it’s so deeply rooted in culture, social graces and tradition.
I stayed in Tokyo for the duration of my trip. Tokyo is the modern Asian urban experience par excellence. It’s all about fine dining, great nightlife, brilliant shopping and all the other aspects of urban life that make a big city exciting. ALL the food I had was AMAZING – from the sushi to (weirdly) the pasta and pizza ..i’m serious it’s REALLY good and authentic….go figure. The street food was awesome too. Don’t be fooled by this weird fish waffle…it’s filled with nutella and really good. Nothing fishy about chocolate.
Not to mention the crepes and the sushi.
I loved walking around in Harajuku – it’s known as THE center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. The street fashion was just MAD creative and had an amazing energy!
We visited a Hedgehog cafe where you can hire a hedgehog to hug (bizzare) and went also ate at Gonpachi – the restaurant that Kill Bill was filmed in.
Another weird experience – I went to a MENTAL restaurant called “kawaii monster cafe” which is the trippiest OTT cafe I have EVER seen. It’s like a restaurant straight from wonderland. It’s an extravagant color explosion in both decor and food. Even the bathrooms of the place are over the top, featuring ceiling to floor mirrors and luminescent colors. we spent our evening eating rainbow pasta and partying with a massive pink cat.
The next day, we went to visit Tokyo’s oldest temple in Asakusa.
Many people write their prayers and wishes on scrolls of paper and tie it onto the gates outside the temple. Since I was feelin’ mystical, I did just that.
We also took a trip to Kamakura to visit the great Budda. The statue was magnificent and it was great to just walk around and look at the gardens and neighboring shrines.
It was so zen, that I felt the need to sporadically bust out a yoga pose (!)
Kyoto is a city located in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan. It took around four hours in a train from Tokyo for us to get there. In some ways I loved Kyoto so much more than Tokyo. Hidden behind every corner or sliding door there was just an abundance of gardens, shrines and temples waiting to be discovered… over 2,000 to to be exact!
We decided on seeing Nijo Castle first – it’s a super cool samurai castle which is famous for it’s “nightingale floors”, which squeak.
We also saw Sanjūsangen-dō – a temple that contains 1,000 bronze statues and took a long, leisurely walk in the Geisha district.
A tonne of things inspired me, so I did quite a bit of artwork while I was there.
That’s pretty much it! I think Oscar Wilde said it best when he observed that there is no such country as Japan. It is a mode of style and exquisite fancy of art ..