Where to begin, where to begin. How about Yokohama, where the Japan adventures began? We ported in Yokohama and have not stopped since. Our first day, Paige and I decided to try independent travel for the first time. We left the ship and headed for the local train station. After 20 long minutes, our first experience with the intense language barrier, and lots of train tickets, we were on our way to Mt. Fuji. The bullet train was better than we expected and we were, of course, the loudest passengers on board. Although the inbound travel time to Mt. Fuji was a little over two hours and we had two changeover destinations, it was well worth it. We saw the beautiful Mt. Fuji and explored the surrounding area for a couple of hours. After our first exploration in Japan, we were then on our way back to Yokohama. It sounds somewhat uneventful, but it’s one of those things that we were told we have to do in Japan, so we did it. It really was a lot of fun but yes, semi uneventful and took up our entire first day.
The second day we had plans to hang around Yokohama until the late afternoon/early evening and then meet the sisters at the ship, pick up our bags, and head to Tokyo. Exploring Yokohama aimlessly was an absolute blast! A group of us went shopping, ate a Japanese lunch, and (my personal favorite) went to the Cup Noodle Museum and Factory. Rebecca at a museum? Rebecca having fun at a museum? That’s impossible. Nope, not in Japan. I was just as surprised as y’all are. At the Cup Noodle Museum you go through and look around the actual museum part and interactively learn about how it all started and how it has become what it is today. Then you can make your own Cup Noodles; this was my favorite part. You get an original cup and then go to a drawing station and decorate your cup however you would like. Sounds very juvenile, I know, but it was so great. You then get to fill your cup with ramen and four of your favorite ingredients and flavors. If that’s not enough, you get to package it with an airtight seal. They also give you a clear inflatable bag for you to carry your creation around in. We laughed so hard at ourselves and had such a great time just exploring. We then headed back to the ship, got ready, and headed straight back to the train station to head into Tokyo.
We spent two days in Tokyo and experienced so much. Tokyo is split up into three major districts surrounding Tokyo central. We stayed in Shinjuku, which is one of the three districts. We got to experience and explore the other two as well: Shibuya and Harajuku. Where we stayed, Shinjuku, had a very heavy nightlife environment but during the day was much calmer and more relaxing. Shibuya had a Times Square atmosphere to it: extremely chaotic and people were everywhere. Harajuku was more of the uptown lifestyle and very hipster. All of the districts were fun and they all competed for best shopping. We also got to experience Tokyo Central for a little while. It had a very business-centered environment about it and we seemed to be the only tourists. We did all of the Tokyo-area travel with the sisters, Kathleen and Caroline, and it was so amazing. As I have said before, we’re so much alike it’s creepy. While we were there, Kathleen and I ventured out and tried all of the interesting foods that were brought to us while Paige and Caroline decided to stay back and watch us either be miserable or really enjoy the mystery food.
After Tokyo we then headed to Kobe where we met the ship. After spending 12 consecutive days on the ship, I never thought I would be so excited to be back on it. As soon as we met the ship we unpacked our bags, showered, and made ourselves right back at home. Being able to sleep in our “own” beds back here on the ship was extremely refreshing. The night of our return to the ship we just hung around and settled back in to the way of things. Our final day in Japan was spent in the city of Kobe, again with the sisters. We ventured off of the ship bright and early in the morning and explored the city of Kobe for the entire day. I had the best steak I’ve ever had in my life. When people rave about “Kobe Beef Steak,” I now know what the rave is all about. It may be expensive meat but it sure is delicious meat. After lunch we explored more of what the city had to offer. There were countless cute shops with knick-knacks, pottery, and all other sorts of gifts. The city of Kobe is actually a lot better than I expected it to be and I’m so glad we saved time to spend there. We had to come back earlier in the evening on the last day in order to leave through immigration and be on the ship on time to leave, luckily we made it.
Coming into Japan I was expecting it to be WAY more traditional than what we have experienced. I was expecting women to be dressed in traditional Kimonos, Hello Kitty to be everywhere, and all of the other stereotypes that you hear about Japan. However, that’s just not how it was. Don’t get me wrong, yes those are all still around, but not as prominent as I imagined. Nearly everything that we have been to or seen has been Americanized to the max and you really have to search to find “authentic Japan”. When I say this I mean the structures all look like they do in American cities, and lots of things are written in English and cater to the Americans. True Japanese buildings are few and far between, even outside of the cities limits. Although most everything is written in English, no one really speaks it. We met a girl who spoke impeccable English so we asked her why lots of things were written in English but no one could understand us when we spoke or speak back to us and she told us that in many Japanese schools they are taught how to read and write English, but they are never taught how to speak it. I thought this was very interesting because coming in and seeing English written all around me but then having such an issue with the language barrier was so hard for me to understand. Being American, I stuck out like a sore thumb. People would ask Paige and I if they could have our picture taken with them. We were specifically warned that this might happen since we’re blonde and even more specifically because we’re twins. While in Kobe, a young schoolboy ran up to Paige, Caroline, Kathleen, and I and began to practice his English as best as he could with us. At the end of the conversation he didn’t know what to say so he ended it with “I Love You.” He then was realized what he said and was so embarrassed and his friend hit him on the head and they both ran away. It was hilarious. Overall, the people in Japan were some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered. Whenever we looked lost or confused (which happened far too often) we were asked if we needed help through a Japanese patron with any sort of broken English. The people were so genuine and really worked hard with us to conquer the frustrating language barrier. Japan may not have been exactly what we were expecting but it sure is exceeding whatever I could have imagined.
On this trip in Japan alone, I have laughed until I cried, eaten my bodyweight in an assortment of different foods, and have been challenged in more ways than I ever thought I could survive. This was only our first of many stops on our voyage around the world and I’m so happy that I’ve found both my sea legs and exploration legs along the way. Although it was different than what I imagined, I learned more than I ever could have if I wasn’t on this adventure. Yes I took Japan with full force and yes I have loved every minute of it. Not to say there weren’t a number of frustrating times, but those have come few and far between. This adventure has given me the opportunity to make the best friends and explore some pretty amazing countries. What’s not to love? I’ve got Japan under my belt and I’m ready to take on China.