July-August 2013, 3.5 weeks
Japan - Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo (with lots of day trips)
Just me - my first solo trip!
I had had a few life changes and wanted to travel, so I was encouraged by some very experiences travelers to travel alone. They helped me decided on Japan because it is so safe, but it is still such a completely different culture. This was my first experience 'backpacking', staying in hostels, mingling with other people, etc. It was the best trip I'd ever had, until I went to Europe, and I have maintained several of my friendships that I made here.
There were so many!!!
- Spontaneously tagging along with some friends and climbing Mt Fuji at night to see the sunrise that never came (it was covered in clouds), only to climb down in the rain. This experience still makes me laugh so much at how inexperienced we were and how many mistakes we made. We were all pretty fit, so that was lucky, but we didn't factor in how cold it would be up there, as it was Summer at the time. I had absolutely no intention of climbing Mt Fuji, so it was an awesome adventure.
- Inviting a dutch stranger I met in my dorm room to go to the naked Onsen (hot springs) with me, where we had a luxurious girly pamper day in a beautiful spa in Tokyo. It's amazing how you get over being shy really quickly when everyone else has no clothes on haha.
- Seeing Geisha walking down a back street of Kyoto - apparently I was very lucky.
- The deer park in Nara, it was so cool to see them wandering around freely and trying to rob all the tourists of their treats haha. Pretty much anything to do with animals is bound to be on my highlights list. The exception is the Osaka Zoo, which I found really sad and the conditions quite inhumane.
- The amazing temples and shrines! Including the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Golden Temple, Silver Temple (that's not really silver), heaps of different temples and shrines of varying sizes around Arashiyama, the huge Buddhist temple in Nara, etc. There are so many! The only downside is that you have to pay to go in nearly all over them (except for the Fushimi Inari Shrine), so it adds up pretty quickly, and some of them are a bit of a let down once you're inside.
- The round sponge cakes with cream in the middle from the convenience stores... These things were the bomb.
- The arcade gaming halls in the cities - they're so much fun!
- Summer festivals. Each of the temples and shrines have a seasonal festival, and I happened to be there when all of the Summer festivals were taking place. I asked the lady at my hostel to help me find them and I found that I was one of the only, if not the only, tourist there. It was amazing trying lots of different types of street food, listening to traditional music, watching the traditional processions take place around the temples, and mingling with locals. I had a Japanese dwarf take me in behind his food stall and teach me how to make the food he was selling... that's not something that happens every day haha.