I loved Japan before I visited there– loved their video games, TV shows, martial arts, and amazing sword fights. But my only contact with Japan was through the Internet. Reading Japanese comic books (Manga) and watching Japanese cartoons (Anime) are my favorite pastime. So on Christmas day, when my parents gave me a book about Japanese culture, I was happy. When I opened the book and discovered the plane tickets inside, I was ecstatic.
In preparation for the trip, we took Japanese language lessons from a private tutor. By the time the trip rolled around I was eager to practice my new skills.
After landing in Narita airport, our first stop was the Zen Bed and Breakfast in Asakusa, Tokyo. My formal Japanese greeting impressed the owners. In the mornings, we had breakfast with them. I had never had rice and soup for breakfast before. Being a very picky eater, I rarely try anything new. But in Japan, I was determined to try everything. These home cooked breakfasts were the best meals we had on our trip.
In Tokyo, we visited the Imperial Palace. We were only allowed in the public garden but that was enough because it is as big as my neighborhood.
In Akihabara (Electric Town), we went to several arcades to see the latest in video games. My brother and I love these games and we’re pretty good. But we were nothing compared to the insane skill of the Japanese. The weird thing was, most everyone there were adults. My brother and I, two teenagers, were the youngest there.
After Tokyo, we went to Kyoto and stayed in our own town house called a Machaya (old merchants house.) The home was decorated in traditional Japanese fashion. My absolute favorite thing in the house was the bath. This room had a small deep tub, a shower next to it and a drain in the floor. Press a button and the tub automatically fills with hot water. I would shower with soap and cold water, then slowly lower myself into the boiling liquid. Any stress I ever had in my life seemed to melt away.
In Kyoto, we went to Chion-in Temple, which today is the headquarters for the J`odo school of Buddhism. We passed through the San-mon, a Buddhist temple gate at the main entrance. This is the largest temple gate in Japan but even that couldn’t prepare me for the scale of Chion-in. Meditating in the public prayer space, I thought about how small I am compared to this enormous structure.
Before we knew it, we were back in Tokyo scrambling to see as many sights as we could on our final day. We woke at five A.M. to go to the fish market. My father and I took pictures of the largest fish we had ever seen while my mother and brother ate sushi. Despite my vow to try everything, I couldn’t bring myself to eat raw fish at six in the morning.
After the market, we went to Shibuya (a Tokyo Times Square). My brother went to another arcade while I tried to get my last fill of Japan. The streets were really crowed (Tokyo is very crowed). Despite this, no one was ever rude or angry. Even to American tourists who didn’t know where they were going.
I used to love Japan for its Anime and video games but now I feel a connection to its ancient culture and current society. I look forward to returning when I’m in college.
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