One of the biggest highlights in 2017 for me was backpacking to Japan. I didn’t do the trip alone though - I was accompanied by my sister, Eureka Alphonso.
She and I share the same level of love and respect for the beautiful island nation. However, this wasn’t the first time my sister visited Japan, she’s been there on a solo trip before. All her exciting stories and experiences about the place motivated and encouraged me to plan a trip to Japan too.
We decided that 2017 is when we’ll do an epic ‘sister trip’. Mind you, this was the first time I backpacked to a foreign land. I was nervous and excited at the same time! Nevertheless, the time we landed at Narita airport, I had a good feeling about this trip.
The cherry blossom season was in bloom and I kid you not, every park we visited, we were greeted by gorgeous sakura trees. In a span of two weeks, we visited four amazing places, Tokyo, Hakone, Osaka and Kyoto. Each place had a different energy and ambience to it.
A few things that I felt were overwhelming was their punctuality and attention to detail. It’s amazing how much of a priority time is given. Both their bullet and local train systems are works of art. If you find it difficult travelling by the JR line in Tokyo, you can always find a train station master and he’ll be glad to help. For anime merchandise, you’ll hit the jackpot at Akihabara, Chiyoda-ku and Ikebukuro. (We literally had a meltdown at the Pokemon Center at Sunshine City in Tokyo!) Oh! And before I forget, when in Japan, please visit an Onsen. It’s a hot spring and it’s an experience you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Living in hostels, we crossed paths with some of the coolest people on our trip. Each of them came from different walks of life and had a story to tell. Bonds were formed, views were exchanged and memories were made.
Some of my favourite hostels we stayed at were Grids Hostel at Tokyo, Funtoco Backpackers at Osaka, Haruya Hostel at Kyoto and Azito at Hakone. I recommend all four hostels from a safety, hygiene and hospitality perspective.
Japan may not be every traveller’s cup of tea, but for those who are passionate about its culture, language, food and avant-garde approach to life, you’ll be in for a treat! It’s home to gaming arcades, anime and manga hubs, futuristic infrastructure, state of the art technology, exotic food menus, pet cafes, fashion streets, the Pokemon Center, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, spacious parks, Disneyland, onsens, majestic shrines and royal palaces.
It’s extremely safe for travelers and even though language can sometimes become a barrier, the Japanese are kind, patient and helpful. They will always make you feel at home and treat you with respect.
When planning a trip by yourself to Japan, make sure to do your research and make a checklist beforehand. Book your bullet train pass in advance, arrange for a portable WiFi device, download maps and google translate, for a smooth and hassle-free travel experience.
Be open to trying all types of food - Sushi, ramen, taiyaki, onigiri, hayashi rice, oden, tempura, miso soup, and many more such delicious dishes. If you’re staying in hostels, most of them have shared kitchens as well that allow you to cook your own food.
Ever since I got back from our trip, my outlook on life has changed. I share a stronger bond with my sister and the idea of travelling to another new place isn’t a scary thought anymore. This trip has been a major eye-opener for the both of us and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it with anyone else, but her. If you have a sister too, you two should totally do a trip together! If not Japan, anywhere around the globe, I assure you the trip would be so worth it. There’s so much more I would like to mention, but I’ll let my vlog that I shot on an iPhone 6 do the needful. In other news, my trip has inspired me to enroll myself in a Japanese language course starting this month. In the years to come, I know for a fact that I’ll be visiting Japan often!