Like the last taxi left all alone on the rank at 2am there is but one stop before this journey continues on home soil. One month ago we metaphorically jumped in that last taxi of the night and set off for our final adventure of the adventure. Far from a nauseating ride home from a long boozy night that finally resigned to defeat, Japan is the country to finish on a high for this great adventure; the most expensive and possibly the most anticipated of all. So what was that final cab ride like, did we get the cabbie with an interesting story that swings by the kebab shop and turns the meter off, or did we get more of the sex-pest that talks only in lewd suggestive metaphors? Here’s our top 10 from the final cab ride to end all cab rides.
10 – Kobe Beef:
Food is somewhat important to us, possibly shamedly so. So to have the famous Kobe beef not so much cooked, but serenaded right before our eyes and fed to us piece by perfectly cooked piece was a treat we’ll never forget. Like any great meal, the food was outstanding but the theatre of the hot plate was the winner and deserved of rapturous applauds even though an encore was sadly not on offer.
9 – Hiroshima:
Few places rise to prominence so swiftly and so sadly. The bomb defined this place on the world stage but in visiting Hiroshima, the bomb is a mere precursor to some of the greatest of human characteristics. Resolve, compassion, empathy and wisdom have risen above the mushroom cloud and rain down perspective for anyone who visits. We entered Hiroshima aware of the spectre of tragedy but left uplifted by a drive for peace and harmony that infects all that come near this sacred place.
8 – Akihabara:
For all the refinement, grace and simple beauty that Japan is known for there is a balance, and that balance can be found most starkly in Akihabara. This very formal of societies does present certain permissible opportunities to let your hair down, tease it up or pull it sideways; in Akihabara, anything goes. If there’s a weird kink it’s in Akihabara and it’s not swept under the carpet either in this world of weird, warped and wonderful.
7 – Ise:
Temples not only make up an important part of the spiritual landscape for many Japanese, they’re tourist attractions in their own right. Combining architecture, grand forests, gardens and traditional ritual, Ise-jingu shrine sits beside bustling Ise town, a trip into traditional Japan and a food journey to enliven the most weary of traveller souls.
6 – Kaiseki:
Our final meal of Japan, the final farewell meal for the world, and what a way to sign off from the great adventure. The food was outstanding, simplicity in it’s purest form, but most of all it was the Kaiseki experience. Elegant ladies in kimono took us through an exquisite experience that is purely Japan in a setting to inspire poetry for it’s elegant beauty.
5 – Nara:
Once the old capital of Japan, Nara calls back a time gone by from where much of Japan’s tradition and culture originates from. Rarely do places evoke an eerie sense of another time and almost never to the extent that Nara does. The roots of this great nation reach all the way back to this small place that many have forgotten but remains unforgettable to anyone who has made the journey to Nara and made it back.
4 – Kinosaki onsen:
Close your eyes and think of all the images that make up Japan for you. You’ve probably just had a small vision of Kinosaki. Old style timber slatted buildings, narrow streets, arching stone bridges and lanterns are the world of dreams made real. Take a step out the door in your traditional wooden sandals and kimono to stroll the streets and bathe in any one of the seven natural onsen (hot springs). No need to imagine any more, it’s not a dream, it’s Kinosaki.
3 – Sapporo Dinner:
Sometimes it all goes just right. From the nation most famed for seafood we ate from the island most famed for producing that seafood in a restaurant famed for doing seafood very, very well. But picking possibly some of the best seafood in the world isn’t enough, the intimate bar style setting, the crockery that was art in itself and presentation that looked too good to eat makes for happy boys. Best birthday dinner ever, shared with our good mates Aki and Ken.
2 – Miyajima:
From a very traditional highlight for us, that being food, comes a bit of a surprise packet for a travel category that really doesn’t belong in the top five of our lists: sight seeing. Well that’s one way to describe it but a surprise packet is always welcome. The world is a garden, the world is a photo shoot, the world is a brush with nature and the world is a deservedly lauded scene that doubtless will never get tired. Sight seeing was never such a complete experience.
1 – Fuji San:
Rarely a clearer number one has graced a top 10, and deservedly so. It’s a bit of a tough slog to be fair, climbing nearly 2000m in one day is never a picnic but as far as hiking pain goes the reward to pain is a dream. The scenery is immense and summiting one of the worlds most iconic peaks is always a thrill. Then come the highlights: sensational clouds viewed from above, a grand volcano crater and undoubtedly the best sunrise we’ve ever seen. Add to the mix we shared this all with Aki, making his first ever summit and we have an experience that lives up to Fuji San’s iconic status.