|Goodbye, mountain towns...|
After shedding our yukata and tabi, it was time to head to Tokyo, for the last leg of our trip, and a very different experience of Japan. We started at the Gero train station, and boarded a "scenic train" for the first half of the journey, which was down through mountains and valleys, along a river and across the countryside.
|Sakura reflections on the river.|
What a beautiful place that part of Japan is. I can see why people from the city travel to places like Gero and Takayama, to take in the sheer beauty of the forests and mountains, and reconnect with an older, simpler time.
After about an hour and a half, it was time to leave the scenic train and board the Shinkansen: the famous Bullet Train. We got to experience it in style - first class!! The train goes about 180mph, and is the smoothest ride you can imagine - it doesn't even feel like you are moving. It was a lot smoother than the plane ride to get there, that's for sure. It was fun to lean back in my comfortable seat with an adjustable footrest and watch the world zipping by, quickly turning from rural countryside to sprawling urban outskirts, until finally we reached Tokyo itself.
|Even if this map was in English, I'd be confused.|
No longer were we in a quiet mountain town - Shibuya station greeted us as the train doors opened. It's one of the busiest train stations in the entire world, with an average of over 2 million passengers going through it on an average weekday. I'm so glad Shinji was there to lead us through, because I never would have made it past the first ticket gate without his guidance.
|Shibuya crossing at night.|
I'm not going to go in great detail about what we did in Tokyo, because we did so many things - The last three days of the trip were an absolute blur of shopping, sightseeing, eating, karaoke, the Ghibli Museum, Tokyo Disney Sea park, more eating, more shopping, walking, trains, and parks.
|TAKOYAKI!! (octopus fritters)|
|Buying buttons at Okadaya.|
My final thoughts. I loved Japan. I absolutely loved it there. I know that it's easy to be on a vacation, and shown a great time, and think a place is wonderful, but there really was so much about the country, its culture, and its people that resonated with me personally. For it being a foreign country with an entirely alien language and culture, I felt incredibly at home - in some ways, more at home there than I do here in the US. We are such a country of excess; huge cars, huge homes, huge food portions, so much everything. SO much that we never use it all, and waste so much. Japan is not like that. Everything seems to but "just enough for what is needed". The cars are small, but accommodate what they need to accommodate. The hotel rooms are small but they are clean and comfortable, with many amenities. The people are active and healthy and custom instructs that everyone be polite and aware of the comfort of others around you. Japan has such a wide variety of resources - history, art, food, weather, landforms - to draw from and to appreciate.
I met many new friends, and got to know many wonderful people. Thank you to everybody who went out of their way to not only include us, but to educate us and help us, and to make us feel welcome. I will hold this experience in my heart and mind forever, and am changed for the better, because of it.