The AbsoluteVisit Blog
The Top 100 Places in the World...And So Much More
Blogs from: Japan
Photo of the Day – Ancient Tunnel of Light – Fushimi Inari – Kyoto, JapanA first visit to Kyoto always involves spending a few days moving all over the city exploring the wondrous Japanese temples and shrines. If you are even slightly into photography, the famous Fushimi Inari shrine can not be missed! At the shrine you will find long tunnels composed of vibrant orange Torri that seem to span forever into the distance. Check it out!
Photo of the Day – Packed Streets in Harajuku – Harajuku, Tokyo, JapanHarajuku is a very interesting neighborhood in Tokyo that is seemingly always packed with young Japanese shopping in the various boutiques along the streets. This street in particular is Takeshita. This is an awesome place to get a quick sense of Japanese culture and young Japanese fashion. You can also venture over to Omotesando for more world renowned and upscale fashion.
Photo of the Day – The Silent Golden Pavilion – Kyoto, JapanThe Golden Pavilion is regarded by many to be one of the top tourist attractions in all of Japan. While the scene of the silent golden structure across the zen-like pond is certainly beautiful, it definitely is not one of the Top 100 places on the planet to visit. Honestly, it doesn’t even belong on a Top 250 places list. It just doesn’t fit into any of the three criteria – massive scale, intricately detailed and/or seriously old.
The Golden Temple is symbolic in a strange way for me. It is a reminder that finding the unbelievable and fascinating in Japan is not as simple as paying an admission fee and snapping pictures of a globally renowned tourist attraction for 15 minutes. Japan’s true beauty lies in it’s unique and beautifully different culture which is sewn deeply into every member of their predominantly homogenous society.
Japan should absolutely be at the top of everyone’s travel lists, however don’t get lost searching for physical wonders of the world (there are 0 AbsoluteVisits in Japan). Plan your trip around diving deep into Japanese culture and you will undoubtedly walk away with the trip of a lifetime.
Photo of the Day – What Does Sushi Look Like? – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, JapanSummer has finally made its way to Chicago and you can feel the hot and sunny weather injecting an infectious energy into the city. Everyone is excited to put the cold hibernation months behind us and to once again remember why we all call this amazing city home. From the beach to summer festivals to bar patios – all of us have a plan to get outside and enjoy Chicago today.
Undoubtedly there will be a number of Chicagoans including one of the endless number of BYOB sushi restaurants into their evening agenda today. When I’m out eating sushi with friends I often wonder if anyone at the table knows where Tuna – the most popular Sushi fish – comes from. Of course everyone knows that a Tuna is a fish that swims in the ocean, but I’d bet that most of the people latching onto a piece of a spicy tuna roll with their wooden chopsticks know that the tuna component came from a several hundred pound fish!
Today’s photo comes from the worlds largest fish market located in Tokyo, Japan – Tsukiji Fish Market. Will and I woke up around 4am one morning back in 2010 to watch the daily tuna auction. What we found was absolutely incredible. We were standing in the middle of a huge warehouse of massive tuna that were being auctioned off for thousands of dollars each before our eyes. This place is a definite must do on any trip to Tokyo.
Photo of the Day – Japanese Baseball Beer Distribution – Tokyo, JapanI’m heading out the door in a few minutes to join some friends at Wrigley Field to watch my first Cubs baseball game of the year. Keeping with the spirit of the day, I thought it only made sense to post a baseball picture from halfway around the globe.
Two years ago Will and I found ourselves in Tokyo during the Japanese baseball season. Our childhood memories of watching Mr. Baseball left us very curious about how different attending a game would be in Japan vs. back home in the states. Without any trouble we scored tickets to the Japanese equivalent of the New York Yankees – the Yomiuri Giants – and made our way inside of the massive Tokyo Dome.
There are two things that stick out to me about the experience. First, if you walk into the stadium with an open beer in your hand they politely hand you a cup to pour your beer into and allow you to continue onto your seats. I’d try this out at Wrigley today and report back, but something tells me that the experience wouldn’t be quite the same
The second thing I vividly remember is how the beer was distributed to fans at their seats in the stadium. Beer was sold almost exclusively by young Japanese women walking from aisle to aisle with kegs of beer strapped on their back. While the process was highly efficient and even pleasing to the eyes at times, I wouldn’t even think about trading it for the “Cold Beer Here!!” (read that with your deepest beer man voice possible) experience we have back here in the states.
Photo of the Day – A High School Kids Dream – Vending Machine Beer – Kyoto, JapanFrequently while traveling we see something and can’t help ourselves from laughing when thinking about the scene in the context of where we come from. Things that are in perfect balance where you are presently at would almost certainly not work back at home.
One of the best examples of this I can think of is found in Japan. The Japanese have very liberal alcohol sales and consumption laws, going as far as to allow alcohol to be sold in normal vending machines on the street. These are not super high tech machines that scan your ID or take pictures of your face to determine your age. Simply pop in a few coins, select your alcohol of choice and a can pops out of the machine for your immediate consumption. Voila!
Will and I found this machine while traveling through Kyoto back in 2010. Of course we couldn’t resist and each picked up a Chu-Hi (3 from the left on the bottom row) to accompany us on our walk through the historic streets of Kyoto.
Any thoughts on how these would fare on the streets in America?
Photo of the Day – Dried Japanese Shrimp – Ameya Yokocho Market – Tokyo, JapanTwo years ago I was in Tokyo celebrating the winter holidays with my family. The night before Christmas the whole family ventured off to a bustling market off of the Yamanote line called Ameya Yokocho to do a little shopping.
Our mission at the market was to buy the best food possible for Christmas dinner with our extended family the next day. Back home in the states this would have us searching for a big ham, mashed potatoes, eggnog and apple pie. Things were a bit different in Tokyo, we were on the lookout for Uni (Sea Urchin), Raw Tuna (for sashimi of course) and these dried shrimp that you see in the picture.
You might wonder what we used the dried shrimp for. Turns out they make an excellent addition to any salad, providing a delicious salty taste similar to a sardine but much milder.
How many shrimp do you think are sitting on the tray in the picture?
Photo of the Day – Geisha Hunting – Kyoto, JapanNo trip to Kyoto, Japan, is complete without spotting a real life Geisha in public. Geisha are traditional, female Japanese entertainers who are instantly recognizable with their distinct white makeup and elaborate kimonos. Most likely you will not naturally run into a Geisha in Kyoto. Coming face to face with these ancient cultural icons requires embarking on a bit of a paparazzi mission.
You need to learn where they typically hang out. Research what time of the day they are in transit, requiring them to be out on the street in plain view. Like all hunting, you will need to exercise extreme patience. You’re hard work will likely pay off, but there is certainly no guarantee.
I spotted this group of Geisha briskly walking out of one building quickly into the privacy of a black sedan. Without hesitation I held down the shutter release and snapped off five pictures per second for what felt like a split second. As their car sped away I quickly flipped through the array of images on my camera and there they were, the elusive ghosts had been caught and captured!
Photo of the Day – Aji – Horse Mackerel – Tsukiji Fish Market – Tokyo, JapanWhere is the best sushi in the world? Tokyo
Where is the best sushi in Tokyo? Tsukiji Fish Market
Where is the best sushi in the Tsukiji Fish Market? Sushi Dai Restaurant
What is the best piece of sushi at Sushi Dai? Aji
What is the absolute best sushi on the planet? Aji from Sushi Dai at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan
Photo of the Day – Japanese Train Conductor – Tokyo Metro – Tokyo, JapanJapan is a spectacularly fascinating country to visit, however there is not a single Top 100 Place in the entire country. On the surface you would think this would make it not attractive as a travel destination, however, experiencing Top 100 Places is certainly not the only reason to travel. Japan should be a high priority on your travel list because of the unique and quite simply amazing culture that the Japanese live in.
One major cultural difference that you will immediately observe on a visit to Japan is people’s extreme work ethic and devotion to their jobs. Everyone takes their jobs extremely seriously and executes their responsibilities as if the entire country’s functioning is dependent on their success.
Go to a McDonald’s in America and notice how slow, rude, and sloppy the workers can be (full disclosure – I love McDonald’s, eat it multiple times a week, and sometimes the service is actually okay). At McDonald’s in Japan, the employees will treat you almost as if you are the second coming, welcoming you into the restaurant with a loud welcome – “Irasshaimase!”, practically bowing to you when you claim your greasy tray of fries and sending you off with a chorus of thank yous from practically everyone on the clock.
There are many examples of this Japanese cultural phenomenon. All of the cabbies wear full suits, white gloves and are extremely courteous. Accidentally walk out of a store before being handed your 1 YEN (penny) worth of change and you will quickly see store employees chasing you down the street trying to deliver your 1 YEN to you as if you left your first child on the counter.
The guy in the photo below definitely takes his train platform watch job very seriously. I found him in the basement of Roppongi subway station in central Tokyo where he was standing in a fixed position for hours methodically guiding every train into and out of the station. His job appeared rather boring, unimportant and unnecessary to me, but he carried it out with a level of seriousness and focus that would make you believe that all of the thousands of trains running around the country depended on him.