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First Place That Left An Impression?


12 Oct 2013
Feeling nostalgic for Japan. I thought I would ask other people what their first memorable experience in Japan was.

Getting off the plane and arriving to the first hotel, and that first night or first meal or first exploration outside the hotel was of course memorable (I bought "Hope" cigarettes from a vending machine, even though I don't smoke). I guess I just wanted to use money or try something where language wasn't going to present any opportunities for embarrassment. (Glad I didn't develop a smoking habit).

But for me one of the first places that left a deep impression was Meiji Jingu Shrine, which I went to on maybe my 4th day in Japan. It just blew my mind that there was this rich, green forest in the middle of Tokyo. And then walking that gravel path up past the wooden torii gates, and then finally turning the corner to see the magnificent shrine... it blew my mind. And it still blows my mind. One of my favorite places to visit in Tokyo. Everything about it was mysterious, also. It looked ancient, but it was built after the war. You can only go so far, but the inner shrine is off limits (what goes on in there??). All the mysterious good luck charms and the rituals...hand washing and throwing the money in the box. Also the unused train station, that was supposedly for only the Emperor to use - I think it's now available for all to use during peak times at New Year's. But in the 80s it was just a whole train station that sat idle, right in the middle of Tokyo.

How bout you all? Any place from your first week in Japan that rewired your brain?
I don't know where to start. My first time in Japan, I flew into Osaka and stayed in Mino City. I remember being impressed by Mr. Donuts and McDonalds (of all places). I had never been to a Mr.Donuts before, and the McDonalds was just the way they're 'supposed' to be, although they never are in the USA.

Arashiyama in Kyoto was amazing, and Kobe was amazing. The Chinatown in Kobe was where I was first introduced to gyouza. Mmmmm. I also remember being so impressed with the train system there. Not JR (I never used it at the time), but rather the Hankyu trains. So clean, so punctual, so nice (although they did get crowded sometimes!)
I was not referring to a particular place but to the country and its culture per se. I arrived for the first time in 1998 on a 22-hour flight from Cairo (two stopovers), and the cultural clash couldn't have been starker. I spent my first day and night in a small onsen in Chiba, wondering where I was and why I was soaking in a pool of intolerably hot water with a silly little towel on my head.

What impressed me in the first week in Tokyo was the efficiency of public transportation, the various jingles of train stations and the ubiquitous smell of cleanliness. The nightly vistas of Shinjuku and the Ginza were unforgettable.

The places that left a lasting impression on my first trip were Nikko and Aomori (Lake Towada and the Oirase Valley, which, in my mind, is one of Japan's most beautiful and mystical locations).
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