Ten things I love about Japan

Posted: January 19, 2010 in Musings, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

1. Heated toilet seats – after two weeks in snowy Niseko and near-freezing Tokyo and Kyoto, I discovered my toosh is one of the extremities that goes numb in the cold. I humbly bow to a nation that heats public toilet seats in restaurants, stations, and other haunts of the itinerant.


2. The mesmerising dance of snow flakes in Niseko, floating in eddies, locking into crystalline embraces, then disappearing into drifts as light as suds.

3. The hidden night life of the Gion. Fleet-footed geishas disappearing into wooden tea-houses; slatted screens offering tantalising glimpses of a secret world, an empty room, and three giant capsicums the size of watermelons.

4. The immaculate dignity of the shuudoushi monks begging for alms, courteously deflecting photographers who would document their shame.

5. The extravagant fashions of Tokyo’s Harajuku district and its Lavazza coffee house – sadly the only good coffee we found anywhere in the land.Ginkakajin

6. The nightly broiling in the onsen – why doesn’t my bathroom at home come with a hot spring overlooking the snowfields?

7. The trains, omigod, the trains – setting watches to schedules, then enjoying spotlessly clean, silent travel where talking on mobile phones is unthinkable.

8. The Nozomi – fastest of the Shinkansen bullet trains. Next Christmas, I’m asking Santa for one: at 300 kilometres per hour, I could do Brisbane to Biloela in under two hours.


Golden Pavillion, Kyoto

9. The world-heritage-listed temples, shrines and gardens maintained for a thousand years or more in ancient Kyoto. Sunlight shafting through the snow flakes to strike Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion, in a dazzling burst of light.

10. The courtesy and helpfulness we encountered everywhere – a lesson I have committed to heart for when next I encounter a bewildered visitor struggling with an unfamiliar language.

Arigato gozaimasu Japan, for making our Griswold family vacation one of wonder and joy. We bow to you from the waist and hope to return your favours whenever your countrymen and women venture our way.

  1. Life changing eh? Always the best kind of travel. Glad you enjoyed it. It looks awesome.

  2. Griswold! Hahaha. I laughed my ass off when I read that!

    After my second trip I am in love with Tokyo. The people and the culture are so lovely and so fascinated by Western culture.

    I feel more at home in Tokyo than Brisbane funnily enough and I have a feeling that I’ll be going back to visit every few years :o) So glad you enjoyed it too!

    • chrisbongers says:

      Tokyo was mind-boggling for Jap virgins with kids – thank the high heavens for our seventeen year old who had two school trips under her belt, we couldn’t have done it without her!

  3. Wonderful post Chris. I am soooo jealous – but in the nicest possible shade of green. My dream holiday is Japan but in the interim I’ll just keep dreaming, writing about it and travelling passively through my friends *smile*

    • chrisbongers says:

      Sandy, all good things come to she who waits. A little bird tells me your next book is a zinger, so perhaps a tsunami of royalties could soon wash you up on the shores of the land of cherry blossoms. πŸ™‚

  4. yeah, love those trains. Why don’t we have anything like it here in this vast country of ours? The skungy old XPT just doesn’t quite cut it.

    and what about the food? you didn’t mention the food!

    • chrisbongers says:

      Rebecca, Andrew and I love Japanese food, but with one vegan (adult) child, another who thinks seafood is catfood, and yet another who lived on rice for two weeks, I can honestly say that foraging for food for the family wasn’t one of my highlights!

  5. Sue Whiting says:

    Wow, what trip! And what an eloquent way to record it. Thanks, Chris.

  6. What a fantastic trip, Chris. And you’ve showed it to us in the loveliest way – by love postcards. Fascinating! I want to go to Japan too now. πŸ™‚

  7. Jo says:

    Hey Chris! Thanks – loved the read. Glad you had a great time. I will take on board your comment re language – I get to experience that lots at work and it is often soooo difficult! I’ll try and look at it from a different perspective! hugs

    • chrisbongers says:

      Jo, the worst English I encountered in Japan was a zillion times superior to my best Japanese; they were so patient and helpful it made me feel ashamed of our inability to speak a second language. Makes me realise how courageous non-English speakers are coming here where practically no-one speaks their language.

  8. Ernie Tucker says:

    My friend is skiing there at the moment and is similarly enchanted. Likewise, on our first visit when we encountered the wonderful toilet seats that heat and spray warm water. Our first encounter was without the benefit of a translation so there were a few puzzling reactions.

    • chrisbongers says:

      Ernie, the toilet seats were a constant joy. My children marvelled at the accuracy of the spray and the range of water pressure options, but admitted to a slight panic before they located the ‘stop’ button once the novelty had worn off. But I was most taken aback by the ‘flushing sound’ option. Too subtle and considerate for my mind to grasp – I needed a small person to explain what that button was for!

  9. Karen Burke says:

    I too was enchanted by Japan many years ago and would love to return with my family to ski and sightsee. Soooooooo envious. Can’t wait to hear all about it!!
    All that snow………Oh my giddy aunt, more than you can poke a ski at. I even had a ski “dream” last night after hearing Vancouver’s local mountain hasn’t enuf of the white stuff for the ‘lympics.

  10. chrisbongers says:

    I heard you were the gun skiier Karen – you would have wet yourself laughing at my best efforts, but boy, did I have fun!

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