Dec 6, 2016
There are arguably so many places that one could write about or justify writing about that it is difficult to know where to start. For ease of travel from China in terms of location and accessibility, as well as relative comfort once there, Japan is a good choice.
I have been to Japan only twice: once for a conference presentation and the second time for a family holiday. The conference was in Tokyo and, given the short time period I was there, never involved leaving the metropolis. The vacation in comparison was a ten day stop over that attempted to take in as much as possible.
Starting in Tokyo for its central position and flight options, we managed to make it to most of the major recommended places, although we failed to find time to take in Disneyland. The Tokyo and Skytree towers were impressive structures to behold and visit. The fish market was large, the shopping and fashion districts unique and the nearby locations very impressive. Mt Fuji was stunning on a clear snowy day. The Ghibli museum in Mitaka was as unique as the creations which inspired its establishment.
Leaving behind the orderly hustle and bustle of this vast city, Kyoto was a relative world away. There were so many heritage sites to visit that cherry picking became a necessity and even then, having reduced it to four, I was left feeling that we had missed out slightly, having been very close to including a fifth but having been curtailed by time and a lack of awareness regarding the exact proximity.
Still, a trip to Hiroshima soon put that feeling aside. Like many places worldwide this city itself has a place in history but based on unhappy circumstances. Arriving in the evening and taking in the Peace Memorial Park was a fairly sombre experience, visiting Miyajima the next day a more pleasant and relaxed one. With friendly deer and impressive island and bay scenery the landscape is picturesque.
Osaka, in contrast, is much more akin to Tokyo in style. High rise buildings and gleaming steel and glass structures stand out. So too does Universal Studios which, while housing many rides I recall from the LA site, also had a Harry Potter village with a mini Hogwarts in situ. It was just a pity that the queues were so long and the wait times equally daunting.
The last place we took in before we returned home to Suzhou was Nara. This pretty town reminded me a bit of Miyajima in that it had semi-domesticated deer roaming the streets. The big difference however was that these were even more self-assured and spotting something potentially edible were quite happy to attempt to take it.
In short, not speaking the language and having only a limited understanding of the country did not prove problematic when getting around. Pre-purchasing rail tickets in China was a massive plus as this made travelling so much easier later on. Booking accommodation beforehand (I believe on C-Trip) also meant that we got reasonable prices for comfortable hotels. Being only a short flight away from China, this is certainly a location which is worth a visit.
About the Column
Gareth Morris is a university language teacher. He is also a part-time doctoral student. Gareth first moved to China in 2005 and, after spending a couple of years back in the UK studying for his PGCE and Masters, has now returned to the city he calls home. During his time in China Gareth has travelled extensively. His travels have taken him from Beijing and Xian to Kunming and Haikou. He has also spent time in Hong Kong and Macao. In addition to this, Gareth has lived in a number of countries across Europe, North and Central America and Asia. Closer to home, Gareth has enjoyed visiting numerous localities within Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui. His Livingsu column will explore local places of interest found within walking distance of Metro line 1.