A place where tradition co-exists with modernity, where past collides with future, the island nation of Japan has never been one to shy away from moving forward. And it’s this perfect amalgamation of yesterday and tomorrow that makes the country a great destination to experience today. As someone who had always heard a great deal about this country, actress Sana Khan shares with You & I her fond memories of her solo trip to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’
I jumped right into my Japanese extravaganza by first addressing my fascination for the beautiful cherry blossoms, commonly known as Sakura, which also happen to be the country’s national flower. While they might look like something out of a fantasy story, Sakuras happen to have quite a symbolic and historic value. Plus, the blossoms as well as the leaves are edible, and are used as ingredients in Japanese cuisine.
However, the island clearly wanted me to make a second trip to the country, for I was a bit late in catching the blossoms in their full bloom. But thanks to the most perfect weather, I was able to enjoy the beautiful garden anyway.
No matter where I travel, the first thing on my list is to hit all the tourist spots. Here is where travelling alone helps, as I get to explore all these destinations to my heart’s content. While I do love the company of others on holidays, and most of my journeys have been a mix of both, if it were up to me I’d choose to travel on my own. Those are the trips where I get to go wherever I wish, and to me that’s a perfect holiday – much like the one I was on in Japan.
Speaking of exploring destinations, one does not go to Japan and not visit Disneyland. The very first Disney theme park to be built right after those in the United States, this giant expanse houses a total of seven themed areas. Extremely well maintained and positively buzzing with energy, I tried to take in as much of this wonderland as I could, from thrilling rides to twinkling carousals, and grand parades that starred all of my favourite childhood cartoon characters. This was my very first visit to a Disney theme park, and as a complete fairy tale person I can honestly say I loved every bit of it! At the end of the day, my trip to the Tokyo Disneyland made me the happiest kid.
Getting back to something more traditional, I got to attend a sumo wrestling match, which was yet another gripping sight to behold. Having been intrigued by this form of wrestling, I often check it out whenever it airs on television or online. This full contact sport is professionally practiced in Japan and has been around since the early 1600s. Getting to watch the burly wrestlers battle it out right before me on the dohyō (fighting ring) was astounding!
After Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto were my next stops. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how similar yet different each city was from the other. While Osaka represents the future with its metropolitan construction, modern architecture and commercial status, Kyoto maintains its connection with the past. The former capital city is home to numerous Buddhist temples and imperial palaces, and still practices quite a few formal traditions.
Known for its shrines, Japan has a lot to offer for the history buffs. I was glad to learn a bit about the country’s history. And on the subject of things in the past, the country also boasts the largest number of living human beings above the age of 100 years. Talk about speaking with history itself!
In terms of cuisine, I tried to appease my experimental side and I wasn’t disappointed. Still, I was lucky enough to have the option of Indian food as well.
Having witnessed a plethora of places, the time I spent in Japan definitely wasn’t enough to take in the colossal amount of sights and stories that the country has to offer. Among the places I missed was the imposing Mount Fuji, as one needs an entire day for it. I also missed going to Hiroshima, as I was interested in learning more about its history and I had also wanted to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
The one thing that stood out most for me was not the sights, though they were quite magnificent. Rather, it was the people and their humility which was most humbling to experience. It was amazing to witness the sense of unity among the Japanese people, and more so to have been a part of it, even if for just a short while. The respect they had for one another, as well as their trust in each other allowed me to return home feeling a bit more humbled. After all, that’s what travelling is all about – being able to learn.
Ultimately, for me it was the people that were the sight to behold. These are a people that have beautifully learned how to survive, despite living in an earthquake-prone region. If their towering infrastructure and sophisticated modes of travel are any indication, this is definitely a community that knows how to rebuild from nothing, and still end up at the top as a model of excellence.
To those who think that language would be a barrier in this country, that is just a mere myth today. As one of the best countries that I’ve ever visited, I would forever recommend Japan to everyone.
--- Sana Khan