Photography above of Streets - "Nanba area in Osaka. The streets in Japan are always so filled with crowds and neon-lit signs." Photo: Windar Sudjono.
Windar, young wanderer, is living in Sydney and recently visited Japan for the first time in December. I met her in 2015 while on Instagram meets where we share our love for photography and adventure. Here, she tells me everything about her trip full of flavours in Japan!
Tell me about you..
My name is Windar and a few things about me: are I am a foodie, an amateur photographer, a dog lover (that’s why I’m part of cool dog group on Facebook. If you’re not in it, join the group asap. It’s life changing, really) and a globetrotter. I hope to be able to do more traveling in the next few years - I have Indonesia and Machu Picchu on the top of my list. In the meantime, with my trusty Sony Alpha 6000, I am doing micro adventures in Sydney and its surroundings.
Why did you want to discover Japan, what was inspiring you?
Travelling to Japan was on the top of my travel list since high school when I used to watch anime and read mangas. After this phase of my life passed so did my interest in traveling to Japan. However, the envy resurfaced after I have been seeing a lot of photos on Facebook from my friends and of course, Instagram. So in a way, you could say social media definitely influenced my decision and my friend’s to travel to Japan and besides, we both LOVE Japanese food.
Can you explain your itinerary? What’s the best way to go around Japan?
Frankly speaking, I am not a “let’s just wing it” kind of traveller but for this time around, both my friend and I were doing the Chartered Accounting Program, so lacking of time, we did everything last minute. We started off with one night in Tokyo, one night in Kyoto, three nights in Osaka and the rest of the trip in Tokyo.
My friend had only planned our Kyoto and Osaka part of the trip the night / wee hours before we fly off. We agreed that we will just “wing it” for Tokyo. In a way, it’s a refreshing kind of holiday. Not having a set schedule and being flexible on the days’ activities depending on how we feel.
The best way to go around Japan is definitely by the local trains within each city and Shinkansen or bullet trains to travel between the cities. As a foreigner, we can buy a Japan Rail (JR) pass from travel agents in Sydney that covers the JR line except for two types of train services for Shinkansen.
Can you describe your favourite place?
Ooh, that’s a tough question! I loved everything about Japan but if I must choose one, it would be Kyoto as a city. I loved that I got to put on the Japanese kimono, walking around the temple Kiyozumi Dera and walking around Higashiyama district.
I loved the bright red orange Shinto gates in Fushimi Inari. I loved the many soft serve stores on the streets of Kyoto. I had wished I had more time there to go to the bamboo forest and to do cycling around the city!
"I don’t believe that I had a bad meal while I was in Japan."
One thing one can’t miss when going to Japan?
Going to Tsukiji Market to eat the freshest and best sushi out there. My friend and I got to Tsukiji market at 5am. At first, I thought she was mad for suggesting to go to the fish market so early in the morning because who eats sushi THAT early in the morning. When we got off the Tsukijishijo station, the crowd was maddening and there were some people power walking and half-jogging.
When we got there, the line was as long as when a new iPhone launches and this happens everyday! Unfortunately, we did not wait for Sushi Dai as it would’ve been at least 5 hour wait but we got to try the supposedly second best, Sushi Daiwa and it was still very amazing.
How were your relations with the locals? How would you describe Japanese people?
They are just such wonderful people! Very accommodating to tourists and they were always willing to go out of their way to help us when we were lost. They don’t speak much English and when we had asked for directions, they would stop what they’re doing and try to best of their capabilities to guide us to our destination. They’re always smiling when we were communicating with them and definitely very friendly and polite.
Can you tell me a bit about your culinary experiences? What did you love or hate?
Gaining weight in Japan is just inevitable. I don’t believe that I had a bad meal while I was in Japan. The food whether it’s in the restaurant or street stalls was amazing. Some of my most memorable meals would be:
- Sushi Daiwa, Tokyo
- Maisen Tonkatsu, Tokyo
- Ichiran ramen, Tokyo but they have outlets all throughout Japan.
- Matsusakagyu Yakiniku, Osaka
The only thing I hated was the amount of time we had to wait to get into a very busy restaurant but for great food, why the heck not?
To aspiring travellers in Japan, what would your tips be?
Have a budget! It’s very easy to spend your money very quickly in Japan – whether it’d be shopping, train tickets (if you don’t have JR pass) or food expenses. I found myself having to visit the ATM very regularly. I also realised that things are not as cheap as they would be in comparison to other parts of Asia.
Another tip would be to have a rough guide of the cities and things that you’d like to do. Japan’s train system is very confusing for a first timer and if you’re not familiar with the language, the station or area names are very confusing.
What’s your next adventure?
I haven’t booked anything but fingers crossed, I can go to Bali in June with a few friends. We want to do sunrise hikes, have our “eat pray love” moments of cycling through the rice paddies and just have a relaxing holiday. I feel so zen just thinking about it!