It has been 1 week in Matsuyama and 2 weeks in Japan. I entered Japan a week early to do a little solo exploration.
Before starting the school study abroad program, I traveled to the busy city of Tokyo, Climbed Japans tallest Mountain of Fuji san, and explored the cultural heritage in the city of Kyoto.
Immediately after landing I traveled to my Air BnB. Air BnB is a website in which locals can submit their houses/ rooms for rent, resulting in an affordable and comfortable way to stay overnight in cities. Only costing me $15 US dollars per night, I stayed in a small room with 4 others, but there were private showers and the locals were very polite and helpful in guiding me to tourist sites. If you are traveling short period to multiple cities, I recommend this method. Most of the day I was out and about and only came to the room to crash in the evening.
The first item on the agenda was climbing Mt Fuji. I took the highway bus to Fuji, which was very easy to do. And then climbed and stayed over night halfway up the mountain. I woke at 3 am for the famous sunrise summit, and it was well worth it. The climb itself was very long, but not too difficult. A definite recommendation to any hikers out there.
Traveling back to Tokyo, I visited all the main attractions in the city, Shibuya, Ueno, Imperial Palace, Akihabara, and more. Tokyo is a bustling city of modern sophistication. The train system in Tokyo alone was mind-blowing. But to soon learn that the trains connect all of Japan together made me a little jealous that Seattle lacks a rail system. I was nervous that the language barrier would have resulted in large issue. But surprisingly, most of the signs have English translation and I was able to order food by simple pointing and proper greetings.
I quickly realized that 7-11 stores are your one stop shop for everything you need. They are everywhere. You cannot walk one block without seeing one of these stores. They carry a larger supply of food options compared to US counterparts. They also have ATM’s for when you run out of cash. Always keep cash on you, because not every store will accept American Debit or Credit.
Another Helpful Item is Google Translate and Google Maps. Google maps was able to get me to any location I needed to and was very accurate in which train and platform to take. There is a phone app called google translate with real time video translation that will translate foreign signs into English almost instantaneously!
Finishing with Tokyo, I traveled to Kyoto via the High Speed Bullet Train, called the Shikansen. From my seat I got to see much of Japan’s countryside which was spectacular. Japan is very mountainous with lots of rivers, making for a beautiful sight.
I found myself liking Kyoto a little bit better than Tokyo. Kyoto had an older cultural feel to the city with a lot more attractions to my liking. Whereas Tokyo was modern, technological, and fast paced. Kyoto was ancient, old, and a slower setting. There must have been a festival of some sort, because all the locals wore Kimono’s. I traveled throughout Kyoto via the city bus, which was also very easy to use. The temples of Japan hold a very serene and ancient feeling. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the architecture. It was more appealing to learn how advanced the buildings really are. They are constructed to be earthquake proof. Built without nails so that the wood beams can mingle together during a quake.
In summary, traveling solo in Japan was a great time, I was able to cover a lot of ground that wouldn’t have been possible in a group. I felt safe at all times and never felt lost because the locals are very polite and willing to help. Japan’s primary tourist attraction is food. There are a lot of items that have strange appearances, but you must try everything!