Hitchhiking Honshu, Japan

Tokyo is surely the most capitalist, consumerist city in the world, and is not a good introduction to beautiful Japan. Billboards and lights scream at people to buy stuff. Trains are crammed with adverts whilst people are transfixed with smartphones. Everywhere I turn, there are women who  look like film stars. Looking perfect is seemingly important in Tokyo.

The gaudy lights of central Tokyo make no sense to me. They seem out of place in a culture with such beautiful ornate art, shrines and intricate wooden buildings.

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Tokyo

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One advert says “life is beautiful.” Not in central Tokyo.

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Andrew and Chris in a less hectic street in Tokyo

There is an obsession with cleanliness, neatness and etiquette in Japan. Or at least that’s how it seems to me as a temporary visitor who can speak just six words of Japanese. One woman even buys me a comb as a gift. I haven’t combed my hair in years, and she can obviously see that. When going to a swimming pool, Chris is forced by an employee to wear a hairnet for his swim! This seems contradictory to me, as his whole body is covered in hairs.

“If you need written instructions to work a toilet, the toilet’s too complicated,” I say to myself. Toilets in Japan have a couple of buttons for spraying yourself with water, heated seats, sound effects to protect your modesty, a deodoriser, and sometimes a drier.

In a country which places such importance on etiquette, the objectification of very young women in lads’ magazines, manga porn, maid cafes and red light districts also seems contradictory.

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A comparison of the adverts in the toilets of manga cafes (comic/internet cafes). This porn advert is in the men’s toilet….
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…whilst this pink advert advertising cosmetics and haircare is in the women’s toilet. Patriarchy is thriving in Japan!

Hitchhiking the whole of Honshu – the biggest island of Japan – proves to be amazing. We  learn firsthand of the generosity and kindness of people, who detour – sometimes hours out of their way –  to take us where we want to go. There is a real beauty in the culture here: most people are humble, barely ever raise their voices, and have an ability to keep relationships between each other harmonious and friendly.

As we hitchhike around, it becomes clear that people love bathing in hotsprings, or onsen. You can find onsen everywhere. Women communally bathe naked with women, and men with men, testing my prudishness. Most onsen are in beautiful wooden buildings that would be deemed luxury spas in Europe, but cost barely anything here. Many of our drivers take us to onsen…maybe they think we need a wash!

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This man drives one and a half hours out of his way to take us to Fuji Rock festival, and then has to drive one and a half hours back again. Such is the kindness of the people we meet in Japan.

 

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Hitchhiking the highest road in Japan on a two day roadtrip with Arai
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Arai and Nana the dog plan where they’re going to take us next

Japan is stunning. In comparison to Southeast Asia and China, it’s still very wild. Everywhere we look, there’s lush forest wherever we turn. I suppose that Japan’s massive economy (electronic goods and cars) means that the natural world in other countries is ruined to provide for Japan’s industry instead.

Exploring Honshu, we travel through mountains and forests. We really get a sense of just how volatile nature is here. Volcanic landscapes smoke, and sulphuric hotsprings appear every few kilometres. Over a month, we visit cities, ornate villages, and we meet monkeys, deer and raccoon dogs.

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Volcanic crater lake on the highest road in Japan
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The wild Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) of Jigokudani. These monkeys – hairier than their Southeast Asian or Indian cousins – are famous for bathing in the hotsprings on a snowy day. Needless to say, as it’s 35°C, the last thing the monkeys want to do is jump in a hotspring. Still, it’s fascinating to watch them as they spend most of their time picking fleas off of each other, sleeping or squabbling.

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A tame deer in Miyajima. Another deer tries to eat my t-shirt whilst I’m wearing it! Others try to bite into our rucksacks.
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Wild camping with the deer in Miyajima
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This raccoon dog is not scared of me!
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Kyoto is full of Japanese tourists in traditional clothes taking selfies
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Miyajima
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All over Japan, people take care of Buddhist statues by clothing them
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River, forest and sulphuric hotsprings in Yamanouchi area
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“The birds are my friends,” this man tells me as he feeds the sparrows in Hiroshima
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On the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, there is a big demonstration in the city, calling for world peace. “We’re protesting against Trump and our Prime Minister Abe,” one person tells us.
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On the anniversary of the atomic bomb, lanterns float for world peace
***In my next blog posts I will write about hiking the beautiful forests and mountains of Honshu, Hokkaido and Yakushima. I will also write a guide to hitchhiking Japan when I get the time!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Denis Udrea says:

    Love it !!!

    Yes a comb. Very funny 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thecdiet says:

    We met when you worked at Vizyon in Turkey. Japan has always been my dream destination but I couldn’t go at the last minute had more health problems … it’s a lovely blog ❤️ Love the nature and the idea of bathing in hot springs – a dream.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks amazing. Really enjoying keeping up with you on your travels. Lots of love to you both xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo Magpie says:

    In the wikipedia article it says that a comb is an impolite gift to give!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etiquette_in_Japan#Impolite_gifts

    Like

  5. wildpigeons says:

    oh dear. this makes me want to look into the struggles of feminism in japan…!
    amazing animal photos!!! never heard of a raccoon dog before – this animal looks like a hybrid to me! 🙂

    Like

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