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Japan 2016: Day 14

This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our fourteenth and final day in Japan which took place on April 16, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip to Japan I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.

The day finally came. This morning was our last in Japan. Our Airbnb hosts came by to see us off at 10am and then we headed down to Hamamatsuchō Station one final time. We took the Yamanote_Line to Shinagawa Station and then the Narita Express to Terminal 1 of Narita International Airport.

Since we were flying United we obviously had difficulties checking our bags (never change United you POS airline) but were quite pleasantly surprised by how smooth Japanese customs and immigration was.

Once we made it through to the terminal we had one last Japanese meal (tonkatsu is so god damn delicious) and then hit the duty free shops for all that tax-free chocolate and booze we could handle.

We boarded the aircraft around 5pm JST and began the slightly less arduous flight back to SFO. It took a little over 9 hours and we actually landed at 10am PDT so we got to relive Saturday all over again. We picked up our checked bags, grabbed an Uber back to our apartment and immediately died of exhaustion.

This was, without a doubt, the best vacation I had ever been on. It was the perfect mix of new experiences, hectic sightseeing, relaxing detours, delicious food and great weather. It really had it all.

I knew Japan was going to be very different from North America but I still underestimated how much time and effort the Japanese people put into everything. From incredibly important things like how their trains run to essentially insignificant little food carts serving meat on the street. I never once questioned if something could be bad like I would in SF all the time. I don't have a memory of a single horrible experience with any of the places we went because they were all so consistent. We didn't pick only the best places based on Google searches and go there. We wandered for a good chunk of the time just trying anything that caught our eye and were never disappointed.

Well never is probably too strong a word. The only negative thing that sticks out in my mind was some hostility towards foreigners. Not aggressive hostility like yelling or shoving. Passive-aggressive hostility like ignoring us when we were waiting in line to place an order or one incident of being told they don't serve people who don't speak Japanese. I can understand not wanting to serve the stereotypical loud mouthed tourist but we all made a conscious effort to learn what Japanese we could and adapt to the culture we were surrounded by. But for some Japanese people that did not seem to be enough and they would have preferred not to have interacted with us. Now that being said I can count the number of incidents like this on single hand. I suspect there were a lot more passive-aggressive incidents where we unknowingly offended someone but they did not show it. 99.99% of our interactions with Japanese people were incredibly cordial.

Elsie and I will definitely be going back to Japan at some point in the near future. There is still so much we want to see and do. It has now officially been added to the list of places that I want to try living and working in (alongside Germany and Scotland) but this trip has taught me that I will need to significantly improve my Japanese first.

Japan is a place that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. It is a truly unique place on this Earth with experiences that cannot be equaled elsewhere.