Bust Through Travel Myths and Head to Japan

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Tokyo at night. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Imuttoo.

Always wanted to see the temples, shrines, and Buddhas of the far east? As a traveler, you know traveling to a totally different culture can mean you are going to visit a country that is more poor, more filthy, and more underdeveloped in general than yours. For Japan, of course, it’s different. Here’s how.

First, poorness. Tokyo is known to be one of the most expensive places on earth, and you will likely be the poor one. Although it scares budget travelers, don’t worry about your wallet. Look for low-cost hostels and buy a rail pass before you leave home. It seems pretty expensive, but covers the mind-blowing costs of long-distance traveling in Japan. You can only buy this miracle when you’re a tourist, and when you’re outside of Japan. And, eat street food. Besides being healthy and gorgeous, it’s also relatively cheap.You’ll find that even Tokyo can be a Valhalla for budget travelers.

Second, filth. Compared to Japan, even Switzerland is filthy. I don’t know how they do it; in Tokyo you can search for hours for a public trash can. They’re really rare. So either people clean up all the time, or it’s a mentality thing and they just don’t dump their stuff on the street. This Japanese clean-mania is great for a traveler; you can always count on a spotless room and clean sheets. And, not only are the kitchens spotless and absolutely germ-free, the food is known to be incredibly healthy and delicious.

Third, underdevelopment. Compared to the west, Japan seems more overdeveloped than underdeveloped. You’ll see vending machines everywhere. Especially machines where you can buy cans of hot and cold tea. They’re on every corner of the street. Of course, there are also vending machines to buy beer and cigarettes from in the middle of the night. And, you can buy all kinds of food from vending machines. Then, there are machines selling used women’s underwear. I have a strong imagination, but I’m not sure what those guys actually do with it… but it’s there.

A transfer passage of Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line Shibuya Station. Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Tennen-Gas.

A transfer passage of Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line Shibuya Station. Photo via Wikimedia Commons by Tennen-Gas.

Public transport is also well-developed. You’ll find that mass transit in Japan is not only horribly expensive (except for when traveling with your Japan rail pass), but also outstanding. Avoid the subways during peak hours. Every train will still run exactly on time, every three minutes, but you’ll be packed like a sardine.

Also, given the fact that in Japan, all the toilets have heated seats and sometimes even have a remote control to flush, the West actually has the touch and feel of the underdeveloped party in this story.

All in all, traveling through Japan is rather comfortable. You can see amazing temples and shrines, experience breathtaking nature, and enjoy the best sushi, seaweed, and sticky rice, all while traveling in a practically over-civilized country. And that’s an amazing experience.

Kees Alders

About Kees Alders

Kees Alders (a.k.a. Klokwerk) is an independent web designer and writer. He also makes experimental music with his ensemble Postbanal. Born and raised as a Dutchman but fond of traveling, he lives in Amsterdam, the Dutch capital and Holland's most international city.