5 reasons I’m crazy-excited about returning to Japan

Have you ever spent time in a country, and then daydreamed for years and years about returning?

That’s me and Japan. Japan is easily one of my most favourite places in the world. I lived in Osaka and Nara for two years, teaching English in a tiny language school next to the train station in Hyōtanyama, eastern Osaka. These two years were two of the most enlightening, invigorating and generally life-giving years of my existence: living in Japan was my first move overseas from Perth, and a career change, and the lesson of expanding far beyond my comfort zone and finding it was a marvellous place to be.

5 reasons I'm excited about returning to Japan

I left Japan in 2003, heartbroken to be going. I went on to other fabulous adventures but Japan has always been a place I have longed to return to. I love so many aspects of it: the people, the food, the intriguing culture, the language, the landscape, the cities, the art, the love of cute, the way they’ve perfected packaging, the history, the list goes on.

Next week I’m being hosted by Universal Studios Japan to return to Osaka and surrounds for a week. It’s a quick trip, but for me, a ridiculously exciting one, for all of these reasons and more:

1. Eating real Japanese food again

One thing I learnt quickly in Japan is that Japanese food is not just sushi. They have such a huge variety of traditional dishes that barely make it outside their borders and I basically love it all. Three meals a day for a week will barely make a dent in me reuniting with all of the Japanese food I know and love. But it is a good start!

What’s more, before we even leave Kansai Airport, my hosts have scheduled a meal of my most favourite Japanese food, okonomiyaki. My taste buds are tingling just thinking about it now. If you follow me on social media I apologise in advance for all the food photos you’re going to see there!

2. Practising speaking Japanese again

As soon as this trip was confirmed I pulled out my old Japanese textbooks, downloaded some language apps to my phone and looked up Japanese lessons on YouTube. When I lived in Japan I learnt Japanese from two gorgeous women, Midori and Sachiko, and I loved being able to have basic conversations in Japanese, and even loved practising the writing.

I have forgotten so much of what I learnt (it is, after all, 13 years ago) but it is gradually coming back to me and although we’ll be accompanied by a translator I’m really excited about trying out my Japanese language skills again. I know that Japanese people are so pleased when you are able to speak a few words (and, in fact, praise you as though you’re fluent!) and I really want to try!

3. Revisiting familiar places, seeing new places

My itinerary is a mix of places I’ve explored before and places I’ve never been. On the first day I’ll get to return to Osaka Castle, which I named as my second favourite castle in the world. Returning to Universal Studios Japan will be so much fun too – it opened just before I arrived and was often all my students could talk about that year! – and I had some really enjoyable visits there. I also can’t wait to return to downtown Osaka and spend a night in Namba, an area so familiar to me from my time there but somewhere I’ve never actually stayed before, because I always had an apartment of my own to sleep in!

Visiting Universal Studios Japan in 2002

Visiting Universal Studios Japan in 2002

I’m also so pleased to be able to return to Kobe. It’s completely different from the other Kansai cities of Osaka, Nara and Kyoto, much of that because of the rebuilding that had to happen after the 1995 earthquake, but also because (like each city in Japan, in fact) it really has its own personality.

Seeing new places is also exciting. I adore everything about the Kansai region, and yet I haven’t seen all of it, and this trip will address some of those gaps, with time in Sakai for example. And even in the cities I’m returning to, there are museums and restaurants and shops and more which I’ve never seen. Of course, lots of parts I thought I knew will have changed over this time, too. What a thrill to have all of this discovery to look forward to!

4. Going shopping in Japan

Anyone who knows me well will be surprised to see me include shopping on a list of things I’m excited about – and yet anyone who knows Japan well will understand this immediately! There will be 100-yen shops galore, which are full of the coolest stuff. There will be amazing arts and crafts and traditional gorgeousness. And this time, I’ll have a half-empty backpack to fill and some empty walls at home – so shopping will make sense! Last time I was in Japan, I was about to spend three months backpacking across Russia and Eastern Europe, so adding belongings was not the way to go.

Osaka Castle in the Kansai region, Japan

Woo-hoo! I’m returning to Osaka Castle!

5. Being reinspired and reinvigorated by Japan

This year has been a really up and down weird one on a personal level, and during the worst of it, I got the email from Universal Studios Japan asking if I’d like to go to Osaka. WHAT? Of course I would! If I could pick a trip that my blog could take me on pretty much anywhere, it would be Osaka. That email came at a perfect moment so that even though I was having a pretty tough time, I could just think to myself, but later this year I’ll get to go to Osaka, and isn’t life amazing?

On my first stay in Japan, I learnt absolutely masses about life and about myself. I think that was a combination of living abroad for the first time, of being in a culture so completely different to my own, of being in my mid-20s and in need of learning a lot! But I feel really strongly that returning to Japan will take me back to some of those learnings and this is always a good thing. On my recent trip to the Coral Coast I was really reminded of how much travel inspires me and I feel very certain that Japan will do this too, just probably on an even bigger scale.

Follow me!

While I’m in Japan I’ll be posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as often as I can, so feel free to stalk me.

If you’re in Japan do the same in case I have a pocket of time to catch up with all my friends there – it looks like I’ll be busy the whole time but you never know, and if I get an evening with a bit of free time I will shout it loud and clear so we can catch up!

 

Comments

  1. Even though I was only in Japan for two weeks in September, your post about all the things you look forward to makes me feel pretty nostalgic. I was absolutely smitten by Japanese cuisine. As someone who doesn’t like seafood, I thought I would have a difficult time finding good food to eat. Boy was I wrong! I hope you have a great trip back to Osaka and the Kansai region!

    • Thanks Danny! And yes there is plenty of amazing Japanese food that doesn’t rely on seafood – such a varied cuisine and what we see outside of Japan is just a small subset of it all! I’m so excited to return!!

  2. So excited for you! Say hi from me x

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