My first Sashimi Lunch

On my first day in Tokyo I set out at 8am to visit the famous Sensoji temple and then headed out to lunch. I was wondering what I could eat and I saw a small resturaunt that served ‘Hiru Gohan’ (Japanese word for lunch). There was already a small line outside the store and I stood in line, when the lady came to take my order while I waited in line – I told her in Japanese that I would love to sit at the common table outside the restaurant and she immediately made space for me, when a diner left.

I ordered a Salmon & Tuna Sashimi and it took me about 20 mins to take my first bite of my meal. In India it is unheard of for people to eat anything raw. It was the first time I was seeing any raw meat in my bowl, and it took decades of mental conditioning to undo that. I closed my eyes and picked up the Tuna to enjoy the first morsel of the scrumptious Sashimi. I am glad I took this first step to break into the whole new world of delicious, healthy and IchiBan spread of nutritious cuisine.

I loved the freshness of the Tuna, Salmon, the see weed on rice, sweet ginger slices, and the dominant flavor of Wasabi. One of the main reasons I will return to Japan is for the food 🙂 Makes me so happy to eat the freshest, tastiest, and nutritious food. The Tuna, Ikura, Salmon, Sushi all were a treat to my soul.

For the rest of my days in Japan, I had a fabulous time trying out a variety of cuisine from Hokkaido, Kanazawa, Osaka, Kyoto and Kyushuu. I am a now the greatest fan of a new line of IchiBan Japanese cuisine.

 

 

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Japan’s Jaw-dropping Technology

The first thing that grabbed my attention was how liberally technology was splashed onto every inch of Japan. The moment I landed in the airport I saw how technologically savvy the country was, the digital displays and the infrastructure looked exquisite and futuristic. One incident that I recollect is about the first encounter I had with their astounding technology. The bus I boarded at the airport to reach Tokyo at 2 am was gunning down the road at breakneck speed and I saw a metal barricade. Usually in India the vehicles stops at this metal barricade and then the bar lifts up slowly. But I could see that we were about to collide, and the bar lifts swiftly as I braced for impact. When I saw what happened I soon realized that it was an automated security checkpoint. Right there the technology had made its presence.

I reached Asakusa in central Tokyo and I was taken aback by how brilliantly the city center was lit with neon lights. What I liked most were the lamps that can be clipped to any bedpost and the fancy buttons that come along with it. Each one is unique and have great features. The appliances in Japan are a world apart and these are designed only for the Japanese. These are much more advanced in features and efficiency than the export units. Every day is amusing as you will see some new innovation that will leave you speechless. It could be as simple as a lamp or a toaster. The elegance and sophistication of the usage of technology is astounding and impressive.

日本 – Beautiful Japan

Since I can remember, all the stories I heard of Japan were mystic and almost surreal. I always wanted to visit Japan, and never actually knew how it would materialize.

My geography class played an important role for me to develop an undying love for this gorgeous country. We were to memorize the 4 main islands – Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushuu captivated my young and inquisitive mind. I read about Japan in the chapters that covered the World Wars in my history class, and then finally the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My Irish teacher – Sr Peter explained to the class about the ramifications of the attack on these two cities and we were to explain the lesson to the class the next day and I still remember narrating the incidents without glancing at my book. Sr Peter had asked us to read the lessons once before we went to bed and re-read it in the morning before school. And i did. It had a great impact and I remember my geography class with clarity and precision even to this day.

My dad would tell me astounding stories of how the Japanese are so respectful and treat others with consideration. I wanted to see the beautiful country and it was my dream to visit Nihon.

The idea of planning my trip to Japan itself seemed unreal, as I could not really get my head around the fact that I was indeed going to Japan. I was bombarded with various opinions from family/friends on my travel, and I had fears of my own – would I be able to navigate as a solo traveller, would it be alright to manage with my Basic knowledge of the Japanese Language, would I be able to survive my solo visit in Japan? I was nervous as it was a foreign country where English is not widely spoken, I literally had butterflies in my stomach.

All my fears and apprehensions were set aside the moment I landed at the Tokyo-Haneda Airport. It is the most warm and friendly country you could visit and every single person is more than willing to help you. Buying a ticket for my ride to downtown Tokyo was a breeze and everything that followed was seamless.

Japan looked like someone has spilled liquid gold on the dark seas, as every inch of Japan glowed in the dark. It was a sight I will never forget. The rest of my stay in Japan was as splendid as my first glimpse of the gorgeous land of the rising sun.

My visit to Japan was filled with awe, admiration and jaw-dropping reaction to the surreal technologically advanced facilities in the entire nation and the vision Japan has for its citizens. In my opinion I feel that the Japanese have designed their country keeping the convenience of every individual citizen as their primary focus. This aspect of keeping the peoples comfort at heart itself is the epitome of humanity.

Japan’s holistic vision of creating a space for the comfort of its people is what makes it the IchiBan country in the entire world.

Romancing the Japanese Language

The first memory I have associated with Japan, was when I was a small school girl trying to pronounce Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku & Kyushuu 🙂 my Geography teacher tried her best to get us to say the names of Japan’s 4 main islands. From that moment it was hook, liner, sink for me!
I was enthralled by the stories my father told me about this great country. That it was one of the best countries in the world, that it was the land of the rising sun, that the people had very strong ethics and principles.

Few stories and incidents about the kindness displayed by the Japanese to total strangers left me speechless. I would often wonder – could this be just a tale,
could a person be this kind and offer unconditional service to another?

The first real connection I had with the Japanese was during my backpacking trip to Mainland China. I met 3 Japanese tourists who displayed disproportional levels of
courtesy, manners and offered assistance. These 3 individuals sold the concept of their entire country to me, and they dint even know the impact it had on me.
They were their country’s ambassadors and they did a fine job without even knowing that they were unconsciously advertising their country’s morals, ethics , principles and culture.
They all thought they were just touring as tourists – Wrong! They were samurais in their own way, and the living epitome of the most ideal prototype of how humanity really should be like.

Several other instances finally led me to enroll for the beginners course & I have been studying the Japanese language since August 2016.
Its been a wonderful experience, learning Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji. Everyday I learn something beautiful about the culture and eve the
conversations between characters in textbooks revels how respectful they are of each other.

I have just struck upon an endless reserve of knowledge that can keep me occupied for the rest of my life. Beautiful Japanese Language – Kireina Nihongo!

A callous hunt

I had heard a story of a smart fish, trying to avoid the deathly gallows of a sharks jaw. Little did I know how beautiful this would be to watch – not the shark eating the fish, but the fish trying to escape and scoot for their lives. When I visited the Maldives, i went there with no expectation because the pictures i saw on the internet looked surreal. I couldn’t imagine if the place I would end up in would look like the pictures on the internet. I dint want to dampen my spirits, so i kept a low expectation all along. When I reached the resort I was definitely bowled over and the smaller details that no one really talks about were in fact the most significant in my experience. I indulged in these small little wonders that brought such a great joy to me. Just to watch.

One among them was the casual yet gorgeous interaction of a school of fish with the reef shark.
All over the island – when you walk by the share you can see a formation and they are really a group of fish drifting and exploring the tropical waters. The formations keep changing and these are a prime hunting spots for the Black tipped reef sharks.
It is really wonderful how beautifully these fish try and escape the attacks from the reef shark. The moves are strategic, and clever. They try to move away from the shark and when the entire group maintains a distance of a few inches away from the shark, it looks like there is a halo around the shark – its gorgeous.

I would sit on the plank most of the time to watch this interaction. It filled me with calm, poise and provided entertainment. One afternoon while i was watching, a small reef shark found it quite hard to hunt, he called his 2 other partners in crime, the 3 reef sharks attacked from different sides and they triumphantly swam away with a bounty in their mouth. It was cleverly planned and I was quite surprised by the strategy on how the payoff was achieved.

If you go to the Maldives, its not just the sun or the sand or the luxury, its these small little experiences that renders you speechless and turns you into a narrator.

Cycling on the City Wall of Xi’An

It was a pleasant morning in early November, when a bunch of travelers – who met at the parlor in the Hangtang Hostel the previous evening – decided to go on a impromptu cycling spree on the famous Xi’An city wall.

Xi’An is an enigma in itself, it has a intense cultural flavor flanked by modern aesthetically designed infrastructure. It is a laid back city, the people warm and courteous and there is a sense of peace and calm in the city.

Luca, Vincent, Micheal and I decided to walk to the City Wall, we navigated effortlessly through the streets with the help of Maps.me and before we knew we were at the City Wall. We bought our entrance tickets, climbed a flight of stairs to reach the Cycling section.I had heard about the cycling activity on the wall, but little did I expect to see these professional bikes lined up – it was a treat to the eyes. One thing is for sure, the cycles displayed will provoke anyone to get on it and go for that ride.

For 45Yuan we rented bicycles and we all were excited to commence our adventure. Luka was the most excited of us all. Micheal suggested that we take a tandem cycle and i was thrilled as i had never ridden in tandem before.

The feeling was exhilarating, it was was a thrill that one can only experience. A cold chilly morning, the sun barely peeking through a thick blanket of clouds, cyclist waiting to start the adventure. The air was filled with a excitement and thrill. The 4 of us cycled and it spontaneously turned to a race for a short whole, with Micheal and I on the Tandem cycle being the undefeated duo.

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Michael & I on the tandem cycle.

The view of the entire city from top of the wall was breath taking. The cruise on the city wall is unforgettable. We had a pit stop for about 20mins, we clicked pictures and spoke about the climate, countries, the movie Transformers, Optimus prime and our famous trek to Mt. HuàShān.

Luca & V – giving us some serious competition 🙂

The whole concept of letting people cycle on the wall is a sign of embracing change and defying the ‘way things were for centuries’. I was pleased about the fact that they were willing to change with time, accommodate to peoples convenience and not be pulled down by traditions and age old customs and let the preservation of architecture inhibit the authorities from letting people harmlessly cycle on this beautiful Historical Architecture.

We all spoke and rode our bikes and it was a pleasant way to relax our sore muscles after the exerting hike to HuàShān. It was a ride to remember.

Fallen in love with Xi’An

when I first heard about Xi’an I dint pay much attention to this small town in the middle of nowhere in the north central province of Shanxi. But as my departure date approached for my solo trip to China, I did a lot of research as to which route to take once I arrive at the Oriental Mainland China.

When I saw the country guide of China by the lonely planet, instantly i was once again drawn to Xi’an for the cover photo is of the indispensable Terracotta Warriors located at Xi’an. I did my search on the internet about the famous hangouts for tourists and Xi’An was mentioned again. A lot of emphasis was on Terracotta warriors, an archeological site.

I had a choice to either travel the eastern trail of take the cross-country trail, cutting through the center of the Mainland and ending down south in Chengdu. I impulsively decided to listen to my gut and decided to go to Xi’an. In a matter of few minutes I had a fancy Bullet Train ticket to Xi’an from Beijing.

Little did I know that I would love Xi’An as much as I did – for I was overwhelmed by the energy the city had. It was beautiful, cool, and the people were very warm – it felt very good to be in a land far away and yet feel so freaking comfortable. When I was on the train and was about to reach Xi’An a kind chap helped me to get off the train as all the announcements were in Mandarin. I absolutely loved the Xi’An Bei(north) Railway Station. Flaunting the city’s rich cultural heritage, the interiors of the station was aesthetically pleasing.

I stayed at the Hantang Hostel for travellers. When I saw the interiors of the dorm i was staying at, I was floored! For the logistics were excellent and looked nothing less than a 4star hotel. I met wonderful people from all around the world and we soon became friends.

Initially I had planned on staying at Xi’An for about 4 days – but soon i feel in love with the city and loved visiting the arena at the Moslem Food Street. I absolutely loved hanging out in the chilly winter and listening to artists perform some of the classics and their personal favorite. I would want to go back to Xi’an again for I have hopelessly fallen in love with this beautiful city.