Konichiwa! – welcome to Japan. You’re inside, so your shoes are by the door, facing the exit. You have slippers on your feet, you’re sitting cross-legged or on your heels on a tatami mat and you have a steaming cup of green tea. You’re ready for your Japanese adventure.
Glass buildings flash and bounce with vibrant neon signs and everybody waits. Above Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing, adverts giggle from giant screens towering over the vast striped crossway.
Everybody looks at the red light and waits. Thousands of people, standing, chatting, laughing, filming, waiting. And the red man turns green. A heaving breath of movement pushes gently forward, a mass of feet stride, intent on their destination, bobbing, weaving, avoiding, crossing… and then disappear, replaced by thousands of people, standing, chatting, laughing, filming, waiting.
Everywhere you turn, rows of multicoloured boxes – “and they’re all in little boxes and the boxes are all the same”—stand to attention. On every street, around every corner. One filled with delicious red apples, another with shots of sake, one with hamburgers, another with slices of pizza. T-shirts, hot soup, chocolate, perfume, rice, umbrellas, batteries, vegetables, electronics, doughnuts.
A wide grin spreads across your face: a popcorn vending machine. Your fingers mush against the keypad to choose the buttery popcorn. Crispy kernels explode, pop, fly, leaping around in their mini universe then steam fills the glass and golden liquid drizzles over your mountain of fluffy popcorn. Your mouth waters, your eyes widen. Ding. Fresh buttery popcorn. You throw one into your mouth, catching it expertly, and it melts on your tongue. You lick your fingers and go in for more. And more. And you walk on.
Mount Fuji rises elegantly from the lakes. Perfect silence. A candyfloss paradise. A blanket of delicate cherry petals wafts above you. Freshly mown grass and hints of lemon envelope you and you breathe deeply. Cool shallow mists hang delicately above the water, and fluffy clouds play behind the golden sun that warms your face.
You gaze, dream, lose yourself in the ridges and bowls of the snow-capped mountain as tiny waves lap the shore below. Crystal lagoons perch next to dainty wooden buildings draped with sloping jade roofs. Rosy leaves, soft as silk, relax on wispy-thin branches stretching towards one another as they intertwine into one divine beauty.
The sun dapples through the palest of barks, bells chime gently in the breeze and you step into the lush bamboo forest. Shoots tower left and right, leaves sway and rays of shimmering light peer out from each bamboo, casting fairy spotlights for your every step. In this tapestry woodland, rich olive greens and radiant verdant fern frame the calls of hidden birds, laughing toads and the quiet babble of Japanese. A magical forest enchanted with serenity, where time stands frozen. Only good thoughts here.
Chopsticks at the ready. Soy sauce and wasabi in the dish. Sushi on the conveyor belt. Sticky white rice, crunchy veggies and freshest of fish: bite-sized rolls of heaven wrapped in seaweed. They run by on tiny plates, taunting you – which to have next. Quick! Finish one before you pick up the next.
Each piece melts in your mouth, an explosion of sweet and sour and salt. And you grab silky sashimi. Nigiri. Temari. Gunkan maki. Each one a moment to remember. The taste of the sea, the taste of the paddy fields, the taste of Japan.
Arigatou! Thank you for joining us on our mini-getaway to Japan. Feel free to stay longer, to learn origami, perfect your Japanese or adventure through the extraordinary immersive-art museum. There’s so much more to explore …