In a bit of a delayed blog post, here’s a little bit about our 6 weeks and 5000km drive in a camper van around Japan.
It’s a big place, its full of the most polite, respectful, kind natured, organized people you could wish to meet. Japan also has a dark history and also a modern life that is hidden from much of the world.
For instance, it has a population crisis, sales of nappies for the elderly outsell nappies for little people!
60/70% of 18 to 40 year old men consider themselves what the Japanese call “herbivores” which translates to men that do not want a physical relationship and definitely don’t want to get married. Couple that with a nation of elderly people being fitter and fitter and you see what the future has potentially for the rest of the planet.
Lots of older people everywhere, this is what we saw a lot of, whilst traveling around Japan. Of course when we travel people are working, but we saw a disproportionate Of the elderly population, basically have a great time in Japan. These were the fit ones, but there is a large problem also of those that cannot leave their properties and are also very lonely.
Shrines and temples dominate. All immaculately turned out. Also a surprising amount of very well maintained art gallieries proliferate. The Japanese are seemingly those that have the most museums and cultural displays on show. They are also inexpensive, probably subsidized, unlike everything else here.
After landing at Tokyo, we got the camper van and travelled mainly around the island of Honshu, which makes up the majority of land in Japan, its one of 5 islands that make up Japan.
It has a huge cultural history, wars, imperialistic history, but what interested me the most was that it has had huge periods of time where it was CLOSED to the outside world. I mean it, really just closed. In times when it was threatened from invaders in the forms of Christianity to actual armies, it simply shut its doors and said, “no thank you, not coming out to play for a decade or so“. So you can imagine how self sufficient and self reliant they are. Some have also noticed that there is a certain arrongant attitude in Japan, and this has been echoed by its neighbors that we have talked to.
Here’s something I didn’t know about Japan, the scenary is spectacular, its such a mountainous country, we travelled though a crazy amount of tunnels, buried deep into the mountains, they are master bridge makers.
Onsen. The sign for an Onsen would bring us a smile and a good warm feeling. If you hadn’t experienced one before (like me) then do try and get to one, I am sure they are also outside of Japan. You go to an Onsen to get seriously clean and seriously calm. Start of by sitting with x number of men or women (Onsens are gender seperated). All sitting on a small stool in front of a big mirror with all your flesh on glorious display. Around you are a number of lotions and potions, shampoos and big taps that spurt out VERY hot water which you wash and scrub yourself silly with until you are the cleanest you have ever been.
Then you select one of a number of naturally heated pools of varying temperatures from cold to warm to holy crap I’ve just boiled by plums. Sit. Still. For a long time.
Other things that amused me is how thin and tall the vehicles are, the roads inside the old villages are pretty skinny and they have developed their cars to adapt, rather than knock down millions of km of village roads! The Japanese go to great lengths to fit into nature and this is part of why travel outside of the big cities was such an every day charming experience for us. Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, all humungous, difficult to navigate with kids. Hiroshima was probably the most child friendly, it was also the one that made the biggest impact, its history propertly floored us after a visit to the excellent museum.