Best International Experiences Part 2 - Japan and Peru

I noticed that the previous post discussed quite a bit about early travel experiences in Europe. In particular, the earlier post discussed the commonly visited by Americans, Western European countries of England, France and Italy. In the meantime, we're now going to leave the Eurocentric world and head into the Eastern and Latin Regions of culture.

Kyoto - Gion District/Temple Times: Walking around Kyoto is a dream to experience.  Like Firenze, it transports you back to shogunite times in which you'll see geishas, rickshaws, tatami mats and temples that are 500 years old. It's fun because the town is modern, but there are so many distinct temples to check out here from Nijo-jo (the ninja temple with nightingale floorboards, shoji doors, and traps) or Kiyozuma-dera temple with its "healing" waters. I didn't even really get to see everything (next time the 100 Torii temple and the Golden Temple).

Hiroshima - The Atomic Bomb Memorial and Museum: I honestly get chills every time I even think on this moment. The entire experience is almost unparalleled in my travels. The entire memorial is a dedication to all those who died in the atom bomb, from children to unnamed Koreans, Hiroshima makes no apologies in how badly that bomb decimated the whole city and its people. There was a children's memorial song there (with Sadako and all the paper cranes people have made for her) that had me in tears. Beyond that, the old lady, who I knew was there when the bomb dropped, prayed in perfect alignment with the memorial and the excitement the young Japanese children had in wanting to speak english with me almost had me breakdown. If I think about it this is when I began to have a love/hate relationship with the US. The museum itself sought to solidify this as for 50 cents you can see one of the worst acts (and there are many) the US has ever been responsible for. It is disturbing to a sense as there are children's uniforms, tons of 8:15 clocks (the time when it dropped), water near the only remaining structure from that time and even the melting people diorama. It's tough but so necessary if you are an American to see why nobody should ever be hit with atomic or nuclear explosives ever.

Kanazawa - Samurai Town and Kenrouki Gardens: Kanazawa was a relaxed town especially when compared to Tokyo and Kyoto. It seems to have a lot less tourists and was more authentic because of it. The highlights here were the still standing castles, intricate gardens, little samurai town (super authentic), and this kind Japanese chef at a Izkaya who had been to San Diego. I recommend Kanazawa or then again another city besides Kyoto or Tokyo because it's such a switch from those two cities.

Tokyo - Traversing Nightlife, Lights and Crowds: Tokyo will have you laughing at its absurdity because it is unlike any place you've ever seen.  At the same time, it is every stereotype you've thought about. There are about 7 times squares, all this money, lights in your face, Harajuku outfits, street food, hip-hop culture times, and distinct municipalities (electronic city Ahkihabara, old school Tokyo Asakusa, high class Ginza, Shibuya crossing, and Ryogo's sumo stadiums).  Tokyo has such a bizarre flow that is a spectrum of personalities and you can pick and choose your costume. You will enjoy yourself immensely if you just walk and let the city and its subways takeover.

Japan - Countryside and Culture: The shinkansen (fast trains), the kimonos, the bowing, the confusion of seeing me, the beautiful Miyajima Island, the free-range deer, the temples and countryside of Nara and so much more are all mystifying in how much you can embrace an Eastern culture. Yes, there is a lot of American influence, but it is also still an Eastern country and the difference was such a refreshing change that I had reverse culture shock from.

Cuzco - Walking and Bus Riding: My 3rd favorite walking city after Firenze and Kyoto (they're all sister cities!). As such, it was a blast to walk around ancient Incan ruins, colonial constructions, and just general older buildings. As I went around Cuzco on a tour, I found out how huge it was and how many different defenses or forts surround it. Sacsayhuaman -sexy woman-, Pisaq, Oyantallambo, all mountainous forts used for defending against Incan enemies and much too difficult for colonial explorers to traverse. Beyond that, I had some new food types, cow hearts, and had tours in Spanish as I had just studied and learned Spanish in school.  As a result, I encountered a whole lot less english than in other Spanish-speaking countries I would visit.

Machu Picchu - The citadel and the mountain: This may be hard to describe as it is easily tops my list in terms of what I've seen from around the world (the Sahara comes close). When I saw Machu Picchu, I thought that I had transcended space and time. The Incan history is rich and filled with amazing artwork and architecture to support the fact their indigenous group was never conquered and the Quechua people of Peru represent that. Beyond the amazingly well-preserved citadel, I also hiked up the mountain for even more amazing views. I can't get enough of loving Machu Picchu for it was the first time I felt that everybody should see what I am seeing. Easily a must-see for anyone.