Reading week marks the mass exodus of exchange students from HKU to neighbouring lands, and for me it was no different. Together with four friends, we ventured off to the land of the rising sun, Japan! For the first few days we stayed outside the city, roaming the idyllic areas surrounding Mount Fuji, soaking in as much of its 3776m majestic glory as we could take, (seriously, I have a million pictures of this beauty).
Apart from hiking trails leading to spectacular views of Fuji, we took a trail through Aokigahara, notorious for the high number of suicides attempted there. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but having heard so much about this forest, my curiosity was piqued and I couldn’t miss out on experiencing the eeriness of the forest for myself. Wandering through the forest confirms the many warnings to not stray from the path, the trees are so many and so similar it’s easy to get disorientated. However, being in the company of friends, the quietness of the forest was easily unnoticed and any pre-existing perceptions were quickly dispelled due to its natural beauty – the surrounding scenery was so vibrant and lush, it’s hard to imagine Aokigahara’s darker lure. Perhaps a more dismal day and a different mindset may emphasise the desolate nature of the forest, but my experience showed me an unexpected lighter side.
Heading back into the city after our countryside retreat was definitely a shocking contrast. Away from the chilled atmosphere of the country, the lively, fast-paced undercurrent of Tokyo is felt instantly; just standing around makes you feel restless! Having grown accustomed to the narrow streets of Hong Kong, Tokyo felt massive in comparison, THERE’S JUST SO MUCH SPACE! It’s also interesting to see the clash of new and modern architecture, walking around Shinjuku I was surprised to find a shrine nestled between the high rises, which was additionally only a mere stumble away from Kabukicho, Toyko’s red light district (uhh… certainly intriguing to say the least).
As well as hitting up all the usual major tourist spots, (Senso-Ji Temple, Harajuku, Meji Shrine, Ghibli Museum, etc) we also participated in a traditional tea ceremony and got to try on a kimono! My terrible posture was brought to light and rather than being the vision of elegance I had pictured, I instead looked like child playing dress up, oh dear K. The tea ceremony itself was a fascinating experience; each step in the process was methodical, being perfectly and purposefully executed. Our host was lovely and enthusiastic about sharing her culture with us, which brings me to my next point. PEOPLE IN JAPAN ARE SO NICE! Walking into shops and restaurants, I was overwhelmed by how friendly and accommodating everyone is. Makes for such a huge difference compared to Hong Kong or the UK, where there’s just not that level of hospitality in everyday life.
Despite spending too much money and time on transport (pls standardise ur metro networks Tokyo) for my liking, I had a wonderful time in Japan and would love to return to explore further. Anyone care to be my sponsor?