I have always loved to travel but Japan had long held a special fascination for me as its culture was something completely different to anything I had known. I first went to Japan to do the typical first-time route through Kyoto and Tokyo, comparing old and new, ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology. Somehow Japan effortlessly integrates a history of warlords and ageless temples with the weirdness of hospitality robots and hamburgers in vending machines. I left promising myself I would return.
Four years later I made it back and pushed myself in a different direction. I wanted to see the small, rural villages that featured in the animated films I saw as a child. Villages that pay homage to trickster gods and forest spirits, although they sit mere miles from cities that produce lifesaving microchips. Japan is all about duality, integrating nature and progress seamlessly and unlike anywhere else I’ve been.
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I'll never forget when…
With many residents living in apartments where pets are not allowed, cat cafes have become very popular in Japan. The idea is that you go in, have a coffee and play with the cats. Some Japanese cat cafes feature specific breeds or whimsical decor but none of that made an impression on me on my first visit. Instead, a cat launched itself over my lap to get a toy and hit me in the face. I will go back to a cat cafe some day despite being accidentally attacked, and highly recommend it to anyone who misses their pets. If nothing else it will make a great story.