Vacation Week in Japan

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Hello all,

This is a late, but necessary, recap of my vacation week in Japan.

It is not everyday that I will get to visit this great nation, so early on I decided to arrive in Japan a bit early to do some sightseeing and light tourism. I left the States on August 15th and arrived in Osaka on August 17th. In total I spent 3 days in Osaka, 1 day in Kyoto, and 3 days in Tokyo.

That week was magical. Here’s how it all went down.

What I Did

Initially, I was a bit put off – courtesy of jet-lag, hunger, and a drastic change in environment. Once I got over that and settled into my hostel, my stay in Osaka was quite comfortable. While in Osaka, I went to traditional tourists sites such as Osaka Castle (and the surrounding park) and Dotonbori; I also visited more obscure ones like the Asahi Beer Factory.


A great shot of Osaka Castle from the Park


At the end of the tour of the factory, Asahi allows guests up to three glasses of their signature brews. They also offer snacks and other drinks for minors and drivers. The best part? All of it is FREE. (I’m serious, I can’t make this stuff up).

I made the foolish mistake of only spending one day in Kyoto. Out of the three cities I visited, Kyoto was definitely my favorite. One day was not enough to visit the many historical temples and shrines of Kyoto – and those that I did get to visit, such as Fushimi Inari shrine and the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist temple, I was only able to visit briefly. I definitely wish I could have spent more time in Kyoto instead of Tokyo.


Entrance to Senbo Torri (1000 Shrine Gates) at the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto


Thousands of patrons and tourists visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine every day

Sadly, I did not fall in love with Tokyo as I thought I would. While there is more stuff in the populous city, most of it was either costly, over-hyped, or just not for me. Nonetheless, Tokyo had it’s own unique sparkle that made it a destination worth stopping by. I stayed in Shinjuku and visited iconic districts like Harajuku and Akihabara. While in Harajuku I was able to witness many of Japan’s infamous fashions including Lolita, Gyaru, and Punk styles. I went to the Shibuya Crossing and participated in the scramble; I visited the statue of Hachiko and the Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens – which are as beautiful as they sound.

Near the lake area, Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens


View from a hidden path, Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens


Main pathway, Tokyo Imperial Palace Gardens (I had to sneak in one more photo, I really liked this garden)

My First Impressions

The first thing I noticed were the stares. I knew I would get a lot of looks, as I am Black and obviously queer; but I still was not prepared for the number of intense stares I received from the moment I landed in Haneda International Airport. I had children pointing at me and asking their parents questions. I had my picture taken by grown men and even been a source of amusement for a girl in the subway (she laughed loudly at the sight of me). I understand its all from curiosity and tried not to take any of it to heart.

Aside from the stares, everyone I encountered was very polite. Public spaces are very clean and kept in a neat and orderly fashion. Whenever I was lost in the subway, there were always people willing to help me find my way. Overall my experiences in Japan so far have been good. Akita is another destination that I have yet to fully explore – but it looks promising. AIU has arranged many free trips for students during the semester, so the adventure has just begun!

Until next time,