Alex the Crikey intern interviews his housemate Holly Russell on the winter wonders of her solo travelling through Japan:
What was your favourite destination in Japan?
Sado Island, it’s a small island off the west coast of Japan.
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What made it special?
I went during the height of winter and was pretty much the only tourist on the island. There was a blizzard, which stopped all transit to the mainland for three days. It was refreshing to know I was so isolated. Sado was once used as an island of exile. Zen Master Nichiren was once exiled there. His home and temple are still there, in the mountains. When I went there it was blanketed in snow and there wasn’t a sole in sight, Zen.
What was your favourite dish?
Where the locals as nice as the places you visited?
My impression of the people in Japan, based on the limited time I spent there, was of an extremely kind, hospitable and respectful people. On first arriving in Tokyo I stepped of the train, from the airport, feeling bewildered by the by the sheer size of the city and a sunny faced women handed me a bunch of flowers. This echoed pretty much every experience I had with people in Japan.
The shopping in Tokyo is amazing. Although the countless department stores in areas such as Harajuku, Shinjuku can be overwhelming, if you can bear it there are beautiful clothes to be found. My favourite buy was an Aztec print-bag from Cat Street in Harajuku.
What’s the best way to get around Japan?
The train system in Japan is incredibly efficient and punctual, it’s phenomenal. The JR Trains throughout Tokyo are all colour coded and announced in both English and Japanese. I travelled outside of Tokyo on the Shinkansen to Niigata, the closest port to Sado, and it went straight past Mount Fuji. The mountain was so symmetrical and beautiful, Mount Fuji is awesome.
Did you sleep in a capsule?
For the last few days of my trip I slept in a capsule. I can honestly recommend it as a relatively cheap form of accommodation and surprisingly comfortable. I was staying in Tokyo during the height of winter, so it felt quite cosy in the womb like space. And you’re given a locker to store your things. You can only really use the capsule for reading and sleeping, but when you’re in Tokyo you don’t want to spend much time in your room when there is so much to see.
Would you travel alone again?
“Yes, I prefer travelling alone, it may seem selfish, but I prefer to have the freedom to travel where I want without having to wait for somebody else. I think being alone makes you more inclined to connect with the people meet along the way. Travelling alone means you have the freedom to go where you want at your own pace and for me these were places not on the ordinary tourist trail. Japan is a very safe country; I didn’t feel threatened at any point. The men seem to stare a lot when you’re white women alone, but I felt this to be more curious than sinister.”