I turned 70 last year and had the best birthday ever. I was lucky to be able to travel to Japan 10 days before my 70th birthday. What a great trip it was — there were so many wonderful things to see and do.
Never in my wildest dreams did that I think I would ever be able to travel overseas again, let alone to Japan. However, the opportunity arose and it was with great excitement that I packed my gear, organised my trip and off I went. The autumn leaves were displaying their brilliant colours and the weather was close to perfect during my visit.
The lesser known islands of Hokkaido and Kyushu are places not to be missed. The people, the food and the culture were amazing.
The pristine natural springs; the towering mountains; the shinto shrines; buddhist temples; and the super friendly, helpful Japanese people I met made my visit to this country a wonderful experience. To wander slowly about the many little towns and villages was indeed a pleasure.
I felt quite safe, even as a woman alone. There did not appear to be any sign of muggers or pickpockets. I saw no homeless, at least not where I went. Maybe in the big cities there are, but it did not seem to be a place where people were displaced.
The streets and countryside were free from any litter. Drivers had manners and adults and children all waited patiently in line in shops and at attractions. Hotel staff were at the visitors’ beck and call, bowing with respect to every guest who entered their hotel. Beds were laid out for sleeping, bags carried to the rooms, smiling faces with no expectations of anything more than a thank you.
The food. Wow, the food was amazing. I had a misguided idea that all I would be eating was sushi and sashimi. How wrong I was.
Every chef in every little cafe or bar went out of their way to please the diner. Ramen, fish prepared every way imaginable, pork, chicken, beef, and vegetables in all shapes and form were on offer. It was a gastronomical delight.
I cannot believe how much food I consumed, but did not feel I had over-eaten or was bloated. The food was all very natural, no preservatives at all and freshly prepared. Sure, there were McDonald’s and KFC, but why would anyone want to go to these chain restaurants when all this other food is available.
My favourite meal was ramen. This soup-like meal had an amazing depth of flavour. I really need to learn how to make it. Full of soupy goodness, with noodles and some kind of meat, whether it be seafood, chicken or pork, does not matter. All were delicious. All left me wanting more.
Another favourite were the yakitori dishes. Deep fried chicken or other meat, or just vegetables in a light crispy batter… It was truly amazing.
I experienced ice-cream in many different flavours. Lingonberry, roasted green tea, matcha, mango or just plain milky were equally is good as any I have ever tasted.
Japan was an amazing place and a wonderful birthday experience.
I actually turned 70 halfway between Haneda and Sydney. The airline staff knew it was my birthday and I was given a nice roomy seat in an exit aisle as a business class upgrade was not available due to a fully booked flight. The cabin crew — two rather nice young men — brought me champagne in a proper glass and also a set of Qantas pyjamas. What a birthday to remember!