life in Japan is more than just Kyoto, washlets, Kimonos, rice, and sushi

Japan is an interesting country.

It’s a country where old meets new, where tradition goes hand in hand with high-tech gadgets.

I first came here back in ’94 on a study abroad program.

Not knowing what to expect, I decided to enroll in a 6 month program and test the waters so to speak.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first month didn’t go quite as I had planned, but with a change of scenery (I moved to a new homestay family) I started to see just how wonderful Japan could be.

I must thank my Okaasan (my homestay mother) for really helping me understand the language and the culture.

6 months and I was sold so I decided to come back for a second stint a year later and eventually made it my home.

For anyone that has a chance to come to Japan I wholeheartedly recommend paying Osaka a visit. Tokyo may be where all the action is but from Osaka you can hop on a train and end up in three very different locations.

There’s Kobe, Nara and Kyoto; all with their own charm.

Kyoto is probably the most visited place in Japan and for good reason, it’s got temples galore.

It’s a very laid back sort of town and walking through the back streets you can’t help but be fascinated.

In spring, you’ve got the cherry blossoms, in summer, the festivals and in fall, the changing leaves.

Nature as a backdrop to the lovely temples there make it a photographer’s dream.

Each time I go up there I can’t help but take a few shots.

It’s full of small cafe’s where you can grab a bite to eat or sit and enjoy the atmosphere. Sometimes you might run into a Maiko as there are quite a few shops that offer the opportunity for young ladies to get dressed up and feel what it was once like.

To me, Kyoto is quintessential Japan and the one place that can’t be missed.

Nara is the old capital and it, too, is steeped in history.

To me, Nara feels slower, quieter. It’s also smaller, or at least the main area is.

Nara has lots of mountains and lovely spots to see the cherry blossoms or changing leaves, but the best spots really need a car to be taken advantage of.

Kobe, on the other hand, feels more refined. It’s got a very different feel, very vibrant.

And if I could live anywhere in Japan, I think I would choose Kobe.

There are the mountains behind you and the ocean in front of you.

In-between you have Chinatown, upscale restaurants and shops.

Not quite as busy as Osaka, but nice.

Osaka is smack-dab in the middle of these cities and it’s where all the action is.

Restaurants, hotels, cafes, shops, you name it, it’s got it.

It’s the center of business in this area and you can feel it in the air.

People walk faster. Talk faster and seem busier than the other three cities that surround it.

These four cities make it a photographer’s paradise as they have a little bit of everything.

In one short day you could enjoy the serenity of Kyoto, shopping in Osaka and a sushi dinner while watching the sun set in Kobe.

What’s funny is that though these places are just a hop, skip and a jump away, I find myself spending most of my time in Hirakata located halfway between Osaka and Kyoto. But it’s nice to know they’re there if I ever want to get out and about.

Japan has a little bit of everything. It’s got shops for the ladies, temples for those people looking to soak in the tranquil atmosphere, fantastic food, and a whole host of other things to do.

And thanks to the transportation system, it’s pretty easy to get from one place to another.

Japan isn’t what most people expect. As I said in the beginning, it’s a mix of new and old, but also a mix of East and West.

The cities are very modern, while the countryside is very rural.

Take your pick. There’s something for everyone here.

So as I come to the end of this post some of you might be wondering, what does this have to do with success?

Honestly, not much. But if you were to tell me in high school that I would end up living here, I’d have thought you were off your rocker.

In studying success, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all have something to offer the world that’s unique to us.

Some of us find out what that is, others don’t.

I think that I was supposed to end up here. It’s where I met my wife. And she is the one who has been so supportive in me following my dream to build something special.

The point is this, don’t be afraid to take chances. I took a chance coming to Japan. I took a chance with my wife (and she with me). And I took a chance with this site and my dreams.

I’m glad I did.

I only hope you will find your Japan as well.

Adrian Shepherd

ps. If you’re wondering who took the lovely photo above, a big thank you goes out to my friend, Paul Atkinson, for letting me use it.

He’s got an incredible eye and takes some lovely shots, if you’d like to see more of his work be sure to check out his site – – the photos aren’t all of Japan but as he lives here a good number of them are. His autumn leaves are just stunning.

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