100 Things We’ve Learned in 100 Days

Posted by on Dec 23, 2011 in Ishikawa, Travel Volunteer Journey | 22 Comments
100 Things We’ve Learned in 100 Days

1. While it’s probably true all around the world, breasts are literally worshipped in Japan – the Jison-in temple in Wakayama is covered in boobs.

2. If you tell a Japanese person something unexpected, an involuntary noise will escape from them: “Eiiiiiiigghh!” If you tell them something truly extraordinary, it will become deeper and longer: “Euuuiiiiiiiiiiirrrrgghhhh!”.

3. There are many western foods that are actually easier to eat with chopsticks. Salads are one, noodles/spaghetti is another.

4. Slurping while eating eventually ceases to be nauseating and starts to be fun.

5. Because “smörgåsbord” is very difficult for the Japanese to say, an open selection of many dishes is known as “Viking style”.

6. There is presumably less bullying in Japanese elementary schools because everyone must carry the same little backpacks and wear the same tiny coloured caps.

7. In Japan, one “sleeps like mud”, and refers to something that’s disappointingly non-large as being “small as a cat’s forehead.”

8. This is perhaps the most irritating sound in the world.

9. It’s possible to earn a cheap round of applause by showing even a tiny bit of public chivalry. Jamie helped an old lady on with a life jacket and an entire boat of pensionable ladies started clapping.

10. Septuagenarians on a “lads holiday” can provide some deeply unflattering sights when drunk and wearing a yukata (but no underwear).

11. Surprisingly, because of its endless permutations, Tokyo’s train system is the hardest for a foreigner to navigate. Thankfully, there is no shortage of English-speaking natives willing to help the lost gaijin.

12. Hiking in Yakushima is one of the most challenging and rewarding activities available to the tourist in Japan.

13. There is a distinct kind of sign language in Japan. For example, when referring to themselves, people point at the end of their noses, like drivers performing a sobriety test for suspicious police officers. Similarly, when beckoning someone, they do a kind of paw-wave, like a welcoming cat.

14. In the UK, the red kite is a rare and endangered animal; in Japan, black kites are more abundant than pigeons.

15. A glass any less than 75% full is worthy of refilling, thus making it perilously easy to get drunk in the company of the Japanese.

16. Origami goes well beyond making little cranes to include present wrapping, and useful little knick-knacks like chopstick holders.

17. Three months is not enough time to adjust to the taste of natto.

18. Having been repulsed by dozens of varieties in more than 50 countries, it turns out Katy does like one beer – and it is Japanese.

19. For a Travel Volunteer, warm seafood egg-custard (chawanmushi) tastes as good as it sounds.

20. There are few things more thrilling than watching taiko drumming up close.

21. Three months and several conversations have, if anything, further cemented our position that whaling is wrong. We now also think it’s demonstrably bad for Japan, when so much money has to be spent to support a failed, moribund industry. It’s like an ancient pine tree, propped up and forced into more life by someone’s misguided idea of maintaining tradition.

22. Taxi doors seem to have a mind of their own; taxi seats are often decorated in dainty lace.

23. Japanese pensioners on tour groups make coordinate sounds of amazement when being told interesting facts by their guides. Every time we heard it, we couldn’t help think of this.

24. Of the dozens of mind-blowingly excellent Japanese foods we tried, simple tataki in Kochi was probably our favourite.

25. It rains “35 days a month” in Yakushima, and “eight days a week” in the prefectures of Hokuriku.

26. Sand baths are very intense experiences.

27. The best way to see rural Japan is to walk through it.

28. Japan is a photographer’s dream. With the reliable weather, stunning natural landscapes and widespread dedication to tradition, there aren’t many excuses for taking bad pictures here.

29. It’s possible to keep whale sharks in captivity. Three of them in the same tank, in fact.

30. No matter the supposed benefits, the ball/straw filled pillows in traditional ryokans are uncomfortable.

31. That said, a five star Ryokan is something every tourist should experience once in their life.

32. At its best, the autumnal Japanese maple provides nature’s reddest red.

33. Paper-making is a surprisingly relaxing pastime.

34. The people of Kochi are among the most friendly in the country. Coincidentally, they are also some of the biggest drinkers. (And yes, we do see the connection there.)

35. The lengthy list of supposed rules for acceptable behaviour in Japanese society found in most western guidebooks is out of date. Really you can do virtually anything and the locals will put it down to gaijin eccentricity/stupidity.

36. Sumo is a bloody and brutal sport – not, as we previously thought, a big fat pillow fight.

37. Japanese museums and galleries are often world class, and often hidden in the most unlikely places.

38. Satsuma is a Japanese word which is also used in English. However, it means something else altogether: in Japanese it’s a now-defunct region that corresponds roughly to modern Kagoshima, while in English it’s a small, sweet, highly-delicious cousin of the orange. The name of that same fruit in Japanese? Mikan.

39. Japanese lifts are ridiculously aggressive and will happily take your face off if you let your guard down.

40. There are more vending machines per head of capita in Japan than in any other country in the world. A ratio of one machine per 23 people, apparently.

41. People will rarely talk it up, but a drive along the east coast of Kyushu is one of the most scenic routes in Japan. Weird rock formations like the “devil’s washboard” (below) are just start of it.

42. After eating dozens of different types, we still reckon good-old yellowfin tuna is the best kind of sashimi.

43. When finding something inedible in kaiseki dining, empty crab claws and the aforementioned chawanmushi make for excellent hiding places.

44. Kokusai Street in Okinawa is the most Asian street in Japan.

45. The Hiroshima version of okonomiaki is better than the Osaka version.

46. You don’t have to be a cat to enjoy eating literally every part of a fish.

47. Many Japanese dogs have more extensive hair dye, make-up and wardrobe collections than Katy.

48. As an exercise in unfettered consumerism, Christmas is as big in Japan as it is anywhere in the world.

49. Seats on trains can rotate, allowing you do configure entire carriages as you like.

50. Because of the enormity of Russia and China, maps create an illusion that Japan is a small country. It absolutely is not. Being afraid of visiting, say, Kyoto because of what happened in the Tohoku Region is tantamount to refusing to visit California because of something that happened in Delaware, or shunning Milan because of an incident in London.

51. Once they reach adolescence, kids start to personalise their school bags. The rule seems to be: the more fluffy key-rings, the better.

52. The Japanese often choose wacky cartoons or mini manga to warn against hazardous and/or potentially fatal behaviour.

53. Listening to gaijin ex-pats floating in and out of English/Japanese as they talk is very strange.

54. Many ducks migrate to Japan during winter, only to soon find themselves on a plate next to a mound of soba. They should be consoled by knowing they are absolutely delicious.

55. The cleansing ritual before entering shrines and temples is an utter nuisance on cold days – especially if you don’t have anything with which to dry your hands.

56. There are several billions yen’s worth of porcelain on sale in Arita, Saga. Much of it is very nice, too.

57. Not all Japanese castles are worth a visit.

58. That said, our three favourites are (from left to right, below) Kumamoto, Matsuyama and Kochi.

59. Picking the best garden is harder. We say it’s a coin-toss between Ritsurin, Takamatsu and Kenrokuen, Kanazawa.

60. It’s worth trying literally every food stuff in Japan, even when your brain screams at you: this will be revolting and/or might kill you.

61. A permanent career as a travel volunteer would likely result in an early trip to the boneyard, for the volunteers and coordinators alike.

62. Pound for pound, Japan is probably the most naturally beautiful country we’ve ever been to. Nowhere is as green and mountainous. Nowhere has such well defined seasons. Nowhere offers so many surprises over such short distances…

63. Considering how widely available it is, making soba is disproportionately difficult.

64. Golf in Japan is 70% about appearance, 20% bromance and 10% skill.

65. Japanese whisky is incredibly palatable.

66. Japan is easily one of the cleanest, quietest countries in the world. Hybrid cars probably have something to do with it, but they’re almost too quiet – it’s definitely worth looking left and right before crossing the street.

67. Everything can be “kawaii” (cute). The longer someone says it, the cuter it is.

68. Fake eyelashes and bizarre contact lenses are big business among young girls. Looking like a demented anime character is evidently fashionable.

69. Takoyaki are best when made by other people.

70. You should not stand on the bit between tatami mats. Dunno why, but it’s a no-no.

71. So ingrained is bowing to Japanese society that people frequently do it while on the phone.

72. Attempting to tip often ends in an awkward stand off, and sometimes with a mild argument.

73. Some gaijins are more Japanese many natives.

74. After three months, we have developed new ears to tell when the letter R and L are being swapped. Regal matters don’t necessarily involve the monarchy etc and so on.

75. Each Japanese city has its own unique manhole cover. They’re often very pretty.

76. Pumpkin flavoured ice cream is great.

77. Green tea ice cream is not (says Jamie, Katy disagrees).

78. As a gaijin, if you flutter big, stupid blue eyes at a ticket attendant long enough and claim not to understand the difference between reserved and non-reserved seating on trains, you can expect some clemency.

79. People have found it necessary to repeatedly apologise for the disappointing showing of Autumn colours this year. If this was a poor show, we’re definitely coming back for a good year.

80. Pocky might just be the best chocolate snack in the world.

81. There’s not much good about eating squid, and gutting them is worse.

82. On entering train carriages, conductors bow. No one reciprocates.

83. People imagine the extreme ends of Japan – the historical side (Kyoto) and the futuristic side (Tokyo). In truth, the majority of the country is found in the very normal middle, and is much more complex than any preconception.

84. Japan may have been trading with the west for several hundred years, but there are still parts of the country where people react to blonde hair the same way they might to a five-headed monster.

85. In the west, saying: “yeah, yeah, yeah” is often taken as rude. It translates as: “There’s nothing you can’t tell me that I don’t already know”. In Japan people do it all the time, but sincerely for a kind of Shakespearean emphasis.

86. Without Buddha’s warm, comforting embrace, Buddhist temples are incredibly uncomfortable places to stay.

87. Like Tokyo and Kyoto, Kobe beef definitely lives up to the hype.

88. There are few places in the country more romantic than a private onsen in the mountains.

89. Apparently if you eat enough seaweed, it keeps your hair from going grey.

90. Kyogen shows are more entertaining than Kabuki. We know this by counting the number of people asleep in both shows.

91. The deer in Nara are biters, and sadly protected from retaliation.

92. Many Studio Ghibli films are based on real, highly accessible locations.

93. For the Japanese, literally anything that swims in the sea is a potential meal. Apparently there are even some people who eat the ultra-poisonous liver of the fugu as a “delicacy”, though any of them end up in hospital or morgue.

94. Japanese economy is in a state of extremis, but pachinko remains wildly popular.

95. If Fuji hides from you, get yourself down to Kumamoto. Aso is much more reliable, and active.

96. During the Second World War, America deliberately excluded Hiroshima from their wide-spread fire-bombing campaign so they could better measure the effects of Little Boy, the world’s first atomic bomb.

97. Japanese guides are typically a quarter helpful, a quarter punctual, a quarter knowledgeable and a quarter eccentric.

98. “Igilisu/Igirisu” is the Japanese for English and British. Working out how Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales fit into the equation is often quite challenging.

99. Almost everything that is traditionally Japanese (Buddhism, the alphabet, paper, money, noodles) actually came from China first, before it was refined and improved.

100. We’ve frequently been asked: “What’s your impression of Japan?” It’s a pretty tough question, like asking someone to define themselves. We’ve generated 1,500 photos, half a dozen videos and approximately 70,000 words to give our impression of Japan, and we still don’t have a definite answer. The country is too big, too varied and too complex to sum up; its people too varied, its marvels too numerous, its beauty too enormous. While we can’t say precisely what our impression is, but we do know that the country has left a big impression on us, that we’ve fallen in love with it, and that we’ll miss it terribly.



  1. Frankie Lafferty
    December 23, 2011

    Was reading the Tokyo Times Just now and noted about the two of you doing this 100 day trip about Japan. The main thing that struck me was Jamies name in Japanese. Anyway well done to the two of you for doing this thing and hope it works out bringing tourists to Japan.
    Frankie Lafferty (in Saitama)

  2. Kim
    December 23, 2011

    I loved that! I have to say a lot of points had me laughing to myself.

    I will be so sad to see the end of this blog, it’s become a daily habit to pretty much stalk your lives for the past one hundred days!

    I bet you both can’t wait to get home now and just relax for a few days, where you do nothing but lie in bed and drink good old English tea and eat beans in toast ;) but then again you might both be the opposite and feel the need to be on the move everyday!

    I hope you are both well, and I look forward to reading your last few updates!

  3. Jennifer
    December 24, 2011

    While your 100+1 days in Japan started coincidentally with my job as a travel consultant, your posts have given me so much help in understanding Japan and it’s culture. I am very grateful to found your blog and proud to say i have follow your journey from the beginning till the very end. :)
    You guys did such great job and I will definitely miss reading your posts. Very witted and informative at the same time.

    I will go to Japan! Soon!!

    Merry Christmas Jamie & Katy!

  4. Kat
    December 24, 2011

    On #2: Apparently, even if a Japanese national grew up away from Japan, they still make that sound hehe.

    #78 I’ll qualify as a gaijin but because I’m also Asian, I probably won’t have that luxury of batting baby blues hehe.

    That said, you guys were awesome! It was an awesome ride these past three months, and it was pretty great to witness it along with you.

  5. Karin
    December 24, 2011

    I’ll gonna miss that blog. It was really great following you through Japan. In less than 4 month I will be in this wonderful country as well (okay, just for 3 weeks) ;-)
    Merry christmas to both of you!

  6. Andrew Bidders
    December 24, 2011

    Hats off to all involved for a job superbly well done. The postings and pictures have been a real treat and something I’ve looked forward to on a daily basis these past few months.

    I’m feeling the love for Japan that you guys have evidently developed, and I’m sure others who have followed your adventure will have picked up on it too.

    Good on you Katy and Jamie for delivering humourous, candid and informative snapshots of Japan in 2011. I think you should be proud of yourselves for seeing this project through with such enthusiasm and dedication – I imagine there must have been times when you just wanted to put your feet up at end of the day rather than compose a witty and colourful account of what you’d seen and done.

    Thanks too for prompting me to find out what the big deal is with Twitter. Your Tweets have added another dimension to the experience.

    All the best for your future adventures. And, once again, well done everybody connected with this project. As they say in Japan, “SAIKOU!” And as we say in Manchester, “NICE ONE!”

  7. Miko
    December 25, 2011

    Dear Katy and Jamie,

    Merry Christmas! and
    Congratulations to have completed your 100 plus 1 days as travel volunteers!

    About 70, the reason why we should not step on the edges of tatami mats is to keep ourselves safe.

    In older days when ninja existed, only thick tatami mats worked as a protecter from a sharp knife abruptly sticking out from the wooden floor. Upon stamping on the edge, an assasin, who hides himself below the floor, will kill you by piercing out his sword from the thin space between wooden boards of the floor and tatami mats. Do you remember the rooms for the lord in the castle are covered with tatami mats? That is a reason we still keep the manner in these peaceful days. ;-)

    Anyway, I am happy to know you like tataki best and paper making.
    Looking forward to seeing you soon.



  8. Maccer
    December 26, 2011

    Been an interesting read for 100 days. Good job!

    I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to put forward a case for whaling. Most of the opposition to it in the west is cultural rather than objective.

    For example, you’ve enjoyed many varieties of tuna including no doubt Bluefin Tuna. Two species with threatened conservation status. Compare this to say the Minke Whale whose conservation is Least Concern (WWF).

    The Japanese whaling industry kills approximately 1000 cetaceans a year. This is approximately the number of cetaceans that are killed *every day* by being caught in nets, and thus slowly drowning as by catch of our fishing methods. In others, we are part of an industry that kills 300,000 a year yet we take the Japanese to task for killing 1000.

    It’s said that whales are very smart. So are pigs. At least whales get to live a natural life till they are caught as opposed to a lifetime of misery that we in the west subject are farm animals to.

    Japan’s membership of the IWC is voluntary. It has no international legal power. They could like Iceland and Norway before them simply leave and catch whatever they want. To their credit, they are trying to work with the IWC to come to a compromise.

    But I think the strongest argument for whale is actually that it may in fact help conservation. Japanese themselves are not for the wholesale destruction of the species – generally they simply want to sustainably catch a certain amount (and did you know that the International Whaling Commission’s own charter is about the “orderly development of sustainable whaling”). Since Japanese are being told they cannot eat whale (or in very small amounts) then of course they eat something else instead – especially tuna. In 5 or 10 years times when Bluefin Tuna are extinct we may be saying “perhaps we should have let the Japanese eat whale to relieve the pressure on Tuna”

    • Katy & Jamie
      December 27, 2011

      Thanks for your comment.

      The pig argument would only work if pigs were hunted by threading a crossbow, shooting the animal from a first floor window, then slowly dragging the screeching creature towards you until it bled out.
      As for it making any sense, the industry is a gigantic loss-maker. Even if you take away the suffering of the animals and the argument that they’re sentient beings, from a purely financial standpoint when the Japanese economy is on its knees, it’s ridiculous to keep it going.
      Worse, it’s endlessly damaging to be diverting funds away from the tsunami relief fund to give to the Antarctic whaling project. Again, regardless of whether you think whaling is good or bad, that’s just bad business and the worst kind of PR possible.
      I think the reason so many people are offended by the Japanese whaling projects, rather than Iceland, Norway or the Faroe Islands, is because those nations keep their hunts to within their own waters. They do not maraud half-way around the world for their catch, nor do they laughingly call the whole process “scientific research”.
      As for your point about whales dying in nets, that is indeed unfortunate, but when the demand for seafood in countries like Japan is so colossal, perhaps it’s a necessary evil. Only half of that applies to the medieval practice of whaling.

      • Maccer
        December 27, 2011

        “nor do they laughingly call the whole process “scientific research”.”
        Sorry but you are totally misinformed. The “scientific research” is the *requirement* of the IWC. In other words, Japan voluntarily is a member of the IWC and part of this compromise is that they are allowed to do this scientific catch, and they are once again *required* by the IWC to process the animal – i.e. eat it. Would you prefer Japan to simply leave the IWC and catch whatever they wanted which they legally could and call it what they want? They are trying to work within the IWC to come to a compromise and the ‘scientific research’ is what the IWC have come up with. Unlike Norway who have simply declared themselves ‘exempt’.

        “Worse, it’s endlessly damaging to be diverting funds away from the tsunami relief fund to give to the Antarctic whaling project.”
        This was misreported. None of the Tsunami relief fund is going towards the whale industry.

        “The pig argument would only work if pigs were hunted by threading a crossbow, shooting the animal from a first floor window, then slowly dragging the screeching creature towards you until it bled out.”
        That doesn’t quite work does it. The Norwegians whalers are required by law to have a vet on board (and I believe the Japanese do something similar) to minimize the suffering of the whales as much as possible and check that the killing is as humane as possible. All whaling nations make great efforts to make sure that the animal is killed as quickly as possible – some unfortunately aren’t. The IWC reports that 80% of whale are killed instantaneously. It’s a totally arbitrary to say a lifetime of living in filth that pigs are subjected to is worse that say a few minutes (or often a few seconds) of suffering whales go through, and using the worse case scenario as the standard practice is hardly intellectually honest is it: it’s as if you were to find the worst case of suffering in a UK farm and use that to judge all meat farming.

        ” those nations keep their hunts to within their own waters”
        There are few whales in the Japanese waters. The countries you mention are near the Arctic circle. It’s hardly fair to expect Japan to pick up the whole country and move it north. But fair’s fair: get the whole of the UK to attempt to eat only fish and meat that was grown in the UK or fished in UK waters. I think you’ll find that the UK fishes all over the Atlantic, and eats meat that comes from developing countries destroying land and rain forests in the process. Of course, there is a case to be made against whaling but only vegetarians can make it.

        “Only half of that applies to the medieval practice of whaling.”
        And meat eating is equally medieval.

        Given that the European nations and North Americas have fished many of their stocks to extinction, and soon the Tuna and many other fish will go the same way, the ‘medieval’ practice of leaving a field fallow is actually one that makes sense.
        The sad thing is that when many of these fish species do become extinct, I think we’ll find that there will be a sudden change of heart in the west when we discover that the whales are practically the only things left.

  9. Katy & Jamie
    December 27, 2011

    Thanks again for your comments. Obviously you’ve done nothing to change our minds but it’s interesting to hear the points of view of an avid pro-whaler.
    Unfortunately for you, the economics of the situation will soon render it as useful as extolling the virtues of manning lighthouses, or writing a dodo cookbook.

    • Maccer
      December 27, 2011

      I’m certainly not an avid pro-whaler. I am simply pro-sustainable use of the world’s food resources. For example, I don’t eat tuna – an *endangered* species that you highlighted how much you enjoyed on this very page. I don’t eat whale either – but I believe in Japan’s right to make a sustainable catch.

      Beef is incredible bad for the environment. Our drag-fishing methods kill thousands of dolphins and turtles every day. We’ve made cod and many other fish essentially extinct in Europe and off the coast of Canada, and are on the point of making BlueFin Tuna extinct as well. Yet, we take the Japanese to task for a catch of a 1000 because we culturally ‘like whales’. In fact, it’s our over focus on whaling that means we are taking the eye off the ball regarding other species.

      It’s very possible the economics of the situation will sadly have the opposite effect & will in the medium term bring whaling to the fore again. Do we really believe that some of the poorest countries in the world with limited food resources will ignore whales when they have nothing else to catch because of overfishing? Do we in the west really believe that when suddenly all the other seafood is close to extinction that we’ll not suddenly change our mind about whales? The sad thing is by then we may realize to late that catching a sustainable amount in the first place would have saved the other species. Enjoy your tuna now – it’s not going to be around for long. Unlike many species of whale, tuna are actually endangered.

  10. Katy & Jamie
    December 27, 2011

    With the near extinction of several species through intensive hunting, history clearly and repeatedly shows that whales are not a sustainable food source.

    • Maccer
      December 28, 2011

      Yes, history shows whales are not a sustainable food source with, in your own words, “intensive hunting”. Which by the way was mainly by British and American fleets in the 18 and 19th century for the oil from whales – no longer needed with modern petrochemicals. This is precisely the kind of “intensive hunting” that is causing the extinction of the Tuna you enjoy so much yet don’t seem to object to eating.

      What history also shows is that with the kind of non-intensive hunting that the whaling nations carry out today that whaling is indeed sustainable. Which other seafood hunt/fishing has an actual count of each species actually caught? In fact, the number of whales killed by actual whale hunting is dwarfed anyway by the number drowning in nets, killed by boat strikes or the effects of sonar use.

      None of the whaling nations are interested in a return to the industrial-scale hunting of the past. Indeed it is in their interests to keep whaling sustainable – as they’ve managed for the last 2 decades. The idea that the resumption of (monitored) whaling will lead to “intensive hunting” is just propaganda, and has no basis in reality.

      • Ota
        December 28, 2011

        Konnichiwa from EU!
        I’d like to thank to “Maccer” very much! Finally some rational view on the subject, with decent explanation and without unnecessary hysteria.
        Unfortunately, this subject is usually very emotionally misinterpreted and really abused by sort of politicians (etc.) outside Nippon…

      • Katy & Jamie
        December 28, 2011

        So just to be clear: bring back whaling, ban tuna fishing? And by banning the world’s most consumed fish (when the world population is at its highest of all time) and replacing it with whale, you don’t think it’d lead to intensive hunting?
        Again, you seem to have a bit of an economic problem there…
        Obviously there’s a huge problem with over-fishing around the world; there are simply too many people – wasteful people at that. I agree with you totally on that issue, and that changes will inevitably come through necessity, if not desire.
        But to suggest that the remedy is harpooning creatures that have slower birthrates, are massively expensive to catch, and for which there is little global demand…Well, that seems delusional to me.

        • Maccer
          December 28, 2011

          “So just to be clear: bring back whaling, ban tuna fishing?”
          Absolutely not. I’m advocating a common sense approach to sustainability. Tuna are under tremendous pressure right now. Some scientists are saying that with Bluefin Tuna we’ll reach a point of no return in 3 years. At present, Minke numbers are in the hundreds of thousands and are growing at around 3% per year. A catch of even 10,000 still represents a growing population. It eases the pressure on other species. In a few years, we can switch back again. Allow whale numbers to get back to normal and in the meantime tuna will have recovered somewhat. The same principle as the fallow field.

          You seem to be advocating: Cause the extinction of tuna today and then worry about tuna. We need to release the pressure on other species right now. Not when it’s too late.

          “And by banning the world’s most consumed fish (when the world population is at its highest of all time)”
          You won’t have the choice in a few years time when it’s extinct anyway. To be clear: reduce BlueFin Tuna fishing, replace it with a slight sustainable increase in whaling. BlueFin recovers, non-endangered whaling takes up that slack for a few years.

          “that changes will inevitably come through necessity”
          You can’t change extinction.

          “But to suggest that the remedy is harpooning creatures that have slower birthrates, are massively expensive to catch, and for which there is little global demand…Well, that seems delusional to me.”
          Whales are far less expensive to catch per weight than, for example, raising cattle. What do you think is the price of cutting down rainforest? What is the value of rainforest to the planet’s future? Oscar Wilde’s quip about understanding the price of everything and the value of nothing comes to mind.

          Quarter pound of beef costs about 5 square meters of tropical rainforest.
          5 Minke Whales gives about 16 tons of meat equivalent to saving 1 square kilometer of rainforest.

          What do *you* think is the value of a square kilometer of rainforest? Not to mention the massive C02 emissions in beef farming. I can assure you, an exchange of 5 Minke whales and the associated fishing expense is a bargain in comparison. What is delusional is the idea that the destruction of habitat is somehow not part of the expense of what we eat in the West. Whaling has no bycatch, and has minimal impact on the environment when done sustainably. Quite the opposite of beef farming and drift fishing which destroys habitats and kills whales and dolphins anyway.

  11. Peter Kane
    January 5, 2012

    Fantastic blog/site. I’m so sorry I didn’t find out at the start and follow you around Japan.
    You’ve given me many ideas for my next trip to Japan (#4), and confirmed many of my ideas about places to go.
    Well done.

  12. Yuki
    January 16, 2012

    That’s why I love Japan. It has a very unique qualities among other asian countries. They show modernization, advancement in technologies but retaining old traditions, redoing it, and never forgetting it. That’s the secret of Japan (iThink) Nihon, ganbatte yo!

  13. Lillian
    January 29, 2012

    Oh, I love chawanmushi, but I think it’s best with chicken and ginko nuts, not seafood. Too bad you didn’t like it! I agree wholeheartedly about Hiroshima okonomiyaki. It’s hard to find where I live, though.

    As for satsumas, there is a connection — Kagoshima is/was famous for growing mikan, so presumably Britain’s early mikan imports were from there.

  14. Sam - For Fukui's Sake
    April 4, 2012

    Really enjoyed the journey and this post in particular. You’re a very lucky pair!

    The only point I don’t agree with is #50 about the size of Japan.

    The distance between California and Delaware is way, way bigger than the distance between Kyoto and the Tohoku region; 3000 miles compared to 500.

    But the message remains the same – it’s still a long way, and there’s no danger.



  15. Cham@VolunteerTravel
    February 11, 2013

    I can’t wait to get to Japan! Thanks for sharing your experience and the things you have learned