Outliers are characterised by the urge to explore the unknown—and that’s exactly why travel is so appealing.
In the first of our new travel series Visual Diary, we visit the land of the rising sun: Japan.
Of course, travel has that effect. Everywhere I’ve been has left an indelible mark on me in one way or another—Hanoi gave me a newfound appreciation of Melbourne‘s traffic; LA an inexplicable despair born of its faded glory days; Wroclaw a much-needed connection to my roots.
But Japan? It’s almost like thinking back on a person you love and miss, so visceral is the wistfulness.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. That it was the last stop on my honeymoon is probably a factor. Heady and indulgent, our time in Japan was punctuated by that bittersweet sense of knowing your time in a place is coming to an end—that heavy feeling that invariably alters your perception of things and begins to invoke nostalgia in the present.
But Japan is more than that. It’s the fascinating, proud and sometimes shameful history that’s palpable wherever you go, without hanging jingoistically in the air.
It’s the culture that heaves with beautiful contradictions: a universal pride in ancient customs and a preoccupation with youth culture; traditional methods juxtaposed against feats of modern ingenuity; modesty and humility hand-in-hand with the bizarre and overt. It‘s being asked to remove your shoes as you enter a restaurant, and then browsing an anime store alongside salarymen fixated on pornographic comics.
It’s the stunning natural scenery that nestles against the vast megalopolises in complete symbiosis; the grey spaghetti junctions and glaring neon billboards as beautiful in their own way as the unspoiled mountains and magnificent fields of bamboo.
It’s the legendary civility of the Japanese people; the seemingly great lengths people go to to make life just that little bit more pleasant for their fellow human.
It’s the food—oh, the food! The creativity with rice. The incredible depth of flavour in the simplest dishes. Fresh AF sushi. The wonders of the konbini. Hot ‘fridges’ toting warmed cans of coffee. Everything matcha.
But to leave it at that—indeed, some might say to even describe it as such in the first instance—would be lazy, hackneyed and reductive. Because Japan can’t be summed up in a series of clichés about bullet trains and tatami mats (though, I mean, I tried).
No, Japan insists on sticking in your mind with something more intangible. A feeling. Something in the air. It’s the vibe, you guys.
Outlier favourites: Japan 🇯🇵
🎋Arashiyama bamboo grove, KYOTO
🌿Yoyogi Park, TOKYO
📸Purikura no Mecca, TOKYO
🚅Catch the Shinkansen
🚲Kyoto Cycling Tour Project, KYOTO
👐Tokyu Hands department store, various locations
📚Daikanyama T-Site, TOKYO
🎎Shibuya 109, TOKYO
🍲Udon Shin, TOKYO
🍜Honke Daiichiasahi, KYOTO
🍙Konbini onigiri (fried rice flavour)
🍫Black Thunder chocolate bar
🍪Meiji Takenoko No Sato (milk tea flavour)
🍩Mister Donut pon de ring
☕️Kirin Fire canned coffee (from the hot shelf)
🍑Canned sparkling umeshu