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LOCATION #4: Japan

Written on November 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm , by

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige used the month of October in Japan to raise money for the Colorado flood relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross responded immediately to the September flash floods that claimed over 17,000 homes along the Front Range with rescue, food, shelter, care, and comfort for those who suffered severe damage. Help Paige raise $10,000 for the American Red Cross at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourcolorado. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

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By Paige Claassen

Imagine you’re unable to distinguish between a restaurant and a bank when walking down the street. Going to the grocery store is a three hour event. A busy city street full of people is completely silent. This is Japan, one of the most unique and fascinating countries I’ve ever visited.

‘Organized chaos’ is the only way to truly describe Japan. From the outside, Japan seems cluttered, frantic, and hectic. But focus in and you’ll find perfect order and tidiness. At first, I found Japan intimidating in it’s lack of familiarity. But after a bit of acquaintance, I fell in love with this country, aptly known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Everything is sunny in Japan, except the weather.

I visited Japan in October and encountered an unusually late typhoon season. While my objective was to rock climb, I was forced out of the mountains by torrential rains, a small earthquake, and the threat of tsunamis.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Perhaps this interruption in my plans was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to dive into the Japanese culture. Here’s what I discovered:

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market.

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

  • My new favorite foods: Okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake, which is nothing like a pancake) and sashimi fresh off the boat, which melts in your mouth like butter. Japan also grows amazing fruits. My favorites were Fuji apples and Asian pears.
  • Bowing: To thank one another, or even to greet or bid farewell, the Japanese people bow. As a foreigner, I found this incredibly convenient, because even when I couldn’t express my gratitude in words, I could smile and bow.
  • Cleanliness: Feeling under the weather? The Japanese wear face masks when feeling ill to prevent the spread of germs out of respect for those around them. Hand rails in public areas are sterilized throughout the day. As a result of this respect for health, I found I could eat nearly anything in Japan. Unrecognizable seafood, street food, and nearly raw eggs served on top of most meals – no problem.
  • Prices: I had always heard Japan was incredibly expensive. In general, I found prices comparable with the US. The few things that will empty your wallet are toll roads, gasoline, and fruit (expect to pay $50 for a cantaloupe and $3 for one apple). On the other hand, I regularly paid $5-$10 for a full meal of sushi at the popular conveyor belt restaurants.
  • 7-Eleven convenience stores: 14,000 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan are open 24 hours a day and provide cheap meals on the go, prepared daily. For a quick, inexpensive, and tasty lunch, this is your stop.
Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps.

Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I hope these tips help you navigate Japan. While overwhelming at first, I think Japan might actually be a more comfortable and convenient vacation option than Europe. Try it out for yourself!

To get involved and donate online to help the Colorado Flood Recovery efforts, visit leadnowtourcoloradoflood.

Check back next month for a video and update about Location #5. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Japan! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Related: Lead Now Tour Main Page