SYNOPSIS:  About some curiosities and the smells and the sounds of Japan which I will remember from this trip.  Good bye, Japan.


Any time you come to a new culture you notice things that are done differently.  Some make a lot of sense, others seem odd.  In any case, these are often things you only notice as a stranger as they are so familiar to all who live here.  I have collected a few of those visible curiosities in photographs.  Instead of writing a lot of text, I have labeled each image so you can share in some of the things that struck me.

And any time you travel in a new country, there are smells and sounds that are different either because they are unique to the country (like the pounding of millet in Mali) or just so frequent, that you are more aware of them here than elsewhere.  Some of these will be inextricably linked to Japan and to this trip, for me.  I have listed a few here.


Ample crossings make distinct sounds for the blind.  They are beeping or chirping, depending on the direction in which you cross.  Not only is this a useful sound, it was also an-all pervasive sound heard all over Japan.

Different, but found everywhere is the warning sound at train crossings.  Especially local trains go right through densely populated areas.  Every few minutes the roads will close at the ringing of bells, for a train to pass.

The whistling sound of the female divers, the ama, which I heard in the Kansai area is unique in the world.

In the mountains, especially of the Chubu area, I heard to-coo-coo everywhere.  That was a sound I had not heard since childhood!

The announcements of merchants advertising their wares is done in a high-pitched nasal way which is both funny and effective as it cuts through the more low pitched muffled sounds of the passing crowd.  But how do they do this for hours?

The bells and the repetitive melodies of the festival in Kyoto will stick with me as it surrounded me nonstop for days.

The sound of coins dropping into the wooden boxes at temples and shrines.

The clacking sound the wooden shoes make that are still worn by Shinto priests and Buddhist monks and less so by kimonoed ladies.

The sound made by wooden clappers I heard in the streets late at night in the Takayama area and a couple more times at odd places.

The ringing of the bell and the clapping of hands made when people approach a Shinto shrine.

The sound of the rain on tiled roofs.


Most memorable will be the smell of powdered green tea.

The smell of incense lit at temples and shrines.

The less enjoyable but occasional smell of cigarettes.

Soy sauce.

Most likable for me and unique was the smell of (new) tatami mats.


And so I say goodbye to Japan and will keep it in my memories through thousands of images, dozens of sounds and some very distinct smells.

Thanks for traveling with me!