Passing through the Japenese countryside on the train to Tokyo
Rice paddies are everywhere!
The N700 Shinkansen pulling into Fukuoka Station
All the food was excellent and I ate plenty of things I'm sure I would have never tried here in the US. I had true sushi for the first time (tuna, halibut, and one other) and it was delicious with a special sauce that the restaurant was supposedly well-known for. We went out for Shabu Shabu one night, which is where you have a pot of boiling water on the table in front of you and cook meats and vegetables in it. They served Kobe beef at that restaurant and the meal was again absolutely delicious. Over the course of the short week I also ate duck liver, sea urchin, prawns, possibly some octopus, and who knows what else. One night they also bought sake that had a slight anise (black licorice) taste to it that I really liked.
Riding on the Shinkansen to Tokyo
Looking out over Tokyo
The safety video on the Japan Airlines 737 I took from Osaka to Fukuoka was the kind they play on the LCD screens instead of the flight attendants speaking over the intercom. Except it was animated in a sort of anime, but really more like a Nintendo character style. The people looked very similar to Miis, to be honest. When they did the part about an emergency evacuation all these people were shown jumping down the slides and then frantically running away from the plane with their arms in the air. Good stuff right there. Or maybe I'm just easily amused.
Tokyo at night from my hotel room
Culturally, the country is indeed about as close to another planet as you can find on Earth - this being a statement I have heard from others who have traveled to Japan in the past. I really liked the country and the people were all extremely friendly and accommodating. But it was hard to not feel a little awkward at how male-dominated the society felt at times. It's just not normal for us Americans (or Westerners, for that matter) to watch a tiny woman struggle to push a heavy cart loaded with 8 suitcases and unload them in your hotel room. Yet that is normal and accepted and it would actually be rude to try to help out. So a few interesting cultural differences aside, I'd say that Japan is a really neat place and hopefully I have a chance to spend some time sightseeing there in the future.
A video I took of the ride on the N700 Shinkansen