I got robbed in Japan three years ago.
Not in a violent way, but not in a figurative one either. I was in Himeji, waiting for an Osaka-bound Shinkansen, and I set one of my bags at my feet as you do in Japan, even in crowded railway stations. When I reached down to pick it up minutes later, it was gone.
I was awestruck. People don’t steal in Japan, I reminded myself as Hyogo prefecture sped past me at 300 kilometers per hour. I must’ve left it in the bathroom—yes, that’s it. I’ll have my hotel in Osaka call Himeji station, and go there tomorrow before I fly out.
But the call turned up nothing. “Your bag is not in the station,” the receptionist said matter-of-factly, with neither an apology nor an explanation. I departed Japan the next afternoon without the gift my dear friend had given me—and with one of my longest-held assumptions about the country left behind as well.
I bring up this incident to make a point not about personal safety in Japan, but about the revelatory nature of travel there. Japan’s most alluring single attribute is its capacity to surprise and challenge, even though it seems, on the surface, to be the most predictable and easy destination in the world.
Indeed, I don’t mention my recent robbery to dissuade you from traveling to Japan, but to encourage it. The theme of my retooled Japan photo compilation, which you’ll find below, is lesser-seen perspectives on iconic Japanese architecture, culture, cuisine and scenery.
What better way to introduce this post, which weaves together pictures from all of my trips to Japan, than from a perspective in which I never thought I’d see the country prior to 36 months ago?