Why bother with travel if the only memories you make are someone else’s? That's the danger, though, when you rely too much on 'brochure tourism.' Doing more and more, all in time to do it again, may give you a schedule rush, but don’t be surprised if your memories never move beyond the brochure in which you read about them.
It’s not that being nudged along by others is meaningless but there's something to be said for owning your own experience. Fortunately, it's not all that difficult to avoid the brochure trap. And here's how. Just head down a back street. In Setagaya, for example, in Tokyo's south-west, you could take the local tram line that runs down there. You'd have all day and then some to wander around the back streets of the local suburbs. In doing so, you'd come across local shrines, cafes and absorbing moments of natural and historical discovery.
Or perhaps on the other side of Japan in Nagasaki, rather than hurrying through to see this and see that, you could instead stroll through the suburban hills and surprise yourself with temple and shrine complexes that are monuments of curiosity and exploration. A quick sojourn into an alleyway because something caught your eye and you may find yourself enjoying lunch in a back lane sushi bar imbued with decades of authenticity and proprietor toil.
Swing back to eastern Japan and you could try your luck in the streets of southern Saitama where Koshigaya, a treasure trove of local flavour and suburban idling, will surprise you with not only just how accessible and tasty Japanese food is but also how elegant and refined its sense of history can be.
Next time you are in Japan, wherever it is that you visit, coming across your own itinerary as it happens can lead to a trip that is fulfilling and satisfying. So do yourself a favour and see Japan with your own eyes. Your memories will be thankful for the attention.