I just got back a few weeks ago from a trip to Japan. I went right before WSOP Asia Pacific, and I am really glad I did because I'll be busy over the next couple of months with the EPT and SCOOP, and then with the WSOP this summer.
I was able to go once before last year and really fell in love with the country, and now it is my favorite place to visit. This time I had a whole week to vacation there, and really enjoyed experiencing the culture there which is so unique compared to a lot of the countries I visit.
One aspect of the culture I really like is how the Japanese strive for perfection in certain areas, for example in restaurants with the quality of the food and the presentation. Most of the best restaurants aren't necessarily the biggest in terms of size, and in fact will limit the number of seats per table in order to have more control over the quality of the food and the experience of those dining.
There's a great documentary about the famous sushi master Jiro Ono titled Jiro Dreams of Sushi that I watched again after returning from the trip. For those who have never seen it before you can check it out and get idea of some of what I'm describing about the culture and the cuisine in particular.
That dedication to quality and taking pride in every job they do carries over to other areas as well. There's a tremendous work ethic evident in the culture, which is another thing that makes Japan different from a lot of other places.
I was lucky on my trip because I had friends there who were able to show me around and take me places. John Juanda lives there about half of the year, and he was a great host while I was there. I also was able to visit with the Japanese poker player Masa Kagawa, which helped a lot for me, especially because they don't really speak much English in Japan and I don't really know much Japanese.
The timing of my visit was good, too, because it was cherry blossom season. I was in Tokyo for four days, then went to a place near the hot springs called Kawaguchiko near Mount Fuji where we slept on mats on the floor and wore kimonos and had traditional meals. It was really fun just immersing ourselves into the culture like that.
We also spent a couple of days in Kyoto, which was great and less Westernized or Americanized than Toyko, and perhaps more traditional in terms of the culture. I'd really love some day to explore other parts of the country, too, like Okinawa and other places.
I miss Japan and am already thinking about the next time I can go back. But it's time to see other places and also to refocus on poker. I'll be trying to strive for the same kind of perfection I saw while I was there.
ElkY is a member of Team PokerStars Pro