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Interviews Japan

Drop In: Vanda Frutuoso and Japan

Vanda Frutuoso

Japan fascinates everyone who visits it, and Vanda Frutuoso is no exception. Asia was nothing new, but the attraction for Japan led the television producer to head back to the East inspired by the books and films she had seen. There she found a traditional society ready to break with established standards, a constant frenzy in the streets, and a gastronomy with unique textures.

Japan through Vanda’s eyes and words

1. How did the trip to Japan come about? Was it a destination you had long wanted to visit, or did it happen by chance? 

After starting my incursions through Asia and spending time in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, the destination was already sketched in my travel plans. The fact that I received the trip as a gift accelerated the visit!

2. How did you plan your trip?

As for any destination, to experience the stay to the fullest and to know the true dynamics of the destinations, the most important thing is to do some geographical, gastronomic and even social research to define what to visit there. Of course, different objectives shape the plans of each traveler, but I would say that more than pre-defining the stays, it is relevant to define the going and the returning, letting places engage us and help us determine the time and the way we want to experience a place.

In Japan, this was the case. Having dates and places to go and return, buying the train ticket that allows you to travel all over the island and booking the first two nights of your stay. I researched and read a lot about the neighborhoods, the cities, the most traditional aspects and the Japanese culture, as well as the places to stay overnight or where to try the most traditional cuisine.

I soon discovered that when traveling, meticulously defining how long you stay in one place or which city/town you move to next is not the ideal plan. Some locations win you over more than others, with which you identify more and indulge in different degrees. That is one of the greatest beauties of travel, the art of seduction that lives in every destination and to which we sometimes surrender inexplicably.

3. What surprised you the most about the country?

The Japanese mentality was what, without a doubt, surprised me the most – for being so distant from ours, despite being the Asian country closest to Western reality. 

The approach to Japanese thought began a few years ago with the reading of the book “The House of Sleeping Beauties” by the Nobel prize-winning Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata and with the viewing of classic films such as “The Seven Samurai” or “Nobody Can Know”. There is a unique peculiarity in the Japanese way of being, which oscillates between the traditional way and the will to break with established patterns. This contrast is interesting and fundamental to understanding the different textures in Japanese society.

4. Which places have you visited, and which one conquered you the most (and why)?

Every place has a magic of its own, especially when it comes to its thousand-year-old forests and centuries-old natural parks, with breathtaking beauty and strength. The choice is, however, a city one – Tokyo was inevitably the place that struck me most, for its power and personality, for the unusualness of the situations. The historical background is quite important here, understanding how a city devastated during World War II rose up to be one of the most striking and (continually) flourishing metropolises in the world. 

The architecture, the constant frenzy, the neon of the streets, the smells of the food, and the fashion, with inspiration from the samurai or animé, timbre it with unparalleled beauty and life. 

5. What difficulties did you encounter, and how did you overcome them?

A significant barrier was, without a doubt, the language. Contrary to my assumption that I could easily communicate in English, most Japanese people do not master the universal language. Although officially everything is well marked – street and avenue names, identification of historical sites or other indications, speaking to a Japanese person is challenging. For those who like to talk to the locals and better understand a people’s mentality, it is complex, but occasionally some conversations can develop. 

It is best to go with a few cheats in your pocket for everyday life!

6. What did you think of Japanese food? Would you recommend anything in particular?

Japanese food is one of the most cooked foods worldwide, but it is special in Japan. From street food to the most traditional restaurants to the most elaborated and innovative kitchens or markets, all dishes – from the “simplest” to the most complex – are made with perfectionism and unique flavors. 

All the cuisine is extraordinary, from the different nabemonos to the yakitoris, sushi and sashimi, and of course, to wagyu. With the freshness and intensity of the flavors, the exuberance of the smells, and the uniqueness of the textures, it is impossible not to recommend everything in particular! 

Fundamental to sit at the counter and drink a highball while the chef works his magic.

7. Would you travel to Japan again? What would you do on a second visit if so?

Absolutely! I would explore Tokyo even more deeply and Japan’s uniquely charming nature.

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Marlene On The Move

Marlene Marques

Marlene is the creator of Marlene On The Move. A journalist by profession, she created the blog to share her adventures around the world. It is not unusual for her to set off to discover new countries and cultures with a surfboard as luggage.



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