Interviewing Friends

JAPAN claims another VICTIM who still thinks she had an AMAZING TIME

March 3, 2016
Japan claims another victim who still thinks she had an AMAZING time.

As you know, I went on a date with Kyoto a few months back. It brings me much sadness to say that Kyoto has gone on many dates… with other people in front of my back. *Side note: is it possible to be in front of someone’s back? I don’t see why not… Though I guess the meaning would be changed to “doing something inappropriate in someone’s face?” I’ll let you decide.

Anyway, one such date was with Aga. Is it obvious that I’m trying to form a support group for those with ties to Kyoto? Aga and I got to talking and the following is Aga’s enlightening thoughts. Let’s dive into it, shall we?


look at Aga, so full of life and happiness, be like Aga

look at Aga, so full of life and happiness, be like Aga


Up Up and a Bear: Please tell us a little about yourself.

Aga: My name is Aga. I’m an entrepreneur, coffee lover, alpaca hugger and photographer. Check out A Matter of Taste where I share my food & travel adventures. In February of 2015, I went to Japan with my husband and liked it so much we went there again in July/August.


wait for it...

wait for it…


Up Up and a Bear: Being an alpaca hugger is much better than an alpaca MUGGER, am I right? Hahaha… I take the resounding silence as your support for my juvenile sense of humor. Let’s move on before this sake wears off. So, how did you prepare for this trip?

Aga: For the first one we went hardcore – 3 guidebooks marked with post-it notes and weeks spent on online research (YouTube, tripadvisor, blogs), which resulted in a detailed plan in a pdf file. The second one was easier, we knew where we want to go next, had our hotels booked, but all details & what we’re going to do the next day were set in Japan, during the trip, every night before we went to bed. This was a much less stressful approach and I would recommend doing it this way – just know the basics and focus on details later on.

I cried at the airport when my time in Japan came to an end

Up Up and a Bear: Great advice, Aga. I also prescribe to that philosophy: pack light, know a little bit about where you’re going but let the destination tell you what to do next. That has typically worked out very well for us. Before your trip to Japan, what were your thoughts on the country’s culture, food, people, and their way of life?

Aga: It was always kind of a mysterious country for me – on one hand there is that amazing culture, so different from anything I knew from living in Poland and Australia. On the other hand I didn’t know what I should think about with all the crazy stuff – the fashion, TV ads and some really weird music. I didn’t really know much about the food either – just the things I’ve tried in Australia like sushi rolls, okonomiyaki made at a farmers market, ramen, udon and maybe some sweets. Having tried those, even if not very authentic, I knew I was in for a treat!


i feel like i'm watching a movie right now...

i feel like i’m watching a movie right now…


Up Up and a Bear: I just finished eating some delicious porkwood but you’re making me hungry again mentioning those dishes! What’s porkwood you ask? It’s pork that’s so hard it’s like chopping wood with your teeth. So you knew you were in for a yummy treat, what else did you learn while you were there to change your original assumptions?

Aga: Culture vs weird stuff – they’re both there and it’s easy to experience both or none, depends on where you go and what you pick to see. Food – so much better than I expected. I could praise it for days (Japan turned me into a rice snob and now I moved from buying cheap rice at my local supermarket to $35/5kg rice imported from Japan).


there i am!

there i am!


Up Up and a Bear: I have not seen anyone describing herself as a rice snob before, so thank you! Now I’m going to use it left and right. Beside from the rice-love discovery, what were some other aspects of Japan that you found surprising or interesting?

Aga: I think it must be the people. Everyone we met there was friendly, helpful and lovely. Even when we couldn’t communicate with words – who knew waving hands at each other would be such a universal language. We were often stopped by people wanting to just exchange a few words in English, to get a real life English-speaking experience. We probably said “Hello!” a hundred times when we met a big group of school kids in a folk museum. The surprising thing for me was that many elderly people were much better with English than the young ones! Or maybe young people are shyer.

just know the basics and focus on details later on.

One tip à propos the language – don’t start a conversation with “Do you speak English?” 90% of the people will say “no.” Just go straight into the actual question and you’ll see they understand and will either reply or help you with whatever you need.

Awesome people made our trips unforgettable. We were given a bottle of cold green tea by a shop owner and his family on a very hot day in Nagoya and felt like we’re part of the family. A man on a bike we met at the beginning of a hike came to see us again 2 hours later just to ask if we liked the walk and what we thought about the waterfall. A band performing in Himeji spotted us in the crowd and made an effort to greet us and ask some questions in between the songs.


when i grow up...

when i grow up…


Up Up and a Bear: That’s awesome! My own experience was very pleasant as well. The Japanese people went out of their way to be courteous to us. It was refreshing. Could you see yourself living here? Did you get the sense that it’d be easy to fit in, to find work, to get around?

Aga: Yes, yes, yes! I would love to move to Tokyo for some time. I don’t think I would live there for more than 5 years because I really like Australia, but up to 5 years… why not? Getting around is easy; work – you can always find it if you’re willing to make some compromises. Would it be easy to fit in? I think so. As I said, people are so lovely there, I’m sure they would help with this.


hey, I've been here too!!!

hey, I’ve been here too!!!


Up Up and a Bear: Please send postcards when you move there! I would concur with you about living in Japan. I would love to live there for a few years. And to that, what did you find most enjoyable about Japan and what didn’t you find enjoyable?

Aga: I truly enjoyed EVERYTHING: the food, the people, the cities, the nature, and the amazing Japanese toilets. I was even amazed by the 8 AM rush hour at Shinjuku station. And I must confess I cried at the airport when my time in Japan came to an end and it was inevitable that I have to go home.

just the things I’ve tried in Australia like sushi rolls, okonomiyaki made at a farmers market, ramen, udon and maybe some sweets. Having tried those, even if not very authentic, I knew I was in for a treat!

Up Up and a Bear: I would agree with you on all your points there EXCEPT for the madness that is the subway stations. We were so lost the first day or two. It was frustrating but I think we got the hang of it by day 3. I guess it just takes some getting used to. Speaking of getting used to Japan, you’re coming back there later this year, do you feel comfortable this time around?

Aga: Of course. I can’t wait to get there, see some new places, have some new interesting experiences and keep exploring & discovering.


beautiful bamboo walk

beautiful bamboo walk


Up Up and a Bear: What would you say to someone who is thinking about going to Japan but is hesitating?

Aga: Stop hesitating! (haha, obviously) But seriously, there is nothing to be hesitant about. It’s the safest country I’ve been to, the food is great, people are amazing and everyone will find something interesting there, no matter if you’re into nature/cities/weird stuff/food/history. All I want to ask is – why aren’t you booking your ticket yet?!

Up Up and a Bear: Well said! Thank you Aga for sharing your thoughts on Japan and I hope to hear more of your stories soon!

To follow Aga’s grand adventures through Japan, join her at A Matter of Taste. DO YOU SEE THESE AMAZING PICTURES? Get more on Aga’s Instagram @aga_amatteroftaste. Aga also does some amazing videos on her YouTube channel (see below)

NOTE: All pictures in this post belong to the insanely talented Aga.

Want to meet more amazing people? Read Dare to Dream – the Inspiring Story of Two Traveling Sisters.

Wherever you are right now, and wherever you’re going, travel on my friends!




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  • Reply trip advisor
    March 4, 2016 at 3:55 am

    Great interview. I want to be like Aga. I really need such a happy life.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Heheh 🙂 I think it’s all a mindset. I just really appreciate her happy demeanor and great sense for life!

  • Reply Jim
    March 4, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Yeah Japanese food! Dude, this is getting me stoked to head there next year. Aga, nice work on becoming a ‘rice snob’. Once you get a taste of the good stuff you don’t go back.

    Jim recently posted this awesome article… Best Kayak for BeginnersMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      Aga is heading there again in a few months. I’m so jealous! And now YOU’RE going over there next year? I better start planning something too or I’ll fall behind haha.

  • Reply Daniela March 4, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Looking forward to get there one day! I`ve been dreaming about it since I`ve started learning the language and discovered how melodic it is!
    While Japan is rich in culture, food and excitement, the prices match as well – it`s a bit too expensive for my student budget, for now.
    Daniela recently posted this awesome article… The Underworld of ParisMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      You know Japanese? GASP! My fiance knows Japanese too but she’s super shy and won’t speak. I manage to mutter some random words here and here and people look at me funny lol. And yes, Japan can get a little pricey but it’s reasonable.

  • Reply budget jan
    March 4, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    We love Japan. We live in the north of Australia and can get cheap Jetstar airfares out of Cairns, so I know we will be back again and again and again… Great Interview.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Ugh… thanks for rubbing it in Jan 🙂 – how cheap is cheap though? I can find tickets from seattle to tokyo for about 800 r/t on a good day.

  • Reply Anshula
    March 4, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Lovely interview! I want to go to Japan now!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Japan wants you to go now!

  • Reply Christine K
    March 4, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Just booked a flight to Japan today. $499 from Chicago! Can’t wait to go, especially after reading this. Aga has a great attitude; really enjoyed reading this.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      WHAT?! Only $99 to Japan? How did you do this? I must know!!! Take me with you!!!

  • Reply Ruth - Tanama Tales
    March 4, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    What a fun interview! I can’t wait to visit Aga’s site. I want to read all about her food adventures.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 11:37 pm

      Ruth, please do. Aga also has an amazing Instagram account and her YouTube videos are so nice (gotta love her music selection and artistic vision).

  • Reply bettyl-NZ March 4, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    You make it so tempting to visit! The colors are so enchanting.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 4, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      I wish I could take credit for these pictures but Aga did all the work :). Check out her site for pictures and stories as well as food of all colors, shapes and sizes :). Also, I’m not tempting you. This is something you’ve always wanted. When I snap my finger you will wake up and book a trip to Japan immediately. *snap*

  • Reply Becky Padmore
    March 5, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Ha ha loving this series, Japan looks awesome!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 5, 2016 at 7:49 am

      🙂 Thanks Becky. Japan is my fave!

  • Reply Pinay Flying High
    March 5, 2016 at 3:21 am

    I know a lot of people who holds Japan as their favorite country in the world, sadly I haven’t been there yet. Hopefully, I’d be able to see it this year. 🙂
    Pinay Flying High recently posted this awesome article… Pool and Beach Access at Sheraton Grand Doha.My Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 5, 2016 at 7:50 am

      It was on my list for a LONG TIME. We actually booked a trip there a few years back but then the tsunami hit and we had to cancel 🙁

  • Reply Yasha Langford
    March 5, 2016 at 6:39 am

    A great story, and the photos have me awestruck.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 5, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Thanks Yasha! When I first saw these pictures I was tingling with excitement too!

  • Reply Frank March 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Nice! Japan is a place we want to visit but I admit the language barrier (as well as all the people) makes us nervous. Nice to know that they’re friendly.
    Frank (Bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted this awesome article… Feb 28, 2016 Newsletter – Complications, Catching up on a month of Crazy Travel…and on reaffirming old feelingsMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 5, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Ahh yes, the language barrier is difficult indeed. As Aga pointed out, sign language is universal :). We got around just fine with minimal Japanese. We know how to say hi and thank you ahaha. At most subway stations, the attendees all speak English so you won’t have any trouble getting around. It’s when you go into smaller, more local shops that resorting to pointing and waving might be needed.

  • Reply Rachel Heller
    March 6, 2016 at 2:52 am

    I think a lot of people don’t consider traveling to Japan because they think it’s so expensive. That was the most frequent comment I got when I told people of my plan to travel there: “But isn’t it so expensive?” It turned out that it wasn’t. With careful budgeting, I managed to keep my costs way down. Food is particularly cheap in Tokyo if you eat things like ramen at street markets. It’s wonderfully tasty and filling and fast!

    • Reply Hung Thai March 6, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      You’re absolutely right about that. People I know ask me the same question and I have the exact same experience as you did. We often ate at the local ramen shops – a big bowl of delicious noodles cost 500 yen in certain restaurants and it is filling. I think you can definitely spend A LOT of money but that doesn’t have to be the case at all. Thanks for your thoughts, Rachel.

  • Reply Marisol
    March 7, 2016 at 3:17 am

    What a fun interview! You’re pretty entertaining. I plan to visit Kyoto and appreciate the travel insights from Aga.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 7, 2016 at 10:23 am

      Thanks Marisol :); your comment means so much to me! I’m glad Aga was able to provide you with some great personal insights. Please check her out on her blog as well.

  • Reply Arlene March 7, 2016 at 4:58 am

    I want to go to Japan, kids wants to visit England to watch soccer game of their fave team. Confused Mom needs help. LOL. Great post, BTW.

    • Reply Hung Thai March 7, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Hehehe :). Arlene, that depends on how old your kids are. Personally, I wouldn’t take kids less than 12 to Japan. There’s a lot to do there if you stay in Tokyo. Kyoto is more about temples, history, and sights that are for viewing than doing something with. England sounds like a great place for them, especially if they love soccer. Also, if you’re visiting the busy subway stations in Japan, there is a chance that kids might get separated considering how hectic and fast paced these stations get. My vote: England for the kids. If you’re going without the kids, Japan! Also, thanks!

  • Reply Nell
    March 9, 2016 at 5:08 am

    What a fantastic post! It’s made me begin to fall in love with Japan myself, even though I haven’t been there yet…all except the porkwood, I think I could live without that. My friends recently got engaged there – it really must be a very romantic place….
    Nell recently posted this awesome article… Could you win the London Museum Dash sweepstake?My Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 9, 2016 at 6:24 am

      Haha yes the porkwood is quite alright to skip. It is an amazingly romantic place, especially in the spring and fall when life begins and ends.

  • Reply Maddy
    March 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I love this post! Aga talked about some great tips and it was an entertaining read overall. I like that she said not to ask, “Do you speak English?” and rather just start with your question because people will be more likely to help you that way. And I love that you both think the Japanese are very courteous and kind. That makes me want to visit Japan even more. My dad goes there every year to ski, and so I’ve always wanted to go.
    Maddy recently posted this awesome article… The Best Restaurants in San FranciscoMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 11, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      What?! Your dad goes there to ski every year? That’s what I want to do. I think next time we come back to Japan, we’d be heading to Hokkaido.

  • Reply Things I love at the moment – March 2016 – a matter of taste – food & travel blog March 31, 2016 at 12:53 am

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