Photo Friday: What Really Surprised me about Japan


This might sound ridiculous but the one thing I didn’t expect in Japan was a rainbow. Tentacles on sticks, young girls in maid outfits, 8 story arcades…sure. Rainbows? I was gobsmacked.

I’m not really sure what was so weird about it. We had been in Japan for 11 days already and had moved down to Gifu City to sleep on the floor of some of my best friends. They were teaching English and had gotten sent to this town of 400,000 that seemed quaint compared to our stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. It was late November and the continuing theme for all these places had been rain.

While our friends went to work on this Thanksgiving Day, Jason and I sat out towards Mount Kinka and Gifu Castle at its top. The 3 miles there were uneventful, minus a local crossing a 4 lane bridge to not walk beside us, and the gardens at the bottom provided a nice stop for us while waiting on the next cable car to the top. (What, we’d already walked 3 miles!)

The cable car to the top is a must. Kinkazan Squirrel Village at the top is a must. Why we went beyond that comfy cuteness? I have no idea. We had a slow trudging walk uphill in a thunderstorm to Gifu Castle that included us turning back at least twice only to be overtaken by cute, old grandmas. By the time we reached the castle the rain was hard enough that the 200 yen for entry was the perfect price to get out of the rain.

This Gifu Castle was built in the 1950s to replicate the old one from the 1500s and is a sparse military museum, and since military history isn’t my thing I dripped and squeaked my shoes the 4 or so flights of stairs to the lookout at the top. The rain had stopped and this rainbow ended in front of me.

It was familiar, and normal, and was the first thing aside from McDonald’s and Coke that could have happened anywhere.

About Courtney

Courtney von Nieda has been living in and around Seattle, Washington since 2007 with her husband and 2 labrador retrievers. She's currently trying to plan a trip to somewhere other than Japan, but that's very hard for her.


  1. Kerry Dexter says:

    good story and good shot, thank you.

  2. Jen says:

    Beautiful picture! I have yet to capture a rainbow on camera.

  3. What a beautiful shot – and you’re right – I never think about Japan having rainbows either. In fact, even though I have traveled through the countryside a bit, I rarely think about Japan having green open space either!

  4. courtney says:

    This town had lots of tree covered hills, and they wouldn’t build on the hills so it looked like a river of buildings from so high.

    Thanks for the compliments everyone!

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