This post is sponsored by Osaka Guesthouse Hive. We are so thankful for the hospitality they showed us during our recent trip to Japan! If you are heading to Osaka and looking for a fun hostel, we recommend checking out their website.

There are some questions that frequent travelers get asked all the time:
“How do you find the time for your trips?”
“Isn’t traveling expensive?”
“How do you stay safe?”
And “What has been your favorite country?”

The last one is always hard to answer because every country is so different, it’s hard to really compare them. Instead of naming one, I usually have a short list of several that span from Iceland to Vietnam.

Our most recent long holiday added another to the list: Japan.

Once you share a favorite, the next question is usually “Why?” This is even harder to answer – how can you understand the energy of a place without experiencing it yourself? It’s tough to explain.

There was something about the landscapes, people, and culture of Japan that I just loved.

As regular readers have undoubtedly noticed, I am fan of myths and legends. This delightful Japanese folktale about two frogs somehow encompasses a lot of what I appreciated about the country if you can read between the lines.

The story begins with the two frogs living separate lives – one is in Osaka and one in Kyoto. They are strangers. In fact, neither has ever left their own hometown.

But they both want to – they have a curiosity about the rest of the world and long for a bit of adventure.

So on the same day, they both come to the same conclusion. It’s time to embark on a journey. The frog from Osaka decides he will start walking in the direction of Kyoto, the second frog will head down to Osaka. They are on the same path heading toward each other.

Of course, they meet halfway. As most solo travelers can relate to, they are excited to meet a like-minded friend. So they take a break to talk to each other and share their stories.

And as most first-time travelers can relate to, they haven’t always had a smooth journey so far. They are asking big questions.

Questions like, “will this really be worth it?”

“How do we know that our destinations will offer us anything we can’t find at home?”

“Can we get a guarantee that the cost and time and effort won’t be regretted at the end of all this?”

So one frog comes up with an idea. He will stand on his back legs and lift up the other frog on his back legs, allowing him to look in the direction of Kyoto. Then he can see where he is going and decide if he still wants to continue.

The plan works. Except – neither frog realizes that they are actually looking backwards while on their back legs.

The frog from Osaka, believing he is seeing Kyoto, actually sees his own home.

“It’s exactly the same!” He says, disappointed. “There is no difference at all!”

The other frog gives it a try.

“You’re right! What’s the point?”

And both frogs shrug, grab their bags, and turn back home. Their desire for travel is gone because they have come to believe that there is no variety in the world; that every place is the same.

In reality, Kyoto and Osaka are two very different cities, despite being quite close to each other (we stayed in Osaka but took a quick train ride to Kyoto for the day).

From my point of view, Osaka was more industrial, and it had a very prominent political history to explore. Kyoto is more well known for its spirituality, with its top attractions being several famous shrines. People love Kyoto for beauty and traditionalism. Osaka is more fun and modern.

But the point of the fable above is that you cannot really know either city, or any city, in Japan or the world, without experiencing it closely for yourself. If you try to find a shortcut to the benefits of travel (whether it’s the opinion of a friend, a book, or even the view from a distance), you will cheat yourself out of a genuine experience and you will find that you adopt many mistaken beliefs.

So now it’s your turn to answer the hard questions: What is your favorite country and why? And if you’ve been to Kyoto and Osaka, how would you compare them?