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Why I Love Japan

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Epilepsy sufferer Lisa Helena Kelly reveals she wasn't going to let her condition clip her wings and why a trip to Japan was so exciting - raw fish, robots and all..

When I was a child, I was really lucky, as my Dad worked for an airline so I travelled a fair bit. When I grew up, I wanted to continue, and wasn’t going to let epilepsy get in the way. I’ve been to Australia, Africa and Thailand but a recent trip to Japan with my partner, Joe, was my favourite. It was completely different from anywhere else I’d been, and we both found it really exciting.

I've had epilepsy since I was 12, but as I get seizures quite rarely and can control my condition with medication. I checked with a neurologist about when to take my medication and he advised that because of the nine-hour time difference, I should slowly change over to Tokyo time.

Having epilepsy is a pain when it comes to travel insurance. One company wanted to charge me £180 for a one-way trip to Australia. Now I tend to use a specialist insurer.

Once we got to Tokyo, we visited lots of shrines and saw ASIMO, Honda’s humanoid robot at Miraikan, The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. I'd seen the robot on TV in the 90s and had always wanted to see it in real life. It looks like someone in a space suit, and can walk, jump and even do sign language. It's so real you're almost taken in by ‘him’.

I must admit, it took me time to get used to Japanese food. But I tried most things, including sushi, fish in marinade and pickled vegetables. I’m not a massive fan of raw fish but the raw salmon was OK. I'm not allowed to drive, so I can't hire a car on holiday, but I don't feel I'm missing out, because I cycle and use public transport. After Tokyo, we travelled to Kyoto, where we went on a cycle tour and visited Gion, the city’s old quarter, where the geishas are. We were lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of a geisha in a small alleyway, away from the crowds. She was beautiful; her face was completely white and she was running along in her little clog shoes, wearing a purple kimono.

Our last stop was Hiroshima. I had wanted to go there for a long time after reading a book in my teens about a girl called Sadako Sasaki, who got leukaemia 10 years after the bomb was dropped. She made lots of origami cranes after reading a story which said if you made 1000, you could make a wish. She died when she was 12, in the 1950s. There’s a memorial to her in the city’s peace park and people bring paper cranes as a symbol of peace. Before going, I made a paper crane and I took it to the statue, which felt quite emotional. Strangely, Hiroshima is such a peaceful place, considering what happened there. The Japanese people have put the past behind them and have found a way to celebrate the lives of those who died.

Epilepsy action www.epilepsy.org.uk works to improve the lives of those with epilepsy. Call 0808 800 5050 for confidential advice 

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