I feel so lucky I had so much time to see Japan. I explored all four major islands. I went to 20 out of the 47 prefectures. Of course, there are still many places I missed out on, like the rainforests of Yakushima and the sand dunes of Tottori and the tropics of Okinawa and countless beautiful but utterly unaffordable onsens and ryokans, but I recognize I saw more of Japan in a few months than many of her residents see in their lifetimes.
I traveled throughout Kansai, to Kobe and Kyoto and Osaka, feeling the excitement of being somewhere different and exotic with friends old and new, then wandered the endless streets of Tokyo feeling alone and sort of sad and totally overwhelmed. I stayed in a crumbling old onsen set in the autumn foliage of the Tochigi mountains, toured the quaint thatched homes of Shirakawago and crept up to furry Macaques relaxing in hot springs near Nagano. I traversed bridges and islands on a bicycle to Shikoku and later returned to take in the art of Naoshima. I traveled north all the way to Hokkaido, where I staved off the chill of the impending winter at ramen joints with names like “Snow Wind”, and south, down to Kagoshima, where I watched thousands of revellers dance in the shadow of an active volcano, and to Beppu, where steam venting from the earth whirls in the streets.
After the cut is my humble attempt to sum up Japan, including the places I stayed, the karaoke I sang, the onsens in which I reclined, and unedited (possibly) never before published excerpts from my journal. Also, perhaps best of all, the collection of purikura (Japanese photo booths) I did with my new friends all over Japan! Continue Reading →