It’s so easy to fall in love with Japan all over again and I feel like I do more so each time I return. I have been adding little notes here and there to things that either make me smile, laugh out loud, or just shake my head in wonder. That isn’t to say everything is sunshine and rainbows, but we will get to that later. In no particular order, here are my random notes from the past few weeks:
– The morning weather forecast that shows it will be raining the next day and there is a cute, friendly reminder added to remember to bring your umbrella (in print, not a person saying it).
– The sounds of cicadas chirping away while strolling through the immaculate and impressive grounds at Meiji shrine.
– Passing by companies in the morning and seeing all of the employees outside doing the mandatory workout and stretches (usually in matching uniforms 😂).
– While hiking up a mountain a miniature poodle in front of me had to poo, so the owners kindly blocked such an act and HELD paper below its’ butt so that it never touched the ground 😳 .
– Above said hike was maybe an hour and it was a good hike up. However there were a number of Japanese in head to toe mountain gear and I shit you not- brought their camping stoves and were eating those nasty camp packet meals at the top. I mean, I guess you take what you can get 🤷🏻♀️😂.
– I took a small domestic flight from Tokyo up to the northern island of Hokkaido. I felt like I was on an 80’s flight in the US as it was maybe 1/4 full and on the smallish plane there were EIGHT flight attendants. These ladies were decked out from head to toe and all gorgeous. The service was immaculate. Also- the bathroom was so big I could have done yoga in it if I was so inclined. Super impressed, but also thought about their financials (yea, yea, you can remove the girl from finance, but you can’t remove the finance mindset).
– An old man dropped some coins on the bus and I picked them up since they landed near me. He thanked me profusely and when he got off the bus he turned around and bowed at me and thanked me again. All I did was give him the coins he dropped!
– How respectful of a culture this is. Whether it’s turning around and bowing towards the temple/shrine when leaving the grounds to the taxi drivers wearing white gloves and automatically opening the door for you to letting the elderly sit down on the trains packed like sardines- there is a respect and consideration far unlike the US.
And there are so many other things that jump out and make you appreciate the wonder of travel and exploring new cultures. However, things you take for granted and are so easy back home are so much more challenging, especially with the language barrier. I fortunately know enough Japanese to get by doing the basic things, but it’s enough to be dangerous and seem like I know more than I actually do. So then they think I am fluent and I am lost. I do have to say I am impressed with how much I have retained since I lived here over 14 years ago!
I always know that for about every two weeks of travel, one day will be a garbage day and that was yesterday for me. I spent an hour on the train going to Sapporo, a city I have been wanting to visit since I lived here. I was totally unimpressed and bored, so I decided to hop the four hour train to the next town I was visiting. Got on the train a little defeated and disappointed, but was excited to be moving on. Walked about 30 minutes to my hostel with all of my luggage and guess what??? My reservation was for the next night 😱. In all of my years of travel I have never done this and have never not booked something in advance. So, I guess it was time? By this time it’s night, it’s of course raining, and I am starving and exhausted. Thankfully all I could do was laugh at myself. Unfortunately the hostel was full, so I had to head out and find another room for a night. Found one, but it cost two times as much, I had to take a taxi there ($$, plus I like walking so much better), and no breakfast. Plus side was I had my own room for the night and could do whatever I wanted 😁. See, travel isn’t always sexy and fun. Oh and I had to do all of this in Japanese which isn’t where my language strength lies, especially when exhausted and in hungry horns mode 👿.
Other random tidbits:
– The dollar store here is amazeballs. Like you can pretty much buy anything from a decent meal to a selfie stick (I am ashamed to admit I finally broke down and bought one, but I haven’t used it yet 🙈🙈).
– No matter which way you slice it, being smooshed like sardines on a train sucks ass.
– Constantly feeling like a fatty since I probably have a good 30lbs on the average Japanese woman.
– It’s hard retraining your mind not to buy things you want. I am enjoying it, but man it’s challenging!
– Reminding myself to celebrate the little things like getting to the airport in Tokyo during “rush hour” through the busiest train station in the world (Shinjuku). Seems easy peasy, but it was more like eye gouge-y.
– I am always shocked/amazed at how they can commercialize anything and everything. For an example, there were many spots along the hike where you could buy trinkets and food. On the mountain!! My Mom would have died ☠️.
– I loooove rainbows (thus the blog name). There is just something so magical and wonderful about them. Who has ever seen one and been unhappy? Seeeee, magic 🌈🌈! Anywhoo, I have been seeing rainbows in pictures, ads, storefronts, and more since arriving, but not a real one. Until just the other day there was one over the ocean and it was worth the wait 😍😍😍. I even got goosebumps because it was that gorgeous!!
– While at a place that felt like it was the end of this world, I met two fellow travelers, a young woman from China and a young man from Korea. We walked around this amazing place and it was fun to finally converse with others in English about travels. I love meeting people from all around the world!! It was also entertaining to see the Japanese try and speak to them first and then I would have to translate 😂. They were so confused!
And I have had three unforgettable, pinch me moments so far. The first was when I was at my second favorite place in the world called Hokukuji which is a bamboo temple in Kamakura. There is something so special about this place that is indescribable. I don’t know if it’s the rustling of the bamboo leaves in the wind, the rays of sunshine that peak through the bamboo, or the delicious matcha tea you sip on in the tea house while surrounded by this, but it really is magical. While I was there I had what I can only describe as an out of body experience. The monks started chanting at the temple and my whole body got tingly and I felt like I was watching myself from afar. Sounds weird I am sure, but it was an experience and feeling I will never forget and to have it happen at Hokokuji was just awesome!!
The next was my quest to find the best sea urchin (uni in Japanese) that Japan had to offer. Many of you know I have a very serious love for uni, but it is a delicacy that is hard to find fresh. When I first came to Japan I remember my host Mom imploring me to try it because it is one of her favorite foods and my only experience had been from the small Japanese restaurant in Corvallis I frequented and it was nasty. I finally gave in and I am so happy I did as it really is unlike anything else. So, I wanted to find the best of the best and that is one of the few reasons I decided to hop up to Hokkaido during this adventure. An hour plane ride from Tokyo, five hours by train to a small town called Otaru, and another two hours by bus and I can now say I not only had the BEST uni of my life, but I also ate it at the most famous place in all of Japan to do so. The taste was unlike any other I have had before- almost sweet and out of this world 😍😍. And yes- I would do it again!!
Last, but not least, visiting Cape Kamui, aka the end of earth. As I admitted above, the journey to Hokkaido was mainly for the best uni in Japan. However, I did see pictures of this amazing place called Cape Kamui and knew I had to go. It also intrigued me as not so long ago women were not allowed to venture past the entrance gate which states “no women allowed” and is still standing. It was not easy (or cheap- round trip bus ticket was almost $40), but it was worth the time and trouble. It was the very last bus stop at the end of the road and once I stepped off the bus the wind was roaring away. Once you walk past the rolling hills and get past the gate you are rewarded with views on both sides that make it seem like you are not only at the end of the world, but you almost feel as if you are in a different country. On one side it reminded me of the Oregon coast, on the other the Ireland coast. And the water was so crystal clear you could see why the uni in these waters are so fresh and delectable. You walk over sketchy metal grates and winding steps all the way out to a lighthouse and to a point where there are these jutting rocks unlike anything I have ever seen before. Yet another magical place that I feel so lucky to have been able to venture out to.
Well, that is it for now. Headed back down to Tokyo then over to Kanazawa tomorrow. Kanazawa is another place I have always wanted to visit, but never have and it’s on the west coast of the main island. Also famous for…seafood 😍😍😍🍣🍣🍣.