I left everything behind and set off on this worldly adventure exactly four weeks ago. On one hand, it literally does feel like time is flying by, but on the other it feels like my life in Portland is many months behind me, if not a lifetime ago. Which sounds super strange to say and feel, but I can’t explain it in any other fashion. I have felt everything from pure joy to bouts of homesickness to curiosity and wonder in trying to learn and soak up as much as possible. I love that I am being challenged and pushed outside of my “normal” bubble and although some days I want nothing more than to curl up in bed and read or Netflix the day away, I do force myself to get out and explore. But I also have to remind myself to be kind and patient with myself and that there is value to chillaxing and having some down time. It’s a balance that I haven’t quite found yet and I do need to come up with a better routine than what I am currently doing which is no routine at all.
I never thought I would miss my daily life routine, but I am unashamed to admit I do. It was so easy to wake up, get ready for work, work, go to the gym, and then do some variation of hanging with friends or something along those lines. Day in and day out. I am a creature of habit and like my Cancer sign would suggest, most definitely a homebody. I knew setting out that this would be one of my greatest challenges, but I wanted to push myself and get out of the work to live and live to work cycle that so many of us find ourselves caught up in. Something in me just clicked and I knew that I needed to shake up my entire life to get out of this cycle. I didn’t feel as if I was living life to the fullest and that has always been a mantra of mine that I held of high importance.
So, here I am, on the tiny little island called Ishigaki just about as south as you can get in the Japanese islands and almost close enough to Taiwan that I could throw a rock and hit it, contemplating what I want and need my routine to be. I know I miss my daily gym ass kicking and although I am averaging around 10 miles of walking a day, it’s not the challenge I need. So, I need to add in some yoga and workouts with my exercise band stat. Easy peasy, right?! No. How many of you have stayed in hostels before? There really isn’t much space in your sleep area and not a lot of excess space elsewhere. This has been my biggest challenge and probably my biggest excuse to not to do. I don’t want to inconvenience my fellow roomies, but I also know I will go crazy if I don’t start doing something. And I will admit one of my major stresses about long term traveling is getting fat. I don’t think it’s about vanity, it’s more of just feeling good overall. So, I am making a promise to myself and putting it out here to be held accountable. Text me, message me, or whatever it is you do to keep in contact with me to do some pushups, yoga, or better yet other workout ideas knowing my hostel situation por favor😊.
Next up, my travels! I know, I know, this is why you are really here reading this blog of mine. But you know me- first I have to be real and say what I am thinking and feeling and can then move onto the fun stuff. Last time I left off, I was leaving the northern island of Hokkaido and making my way to the west coast to a town called Kanazawa. Kanazawa is known for a famous garden, a castle, fresh fish, and close proximity to some world heritage Unesco sites. It was my first time visiting and I really enjoyed my time there. It has that perfect mix of old Japan mixed with the new that is so endearing. I had fun going to a ninja temple with trap doors and a well said to have a tunnel that connects with the castle, an old samurai house with a garden I can only dream of someday replicating, and the famous garden.
While in Kanazawa, I had a total craving for McDonald’s after eating Japanese food nonstop for weeks and had the strangest experience when I was there. First, I was not able to pay with my Visa card which I still don’t understand as there are a ton of places that now (thankfully) accept cards. Next up was I wanted four ketchups, instead of the two I was given. I explained I would pay for them and the woman insisted she could only give me two. I asked again if I could pay or do something to get four because at this point I was determined to get four 😂. And y’all know when I have my mind set and I want something that I will stop at nothing less, even if it’s damn MCD’s ketchup. I think she was getting annoyed with me and went to talk to her MANAGER to see if she could give me two extra ketchups!!! What?! I felt like I was on some episode of Japanese Punk’d or something- such a total trip.
This brings up one of the things that does drive me a little crazy about Japan. Everything is followed per the rule book and there is absolutely no way to color outside the lines. Total conformity across the board no matter what, even if it makes absolutely no sense. Another prime example- a friend and I went out for some delish okonomiyake in Hiroshima. We ordered different things and we asked if we could pay separately. We were told they could not split bills on bank holidays (it was a Saturday) 🤔🤔🤔. We were paying cash. This was equal parts hilarious and frustrating. I have many more examples, but shall leave it at that for now.
After exploring Kanazawa I traveled across to the east coast to a town called Ise, famous for the Ise Grand Shrine, older town area, and a few water temples. What I failed to realize is I booked my hostel in an even smaller town next to Ise which was the first town I got to where I could tell I really stuck out for being a foreigner/gaijin. My first sign was the train stop I got off at which had no actual station really, just a platform. Next up I went to the town’s information center to get directions from on how to get to my hostel. I went in and asked (in Japanese) for directions and the woman looked at me like this 😳😳😳 and apologized for being so shocked and told me I had the best Japanese of any foreigner that had ever visited. Don’t find this impressive- I was beginning to get the feeling not many gaijin made it out to these parts 😂. She kept apologizing for being so shocked and complimenting me over and over- it was pretty entertaining I will admit. So I followed her directions and upon arrival at the hostel the dude said he had heard that I speak very good Japanese- so she must have called ahead and told him, which was also pretty funny!
The owner is a very quirky man and at the end I couldn’t decide if he was endearing or annoying 😂🤷🏻♀️. First up he told me I was very beautiful and very strong looking, which I am pretty sure meant I am fat 😂🤔. Next, I went out exploring for the rest of the day and saw this awesome shrine that is in the water, collected beautiful pieces of glass and ceramic along the shore (found a gorgeous green marble!), and watched the sunset over the town and ocean. When I returned back to the hostel he immediately asked if I wanted to take a shower which I found a bit strange. I am a morning shower girl and told him that and he kind of grimaced. I ran into him again when I got some water and he asked me again. I smelled myself and I promise I was not stinky, so I told him I would take one in the AM. Then he started explaining I should take one now since I had been out exercising (?) and at this point I just wanted him to shut up so I agreed I would take a damn shower now. Weird, right? Each day I had to deal with his overeagerness in my shower habits 🙄. I will say being able to hear the waves crash along the shore while laying in my tatami room was exquisite!
After visiting the infamous Ise Jingu I had another one of those pinch me/am I in a dream moments. I was walking down the cute older shop area in Ise and walked by this wandering Buddhist monk and I felt someone grab my arm and turned around with a “what the hell” attitude (and I am sure a face to match) and it was the monk! They never touch women!!! He was intrigued by my arm tattoo and wanted to see it fully as he correctly assumed it was a mandala. So I am standing on the side of this old town discussing my tattoo with a Buddhist monk. I could not make this up even if I tried 😀! He asked what I was doing in Japan and I told him of my world adventure and where I was going and he was very concerned that I was doing this all by my lonesome. So he asked if he could say some blessings/prayers for me and of course I said yes. I have no idea what he actually said, but I could feel that tingly sensation all over my body and then he whacked both of my shoulders. I feel like this was a pretty solid travel gods blessing and that I am definitely on the right path 🙏🏼📿. I happened to walk into a shop full of beautiful carved Buddhas and amulets and after that experience bought an amulet that is supposed to bring me good luck for being born in the year of the Boar. I also had an amazing lunch and this whole set was $15! It was tororo udon (a fav of mine), rice with aaaaaamazing tuna, miso, and more 😍😍😍!
Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows I would rather poke my eye out than go to a museum. I want to be out meeting people, soaking up the culture, and eating good ass food. However, the Mikimoto Pearl Museum is one I could endure as I have a deep love for jewelry and pretty things and just happened to be in the next town over. I hope someday to be able to afford a Mikimoto something as their pieces are the golden standard for pearls, but until that time I will lovingly gaze at the pics I took 😂. It was actually pretty fascinating as it showed the process of how pearls are cultivated (not easy), what Mikimoto endured being the pioneer of cultivated pearls (wow, again, not easy and so many challenges and setbacks that he endured), and there was even a performance showing how oysters were harvested back in the day. The harvesters were badass women who would jump into the sea with baskets and hold their breath for minutes at a time, in freezing water and not wearing anything but cotton clothing (???), and dive down to cut the oysters from their beds. How crazy cool is that?! I had no idea the struggle that went into creating such beautiful pearls and also the perils these women faced to gather the oysters. Gave me a whole new appreciation and love for pearls. There were some gorgeous historical pieces on view as well as a Mikimoto store where I longingly gazed at the beautiful pieces 😍😍😍. Someday I will have a Mikimoto something!
Well, saying sayonara for now and will be back soon with a post on my favorite city in all of Japan- Kyoto 💗💗💗.