we don’t have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here.
— susan taylor —
time for a break from europe because I AM OFF TO JAPAN!!!!! when someone invites you to japan, you go, no questions asked. i was sinking my teeth into a thanksgiving turkey leg in denmark when one of my best friends texted me that she was heading to tokyo for work and wondered if i wanted to tag along. japan was bucket list material for me, so i didn’t have to think twice. i booked my ticket within hours and only had 13 days to wait before the extremely long flight to tokyo. fun fact, there is a direct flight from boston to tokyo (13 hours). another fun fact, i wasn’t on it. boston to dallas to tokyo. 18+ hours of travel, and i did lose feeling in my ass somewhere over the pacific ocean but it was well worth it after we rolled into tokyo. it was beyond anything i could have ever imagined. it was just so japan.
but no time for city love, because before unpacking, before making a plan for the next day, we immediately ordered and consumed a giant feast of ramen. have i mentioned i love ramen? breakfast ramen, lunch ramen or dinner ramen. hungover ramen is really good as well. i don’t discriminate.
a night of restless sleep later, i was out on the streets wandering around solo as my friend was there for work and had to be a responsible human being. i came across everything from giant neon billboards that put times square to shame, to small alleyways covered in thousands of wires, signs offering beer and cocktails to anyone who crossed their threshold, to department stores selling the most random things i have ever seen in my life. it was almost too much. almost. my head was on a constant swivel snapping pictures every few seconds. i should also mention that i had several people come up to me randomly who pin pointed me as a westerner (the blonde hair and super pale skin is not very good at blending in, unless you are going to a twilight convention) and wanted to practice their english. being as i trust no-one, i scampered away quickly leaving devastated english language learners in my wake. i think i told one guy who asked me to speak english with him that i was meeting my friends for lunch so i was in a hurry, it was 845am. i’m a terrible liar.
the highlight for me in tokyo was definitely the sushi. i love trying new things, i love sushi, and i was super excited for a breakfast sushi excursion i quickly researched. tsukiji fish market was our destination, but more specifically, to a random place with very few seats and a green awning. should be easy to find……. fast forward an hour later, we were served up 12 pieces of sushi, green tea and miso soup. all of it was beyond amazing except for the sea urchin, which i despise more than the montreal canadiens, and that is saying something. i choked it down, pretended my tears were of extreme happiness and enjoyment and complemented the chef, knowing they all saw my cold sweat and look of total despair. at least it was a breakfast i wouldn’t forget anytime soon. well played, sushi masters. well played.
because i had some extra time, i ended up taking the bullet train to kyoto for a few days of solo travel. the best part of the journey for me was seeing mount fuji as we passed by at 200+ mph. even from the train is was pretty amazing. arriving in kyoto i got completely lost within seconds. i thought i was going the ‘right way’ but ended up going the complete opposite way, which seems to be a travel theme i have going on. as i was trying to read google maps i came across a charming alleyway that seemed picture perfect. did i mention it took me 20 minutes to get a picture without people in it? i shoved myself in a tiny corner and waited. and waited. and waited some more. for this…
moving on, literally… i ventured out on the local train to the bamboo forrest in arashiyama, which was pretty awesome. i left really, really early to avoid most of the crowds, which meant it was nearly freezing out and the warmest thing i had was a light leather jacket. my hands were frozen, i think i started to get hypothermic, but adventure stops for no-one, including frostbite….. and i think the pictures speak for themselves.
so as i zened my way though kyoto, after almost getting run over by a rickshaw (picture of the attempted murderer below. contact me if you know him), i realized what a very special place it was. a city with modern shopping centers but girls walking the streets in traditional geisha clothing. i still cannot understand how they walk around with wooden flip flops and socks but the far east will always remain a mystery to the western world 😉
i had one more day in kyoto before heading back to tokyo and flying back to boston. 6 days in japan was definitely not long enough. i spent my last hours wandering up to sensō-ji, which not only offered amazing views of the city but was packed with tourists and children on school tours. as i walked further up the path leading to the main sights i was stopped by 4 school kids in their matching uniforms. they had a giant list of questions to ask anyone that would answer them. when i said i would be happy to help, they giggled uncontrollably when they found out i was american. i was asked 50 questions about that, where i lived, did i go to prom?, is it like it is on tv shows?, etc. it was pretty funny. after a few hours of going in and out of little stores along the way (and having elderly ladies come touch my long blonde hair, also pretty funny) i was exhausted and ready for a bowl of noodles, a beer and bed. how every night should end if you ask me.
this trip really was epic. i literally felt like i had fast forwarded into the future in tokyo, then took a step back in time in kyoto. it was unbelievable and worth taking a step away from europe to cross off one of the top 5 must visit countries off my list (one more makes an appearance in europe, so stay tuned). i have awesome friends, have i mentioned that?
keep reading, keep checking in… i promise it gets better.
NEXT BLOG: back at it, NYE in köln and a long day in luxembourg.