Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Flashback: My Trip to Japan

You know, I really love to travel.  These past several months I've been so inundated with a load of personal tasks and chores that I haven't had time to spread my proverbial wings and go somewhere.  Oh, I've hit the road and traveled within the contiguous states, but - so far - have yet to travel travel.  Like, to a "whole different country with a whole different culture and language" type of travel.  Feeling totally derelict in my self-appointed duty of feeding my insatiable wanderlust, I started to think about the last time I was able to do just that.  Well, it was some years ago.  My friend at the time was teaching English in Japan and invited me to come visit for the Christmas/New Year's holiday and, with hardly a bat of an eye, I packed a bag and left.  And what a trip it was!  So much of it seems a blur now, but here's some of what I remember...

My friend lived in a small town on the outskirts of some of the main cities, so taking a commuter train was essential to getting around.  Insanely clean and super efficient, I remember hopping aboard the iron vessel to a city called Nara and being in awe of how quiet the ride was since most of the passengers pretty much kept to themselves.

Nara - a place where small deer roamed free, both in the designated park as well as the well-visited grounds of the temple that just happens to house one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan.  I remember the scale of the wooden temple as being quite overwhelming...

... and the various artifacts and statues surrounding the giant Buddha rich with exquisite detail and craftsmanship.  The main Buddha was mammoth, reaching as tall as the temple itself!  Alas, I tried to take a picture of it, but the photo came out dark and failed to show it in all its glory.  So above is a snapshot of one the mini Buddhas perched beside it. 

I remember going to a museum where guests were welcome to view the collection of genuine armor, helmets and other battle regalia from Japan's feudal era on full display, but had to adhere to the customary removing of the shoes first before gaining entry.

Prepared for the occasion, I opted to change into my knitted cat slippers in lieu of walking around "barefoot".

I remember going to a festival on New Year's Eve where there was a long procession of food vendors lined up on opposite sides of the sidewalk that led up to multiple temples and life-sized dioramas of feudal Japanese life.

I remember the public bathroom on the grounds as being nothing but a long, trough-like groove in the floor with a hole at the top for drainage that one would have to squat over to use.  I remember quickly turning around and deciding to "hold my water" instead of using the facilities, bumping into this handsome lion on the way out... and fondling it with reckless abandon.

I also recall literally ringing in the new year with a host of others as they lined up in front of one of the temples and bowed their heads in silent reverence as a small gong erupted in celebratory chimes.

Along with these memories, I remember the grocery store seafood being so fresh that you could actually see it writhing and breathing in their plastic packages and the streets being so clean that even a germaphobe like me wouldn't hesitate to eat off of them.  I remember green tea ice-cream (which is delish!) and all you can eat sushi that's served on a plate-by-plate basis from the convenience of an  endless conveyor belt that snakes around the restaurant's tables.  I remember taking the Shinkansen or "bullet train" to Tokyo and being seduced by the anime-like frivolity of its Harajuku district.

Yes, I remember a lot from this trip and now I'm yearning for more!  I really have to get on the ball and take some time out to go on a REAL vacay.  I want to completely immerse myself in a different culture, different language... different land!  I absolutely LOVE to travel!  And it's high time I get back to doing that which I love.  England!  Paris!  Italy!  Australia!  So many places to see and do.  And I'm so ready to do them all!  #YOLO!     

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