Japan is where we went, Japan is what we saw. We didn’t go there with a plan, exactly. We didn’t have a list of things we needed to see. Just some cities to travel to and a loose schedule of when we wanted to come and go from each place. We each took one backpack with a few changes of clothes and not much else. We travelled light with the hope that it would make it easy to see and do as much as we could.
We were a little nervous about doing things that way. What if we were so indecisive that we didn’t do anything? What if we missed all the best stuff? What if we ended up so frustrated with each other that by the end of the trip we were hardly on speaking terms?
Ha. Ha ha ha! HA!
It was awesome. It turned out pretty much as well as we could have hoped for. We saw so many great things, went to so many beautiful places. By 10:00 nearly every morning we would turn to each other and say: “Well, if we see nothing more today, it has already been worth it.”
The first day there was the Christmas Hotel we ran across on our way to the temple in Narita. And while we later learned it was a “love hotel” — not as scandalous/trashy in Japan as it might be in the US — it totally put a spring in our steps as we walked the rest of the way to the temple.
Then there was the castle we stayed across the street from in Nagoya. Breathtaking by day and night. We ran around it a couple of times and marveled at it from every angle.
Even more breathtaking were the thousands and thousands of orange gates and the hike we took — off the beaten path — to get to the top of the shrine that they led to.
We ran to the Golden Temple in Kyoto and rubbed shoulders with all the uniformed school kids there. We bumped into some missionaries from our church on the ferry to Sado Island. (They were thrilled, and stunned, to run into a couple of English-speaking church members in such a remote place.) We went to church at the Tokyo English-speaking ward and made friends with a family there who invited us over for dinner that night and took us to an observation deck in downtown Tokyo the next day so we could really see the city.
And we walked until our legs hurt. Our unofficial motto was “Climb Every Staircase.” It served us well as we biked around Sado and stopped at every trail that looked remotely interesting. One time we climbed 300 steps to the top of a hill, only to find a couple of burnt out buildings. Then we turned around and saw the most amazing view of rice fields and mountains. Three hundred steps well worth it.
Every now and then we thought of our kids, back at home with their aunts. How were they holding up? Were they missing us? Would they be mad at us when we got home? But mostly, we savored the time spent together with no distractions and no interruptions. We fell back into our natural habit of walking and talking, talking and walking. And seeing things — all kinds of things — from a different place.
The trip was technically my first international experience, but I have to say that even though we were in a foreign country, it felt very much like home. Nagoya — the first city we went to, with the castle — felt especially welcoming. Almost like it was auditioning for us. But Sado Island took me back to our days in Hawaii. And big bustling Tokyo was a clean, courteous, more organized version of New York.
In fact, while “home” — where our kids were, where we would be returning to — was many thousands of miles and half a day behind us, it was easy to forget that we weren’t there already, and that we wouldn’t be putting the kids to bed when we got to the bottom of the mountain we just hiked. It was easy, in fact, to imagine that someday we actually would be putting the kids to bed after a day of hiking mountains in Japan. Because that would be where we lived. Someday. Not any time soon, but not never.
Until then, I’m happy to be back to our present home, where our little munchkins greeted us with surprising gusto. And I’m happy to be packing up our that present home so that we can move to another one (five blocks away) at the end of the week.
Home is always changing, isn’t it? I don’t see why someday it couldn’t be in Japan.