After arriving late night Wednesday night, and spending a dreadful several hours getting through customs, several travelers and I headed to downtown Osaka to satisfy one simple need: food. Walking through the bustling crowds of Namba station one is entranced by the people, the smells, and those coveted first impressions of a new culture. Those moments when everything is thrilling; that high why we are all here.
Fumbling with foreign bills, and making awkward conversions in your head must be a common sight during Lunar New Year in Japan, but to me no matter what I always feel so dorky when I erhm, um, and gee-wizz my way through exchanges. Atleast lately I find myself in alarmingly honest societies where people will literally pick the coins they need from my wallet while smiling.
My first night in Japan was spent at a Guesthouse in a traditional little neighborhood in northern Osaka. I had too much adrenaline to go to bed after I checked in around 11 PM, so I took a stroll along the river per the request of the Dutch attendant working that night. I wandered along the tiny alley’s with my camera, reveled in the smells of cooking ramen, and delighted in the cleanest streets that I think I have ever seen.
One of the sensei’s had excellent English and spoke endlessly about the significance and purpose behind Tea ceremony in Japan. I learned about the history of ceramics, the political and social stereotypes of tea throughout the ages, and how it continues to be a strong part of life in Japan to this day. Walking home that night around 1 AM in the chilly February rain through abandoned temples, I was reminded that life is what you make of it, so do it on purpose.
Golden Temple. Flea Market. Ramen. Nishiki Fish Market. Cemetary. Rainy weather. Ryoanji Zen Garden. Japanese Bath House.Heated Toilet Seats. Sushi. Fishini Inari. Buses. Temples. Karaoke. Green Tea Ice cream. Yen.
Japan was truly full of wonder. Traveling solo offered so many wonderful opportunities that I never could’ve predicted. You really aren’t alone when you travel. Both nights in Kyoto when I was wandering I would casually bump into other solo travelers. The first night, a Chinese girl and I wandered the temples just near the fish market and then found the first bar to open and had several drinks together. The second night after a slightly awkward but nonetheless totally blissful experience in a Japanese bath house, I met a girl from Tokyo. We went for sushi together at this little hole in the wall place in northern Kyoto; asking each other all of the questions about love and taboo that you only feel comfortable asking a near stranger.
Taking pictures in this ancient country was easy. It’s the stories behind them that are harder to explain. All I can I say is that 5 days was too short a time to spend here, and I hope that my travels bring me back.
My last few hours in the great city of Kyoto were spent in Fushimi Inari. I saved the best for last because I knew that this place was going to be special. However what I actually got I cannot even begin to explain- the significance of this shrine is astounding and the feeling you have walking through these endless tunnels is both humbling and inspiring.