Wow. Where do I start? I have a lot to catch everyone up on. First, THANK YOU to everyone who has commented on the blog or sent me an individual message. There are definitely days when getting those really helps remind me why I’m here! There are so many things I want to blog about, in fact I’ve been jotting down topics in my journal to ‘get to when I have time’. Of course I have plenty of time, but of course I have to strike a balance between sitting behind my laptop and actually out DOING the things that inspire me to write… Here are some teasers for you – “Iron John” book review and my opinion on masculinity, motion versus stillness, metro-sexual overload, ideas of putting my MBA to use, and of course life in Japan.
Here’s what I’ve been up to: last weekend I checked into a great backpacker’s hostel in Kyoto and stayed for 4 nights. I was getting travel-tired and needed to get some R&R. I spent the entire first day in the hostel, e-mailing, reading, cooking food, and meeting other travelers. I then picked out just a few sights that I wanted to see – you can get overwhelmed in Kyoto looking at temples and shrines- there are literally thousands of them. I picked a few related to Zen Buddhism (Rinzai sect), a couple of walks and onsen to relax in. At first Kyoto feels like any other city, busy and loud. However, it’s surrounded on 3 sides by mountains and that is where most of the scenery is. After my vegging day, I took a 5-hour walking tour with a Japanese guy who calls himself “Johnny Walker”. It was excellent – Johnny took us on a bit of an insiders tour – we saw some off the beaten path temples and shrines, a tofu making shop, a Japanese fan making shop, had tea and Japanese biscuits and some sushi. Johnny explained many of the Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as much of the history of Kyoto and Japan. He has been guiding for 15 years and a very relaxed and simple manner that made the whole thing very enjoyable.
The best part was actually meeting a Japanese guy Haru. He was totally being a tourist in his home town, checking out the town he lived in his entire 35 years! He spoke great English and he filled in many of the gaps in Johnny’s explanations for me – it was like have a tour in a tour. I grabbed Haru’s mobile # before parting and the next day he invited me to his home to have dinner with him and his newlywed wife Kyo. They were gracious hosts, providing a marvelous Japanese dinner, plenty of beer and sake, and great company. I literally ran to the train station at 11:30 to catch the final train as the doors closed. It was a serendipitous ending to a day that began with much frustration (I’ll spare you the details, but involved the many non-talked about rough details of life on the road). An evening like this is what this trip is all about – breaking through cultural barriers, meeting people and experiencing life as it is in a place.
Yesterday I took a trip to Koya-san, a religious site for Shingon Buddhists – I’ll talk about it in my next post.