*This post should be read as if posted immediately after I left Japan in August 2015. It took nearly a year of living in Thailand for me to fully reflect on my time in Japan, and to be able to write about some of the more difficult aspects of living there. These experiences are my own and will differ from others. I’m still reflecting, still writing, and still laughing at my inability to properly say “the train is coming!”. *
I climbed Mount Fuji! It was fun. It was hard. It was difficult. It was exhausting. And it was awesome. Prior to coming to Japan I would not have believed it was possible for me. I am not an overly athletic person but living in this beautiful country has made me more fond of outdoor sports and activities. After several successful hiking trips, including multiple long-term hikes, I decided to set a goal to conquer Fuji-san. The trip took several months of planning including acquiring the appropriate gear, international shipping, and regular cardio. By the end of May the plans were set, two terrific friends were committed, and we set out on the adventure together.
Sakura! Cherry blossoms! The most beautiful trees in the world! I’m back after a long, long hiatus from writing. I decided that, rather than upload my accounts in chronological order, I’m going to focus on the present and get caught up along the way.
Japanese cherry blossom trees are famous all over the world. Locals and tourists alike are known to weep over their glorious, fleeting beauty. I live in the middle part of Honshu where the cherry blossoms start blooming at the beginning of April. This year they were a bit late but the added suspense only made their arrival more stunning.
Takeda Castle was once a giant mountain top castle in the town of Asago, a remote area of central Hyogo. Like many of Japan’s traditional castles, Takeda was destroyed several hundred years ago. The ruins remain as a series of rock walls and earthen formations on the top of the mountain.
Takeda used to be a completely unknown location. JETs living in the area tell stories of driving up to the ruins for lunch and sitting on the edge of the cliff, feet dangling while enjoying a picnic. Then, about eight months ago, a Japanese tourism television show featured the hidden ruins and suddenly thousands of tourists were flocking to the ruins every weekend. Takeda is now known as “The Castle in the Sky” and this amazing shot of the ruins rising out of the morning clouds made for a great advertising campaign. The mountain top location creates the perfect effect with low fog and misty morning air.
The Shimanami Kaido – 70 milometers, 45 miles, seven bridges, and 6 islands! This is what I had to look forward to when I signed up to tackle the famed cycling circuit. The event was organized by a group of JETs from Okayama prefecture. The Kaido is legendary for its easy access and gorgeous scenery along the Seto Inland Sea. Taking full advantage of the superb event planning by the Okayama JETs, several friends and I drove south from Hyogo to join up with over fifty JETs, all determined to tackle the intense ride.