Japan, the third time around

Posted on 24.04.2013

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Either last year or the year before, one of my Japan travel partners said to me, ‘there will come a time when you finally realize that you DON’T need to buy everything you see that is awesome in Japan’. And that time was most certainly THIS time around, even if I did end up buying many gifts. Interestingly enough, the gifts I bought this year were for newer friends, rather than older ones. The friends I have bought gifts for in prior years might, at this point, have all of the awesome shit I could possibly find for them. This time around, I really went shopping for me.

483519_605839212010_1434308357_nBecause seriously, can you EVER have enough origami paper? I think not. Especially when that origami paper is Totoro-themed, and bought at the Ghibli museum in Mitaka.

So my Japan trip this time around was a bit shorter than the last one, and only Noda/Tokyo-focused, and actually much more laid back than previous years. I blame that partially on having had enough experience with Japan to NOT be shocked by things I saw or experienced there, and partially on all of the other shit that is/was going on in my life, namely: lots of moving around. I fully intend to make next year’s trip a much longer one and see other parts, and will do that if my Japanese is up to par by then. Because this year, it was certainly not.

This year, I could travel the trains by myself (learned it was possible last year). I could count my money (finally!!) and give exact change. I’ve gotten really good at miming when I don’t know a word (blame the English teaching on that?) and can actually understand some of what is said to me these days, which I am thankful for, even if I can’t speak or read the language yet. And I am without a doubt finally comfortable sleeping on mats. I think I was last year as well, but I noticed it more this year in how quickly I’d fall asleep at night.

547877_605578664150_645128855_nGranted, I still wanted to buy stuff. A lot. All the time. And I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Tempura. And everything seems a LOT more affordable when you are coming from the Euro, rather than the dollar. Next year it will be fully the dollar I’m traveling on (I think), rather than half and half, as it was this year.

It took me a full week to get out of bowing, saying some form of ‘domo arigato gozaimasu’ and ‘hai’ (yes) once I was back this time, which made the people I was with laugh.

534939_605646892420_2068521302_nI brought the Mamiya with me this time and ended up with about a roll of great photos, which have already been posted to my flickr page. It is a definite must-have for next year (and all big trips), but because I brought the Mamiya, I didn’t bring the D80, and I have to say it was sorely missed. So next year I’ll be traveling with both of my medium-sized cameras, rather than just the one. Lesson learned. Even if it does mean someone is probably going to be carrying one while I carry the other. But I know my travel companions won’t mind, they certainly didn’t seem to mind this year!

I actually went to Japan this year with my iPhone, babyNikon (the small one that takes great photos), the Mamiya, a small wide-angle film camera AND the new ClapCam, which is a USB camera that I am still learning. I could wear two of them around my neck and kind of looked like Flava Flav with all of that stuff, even if I like my stuff better than some oversized clock:)

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I climbed those stairs! Practically ran up them:)

I came back from Japan FINALLY unafraid of large amounts of stairs (and able to handle them), and I learned while there that if I WALK up and down the escalators, I lose my balance-fear that I’ve been dealing with since Paris. It was good to work on that and get over it. I also got my balance on a bike back, even though I fell over once while trying to get ON the bike. That was funny, but thankfully I know how to fall and wasn’t hurt.

Overall, the Japan trip was excellent and relatively easy, and I felt really comfortable there this time, for the first time. There is something really nice about being in Japan and I don’t know how to describe it, except to say that it feels like a home away from home, even if I don’t know nearly enough about life there. I spoke to some people this year about going there to teach, and know that if/when I make that decision (which might happen sooner rather than later), I will have help and support, for which I am already thankful. We’ll see what happens in the states.

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Posted in: travel