Art, Culture, and Ocean Conservation . . .

Archive for April, 2015

Traveling Japan

Leaving Japan not only softer in skin but softer in spirit. The kindness of people is humbling. Gifts, bows, curtsy’s, two handed waiving until you are completely out of sight and the unbelievable genuine sincerity is overwhelming. Bicycles line the sidewalks unlocked and untouched. Umbrellas wait on street sides in case you forgot your own. Ongoing consideration for others and finding the greatest gratitude in helping others is paramount. It is easy to say that the people of Japan are the kindest, sweetest, most loving people I have ever encountered on planet earth.

The landscape here is diverse and dreamlike. Mountains, oceans, trails, cities, temples, and shrines in the most unexpected of places. Once arriving it finally makes sense where every anime movie ever came from. What an incredible place.

Mineral rich volcanic hotsprings are honored and utilized in every moment. What a better ending to a night on the town, a long day at work, a hike in the woods, or a holiday excursion -than soaking in a mineral rich naturally boiling volcanic pool rising from the earth? Great idea Japan! So efficient! Always harnessing and honoring the power of the earth in all that they do.

Bath houses came in various sizes and styles- from deluxe outdoor mountainside, to saltwater seaside, to a small room by a lil river. Pine and cedar waft around you as steam envelopes the dreamland of relaxation you have stumbled upon. Regardless, every experience was delightful as the one after and the one before. The houses are separated by gender and nudity is no big deal. Body image issues are cast aside as every age group are just different formations of skin and bones as each person gets down on their lil wooden stool and completely scrubs and cleans their whole body before soaking in a variety of temperature and mineral rich pools. The bath houses are not for BATHING they are for very clean people to sit and soak and heal. So lovely!! So rewarding. Muscle aches, pains, cramps, concerns, and worries melt away as the water, earth, air and fire spirits work together in perfect pine roasted harmony for these moments to occur.

Sanackos await you on the other side of your experience. Nice ginger tea or matcha (green tea) are served liberally and always with sweet respect. Tea biscuits, pancakes, plum rice treats, triangular nori snacks filled with a variety of surprises are just a few of the outrageously delicious (oyishi!!) options. Like it or “nato” America has got nothing on the taste and healthiness of Japan’s snacks! Wow! The food, the food, THE FOOD! Seto or bento style meals are my favorite. Every meal is a work of art as each small dish compliments the next in texture and flavor. Seafood is a big part of most meals and their rice is served as a delicacy. They pickle everything in lil bits and add tangy flourishes to every meal. We were fed like kings and queens across this country- silver platters with rising plumes of steam and all. It has been incredible!

Timeliness, efficiency, and effectiveness reigns supreme in Japanese culture. Typical Japanese business etiquette is that if you think you may be late-plan to arrive 30 minutes early. The trains run PERFECTLY on time. I have never experienced a more timely transit system in my entire life (and pleasant and clean too)! Every mode of transit ran impeccably on time to the minute. All the people wait patiently in line for the train to empty and then in a calm orderly single-file line board the train leaving seats for elders, mothers and children, and disabled. Everyone treats each other with sweet respect and is kind and thoughtful apologizing and thanking each person 3-5 times per interaction. What an amazingly considerate place-wow.

We had so many wonderful adventures here in these past few weeks visiting a range of locations. Each place unique in landscape and full of pride, history, and yummy treats special to that area. Tokyo, Gifu, Kyoto, Wakayama, And Hiroshima were the main prefectures we made it to.

In Tokyo we caught up with dear friends and made new ones, filmed a music video, ate at skyscraper restaurants, saw the Robot Restauraunt show and had hanami (picnic under the cherry blossom trees)! We were fortunate enough to catch Sakura- the two week span where most of the country erupts in fluffy intoxicating pink and white cherry blossoms. We romantically rowed a boat along the lake of the Imperial Palace- blossoms rained down on us and we made storybook trails through where they would float on the surface on the water. We saw them lit up at night and tasted a variety of sanackos and durinkos flavored by them. Coming during Sakura was such a sweet delight Im glad we waited to take our honeymoon until this time.

In Gifu history unfolded before us as we hiked the original road from Kyoto to Tokyo through a prime evil forest shrouded in mist. Waterfalls, waterwheels, and a tea house emerged along our journey.

Kyoto was a storybook lost in time and soaked in blossoms. We met a real Japanese Princess. The 4th Person in 50 years reaching the distinguishable honor of Tayu- she met with us before a client which is simply unheard of our other friends in Japan had exclaimed. We were very honored and thankful for the opportunity. We were befriended by an amazing local couple that runs this great shop! If you are ever in Kyoto check out M-Hero’s handmade goods! http://www.m-hero.fr/english/english-index.html

We trekked through shrines and temples, attended tea ceremonies, and even hopped a fence and climbed a mountain and were rewarded with one of the best views of Kyoto and a never to be forgotten glass tea house by artist

Kii Tanabe (Wakayama) had unforgettable tide pools and a pilgrimage trail. It was raining the day we took our hike and we were blessed with meeting tons of forest crabs (! What crabs in the forest?!) and these amazing iridescent foot long worms!!! They changed color with every moment they were magical!!

Hirishima Perfecture included epic Island stay with salt water onsen’s and the famed bunny island I’ll tell you more about that below. We took time to visit the peace park and the Atomic Bomb memorial site. It was moving and intense. An important moment in history we must all remember to never repeat. As a matter of fact I hope war is something that we can say goodbye to in our lifetime. I know that politics are tricky and there are a lot of egos, oil, and money at stake- but in the end- is it really worth it? When will basic human rights raise above the quest of ownership in our global priorities? More on this at another time moving on. . .

Animals are beloved in Japan. There aren’t so many critters and creatures around but in the areas where they exist- they flourish and are showered with kindness.

First off the birds here are HUGE! Ravens, crows, eagles and hawk swoop around screeching and cawing to their hearts delight. Large fish are common, lots of cute dogs, and of course Cat Cafes-but then there were several powerful animal medicines we came into contact with- first was the area of Nara outside Kyoto where there are tons of deer! You get to feed them deer biscuits and watch them slurp up sakura petals. They are sweet, snuggle, and a lil rascally if you have food in your pocket.

Next, we visited Ōkunoshima- the magical island of BUNNIES! This Island has a sad history but a magical an epic present! Thousands of wild domesticated bunnies hop around this hilly seaside bramble. It is spring and they are bunnies so we had the fortune of hanging around until sunset when the baby bunnies roused from their dens to snack and hop from side to side along the trail.

Last but certainly not least was our highly anticipated and forever fortunate visit to the one and only Owl Cafe! Justin and I had the honor to spend time with over 20 different owls getting to hold, pet, and photograph a fair amount of them. What a deep and moving experience! Wow! Whoooo would have thought that Tokyo was smart enough to come up with this amazing opportunity. The owls were calm, treated very well, all had been hand-raised and some of them even had the day off that day and all were given breaks between groups of regulated numbers of visitors. It was tricky to hunt this place down and even many of my Tokyo friends didn’t know it existed. The price had doubled from what I found online but it was worth every penny. But for 2000¥/$20USD we got to spend an hour of quality time with some of the wisest birds on earth. Here is the link-http://wandertokyo.com/tokyo-owl-cafe/  you must make reservations in person and the day books out in about 1-1.5 hours of opening.

Barely off the ground in Japan and I already miss it. My husband tapped my arm and directed me to the ground crew outside our airplane window- waving with both hands and bowing until we road out of site.

What an amazing country, experience, and choice for our honeymoon. Over and over we kept finding ourselves floored by all the wonder and delights of Japan. One thing is sure-we will be back again before we know it.

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