Japan: A look back at 3 weeks in 2019. Part 1

I have not written anything on my blog, since the Covid-19 pandemic started. I frankly had nothing to say. I don’t like making unnecessary noise, and my ego’s not big enough to create or try to join any conversations, that I don’t care about. 2020 did not go exactly as I planned, or anybody planned. The luck of the draw determined whether some of us lived or died. Whether we suffered or did not suffer, or a mix of the two. I’m not regurgitating anything that has already been said. We all read the news. This is a personal blog.

Facebook reminded me that I left for Japan, on April 25, 2019.

I was happy to see this photo, because I can no longer travel unencumbered. My comments yesterday were, “When I could travel. I miss this country every day. Best 3 weeks of travel EVER!”

I was going to simply republish my photos, whenever I received Facebook memory prompts. But then I thought, “Why not write about stories that you never told? The genesis of this trip. The people you met. It will be a wonderful way of reliving these moments.” Yes, I have never quite assembled all of my thoughts and feelings in writing, about my experiences in Japan. It is my favourite country, apart from Canada. I am happily Canadian and don’t desire another citizenship. But I would gladly live in Japan for an extended period of time, and it is one of my dreams.

Why did I choose Japan? It was instinctive. I was feeling rather stressed and needed a holiday. Watching videos of Japan on youtube instantly calmed me. They made my spirit feel at peace, and I knew I had to be there. After some targeted research, my flight was booked within days. Thanks to booking.com, I secured affordable accommodation well in advance of Golden Week, which is one of the most hectic times to travel to Japan. It encompasses four of Japan’s 15 national holidays, and in 2019, the former emperor Akihito was abdicating the throne, to make way for his successor, the current emperor Naruhito. That added an additional holiday to Golden Week, so it became a 10-day affair. Sensoji shrine was packed when I visited, and at one point, I could not see the subway signs in the area. I was in the middle of a sea of people.

TRIP PREPARATION

I was mindful that I was going to a country with a different language and culture, and did not want to offend anyone. I was grateful for the youtubers living in Japan, who helped me avoid cultural faux pas. Notably, Paolo fromTokyo and Abroad in Japan. Japanesquest was also highly entertaining and tremendously informative about his country. I was enamoured with his sharp sense of humour in English, his second language. I visited Takayama because of him, and his explanations of the Japan Rail Pass prompted me to buy it for 3 weeks. Being a Brown woman, I was also concerned about how Japanese people might perceive me. I wondered what Black people experienced over there, and I found the youtube channel The Black Experience Japan. My fears were allayed. They were mostly Black Americans who experienced more racism and hostility in the United States of America (USA). That did not surprise me one iota.

From the reception I received at the airport, to my train ride to my hostel, I was received with love and warmth. It boded well for my entire trip there. I thought because of language barriers, people would not approach me the way they did in other countries. That was not the case at all. On the train ride, an older Japanese woman who had lived in the USA, struck up a conversation with me. That emboldened a 20 something year old, sweet Japanese young man, to join our conversation. He even invited me out for supper that night, to meet his friends. He also stayed with me beyond his stop, to ensure I disembarked at the right stop. I can’t remember his name, but I remember him being from a quite privileged background. If I hadn’t just had a 13 hour flight, and almost two hours with customs and getting into Tokyo, I would have joined him. But I really just wanted food, a shower and a bed, in that order. After a bit of getting lost, a kindly Australian man helped me find my hostel. He’d holidayed in Japan three or four times before, and knew the streets pretty well.

The featured image was the first picture I took in Japan, at the Samurai Hostel in Asakusa. Tune in soon for the next installment of this series. Arigato gozaimasu!

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