Before I moved to Tokyo, I made a top 7 list of the most important things I wanted to experience in Japan. I’ve managed to do a few, like checking out Harajuku fashion on a Sunday, eating kaiten sushi and cherry blossom viewing in April, (which I almost missed because of a frantic trip back home after the 3/11 earthquake.)
But…I have a problem: since coming to Japan people keep recommending places to go, or I keep reading about people’s trips on other blogs, and now I have a ridonculous list of places I really want to see! Damn you Japan, for having so many beautiful landmarks. How am I supposed to visit them all? I guess I should just make another Top 7 list and try to hit those first. Places like:
Supposedly the Hawaii of Japan, Okinawa has tropical temperatures, blue skies and bluer water. I hear there’s a laid back “Okinawa culture” that can only come from spending all your free time lying on beaches like this.
Sounds like paradise right? As if that wasn’t enough, the universe nudged me once again in Okinawa’s direction one day when I went to an Okinawa-themed izakaya in Ueno, where I ate this deliciousness.
That’s Soki Soba… I think. Anyway it’s like udon, but with big slabs of tender, tender pork in it, and it’s sooo good. If it was that drool-inducing in some izakaya in Tokyo, it should be twice as splendiferous straight from the source right?
The Izu Peninsula
The poor man’s Okinawa… just kidding. Izu has a few things Okinawa doesn’t, like being closer to where I live and therefore costing much less money to visit. OK, maybe it is the poor man’s Okinawa. Ah! I know: one thing Izu has the Okinawa doesn’t is a great view of the honorable Fuji-san. And, I admit it, I still haven’t worked up the courage to visit an onsen (hot spring) yet, but there a few good ones in Izu so that might just be the push I need.
According to the ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy, my personality primarily reflects the element of water, so maybe that’s why I love anything water-ish. Miyajima is the home of Itsukushima shrine — a shrine that is built close to the sea and looks like it’s floating when the tide comes in. Perhaps it’s not the most reasonable place for a building in a country with such volatile nature (earthquakes and tsunamis and all that), but it makes for a beautifully fantastical image.
However, what I really want to see is the “floating” torii. I’m not sure why the image of this gigantic red gate in the water touches me the way it does, but to me it is the quintessential “Japan” image. There’s something majestic, wise and strong about that gate…even though it’s just a gate. Anyway, I really want to see it in person, and bask in its gatey-ness.
“Haikyo” refers to ruins — more specifically ruin crawling. This one’s a pretty new addition, inspired by blogs like Gakuranman and Micheal John Grist. I’ve always had a love of ruins. They should be depressing, but I just find them beautiful. I love the sense of calm, peace and finality to be found in ruins. Who knows maybe the sight of dead, dilapidated buildings with nature slowly but surely creeping back in helps me come to terms with the futility of life, helps me remember that this is just the matrix. One day I will become a ruin too, and no matter how much you gain in this earthly life, you can’t take even a speck of it with you, so it’s best to live life according to your passion, and try instead to leave something behind.
Anyway, here are a few inspiring samples of Haikyo exploration.
The Top of Mt Fuji
The climb up Mt. Fuji is a tough one, but if you time it right, and make it to the top of the mountain in time for sunrise, I hear the view makes the eight-hour (!) climb worth it. Honestly, I’m not very athletic and I’m not sure I’m going to make this one, but it does sound pretty amazing to be able to gaze down on creation from the top of a mountain like you were God him/her/itself.
Hokokuji Temple, Kamakura
When I was a kid, I used to go for walks in this big forest in my neighborhood, to be alone and release the worries of my childish life, like why all my friends had better sneakers than me, and how the boy I liked didn’t like me back. However it didn’t take long for housing developers to notice the forest too, and soon they chopped it all down to make way for more suburban sprawl, and my refuge was gone.
I want to go to Hokokuji temple to run through its famous bamboo groves, and relive even just for a little while carefree afternoons of my childhood.
I’ve had a few people recommend Nikko, before I even moved to Japan. And, probably due to my love of water that I mentioned before, what I’m all about in Nikko are the waterfalls!
Kegon falls is the most famous, probably for all the trees surrounding it. People keep suggesting that the best time to visit Nikko is in the fall, because of the beauty of the changing leaves, so that would mean I need to get out there right… about…now.
So those are my goals for the next year or so. How about you? What are some of your must-see spots in Japan?