The trip of a lifetime? Perhaps for some. I can see how one might think that, because it was truly one of the best experiences of my entire life, and I must say, minus my wedding in Hawaii, I'm having trouble thinking of something that matches this. It was absolutely, unequivocally, entirely life-changing. Amazing is not nearly a strong enough word. However, it wasn't simply the trip of a lifetime. For us, it was the first of many. :) We don't plan to stop. This is just the beginning.
I have far too much to say, and I'm planning a gazillion in-depth blogs about our experiences, so allow me to simply mention a few key points here.
• Japan is AWESOME. Awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome. Awesome.
• There was not mass hysteria happening, and the cities were full of people. We didn't feel any earthquakes, and the only reason we knew anything was happening was from people in America informing us of it. Tokyo and Kyoto were filled with wonderful, bustling people. Cherry blossoms were perfectly in bloom. There were parties in the parks. The streets were jam-packed with people. Everyone was incredibly kind to us. I will have doubts about American news broadcasts from this day forward.
• Korean Airlines ROCKED. I'm never taking another airline ever again. Well, okay, I wish I could always take them. Personal TVs with a huge selection of new movies? Lots of music? Video games? Korean food? Free booze? Super sweet flight attendants? Yeeeeesh they were cool. I didn't even sleep on the plane because I was so happily entertained.
• I LOVED being in the city. I thought city life would be a downside to an otherwise ancient and serene place. I don't like cities, I don't like crowds, but that was before I was in Tokyo. It was incredible. I loved the power lines, the subways, the crowds, the lights, being on the street with thousands of people late at night. It blew my mind. It felt unquestionably safe. It was invigorating and I could see living there for a few months quite happily. [Hint dropped.] It was beautiful.
• People in Kyoto eat nothing but cake. No, seriously. On one day, we walked for miles and found nothing but cake shops. We asked around for sushi and people looked at us like we were crazy. Sushi? Really? Have some cake!! Just as our blood sugar was about to send us throwing ourselves into the river, we found ramen. Oh thank god, ramen. We tried asking the nice restaurant owner why there was so much cake everywhere, and she took us outside to point out all the different places we could buy some if we had such a hankering for it. Why clarify at that point? We'd been fed.
• There was way more karaoke had in one week than in the last 10 years of my life. There are pictures. Many many pictures. We rocked out. Hard. I even closed my eyes while belting out Eternal Flame. THAT'S RIGHT, SUCKERS.
• Beer in vending machines! And sake in juice boxes! And you can drink them openly and publicly on the street! At one point, we took our beer cans and walked around a zillion-story shopping mall just because we could. Oh, how I love Japan.
• Many thanks to our Tokyo-Homeboy, LT Konishi, for showing us the city the way a local would see it. He provided us with experiences that we simply would not have had any other way. The best food we've eaten in our lives, the prettiest park I've ever seen, the opportunity to meet other local Tokyoites, and see parts of the city our guidebook didn't know existed. He was also a great translator, map, and karaoke rockstar. We met him 10 years ago, but now we call him a great friend. Dude: Nothin' but love for ya. Check out his site, he's also a badass photographer. :)
• We visited every temple in the Kyoto area that we possibly had time for, and WOW. Gorgeous. The architecture in Japan is something I couldn't have imagined. At one point we biked up a huge hill toward Kiyomizu Dera (above) and passed the largest Japanese cemetery I've ever seen in my life. We stopped to take it all in. Cemeteries in Japan are breathtaking.
Alright I'm done for the moment. That was longer than I intended (I have so much to tell you about!) but my jet-lag headache is returning and in order to facilitate the massive plans we have for our future, I have lots of work to begin. Let's just say that we plan to return to Japan sooner than you might think. Between that, our continued intention to move to Hawaii eventually, and our further world travels, it's gonna be a busy decade. :)