(took this photo as I was coming down the mountain from Otagi Nenbutsu-ji in Arashiyama)
It’s a wet, grey, dreary Monday morning. My bags are packed and I’m just sitting in my hotel room until it’s time to check out and take the train to the airport.
The past two weeks have been a blur.
I’ve flown 7,300 miles. I’ve commuted 300-400 miles by train. I’ve walked over 70 miles. And now I’m preparing to fly another 7,300 miles home.
I’ve been hot, tired and sweaty. I’ve been nervous, anxious and even a little agitated at times. But throughout, none of that kept me from being totally awestruck by the fact that I’M IN JAPAN! I’ve wanted this since I was 11. I’ll be 31 at the end of the month.
If I’m being honest, part of me wasn’t sure I’d ever actually find my way here. It seemed like an impossible fantasy. It’s on the complete opposite side of the world, and it requires a not-insignificant monetary investment just to get here. But the stars aligned and the appropriate circumstances fell into place.
The dream I’ve been fostering for 20 years finally came to fruition.
And it was facilitated by my Aunt Martha and Uncle William who were kind enough to organize and guide my journey from their home in Kobe, to Osaka, to Kyoto and then Tokyo. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without their immense help. They made this a smooth and relatively effortless trip, through temples and shrines, castles and museums, and curry and ramen shops. I stood outside of Nintendo’s headquarters and development buildings, and explored Studio Ghibli’s museum. I’m grateful.
I’m also incredibly grateful to my buddy Matt Mugrage. He traveled a great distance from his home in Nagano on two separate occasions to meet me three different times throughout my adventure. His intimate knowledge of the Japanese language, and the nuances of getting around and getting by, were also a great deal of help. Had a blast going to Osaka for the Tigers game at Koshien, and then just meandering through quiet neighborhoods.
And I also appreciate Andrew Higgins going out of his way to meet up with me and Matt in Akihabara. Finally got to meet in person after years of tweeting at one another. He was a great guide and companion for the day!
We went through back alleys, side streets, arcades, retro game shops, a building full of super rad anime figures, and had katsukare at CoCoICHI. It was incredible.
When you build up something in your mind for 2/3 of your life, it’s rare that expectations are totally met. But Japan lived up to and exceeded all of mine.
Over the span of two decades, I had done so much reading, consumed so many pieces of media, and talked to so many people and friends who lived here, I was fairly certain I had a realistic picture of what things were like here – knowing both the good and the bad.
And crazy enough, what I’d built in my mind was 100% accurate.
I know that spending a few weeks someplace is not necessarily representative of what it’s like to live there, but it was incredible just to finally breathe it all in.
As I ready myself to return home, I’m feeling a little sad. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, getting back to real pizza and Mexican food, and I really wanna see Toy Story 4. But I’m already missing this country and I haven’t actually left it yet.
I don’t know when I’ll return to Japan, but I will return.
I have more to say later. See you then. ✌️