This whole journey starts when I was in sixth grade. So skip ahead if you just want to look at pictures 😊 I was randomly assigned Japan as a research paper topic. Back then, the only way I ever learned about such things was a mixture of the encyclopedia, the library (but no real direction in what to look up) and National Geographic, but lets be real… I only cared about the animal editions.
I was given Japan and boy! Would I love to see that binder of factoids now. We also had to bring in food from our country and my parents meaning well…had no idea. I ended up bringing in Bamboo shoots and Rice-a-roni (The San Francisco Treat). Besides still being completely in the dark about what Japan was really about, I was fascinated by the absolute different culture and aesthetic of this far away land.
Fast forward to High school. It was the 90’s and Japanese animation had made it’s way into the hands and hearts of many of us. Fantastical stories of robots and future worlds beyond comprehension. One thing that stood out to me was the complexity of the characters. They were so different from the modern one-dimensional American cartoons I was used to. These characters had deep emotion, they had dreams and they were flawed, like me. Once again my love for this culture and art grew. This time though, it never stopped. I have always wanted to travel to Japan. For one reason or another it never worked out and I think that was exactly how it was meant to be. I traveled with my partner in life Johnathon and he made sure that not only was it the best trip ever, but that we did everything I wanted to do. I wouldn’t have had the trip of my dreams without him.
So on to it, yeah?
We started in History rich Kyoto.
We explored shrines, temples and took in some amazing art and experienced a traditional tea ceremony.
We started with Fushimi Inari-taisha in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, where the path to the shrine is marked by thousands of torii. We walked it in its entirety which is about 2.5 miles uphill. It was very impressive.
Among other places we visited were Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavillion), Ryoan-ji Temple, which had the largest sand and stone Zen garden I’ve ever seen (2,670 square feet) Kyoto Prefectural Isho-Domoto Museaum of Fine Arts, which we randomly were walking by and decided to check out and it DID NOT disappoint,Kyoto Tower and we got to explore a nearly empty Kiyomizu-dera because we got there at 6am.
When asked by ya’ll what part I enjoyed most about this trip I have two places I have been telling you about. One of them brought me to tears. Sanjūsangen-dō Temple. The outside is so plain that I was wholly unprepared for what was inside. My boyfriend didn’t warn me what we were walking into.
Sanjūsangen-dō is most famous for its massively long hondō (main hall) dating from and designated a National Treasure of Japan, and the collection of sculptures it houses, including 1001 standing Thousand-armed Kannon, 28 standing attendants, a statue of Fūjin (God of Wind) and a statue of Raijin, (God of Lightning) and the centerpiece, a big seated statue of Thousand-armed Kannon, all of them designated National Treasures in the category of sculptures, most of them dating back as far as 794-1333. We read that a fire had wiped out most of them at one point and that the sculptures, which took a hundred years to complete were then re-made taking another 40+ years. They didn’t allow pictures inside, so the ones pictured here are from the internet but do not do this place justice.
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On to Tokyo!!
When asked what my favorite part of my trip the SECOND part is Team Lab Borderless. It’s too amazing to truly describe and even video doesn’t do it justice! It’s honestly worth coming to Japan JUST FOR THIS. It was amazing in the literal sense of the word. Here's a video, sorry for the repeats...I'm not versed in editing.
Some highlights of Tokyo were: Visiting an Owl Café, Shopping in Harajuku, Fell in Love with Sumo Wrestling, Tattoos, Seeing a GIANT Gundam, 8 story arcades, Studio Ghibli Museum, Sumida Aquarium, Natural History Museum, lots of Art and MILLIONS of stairs. For real. Millions.
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Oh and I climbed Mt. Fuji!
Mt. Fuji. A cruel mistress. I turned 40 on July 23rd and I've been planning this climb for a few years. Once Johnathon said you COULD climb Fuji I was like, oh, so we ARE then...?
We started our climb at 7:30pm. My altitude sickness started almost immediately. I should have read a bit more on how to prepare and deal with this.
The average climb takes 7 hours. For us it took 9 because of a combination of my sickness and the large groups we were climbing around. The path gets quite narrow and if you step to the side to rest you have to really wait to get back into the fold.
And we went on a very slow day because it was the first day the trail was open after closing from a rock slide and not many groups or people were prepared for the opening.
The trek was the hardest physical experience of my life. My legs were fine on the way up but the way down killed my knees.
Johnathon was my cheerleader. Telling me that I was doing great. I told him that I needed Hannah my trainer 😂.
When we finally got to the summit around 4:30am I was so cold that my whole body was shaking. I was literally dying. It was freezing. I hadn't eaten in 14 hours, that was part of it. But I was literally sickened by the thought of eating. I later realized that I had taken some Claritin D to help keep me awake not thinking about the fact that it dehydrates me. Do you know what makes Altitude sickness worse? yep.
We didn't go to the crater overlook because I was feeling so bad. I'm not sure how long it took to get down but it was around 4- 4.5 hours.
I'm glad it's done and off my bucket list but man, never again.
Thank you for coming along on this remembrance of a truly once in a life time trip. If you need travel advice for Japan, I'm your girl.