Watashi no Nihon Ryokou - My
seemed like every morning we were throwing belongings into bags
and charging off to the train station, wrestling too-big suitcases
into the passenger cars and barely finding room for them in the
first two weeks of my trip to Japan consisted of a tour of the
country by rail that took us from the medium-sized port city of
Sapporo, located in the cool northern island of Hokkaido, down
to the pleasant backwater town of Yatsushiro in Kyushu. Along
the way we stopped in Otaru and Hakodate in Hokkaido; and Aomori,
Akita, Yamagata, Nikko, Tokyo, Nagoya, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara,
Himeji, and Hiroshima in Honshu.
last three weeks were spent in Yatsushiro and the surrounding
areas, including Minamata, Mt. Aso National Park, and Kumamoto
City. We spent a night in Fukuoka before returning to the states.
felt like we jumped out of the plane running and never stopped
till we hit the plane back home. It was exhausting, grueling,
was the best time of my life.
day there was something new to see and explore, to learn about.
I saw the thriving city of Hiroshima, which for some reason I'd
expected to be nothing more than a wasteland. I saw the ancient
burial mound of Prince Kanenaga, one of the most influential figures
in fourteenth century Japan. I saw Tokyo's tsukiji, the
largest fish market in Japan. I climbed up and peered into an
active volcano whose lava was a funky green color. I explored
Nikko, home of the most authentic old-style buildings in all of
Japan-and coincidentally, a famous tourist site. I wandered through
dozens of shrines and temples, including the Todaiji near
Nara, home of the Daibutsu, a fifty-three foot bronze buddha
which is housed in the largest existing wooden structure in the
tame deer and took cable cars up to mountaintops. I explored a
seven-story electronics shop in Tokyo that was only one of many
such retailers in the Akiharaba electronics district. I learned
to write Japanese calligraphy with a brush. I shopped at several
arcades, "shopping streets" that consist of partially enclosed
alleys that can extend for miles.
soba, sukiyaki, ramen, sushi, sashimi, tempura, and curry,
and discovered that unagidon, baked sea eel on rice, is
my favorite dish in the world.
myself in Japanese pop music. I went bowling. I played video games.
I watched NHK and the news and anime and dramas and comedies.
a bicycle through a maze of machis, down the narrow passageways
between houses and out onto streets clogged with tiny cars.
was breathtaking. The whole country was breathtaking.
essay was originally written in thanks to the Institute of International
Education, without whom this trip would not have been possible.
- Heather Aubrey]
Photos of the
entire trip, posted February, 2005.